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Entries from February 2014

4 Steps to Identifying the Culture of a Team

27th February 2014
It is rare that you have the opportunity to create a team
from scratch and select every member yourself. It has only happened to me once.
More often we join an organisation or new division and have a ‘ready made’ team
in place for us.
 All too often
in these situations we focus on getting things done and talking to individuals
about what has to be or is being done. Very rarely do I hear of anyone giving
some attention to the How of the team – How it operates.
Yet today more leaders are having to:
  • ·      
    Take on newly created positions
  • ·      
    Are asked to achieve more and have broader
  • ·      
    Have frequent shifts in job responsibility
  • ·      
    Must deliver results faster

Personal agility is obviously important in managing these changes.
Harnessing the energies of your team sooner rather than later will also help.
Therefore, being able to quickly read the culture of a team when you join it,
is a great skill to have.
Here are some ideas on where to look so you can see the
‘wood from the trees’.
First let’s be clear about what we mean by culture. It’s the
how things get done around here. The
ideas, customs and social behaviour of
the group
e.g. how decisions get made, the look and feel of the space, how
ideas are generated and developed.
So here are some simple, but not easy steps to take:
Step One: Identify
the Essence of the team
Approach this as if you are an archaeologist uncovering the
origins of the team and how it came about, or a historian uncovering the story
and folklore about it. In some ways this is the hardest part as the aim is to
get a handle on the intangible ‘stuff’.
Questions you might want the answers to are:
·    How and why was this team/department originally
created? Was it to create change? Was it to bring about some structure and
stability? Was it to grow the market? Create new products?…
·    How was it positioned at the time?
·    What was going on in the broader organisational
culture at the time? Was it going through a merger? Was it growing? Was it in
·    How have customers related to it over the years?
·    How do they relate to it now?
·    What makes it stand out?
·    If there were a documentary or film about it
what would it be called?
Step Two: Searching
for Substance

In this step you are continuing your ‘dig’ or research and
looking at what is in place to substantiate what you may have discovered in
step one.
Questions you might ask here are:
What is the basis of its relationships
customers? Is it to solve their problems? To make them feel better? To make
their life easier?
·     What policies and processes are in place? Are
they formal or informal?
·     What is the product/service the team produces?
·     What does this look and feel like?
·     How do the team interact? Do they socialise
together? Is there a lot of laughter and joking? Do they seem very closely
knit? Are they very respectful?
·     What value does the team bring to the
·     How do people in the team dress?
Step Three: What’s
not Working

Here you are looking at what is missing or what isn’t
working. This can also give you clues to the culture of a team; for example I
worked with a function where team meetings didn’t happen, or if they did they
were inconsistent. It helps you in identifying what the culture isn’t rather
than what it is and if you are struggling with the steps above it can really
shed some light on the situation.
Some questions you might ask here are:
·     What confuses or mystifies you?
·     What values, approaches or topics cannot be
talked about? For example can people talk about mistakes, new ways of doing
things, success, poor performance?
·     What do people complain about?
·     Are people distorting or failing to see reality
Step Four: Reflection
and Analysis
This is where you get to put all the pieces together to see
what picture develops. What is the predominant orientation of the team? It’s
important at this stage you identify what is actually happening rather than
what you think it should be. When I do this I take a balanced scorecard
approach, it’s one way of keeping it simple. So here it is:
Areas to Consider
Which Category Best Fits your Analysis?
Structure and Process
1.    Structures
and processes are built around the needs of customers (either internal or
2.    Structures
and processes are there to bring stability, control or efficiency
3.    Structures
and processes are there to support innovation and learning 
1.    Results
are achieved by being goal focussed, driven and working as a team
2.    Results
are driven by vision and inspiring people
3.    Results
are based on breaking rules, continually improving being non conformist
1.    Relationships
are based on us all being equal and banding together
2.    Relationships
are based on having fun and being playful
3.    Relationships
are based on community and closeness – best friends
Learning & Innovation
1.    Learning
and innovation is based on loyalty, job security and not rocking the boat
2.    Learning
and innovation is slow based on research, analysis, planning and learning as
you go
3.    Learning
and innovation is more about employee autonomy and a pioneering approach
Now, you may well be reading this and saying well teams do
all of these things! In truth, and in my experience that is very rare. True
they may do a number of these things, however, the skill I talked about earlier
is to identify which ‘style’ in each quadrant is the most dominant and there is
usually 1.
The trick with this is to not spend weeks analysing it. You
can do this in the first week or 2 and often the first team meeting (if you
have one) will give you lots of clues.
A cautionary note
It helps if you know your own preferences. This way you can
remain objective. If you find you are having an adverse reaction to how things
are done, they are likely to be operating in a way that is not to your
preference.  This may be good or
bad news, depending on why you have been brought in.
 For those of
you who are task focused you may be asking why bother?  There are 3 clear benefits.  You will:
  1. Be able to harness the strengths of the team
  2. Be able to see where team effectiveness can be
  3. Be able to integrate new members to the team

All of which will enable you to deliver better results.

“Your present circumstances don’t determine
where you can go; they merely determine where you start.” 

Do you need to re invent yourself?

6th February 2014

I hope your answer to this question is no!
I have read a few articles recently that suggest that
managers and leaders need to reinvent themselves to be able to manage their
careers successfully. 
Whilst I do believe that as a manager and a leader you
have to adapt to your situation I don’t believe you have to ‘reinvent’
yourself. And I guess it’s this word that jars with me. Inventing something to
me is about creating something new. The Oxford English dictionary defines it
as: devise, originate, fabricate which I don’t feel are words that define
authenticity in a human being.
Your Brand
I do believe we all have a brand. This brand is what people
say about you when you leave the room, the impact you make and the qualities
people see in you. 
Understanding your brand begins with self awareness. It’s
understanding what motivates you – your values, your strengths, how you are
perceived and your aspirations and then utilising these to your advantage.
The starting point is therefore to understand who you are so
you can communicate your brand confidently and congruently. Having a clear personal
brand will allow you to:

manage your impact
o   When you are clear about your
identity and the impact you want to create you can more effectively behave in a
way that is aligned to your brand.
articulate who you are and what you are about
o   When you are clear about your brand
you will be clear about your values, your purpose, your skills and the value
you bring to any organisation, or team.
your ability to the reputation you have/want
o   When you are clear about your brand
and who you are you can clearly express what you are expert at, what you do
best and what you are the ‘go to’ person for in terms of your experience and
areas in which you may need to develop and/or manage yourself more effectively
o   When you are clear about your brand
and the reputation you want to create you will easily be able to identify
skills, experience and behaviours you need to develop to consistently fulfil
o   When you are clear about your brand
and the reputation you want to create you will easily be able to identify
skills, experience and behaviours you need to manage to deliver your brand
yourself from others
o   When you are clear about your brand
you will easily be able to differentiate yourself from your competitors and
communicate what makes you unique

The good news — and it is largely good news — is that
everyone has a chance to stand out. Everyone has a chance to learn, improve,
and build up their skills. Everyone has a chance to be a brand worthy of

If you are interested in discovering your own brand with
relative ease call me and I’ll share with you my approach to achieving this. Or
download my ‘Personal Branding Demystified’ booklet.

‘Always be a
first rate version of yourself, instead of a second rate version of someone
Judy Garland
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