Monthly Archives: July 2013

Summer Elixir

The healing powers of summer are providing the annual elixir to teachers and school administrators everywhere. No matter how awful the internal politics of their workplaces last spring, August will usher a renewed sense of hope for the fall return to the classroom. Like a bad case of amnesia, the break will successfully numb these professionals from the unresolved violations of healthy organizational culture that exhausted them a few short months ago.

Schools are great symbols for the cycles of growth occurring in all workplaces. Everyone has the biorhythms of the academic year imprinted in their souls rooted in the first two decades of their lives. Hope springs eternal in the fall as Mother Nature is wrapping up her fiscal year while the world downshifts into neutral in the end of spring and starts planning vacations. Cycles spiral either positively or negatively as we either invest in solving challenges or sanction the continuation of struggle.

The Gallup organization recently published their latest data about dissatisfaction in the workplace illuminating record numbers of disengaged employees wanting to change jobs. This also means the number of passionately engaged employees has shrunk. As one teacher confided last spring, “I will not acknowledge, accept, or embrace the changes that have happened on my team. I am unhappy and all of my energy is going to be spent broadcasting my displeasure until everyone knows how I feel because they now feel the same way.” Unfortunately, this same energy would otherwise be spent on building effective professional learning communities for kids.

Elixirs, by their nature, are panaceas. They cure all ills. They provide remedies for broken relationships and dysfunctional teams. They begin by anchoring an appreciation for difference as a norm. Next, they sponsor respectful conflict so that all voices are managed with dignity. With this as a foundation, they empower ambitious goals and hold everyone accountable for follow-through. Elixirs then promise a better world through exploration, innovation, experimentation, curiosity, and smart risk-taking. Of course, this creates change. Effective elixirs enable teams to manage this change with poise and resilience so that their members can embrace the new circumstances and possibilities that lie ahead.

So, use what remains of your summer wisely. Finish recharging your batteries so you can come into the fall energized and engaged. It’s almost time to evolve the workplace culture to the next level. Will you be ready?

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4 Easy Steps to Disable a Team

Breaking the spirit of a team is simple. Here are four easy steps to successfully halt the evolution of any team’s growth.

Step One

Avoid conflict at all costs. It doesn’t feel good and it requires considering other frames of reference. Take the easiest path to reach the goal with the least possible friction. Do not concern yourself with contrary opinions as they only create discomfort and slow the process.

Step Two

Steer away from commitments that require discipline. The real world has too many unforeseen obstacles to expect accountability. Those who are counting on the outcomes you promised will understand when things don’t go as planned. Lower the pressure and take it easy.

Step Three

Stick to what has worked in the past. Stretching limits leads to risk and risks lead to danger. Play it safe. You’re better off letting others make the mistakes and learning from their errors. Pushing innovation causes anxiety and stress inevitably forces change. Change hurts.

Step Four

Broadcast your dissatisfaction with anything that changes. Telegraph displeasure in a way that ensures the world will understand the depth of your pain. Wait as long as you can to begin solving the problem. Focus the majority of your energy on venting and experience the support of your peers when the contagiousness of your expression alters their moods until they become a perfect reflection of yours. Misery loves company.

You’ve done it! You’ve now successfully broken the spirit of your team. You’ve spared yourself the expenditure of investment. You’ve eluded the consequences of trust. You’ve shielded yourself from the fear of innovation. You’ve fended off any expectation to cope with change effectively. Nothing has been ventured. Nothing has been gained. The world stays exactly the same even though time has marched on. Phew!

77 Meetings

Four families. Four cities. Seventy-seven gatherings. Nobody imagined the depth of bond that would unfold when the original commitment to meet three times per year was made over twenty-five years ago. Yet, year after year, without exception, participants rotated from Chicago to Detroit to Cincinnati to Indianapolis to enjoy each new chapter of the group’s evolution.  What began as an assembly of eight young adults grew to three generations of thirty-four people spanning nearly sixty years in age.

Rarely does any team get the luxury of sustained membership over a quarter of a century. Most groups manage a rhythm of turnover commensurate with the nature of their industry. In the interpersonal space, divorce is sufficiently common to compete with the recruitment/retention cycles of any professional organization. Most teams normalize the greetings and departures of ever changing personnel moves. Stability in membership is the exception to the rule.

The multifamily team evolved from a common core. A complex collection of relationships thrive within this nucleus.  Each dyad has an anthology of pleasures and pains defining varying cycles of maturity. Accomplishment is celebrated and tragedy is soothed as the seasons wear on. Investment deepens. Trust is unconditional. Innovation sprouts unexpectedly. Distancing enables perspective and adjustment.

Teams are teams. Whether in the workplace, the neighborhood, or the family home, we are blessed with the richness of human connection.  Allow the magic of longevity to cast its spell on your relationships. Seventy-seven times.