How to Build Unity in Your Team on Three Critical Levels

They are the most exceptional basketball team there ever was, or ever will be.

The 1992 Olympic Basketball Dream Team, made up of legends like Michael Jordan, Magic Johnson, and Scottie Pippen, dominated the Olympics, winning by an average of 40 points each game. The team seemed invincible, except for the day it wasn’t.

The game was a 20-minute scrimmage, which took place in June of 1992, in San Diego, California. The shocked victors were a star-studded college line-up. The reported margin was around eight points, with a final score of 62-54 (though coach Chuck Daly cleared the scoreboard before media were allowed in afterward). How could a powerhouse lose to amateurs? The answer was simple. Individual stars could not work together as a team. The talent was not enough to compensate for the lack of unity in the team.

Acceptance, Agreement, and Alignment

Without a unified team, the mission of your organization is lost.

Unity refers to the synergy of individuals working together to make a larger vision happen. This means each contributor to the team must be wholeheartedly focused on the same outcome to create consistency and achieve success.

What builds unity in business settings?

Generally, if people trust their leader and believe they have a voice at the table, they feel aligned with the greater purpose of an organization.

But the responsibility for building alignment lies with the leader, and includes three levels of unity:

Acceptance

Most companies already have this first (and lowest) level of unity, appointing a formal leader with team members who agree on this hierarchy.

At this level, people go along with the status quo because if they happen to object, they perceive the cost of speaking up as too great.

Agreement

At this level of unity, people agree with a team’s direction and generally support it.

Unfortunately, they are not necessarily invested in the leader’s ideas or committed to making them happen. While leaders may not experience outright resistance, at this level, teams lack momentum and can’t seem to make things happen.

Alignment

Here leaders find that people are not just with them, but fully behind them.

They’re committed to making the shared vision a reality and give tremendous effort to making it happen. They voice support in public and aren’t afraid to share concerns in private.

Move People Forward with Brave Communication

What happens if your team is stuck at level one or two? Leaders can take several steps to build unity in practical ways:

  • Discuss the levels of unity with your team, asking people to speak honestly about where things are at or share sensitive feedback in private.
  • Clearly articulate your vision, strategy, or your reason WHY. People can’t get on board with a vision if they don’t understand it. Be consistent in sharing the vision. The gravitational pull is always toward individual roles rather than team vision, and it’s your job to keep the end goal in sight.
  • Encourage debate and deliberation by positioning yourself as a learner. When weighing decisions, gather as much input as possible, then share why you decided on a particular direction.
  • Ask for buy-in. When you sense underlying tension, consider addressing it directly. Ask people who disagree with you to get on board anyway. On dicey decisions, it may be important to ask people (publicly, one by one, during a meeting) this question: “_____, can you align with this decision?”

Be brave in your communication, and you will cut to the core of disunity in your team. Remember, people can’t authentically buy-in until they’ve voluntarily committed first.

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How to Use Silence to Strengthen Your Leadership Presence

Jack Reacher is a fictional character in a series of crime thriller novels by British author Lee Child.

In the 1997 novel Killing Floor, Reacher randomly exits a Greyhound bus in Georgia and is later arrested in a local diner for a murder he did not commit. While questioned in custody, Reacher wields the power of silence to maintain his personal advantage:

“Long experience had taught me that absolute silence is the best way. Say something, and it can be misheard. Misunderstood. Misinterpreted. It can get you convicted. It can get you killed. Silence upsets the arresting officer. He has to tell you silence is your right but he hates it if you exercise that right. I was being arrested for murder. But I said nothing.”

Communicate Authority with Silence

Silence holds immense power, especially in situations that involve negotiation.

As inventor and artist Leonardo da Vinci said, “Nothing strengthens authority so much as silence.” Dynamic leaders often use silence to their benefit. When handled with intention and purpose, silence is what some leaders call “a communication superpower.”

Do you tend to interrupt, dominate conversations, or explain your perspective from multiple angles in order to sway opinion? If silence is an overlooked resource in your communication toolkit, you might need to change strategies.

Silence can increase your authority and grow your influence in at least four powerful ways.

Silence Builds Trust

According to best-selling author Bryant H. McGill, “one of the most sincere forms of respect is actually listening to what another has to say.”

If you want to develop effective relationships, you must build trust. And trust begins with listening. Unfortunately, most people don’t listen with the intent to hear, they listen with the intent to reply. When people realize you are truly listening to them, they are much more likely to buy into your ideas.

Silence Can Emphasize Your Point

When you have something important to say, state it briefly and allow a long pause for your words to sink in.

