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Tag Archives: Team work

Practical ways to make your Team Meeting more interactive.


Team MeetingWe have all been a part of some kind of a team meeting in our lives. Though these meetings often start as an interactive exercise between you and your team members, they tend to turn into some boring status meeting down the line. As a manager, I am also guilty of making my team meetings boring. For example: When I first took over a completely new team, few of my team meetings were very interactive, where I was trying to understand my team’s needs, and my team member’s working styles. I used to ask them bunch of questions and make sure that their inputs are heard. But after few months, I got used to my team and their working styles, and hence, my focus shifted on improving productivity and eliminating issues. Obviously, as a manager we should be focused on our priorities, but we should always consider the team meeting as the opportunity to make relationships between our team members, and refocusing them on our company’s vision.

Invite guest speakers: By this, I don’t mean to say that you should go ahead and start spending your company’s dollars on inviting motivational leaders to your team meetings. Though once in a while, it wouldn’t hurt to invite someone, you can’t sustain this expensive initiative for long. So, my suggestion is to invite the guest speakers from your own company. If you work in a medium size companies like mine, you won’t run out of options. And this initiative will not only help you in building good relationships within your company, but it will also educate you and your team about the roles and responsibilities of other teams within the organization.

Recognize others: This is not that obvious. I am sure, as a manager, you must be recognizing the work of your employees during the your team meeting, but you might not have given this opportunity to your employees so that they can recognize their peers. Though the concept of this idea is very simple, it will do wonders during your team meetings. This approach will open up the communication between your team members, and help you build the trust relationships within themselves.

Leave with a positive note: After 3-4 months of taking over a new team, my team meetings have also become boring and predictable. And due to the nature of work that we do (testing), we were in the forefront of all the bad news about our products. Due to this, most of my meetings were very negative, and we came out of the meeting as if everything is coming to an end. So, I have implemented a simple but efficient solution. At the end of every team meeting, I required all of my team members to come up with at least one positive thing about their work during this past week. It did sound cheeky at first, but after few weeks, all of our team members came out from the meeting with something positive about themselves, and their overall attitude had changed towards their work.

Give a pizza party: I am not expecting you to provide pizza during every team meeting, but it wouldn’t hurt to provide food during some of your team meetings. I try to do that twice a year, once in the summer and once in the winter. Shifting your team meetings to lunch time and ordering some food for your team will provide them some motivation, and eating together with the team members will provide them the opportunity to socialize within themselves. In order to not make this an awkward event, combine this activity with some other interactive activity like “5 things about you”, “Things you would like to do outside of work”, “Your major accomplishments in life”, etc.

I hope, these simple activities can help you make your team meetings alive again. Do you have any other suggestions?

Thanks – Bhavin Gandhi

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Manager’s Guide: How can I make it easier for a new hire to transition in my group? (Part 2)


classic-booksIn my last blog post, I have discussed few ways through which you can make your new hire understand your company’s goals and objectives. In this blog, I will provide you some tips on how you can make your new hire acquainted to your team culture and communication channels.

Talk about the rules: After you have explained your strategic objectives and work culture, now it’s time for you to explain her about your expectations. Some of the managers leave it unsaid. But I prefer to talk to all of my employees about the performance expectations. In this way, they can specifically know what they have signed up for, and you can avoid having performance improvement talks later. You can start this conversation by establishing clear goals and priorities for her; and then you can progress towards expected employee’s behavior, your feedback process, and how her work will be evaluated. Don’t forget to outline the path through which you will help her to be successful.

The Team: Providing an understanding of the team’s roles and responsibilities is very key to the new hire’s success. This will make sure that she doesn’t step on someone’s foot, and she can know who is ultimately responsible and who has the decision making authority. During this discussion, you should explain her how your team supports company’s goals and objectives. This will give her the overall picture of your team, and where it fits in to the organization. And yeah! Don’t forget to discuss the procedures & norms under which your team operates. For example: Our team follows an agile development process, where each engineer is paired with one another team member for the development of a particular feature. Last but not the least, identify the people who can help her during her first few months in the company, and how they prefer to communicate.

Communication: Being a software development manager for years, I have seen various managers failed to provide this information to their employees. As a result, you have a new geeky employee who got herself acquainted to only e-mails, and you have to wait for her e-mail response for feedback. Thus, I would advise you to have these conversations beforehand. Convey to your new employee how you would prefer to be communicated, and what should be the frequency of those communications. For example: I expect an e-mail response within 1-2 hours. In case of a blocking issue, I want you to call me up instead of waiting for me to reply to your e-mail. And yeah! Explain how your employees prefer to communicate with themselves.

