Articles categorized as:

Steve Ritter

  • May 26, 2020 10 Rules of Interdependence

    What actually constitutes a team? Two or more people working on a common goal? Not if they are working in silos. It’s entirely possible for coworkers to wear the same uniform, share the same space and toil away at the same objective yet still not function as a team. They aren’t a team until their successes and failures are tied together. They have to put their lives in each other’s hands.

    Keep Reading...
  • May 5, 2020 There’s Always a Next Stage

    It’s hardest to see the next stage of the cycle when we’re in the middle of some struggle. Energy is fully devoted to the tasks at hand. Despite our desire to be strategic, we’re forced to be operational. Planning is difficult when the future is unknown. Head down, eyes up is the mantra. Keep moving forward regardless of what life throws at us. So, how would today’s choices be different if we knew what tomorrow would bring? Predict the future.

    Keep Reading...
  • April 22, 2020 Shedding Teammates

    Human Resources departments call it a workforce reduction. Describing the termination of a job as a lay off softens the blow. Getting furloughed suggests there might be a chance to return. Whatever the reason and however it is named, subtracting teammates alters the ecosystem. Because change is a form of loss, times like these move painfully through the classic stages of grief.

    Keep Reading...
  • April 9, 2020 When Remote Teams Become the Norm

    Selecting the gallery view setting on Zoom has been the closest thing we’ve had to experiencing teamwork lately. Among countless other consequences, the global pandemic has challenged the notion that collaboration requires sharing the same space. Sharing screens is the new normal. Abrupt and significant change is often the spark for innovation. Our current circumstances have given way to new rules for remote interaction.

    Keep Reading...
  • March 25, 2020 Who Cares for the Caregivers?

    Times of crisis separate those who need care from those who provide care. Beyond the obvious healthcare application, anyone delivering professional services is thrust into the role of managing pain of some variety. Teachers, counselors, ministers, attorneys, accountants, advisors and consultants make a living by helping navigate uncharted waters. Each of them carries the weight of the impact of the crisis in their own lives but must stay sufficiently focused to attend to client priorities. So, who takes care of the caregivers?

    Keep Reading...
  • March 10, 2020 The Essential Role of Trust in Teams

    Virtually every team we measure scores high on the statement, “I have at least one trusted colleague on the team.” Far fewer clients, however, reflect full-group trust in the survey questions designed to evaluate the psychological safety of the entire team. Almost everyone has a trusted teammate as one-to-one interactions are easier to navigate than group dynamics. Without full-team trust, the organization’s energy is misallocated to internal politics. Consider these steps to building or rebuilding a sustainable foundation of trust in the workplace.

    Keep Reading...
  • February 26, 2020 The Next Generation of Leaders

    The aging Baby Boomer generation is gradually giving way to eager GenXers. The face of leadership has fewer wrinkles despite the weight of responsibility that will someday cause them. Professional service firms are great examples of this transition as attorneys, accountants, engineers and financial planners design their careers with specific retirement dates in mind. Succession planning anticipates these departures and develops new talent accordingly. As long at the outgoing leader is graceful and the incoming replacement is respectful, everything runs smoothly. What happens when grace and respect are subtracted from the recipe?

    Keep Reading...
  • February 11, 2020 Bridging Diverse Perspectives

    Diversity is a strength when harnessed for connection, innovation and change. While holding tightly to your own perspective and protecting the status quo brings comfort, growth gets stymied. What would happen to your team if respectful conflict was invited? What if there was more than one right answer? How can we bridge diverse perspectives in our professional interactions? Consider this model.

    Keep Reading...
  • January 29, 2020 The Team I Choose to Join or Lead

    A decade ago, Seth Godin, inspired by the Team Clock methodology, said, “…think hard – really hard – about what it means to join or lead a group of people.” He was referencing the powerful responsibility we each have to our teammates regardless of our position or role on the team. On most teams, sadly, only a small percentage assumes that level of ownership. The norm is under-engagement or disengagement. Imagine the characteristics of the ideal team. The Center for Team Excellence sees a rare few of these examples but they do, indeed, exist.

    Keep Reading...
  • January 7, 2020 What is a Team?

    How do you define “team?” Your workplace colleagues? Your romantic partnership? Your book club? Your neighborhood? Your recreational sports buddies? Your family? Perhaps all of the above? Defining teams is both simple and complex. The complex view is an interdependent ecosystem of complementary roles advancing a common mission through shared values toward a clear vision. The simple view is two or more people collaborating on a goal. Let’s break down the simple definition into its key parts.