Communication is more than the words we speak, it involves the energy we transmit. When you give room for a lengthy pause, you show people you aren’t scrambling to convince them. And as your words fully land with others, you don’t need to talk as much because silence creates room for people to understand and connect to what you are saying.

Silence Communicates Credibility

Have you ever sat through a meeting where several people squabbled while one person stayed silent?

Eventually, everyone felt tension and curiosity about what the quiet party was thinking. When a silent observer finally interjects an opinion, it speaks louder than the clamor and carries a more memorable quality. “She is so wise,” people think, because sometimes there is a credibility that can only be communicated through silence.

Also, it never hurts to take a lengthy period of time to think before commenting. Abraham Lincoln has been credited with this quote: “Better to remain silent and be thought a fool than to open one’s mouth and remove all doubt.”

Silence Increases Negotiating Power

A primary negotiation tactic involves asking a question and letting the other person answer first.

Silence when negotiating can give you the advantage because its “deafening” weight can prompt others to speak first. For example, when the other party offers a salary figure or point of compromise, don’t answer immediately. Instead, pause and let the discomfort of silence flush out a bit more detail. Maybe they will offer more or show their own hand.

Leaders know how to use silence as a tactic to communicate authority and influence. Experiment with silence during your conversations and observe the impact it can make.

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True Empathy Can Win the Day

 

A farmer had a litter of puppies for sale. As he was driving the last nail into his advertising yard sign, he felt a tug at his overalls. “Mister,” said a boy at his feet, “I want to buy a puppy.”

“Well,” said the farmer, “These puppies come from fine parents and cost lots of money. How much do you have?”

The boy dropped his head momentarily, then drew several coins from his pocket. “I don’t have much, but is this enough to take a look?”

The farmer paused reluctantly but before he could answer three puppies rolled out of the doghouse. One tiny, awkward pup hobbled behind. The boy’s eyes lit up. “I want that one,” he exclaimed, pointing to the runt. The man shook his head solemnly. “Son, that puppy will never be able to run and play like the others.”

The boy rolled up his trousers to reveal a steel brace running down both sides of one leg. “I do want that puppy. I don’t run too well myself, and he’ll need someone who understands him.”

That day the boy won the puppy because he moved the farmer’s heart. Why? Because empathy impacts people. Researchers define empathy as the ability to sense other people’s emotions and to imagine how they might be thinking or feeling. Empathy is essential to human interactions because it allows us to connect in authentic ways and to offer helpful words, comfort, or assistance. Empathy is essential in every human interaction but is especially significant for those in customer service.

Empathy Begins with Real Listening

Would you like to be more successful in minimizing difficult situations or by helping customers overcome their hesitations as you’re trying to make a sale?

All empathy begins with real listening. As you listen with empathy, ask questions like:

  • “How is this situation affecting you?”
  • “Can you tell me more about _____?”
  • “What do you think would be your ideal outcome here?”

As a person processes, take care not to interrupt. While you may not be equipped to address their concerns, asking empathetic questions can shift your focus to listen more effectively, opening new lines of communication and diffusing tension so everyone can move forward.

Empathy involves reflective listening, using phrases that demonstrate your understanding. Phrases that show customers you are taking customers seriously might include:

  • “I can understand how frustrating it is when . . .”
  • “I see this is very complicated/upsetting.”
  • “I’m sorry to hear that and I’ll do my best to help.”

Pair Compassion with Action

As you communicate compassion, be ready to follow your words with action.

Take ownership of a situation by following up immediately, by referring it to a superior, or by positively addressing both the person and the problem. Phrases like, “ok, we can fix this,” or “let’s get this sorted out right away,” will reassure customers you’re taking ownership of the problem.

Action-based empathy also means thinking outside the box for large-scale change. Erin Henkel, portfolio director at the IDEO global design and innovation company, says often positive innovation begins with empathy:

“Effective companies need employees who constantly imagine themselves in the customer’s shoes. As they make the customer’s problems their own, they are better able to meet expectations, make necessary changes, and to retain customer loyalty for another day.”

Being able to put yourself in someone else’s shoes is a hallmark of intelligent leadership and of excellent teamwork. Work hard to grow empathy and you will open new lines of communication, create greater understanding, and help everyone achieve common goals.

 

 

 

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The Magic of Dialogue

Who doesn’t love a great conversation? There’s something compelling about swapping stories, sharing hurts, and multiplying joys as we connect together each day. Companies are finding the catalyst to true connection often comes through listening.