I hope these tips will help you to become a better manager by providing a clear direction for your newly hired employee. In the next blog post, I will be discussing about how to familiarize your new hire with the growth opportunities within your organization.

Let me know, if you have any other ideas through which you can help your employees to easily transition to your company. Thanks. – Bhavin Gandhi

 
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Posted by on March 5, 2012 in 21st Century, Leadership, Management

 

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Practical solutions to reduce time barriers between your Virtual Teams


DifferentTimeZonesI have seen various virtual teams that fails to accomplish their mission due to lack of communication. Virtual teams have many challenges like culture differences, language barriers, lack of personal touch, etc. But the ‘time difference’ is one of the most important challenge that a virtual team faces. As a part of my existing job, I manage various individuals from 3 completely different locations. And I have faced similar situations while managing these individuals. Through my experience, I have developed few practical solutions to resolve these challenges, and I would like to share those tips through this blog.

Define rigid working hours: I am neither a micromanager nor I believe in monitoring my people. But sometimes it is very crucial for a team to follow a strict schedule. Asynchronous communication channels like SMS and e-mails will only resolve few issues. But if you are working in a fast paced environment like me (Agile or Scrum approach), then it becomes very difficult to communicate through these asynchronous channels of communications. This approach makes it possible for me to meet with each and every individual at least 2 times a week (through video conference). From past few months, my team in China comes early every 2 days during the week and my team in USA stays late for those 2 days. This arrangement makes it easier to work with these people and it also helped me to increase my team morale.

Establish rules for e-mail communications: In the past, I have been in various situations when I will get an e-mail from my China team at around midnight in my time zone, and I won’t have any opportunity to reply to them until the day after. Thus, if you are working in a virtual team then you should be establishing few rules for your e-mail communications. For example: Tell your remote team in China to notify you regarding any urgent issues/concerns before midnight your time. Obviously, they will not be able to identify all the issues every time before you go to sleep, they might encounter few problems after you go to sleep. In that case, make sure that you always task them with some kind of other work, which is independent from that particular task. This will give them something to work on, before you can actually resolve their problem. This approach had helped me tremendously to increase the productivity of my team.

Make information go public: In most of the cases, people depend on each other for the information. Most of the professionals will take an educated decision in a given situation, if they were provided with the appropriate information. I made most of my information public in such a way that my team can have access to that information all the time. For example: during every meeting, I take meeting notes and prepare a list of action items. I started putting that information to our SharePoint site. This helped my team to have a baseline information and having the right information in their possession. This approach has reduced long chain of e-mails to get the same information that they would have got otherwise.

I hope, these tips will help you to reduce various time and communication related challenges with your virtual teams. Please feel free to comment on my blog, if you have any other suggestions for improving efficiency of your virtual teams. Thanks. – Bhavin Gandhi

 

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Simple tips to create an innovative environment for your team


I really feel proud and motivated when my clients call me up, and give me feedback regarding my work. One of such experience happened yesterday.

Jitesh (my client) is a small business owner, who runs his graphics design business from India. Few months ago, he came to me and asked – “Bhavin, my business is doing bad. Our customers are not happy with our products, and it seems that we have lost our innovation capabilities in the rapid expansion. Can you help me fix this?” Yesterday, he called me up again and told me – “Bhavin, your ideas worked. Our customer satisfaction has increased by 40% as compared to last year, and we are coming up with really great designs. You should check us out. Thanks for your help, buddy”.

So, what happened between now and then? Trust me, I didn’t gave him any magical powers through which his employees started innovating. I knew that he has top performers in his team. What he might be missing is – the innovative environment. And that’s what I provided to him. Following are couple of tips that helped him in creating an innovative work environment.

Implement a suggestion box system:  Don’t just have a suggestion box, which does nothing. Have some mechanism to review these suggestions on daily basis (assigning a resource to review these suggestions on part-time basis would be your best bet). Make it a simpler process, there should not be any lengthier forms and long paperwork. I would recommend you to provide an intranet application with four key elements – idea, implementation plan, evaluation, accept/reject. And yeah! Have some mechanism to recognize these ideas. For example: great ideas of the year award.

Have an event for the best ideas: If there is an important issue that needs some creative ideas, then why not have an event where people with the best idea wins something? You can also have a  team contest where teams post ideas on an intranet site and everyone can vote for their favorite. Or throw a party where people have to contribute ideas to get treats such as snacks and drinks.