    Keep Reading...
  • December 17, 2019 All Teams are Seasonal

    Ground delivery services and retail outlets ramp up manpower during the holidays. Sports teams begin each campaign with new rosters. Educational institutions make transitions based on the academic calendar. Corporate teams recalibrate when quarterly or annual goals are not met. Like families, team dynamics get refreshed every time you add or subtract a member. What holds everything together when membership is always changing?

    Keep Reading...
  • December 3, 2019 Simplifying Team Accountability

    As the primary driver of team trust, accountability is elusive. Meeting deadlines, keeping promises and behaving in a way that is true to company values are examples of the daily contributions we all make to team wellness. In a culture of accountability, only exceptions to these behaviors are noticed. When getting a pass is the norm, following through with commitments gets celebrated as special. So, how do you build a culture of accountability?

    Keep Reading...
  • November 21, 2019 Harnessing Change to Fuel Innovation

    While change is often experienced as a loss, transitions usually become the fuel for renewal. The disruption is simply the trigger stage for the differences that are about to unfold. Because change causes emotional depletion, most teams devote their energy to coping and refueling. Thriving teams see this stage as the launch point for innovation. Answering these five questions will help your team move to action.

    Keep Reading...
  • November 5, 2019 Moving Challenges from Insight to Action

    Every challenge has two elements – naming the source of the pain (crisis) and deciding how you’re going to deal with it (opportunity). The second stage requires the first. Teams must acknowledge what hurts before they can embrace new circumstances. As quickly as you can finish trumpeting how awful a change is, commit to the task of figuring out what to do about it. Here’s a simple roadmap to get you started.

    Keep Reading...
  • October 21, 2019 When Change Isn’t Managed

    When we are able to be our best selves, we manage change with maturity. We acknowledge what has been lost and wrap our brains around the new conditions. We take some time to lick our wounds and then figure out what to do about the transition. We bring our best coping skills to the team and try our best to do nothing that might get us stuck or set us back. In a perfect world, the stress of the change doesn’t turn us into a child. Occasionally, these best intentions break down. Here’s what that looks like.

    Keep Reading...
  • October 7, 2019 A Tool for Your Team’s Renewal

    The teamclock.com website was originally designed as a tool for teams. With a few clicks, you could easily find best practices on team effectiveness and a path to diagnose your organization’s wellness. That was a decade ago and, like most tools, we’ve needed to refresh our approach a few times. Like all living things, the Center for Team Excellence has evolved through many cycles of change. Our new website reflects today’s focus: helping our partners know what stage of growth they are managing, why they are in that stage and what to do next to move forward. We encourage you to take a self-guided tour after enjoying this preview.

    Keep Reading...
  • September 24, 2019 Measuring Your Team’s Wellness

    How do you know if your team is operating in a healthy workplace culture? Measurement seems subjective, at best. The task of capturing reliable metrics on team effectiveness involves knowing what to measure and how to measure it. Consider the ways teammates interact and evaluate those exchanges on a scale from function to dysfunction. Now, take a snapshot of the pervasiveness of the wellness or the sickness. Does everyone on the team feel this way or just a few outliers? Is the team unified or split into factions? How do we acquire this data?

    Keep Reading...
  • September 10, 2019 All Innovation All the Time

    Teams have personalities. Some are tired and worn out from managing constant change. Others are frustrated by having to navigate conflict and differences of opinion. Still others are basking in the glow of trust while fearing what happens if they push their magic to the next level. A few teams figure out how to stay in the innovation mode all the time. Here’s their formula.

    Keep Reading...
  • August 22, 2019 Change of Seasons

    Schools are back in session and professional football teams are beginning the chase for a Super Bowl ring. Education and sports provide lessons in the seasonal cycles of teams. There is a time-limited window to accomplish a specific set of goals. Teams ramp up in the offseason and try to get off to a good start when the campaign begins. They navigate midseason challenges and attempt to finish with strength as the year comes to an end. Whatever the outcome, they commit to another round of growth when the next opportunity resumes. What season is your team enjoying. Choose from these four:

    Keep Reading...
  • August 8, 2019 When Teams are in Triage Mode

    Crisis has a way of bringing teams together. The urgency of the moment defines roles and creates a common objective. The medical profession treats a crisis as a normal event by moving into triage mode. More than just setting priorities, triaging assumes the problem is bigger than the resources. Waste and politics are subtracted from the process. It doesn’t have to be an emergency to enter this mode. Consider these five ground rules.