Marketing and editorial strategists Michelle Horowitz and Kendall Meade believed so strongly in conversation that they launched an entire online platform called InTELLects to grow real-life interactions that promote conversation, creativity, and community:

“I’m energized by making connections and asking people deeper questions,” says Michelle. “It’s how I learn, and it’s how I grow.”

TheMagicofDialogue

InTELLects features notable leaders, thinkers, and change agents, building a community of mentors and offering users the chance to ask questions – any questions – to grow the collective conversation. The co-founders believe authentic discussions pave pathways to clarity, grow existing communities, and instigate this new universal truth: “ask, and you shall succeed.” InTELLects is promoting a paradigm shift that’s moving companies away from “shoving a sales pitch” and toward authentic customer engagement.

The Critical Surfing “Slow Down

In today’s complex ecosystem, marketers are realizing that consumer engagement (or return on EXPERIENCE) is a long-term, holistic measure of a customer’s encounter with a brand. Engagement includes any action a customer takes to connect with a company: downloading an app, participating in a forum, or referring products to friends. Engagement brings significantly greater return than website traffic, as researchers report that attention span in “surfing” is typically less than nine seconds per page.

How can we slow people down? Horowitz says asking questions is a wonderful place to start.

“True engagement stems from building a place where people can honestly learn, share, and engage,” she said. InTELLects believes that real conversations transcend the noise and forge emotional connections.

Through digital channels, today’s entrepreneurs have powerful tools to create highly personalized relationships. While community forums have been around for ages, expanding social networks like LinkedIn Groups and Google+ Communities offer a chance to connect with customers and ask questions that can build emotional connections that last. Recent data shows that 68 percent of audiences spent more than 15 percent of their time reading the comments section of a story – revealing the allure of dialogue to build powerful community connection.

Growing the Conversation

As you seek to build your own “conversational opportunities,” here are a few questions to consider:

  1. What does your target audience connect with?
  2. What questions do they have about your product?
  3. What is their favorite feature of your business?
  4. Where can you proactively predict what they want to stay ahead of the design curve?
  5. What educational or training gaps could your company offer on their behalf?
  6. What are some practical questions you could pose to gain insights in these areas?

Need ideas to get you started? Grab your team and brainstorm how you might:

  • Host a contest
  • Promote customer achievements on your own social media page
  • Allow your VIP customers to co-create content
  • Host webinars or events
  • Make someone your “brand ambassador” for the month
  • Allow users to have fun, like the Reddit community did in its season-long Fat Tire experience

As technology barrels ahead, one of our own goals is to keep people at the forefront. Whether it’s online forums, beautifully handcrafted printing, or just the face-to-face interactions we have with you every day, we believe nothing trumps relationships. We enjoy hearing about your own questions and ideas, and we look forward to serving you this year. Let’s keep talking!

 

 


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Print Marketing Is About Selling Value, Not Services.

There’s a common misconception that far too many marketers have that needs to be put to rest once and for all.

A Satisfied Customer Is The Best Business Strategy of All

A lot of people still seem to think that if you’re really going to carve out a stronger competitive advantage for yourself in an increasingly crowded marketplace, you need to make your services appear objectively better than everyone else’s. You need to talk about how your products are better, stronger, faster, longer-lasting, more cost-efficient, etc. All this to steal as much attention away from your competition as you can.

In truth, that is a myth. You shouldn’t be selling services at all. You should be selling the value that those services provide. In other words, the thesis at the heart of your print marketing campaign shouldn’t be “here’s what I can do that nobody else can,” but rather “here’s what I can do for you.” Mastering this approach requires you to keep a few key things in mind.

Everything Begins and Ends With Your Customer

The art of selling value instead of services is one of those situations where buyer personas come in handy.

When you begin to come up with a buyer persona for your ideal customer, you try to add as much information about that person as possible. But once your persona has been completed, you shouldn’t be asking yourself, “Okay, what do I need to tell this person in order to convince them to give me money?” Instead, you need to get answers to questions like:

  • What problem does this customer have and how do my services solve it for them?
  • In what ways will that person’s life be easier after their purchase than it was before?
  • What does that person want to accomplish, and how can I help make that happen?

Then, you work your way back to the products and services that you’re trying to sell, thinking about the problem and positioning yourself as the solution.

A Whole New Approach

This is one of those areas where specificity will carry you far. Think about the individual portions of your sales funnel and what someone needs to hear at each one to move from one end to the other. Use this “value-centric” approach not to convince someone that the time is right to make a purchase, but to give them the actionable information they need to arrive at that conclusion on their own.