So, what do you think? Do you have any other ideas to create an innovative environment? If you do, then please feel free to share your opinion with me. I would love to hear from you. Thanks. – Bhavin Gandhi

 
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Posted by on February 17, 2011 in 21st Century, Leadership, Management

 

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“5Cs” of Leadership in the 21st century


Leadership is becoming more and more critical for all the businesses as they change rapidly with the time. Researchers have proposed many leadership models over the years in an attempt to develop theories that describe, predict, evaluate, and develop better leaders.  These efforts to develop leadership theories have been only marginally successful and thus new and more complex theories have continued to evolve in an attempt to fill this void. In this article, I will focus on five important concepts of leadership, which might help you to be a better leader.

Critical Thinking

Critical thinking and problem solving: Today’s organizations are highly dynamic, and variety of problems can arise on a given day. Thus, it is important for a leader to be able to identify critical problems and resolving them in timely manner. Today’s leaders should look beyond the immediate issue and identify the source of the problem, so that it doesn’t happen again.

Creativity and innovation: Creativity is not necessarily about become another Einstein or Picasso. Creativity can be as simple as new ways for old situations. For example, on the board or with management, you might get new energy by changing meeting formats, or seeking to solve old problems in new ways. This approach has worked for many big companies like Google, Apple and Twitter; and it can definitely work for your business too.

Team WorkCollaboration and teamwork: In today’s complex businesses, collaboration is becoming really important. For example: TCS, an Indian I.T. consulting firm, has more than 100,000 employees and more than 40-50 verticals. With collaboration between these large pool of employee base, TCS can share its best practices within these different verticals and employ efficient processes all over the organization.

Cross-cultural understanding: With existing virtual teams and increasing outsourcing in the businesses, today’s leaders need to understand the importance various cultures. When communicating with people abroad, leaders need to know both the strategy and structure in cultural and communication  patterns. As a leader we need to develop a strategy to foster cross cultural ideas and opportunities.

Communication of information: In today’s business, it is important that an organization’s leader get beyond providing information and direction. Communication is an act of gaining understanding and commitment from individuals, in order to learn from others and build an exceptional organization. Thus, as a leader we should use tools such as the intranet, emails from the Leaders, All hands meetings and blogs as a means for the Leaders to communicate with employees. This will definitely help you in creating the best organization.

I hope my article was helpful, and I am eager to hear your feedback. Thanks. – Bhavin Gandhi

 
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Posted by on September 30, 2010 in 21st Century, Leadership, Management

 

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Manager’s triplets for today (Part 1)


If you’ve stepped one foot inside an office these days, you’ll probably be struck by the diversity of people inside. There are young and old coming together. Introverts and extroverts go about their daily business shoulder-to-shoulder. There are simply all kinds of people, motivated by different things. If you’re a manager of people, you likely already know this. One of your employees might be totally self-sufficient, easy to work with, and take criticism well. Another may not be able to get over the fact that you went with TFS 2010 when they wanted a different product, and now they’re letting you know about it. In this article, I will provide few tips for better managing your employees.

Communicate

Better communicate: Businesses are changing drastically, those days are gone when Managers were just focusing on the day-to-day operations, and still performing well.  In today’s businesses, Managers need to effectively communicate with cross-functional teams, customers, clients, and stakeholders to survive and thrive.

Cross-train your people: As a Manager, have you ever been in to the situation where you had enough man power to accomplish certain task but you didn’t have the required skillsets? I am not sure about you, but I have been in that situation before. At that time, it becomes really hard to justify hiring of one other resource. Thus, it is very essential in today’s businesses to cross-train your team.  Cross-training will provide you with the team of people with multiple skills, who aren’t qualified for just one narrow task, and who can be redeployed as the situation demands it.

Boss

Be a colleague and not a Boss: In tough economic climate like this, manager’s involvement in their employees goals and career is becoming more and more critical to empower your employees to deliver their best. As a manager, you can no longer afford to be seen hiding in your office and ordering your employees. It is really important that you get along with your employees to give them confidence and build trust. If you are successful in recognizing yourself as their colleague instead of their Boss, then you would be surprise to know the positive result in your team.

I hope my article was helpful, and I am eager to hear your feedback. Thanks. – Bhavin Gandhi.

 
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Posted by on September 25, 2010 in 21st Century, Leadership, Management

 

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