    Keep Reading...
  • July 30, 2019 Bringing Remote Teams Together

    More than ever before, teams don’t share the same space. The challenge of getting everyone aligned is more difficult when face-to-face exchange is limited. Monthly or quarterly check-ins are barely enough to cover the myriad topics that arise between contacts. Often, the result is teammates heading in different directions. They may be running fast and working hard but they are not necessarily in synchrony. Products get sold and services delivered but not at the level that would be possible with full coordination of efforts. Here are some basics for remote teams.

    Keep Reading...
  • July 15, 2019 What You Tolerate You Sanction

    Productivity and profitability are not always indications of a healthy team. Often, they occur at the expense of employee satisfaction and workplace culture. When money is being made, it’s easy to overlook the soul-sucking interactions that get normalized over time. Anyone who has ever been in this type of environment knows the compromise. Sunday nights are filled with dread yet you drag yourself in on Monday morning. Friday brings relief and Saturday is devoted to recuperation. Weeks turn to months and months turn to years. Before you know it, you’re old.

    Keep Reading...
  • June 24, 2019 Why Toxic Teammates Leave on Their Own

    Even when all the coaching efforts and performance improvement plans have been exhausted, it seems impossible to move disengaged employees along. The HR wheels turn slowly and toxic teammates often find a way to stay an inch short of termination for cause. What would it take for them to leave on their own?

    Keep Reading...
  • June 18, 2019 4 Stages, 3 Questions

    Every team is in a state of transition. Some are regrouping following a major change. Others are building a culture of trust and accountability. Still others are using that platform of trust to generate something new. Many teams are anticipating a transition and bracing themselves to cope. Whatever stage your team is managing, there are always three questions to ask.

    Keep Reading...
  • May 21, 2019 Why Teams Get Stuck

    Please enjoy this excerpt from The 4 Stages of a Team: How teams thrive… and what to do when they don’t.

    The ideal team flows from challenge to challenge, moving over, under, around or through obstacles. Team members understand the purpose of their struggle and keep working on the problem. Because all living things move through predictable cycles, each transition provides an opportunity to get stuck.

    Keep Reading...
  • May 2, 2019 Qualities of the Best Bands

    What makes a great band? It’s more than good music that resonates with your feelings. That part is easy. You write and perform songs that use the principles of music theory to generate physical and emotional changes reflecting the mood and message of your audience. Rock, rap, blues, jazz and reggae appeal to certain people at certain times because of the visceral and cognitive response the music generates. But keeping the group that composes and plays the music together requires a much different set of skills.

    Keep Reading...
  • April 16, 2019 A Team of Two

    My guitar teacher has been honing his skills as a musician and educator for about 25 years. I have been working on my chops for about 50. It has taken me twice as long to get half as good. Face it, practicing thirty-to-sixty minutes daily will never achieve the results of devoting three-to-six hours each day. Even if I step up to his pace, there aren’t enough years remaining in a human life span to learn to play at his level.

    This is why I selected him for my team of two. I will always have new goals that seem nearly out of reach, yet attainable with hard work. This partnership has an unspoken recipe.

    Keep Reading...
  • April 1, 2019 Growing Tomorrow’s Leaders

    Teachers seek students. Students seek teachers. There is a natural synergy in the teaching-learning relationship. The traits that describe the best teacher and the best student are similar: open mindedness, willingness to challenge, hunger for growth and solid preparation to name a few. Take a look at the best mentors, coaches, professors, advisors and counselors in your life. What do they have in common? Consider these qualities when building your team.

    Keep Reading...
  • March 21, 2019 The “We” and the “Me” on Teams

    Two things happen on teams after a significant change. First, teammates feel depleted as the energy of the team is consumed in managing the emotional impact of the transition. Second, teammates find a way to embrace the new circumstances. As a team, everyone must answer the question, “What does this mean for us?” Privately, most teammates are wondering, “What does this mean for me?” Fortunately, you can’t answer one question without answering the other. With this, the exercise of coping effectively begins.

    Keep Reading...
  • March 6, 2019 Which Actions Build Culture

    It is easy to sit around the conference table and wordsmith a mission statement. Everyone can contribute favorite values like “collaboration,” “innovation,” “compassion,” and “commitment to excellence.” The entire team can voice a commitment to behave in a way that reflects the spirit of the vision. The Human Resources department can reward good behavior and punish violations. Leadership can have the words painted on the wall where employees enter the workspace. Although a good start, these are not the actions that build positive culture.