In the end, there are probably a lot of other companies in your industry who do what you do – but nobody does it in quite the same way. That key thing that differentiates you from so many others is the value that only you can offer and what should be at the heart of all of your marketing messages.

 

 

 


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Everyone Is Looking to Save a Dollar: How Discounts can Improve Your Sales Revenue.

Everyone Is Looking to Save a Dollar:

How Discounts can Improve Your Sales Revenue

 

Many businesses look at offering discounts as a method for losing money. But, what they don’t realize is discounts actually generate revenue and improve their brand equity. Let’s take a closer look at how discounts increase sales and can put you a step ahead of your competitors.

Sale Banner Design_09

Improve Sales Revenue

First and foremost, discounts, whether they come in the form of online codes or paper coupons, will draw the attention of consumers to your business. They increase traffic and, most times, lead to a sale. Even better is that while customers are using their discounts codes on your website or in your store, they tend to look around at other products and services you have for sale, which can further boost your sales.

Spread Brand Awareness

By offering discounts, you are putting your company’s brand name into the minds of consumers. Even if consumers don’t come to your store to use a discount, your brand name will at least be implanted into their minds. Also, if they don’t take advantage of a discount, they may know someone who can and offer to let them use their discount code, which only expands your brand awareness even more.

Increase Social Media Fans and Followers

Everyone is out to save a dollar. When they come across companies that offer great discounts, they tend to look them up on social media and either hit the Like or Follow buttons. And if you’ve ever used social media, then you know that when one of your friends hits the Like or Follow button, it shows up in your newsfeed. When you offer discounts, you have the potential to greatly increase your social media fans and followers.

Build a Strong Reputation

Consumers really love purchasing products and services from companies that offer regular discounts, like military and senior citizen discounts. As you continue to offer these discounts on a regular basis, you will build a strong reputation for your company and showcase to the public that you are a socially responsible organization.

Clear Out Space for New Inventory

Have you ever wanted to bring in new products to sell but you didn’t have room because you had too much old inventory sitting around? One of the best ways to clear out this old inventory is by offering discounts. Having a weekend sale where you offer a 20% discount on the products you are trying to clear is an excellent way to:

  • Free up space
  • Increase sales
  • Spread brand awareness
  • Increase traffic to your store
  • Establish Loyal Customers

Your customers deserve a discount, especially if they do business with you on a frequent basis. This is why creating a loyalty reward program that offers returning customers a discount is essential to establishing long-term relationships with your existing customer base.

Meet Your Sales Goals

You know that to maintain a profit, you must meet your sales goals. Offering discounts may decrease profit margins for a bit, but they can most definitely help you meet sales goals to ensure you keep maintaining a profit. End of the season or end of the quarter discounts should be offered at least four times a year.

The Takeaway

Don’t be fooled into thinking that offering discounts are going to hurt revenue. It likely will do the exact opposite as well as bring several other advantages, like expanded brand awareness and the establishment of loyal customers.

 

 


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Every Extrovert Can Learn to Listen

The Courage to Connect

man holds his hand near ear and listens carefully

When research professor Brené Brown opened up to a TedxHouston audience about shame, vulnerability, and courage, she had no idea her message would become one of the most wildly popular TEDx talks of all time (with over 24 million views). Brown has spent the last ten years studying the power of authenticity and empathy, and poses wonderful questions like these:

  • How do we embrace vulnerabilities and imperfections so we can live from a place of authenticity and worthiness?
  • How can we engage people in a way that makes them feel worthwhile, brave, and willing to commit to something bigger than just a project or deadline?
  • How can we choose courage over comfort, stretching our team to connect in ways that powerfully motivate everyone?

Every Extrovert Can Learn to Listen

Brown’s work hits home in the hearts of many who long for authentic relationships and want to see this come alive in their workplace. While there are many hindrances to open communication, one of the greatest barriers is simply our personality differences. Over half the population are considered introverts, but research shows that introverts make up only two percent of senior executives. Which gives extroverts a great opportunity to do lots of talking. But studies show that business leaders who prioritize listening are perceived as considerably more effective than those who dominate the conversation.

Invite Them to Engage

We all have room to grow, and great interactions begin with intentional listening. Here are three ways to quiet your mouth and open your ears as you seek to engage others in meaningful ways:

  1. Start every meeting with a question.

Imagine yourself standing before your team with an invitation instead of a megaphone.

Seek to motivate conversation rather than charging into a meeting with a tight-fisted agenda. Opening your gatherings with dialogue can shake out the nerves and cobwebs of the entire team, sparking creativity and building interpersonal collateral. Increasing dialogue can catalyze more “green light” brainstorming and bring a fresh, life-giving dynamic to your entire company. When you formulate meeting agendas, push yourself to start with a prompt and to leave more tangible space for discussion.

  1. Listen with action.

How can you show your teammates their insights really matter?

Often people are tentative about sharing constructive criticism, fearing negative repercussions or believing “nothing will really change.” Great leaders surround themselves with those who will give honest feedback, and they intentionally close the “listening loop” by following up with some sort of action. Close a meeting by thanking your team for their honesty, or sending personal e-mails telling them you valued their input. Make a list of things to look into, review, or change, and add timelines to these goals so your ideas aren’t lost in the weekly grind. Even if you can’t implement suggestions, make a point to tell people they are valuable and you have actually heard what they are saying.

  1. Embrace vulnerability as a step toward courageous communication.

What do you do when someone asks you a question you can’t answer? Saying, ‘I don’t know” can be the most significant reply of all.

When you acknowledge your limitations, it opens the door for your teammates to step in and shine or to admit their own uncertainties or frustrations. Vulnerability can grow powerful partnerships and prompt growth in areas you hadn’t previously targeted. Ultimately, vulnerability builds engagement, which grows teams and enriches the atmosphere. Push yourself toward bold, transparent communication, and you may be surprised at the results. Brene Brown says it like this:

“Vulnerability is not weakness. It’s the most accurate measurement of courage.”

Ready to open a new pipeline of thoughtful teamwork and open communication? Be brave, be intentional, and sometimes . . . just be quiet.

 

 


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4 Ways to Stop Your Team from Falling Apart

GettyImages-649346048

Working through some concepts.

There are times in every supervisor’s work life that you can feel everything going off the rails — projects don’t sync up as they should, laughter feels forced within your team, and the energy levels are low.
While it may feel like everything is falling apart at the seams, and you’re not sure what you can do, don’t give up! There are ways to bring teamwork back to your team, but it will take some work to rebuild trust between team members and realign your focus to the future.

Even the most high-performing teams have moments of doubt that can be introduced by stress or fear. These negative emotions could overtake a team or its leader, but the first step is re-imagining the future and then casting that vision to your team.

Prevention is Worth a Pound of Cure

While it may be too late if your team has already entered a downward spiral, preventing negativity from happening is always the best alternative to a team that’s coming apart at the seams. Getting to know your team, understanding their motivations and stressors, and working hard when you need to will help you become a trusted member of your team — and not just the leader.

Spending time together bonding in good times will help sustain your relationship during times of difficulty, both with each individual team member and the team as a whole. This trust doesn’t come overnight but is worth the time spent building it in the long run.

Slowing the Negativity

Perhaps your team has just begun showing signs of stress, such as team members being unwilling to contribute in meetings, leaving early, or losing energy early in the day. If you look up in the afternoon and everyone is wandering around looking aimless instead of focused on work or building relationships, it’s past time to get more involved in your team’s dynamics.

Start by talking to someone on your team, either the person who is seemingly the most stressed or one with whom you have the most trust built up. See if you can determine what the root cause of the uncertainty is, and look for potential options for resolution together.

Returning from the Brink

If your team is truly on the brink of collapse, with your best and brightest team members disengaged and actively looking for other opportunities, it’s time to take more drastic measures. Consider asking your human resources department if they’re hearing any rumors about what’s happening, or pull the team together as a whole in an offsite meeting to add to their comfort level.

Request that they be open and honest with you about challenges that they’re encountering — either within the team, outside the team or even outside the organization.

Take Charge of Results

You also must face the possibility that you as the leader are the problem, which can be painful and difficult to accept. However, you must first look to make changes in your own leadership style in order to help salvage your team’s success.

Take responsibility for finding a solution, and don’t be afraid to claim accountability when things aren’t going as you had planned. Too often, leaders find themselves in a situation that feels hopeless and attempt to look externally to find the problem.

If there is truly someone on your team who is causing the excessive negativity, know when it’s time to make the difficult decision and make a change in personnel. Sometimes, all it takes is removing a negative influence or underperformer to bring your team back to center.

Today’s organizations are moving quickly and chasing many different initiatives at once. Managing people is always a balancing act: creating a culture of learning and accountability while allowing people the space they need to take appropriate chances. Fortunately, nearly every team can be brought back from a downward spiral with time, effort, and loads of positive energy from its leader.

 


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