    Keep Reading...
  • February 19, 2019 The Space Between Pain and Problem-solving

    Growth happens for many reasons. The demand for your products and services exceeds your capacity. Your business plan calls for expanding to new markets. An acquisition doubled your headcount overnight. Whichever the cause, the employee engagement surveys identify the same pain point: constant change. Constant change energizes some teammates and exhausts others. The team quietly divides into subgroups separating those who embrace the speedy transformation from those who need time to process the impact. How do we bring these sides together?

    Keep Reading...
  • February 7, 2019 Wasting Team Energy on Office Politics

    Zero-error is the goal in many industries. Transportation companies have mastered the skills of full disclosure, root cause analysis, and proactive risk reduction to keep people safe in the air on the rails. Healthcare attempts to apply the same principles yet continues to hurt people at surprising frequency in clinics and hospitals. In businesses where the stakes aren’t quite as high, it becomes a matter of efficiency and productivity.

    You have to know where the source of waste or error is before you can make the world a better place. Often, the greatest misallocation of resources is the energy spent on managing team politics. Team dysfunction takes many forms and depletes the system. Assess and solve every disruption. Below are the symptoms of broken culture and suggestions for corrective actions.

    Keep Reading...
  • January 23, 2019 Have a Bad Day!

    Seriously, we wish you a bad day. May struggle fill your agenda. May you confront problems never before faced. May your ability to adapt be tested. May you become aware of your weakest link. May demands stretch your team’s capacity to the brink of failure. Invite the tension. Seize the opportunity. Discover the resolution. What happens next is game changing.

    Keep Reading...
  • January 9, 2019 Strengthen One Relationship

    Time is precious. The team’s highest priorities get attention and less important things get neglected. Unfortunately, the subjects of neglect are often people. When someone feels like a low priority, engagement suffers. These teammates come to work, do their job, go home, and collect their paychecks. Why would they go the extra mile? Yet, when we invest in people, they grow. Sleepwalkers become evangelists. Look at your team roster. Identify the teammate most likely to thrive if fed. Sponsor his or her development. Here’s how.

    Keep Reading...
  • December 26, 2018 Team Renewal

    Beyond quarterly and annual performance goals, December 31st is an artificial renewal. New Year’s resolutions abound and businesses big and small reset strategic direction. Arbitrary markers of progress track movement but rarely refresh the system. Rebirth usually follows significant change. Norms are disrupted and teammates adapt. Other than calendar transitions, consider these drivers of team renewal.

    Keep Reading...
  • December 4, 2018 Below the Tip of the Iceberg

    What you can’t see sometimes has the greatest influence. What is visible isn’t always an accurate reflection of the whole picture. Teams go to great lengths to portray a workplace culture where anyone in their right mind would want to work. Add a ping pong table and a meditation room and you might be able to sell a “best place to work” rating. Sometimes, it’s not until you’ve accepted the job that you realize you’ve been oversold. Consider what lies below the tip of the iceberg.

    Keep Reading...
  • November 21, 2018 The Consequences of Growth: 3 Vulnerabilities

    Like the sprinter who discovers his shoelaces untied in the middle of a race, sometimes we’re moving too fast to fix a critical problem. Such is the challenge of rapid growth. The demand for our services outpaces our ability to add resources. We enter triage mode. Everyone focuses on the highest priorities and agrees to neglect less important needs. Over time, this takes its toll on a team. What would happen if the sprinter stopped to tie his shoes?

    Keep Reading...
  • November 7, 2018 Taking a Snapshot of Team Wellness

    Some teams don’t need a rigorous consultation engagement to get their business on track. If nothing is terribly broken, a small tweak might be enough to make a big difference. Strong relationships of all varieties get in the habit of regular self-checks. Usually, everything is fine. Sometimes, though, the team is alerted to the beginning of a problem. If you catch it early, the trouble never has a chance to take root. Here are some key questions to ask if your team needs a minor adjustment.

    Keep Reading...
  • October 17, 2018 10 Ground Rules for Innovation

    The most innovative team in the history of Team Clock® engagements never stops their strategic planning activity. Their approach is not a time-limited series of steps that lead to a single vision. Instead, they embrace an ongoing, perpetual, cyclical process where the vision constantly evolves. The result is unparalleled discovery and invention. How do they do it?

    Keep Reading...
  • October 2, 2018 Company Culture is More than Morale

    Morale is not the path to culture. Positive morale is the outcome of strong company culture. A healthy workplace draws talent in and makes them stay. The reasons people come and remain engaged are as varied as the diversity of the team. Some want growth and learning while others seek to make an impact. Some teammates prioritize compensation and benefits while others value a family-like atmosphere. Whatever the draw, the culture must attract multiple generations and a spectrum of personalities. That’s a tall order. Here’s where to start.

    Keep Reading...
  • September 18, 2018 Why Teams Need Loss

    The first reaction to a loss is usually disappointment. Something has changed. Things aren’t the way they used to be. When a team is in transition, it’s difficult to see the benefits. When you add stress to the situation, it’s even harder to appreciate the value of the loss. Energy gets depleted and hope is diminished. So, why do we need to lose something to gain something?

    Keep Reading...
  • September 6, 2018 When to Walk and When to Run

    The normal human reaction to success is to celebrate. Often, this is the moment the opponent seizes to catch you back on your heels – while you’re celebrating. Martial artists master the timing of a counter-strike to take advantage of their opponent’s vulnerability immediately after an attack. In sports, championship teams avoid the natural letdown that follows achievement by refocusing and staying in the zone. They don’t get too high after a positive moment and they don’t get too low after a negative one. Can you apply this to your workplace?

    Keep Reading...
  • August 23, 2018 When You Join or Lead a Team

    “…Think hard – really hard – about what it means to join or lead a group of people.” When Seth Godin endorsed Team Clock in 2009, he urged readers to consider the accountability they own for being a part of a team, regardless of the role. By linking people together, everyone shares responsibility for the wellness and productivity of the group. What roles have you assumed?

    Keep Reading...
  • August 7, 2018 Starting the Next Season

    Sports teams and schools measure their progression in seasons. The chance to regroup is built into the rhythm of the annual cycles. Players and coaches come and go. Teachers and administrators change roles. The off-season provides the opportunity to recover from the depletion of the past year and gear up for the beginning of the next round. Even if your team doesn’t have defined seasons, the need to refresh is just as important. Here’s why.

    Keep Reading...
  • July 23, 2018 Beginnings, Middles, and Ends

    The rookies bring energy and the veterans bring wisdom. Those in the middle provide the network of connections. These are among the stereotypes of teammates in early, mid, and late stages of their careers. Let’s look at a lifespan model of professional development.

    Keep Reading...
  • July 11, 2018 Changing at Lightning Speed

    Sometimes change happens faster than humans can cope. Despite our best intentions to adapt with maturity, the pace of change surpasses our stress threshold. Most teammates want to be their best selves during transitions. Unfortunately, rapid and unexpected transitions have a way of bringing out the child in some of us. What kind of teammate do you become when the pressure is intense?

    Keep Reading...
  • June 28, 2018 Your Team’s Stage of Development

    Every team has a lifespan. The building blocks of development are constructed during the team’s infancy and tested throughout its childhood and adolescence. Once the team has matured into adulthood, performance is measured and remeasured as teammates manage obstacles, challenges, and changes through many cycles of growth. With each round, a new opportunity to thrive is welcomed. In what stage is your team today?

    Keep Reading...
  • June 13, 2018 Targeting 100% Engagement

    How much sickness is normal on a healthy team? The Gallup organization has been measuring employee engagement for decades and, until the past year, the numbers haven’t changed much. 30% of your teammates would run through a wall for the company. 50% come to work, go home, and collect their paychecks. 20% are some version of dysfunctional. Have you accepted these ratios as normal on your team?

    Keep Reading...
  • May 24, 2018 Choosing Your Role on the Team

    When Seth Godin endorsed Team Clock: A Guide to Breakthrough Teams in 2009, he stated, “This book made me think hard – really hard – about what it means to join or lead a group of people.” Whether joining or leading, everyone has a role. Often, your role on the team is not defined by your job description. Usually, it’s determined by the way you choose to interact with your teammates during key moments in the team’s lifespan.

    Keep Reading...
  • May 8, 2018 The Three Most Likely Issues Affecting Your Team

    As complex as human behavior can be, the problems that get teams stuck are surprisingly simple. Because living things grow in cycles, any team is always at some stage of challenge. Peak performance is one of these stages, but it is usually not considered a problem. Often, performing well is the natural consequence of addressing issues in these other three areas.

    Keep Reading...