Archive for the ‘Team Building’ Category

To give, or not, at the office? In the news today…

December 12, 2007

Is the  holiday season bringing you workplace ‘gift angst’? Not sure what to get the boss or your colleagues? Stuck on what to get for the guy/gal you barely know from down the hall but drew their name in the company’s Secret Santa exchange?

Check out today’s Globe and Mail article “To give, or not, at the office“, written by Randi Chapnik Myers. Randi interviewed a few work/career coaches (including myself) so you’ll find various perspectives and tips. 

I’d like to reinforce that when it comes to gift-giving in the workplace, the spirit of giving is more important than the actual “gifting”: use your judgment, be sensitive and appropriate. Generosity comes in many forms.

Cookies anyone?

Note: see “In the News” section for more news articles featuring Big Cheese Coaching. 

Ask the Coach: Developing the Leadership Team

November 5, 2007

Here’s one of my latest “Ask a Coach” columns published in CA Source — the Canadian Institute of Chartered Accountants  (CICA) online newsletter. Although I write that column for a newsletter that is dedicated to members of the accountancy profession, the issues addressed are relevant for many others in various sectors and professions.  Enjoy and if you have a question of your own….bring it on (see “Coaches Corner” on this site).

Q. About six months ago I took on a new role managing a company and inherited a group of six senior-level executives who make up the management team. As I’ve been observing the company, I’ve been pleased to see that each of the executive leaders are quite capable and strong performers in their own respective areas – both functionally and in their general leadership. However, there seems to be a lack of cohesion and energy when this group comes together as an executive team. We have regular meetings, but I don’t see the energy and common focus that would define a high-performing team. I think there’s more potential here – but thought I’d check to see if you have any starting advice.

A. You are on to something here. The group dynamic of your management team is as important as the individual performance of the executive leaders. The old adage: “the sum is greater than its parts” is so true when it comes to actualizing an organization’s best potential. A team that works well together works better for the greater good of the organization.

Here are a few thought-starters to consider as you focus on building a higher performing management team.  

Start with inquiry – how do the leaders on the executive team feel about the current team dynamic?
It might be a good idea to gauge how others feel about the team dynamic. There are different ways to go at this – both formal and informal. You might have conversations with each member individually, or consider a third party to assist – either through a formal survey and/or more in-depth conversations. Whichever route you choose, it is important that the leaders feel safe to speak candidly so you can get a true picture of where they stand on this issue.

Invest time in building a ‘team’, not just building a ‘biz’
A stronger management team will ultimately be better for the business. If the regular meetings to date have been focused exclusively on business issues, then you may want to invest some time to focus more specifically on team building. I recommend having time that is solely dedicated to this rather than mixing it up with the usual meetings. This will send the message that it’s important.

Enrol your leaders’ commitment though engagement
Mandating the team to work better together isn’t a viable solution. Rather, enrol their interest and commitment by inviting them to co-create a vision for how they see the opportunity to work as a more cohesive and higher performing team.

Some ideas that might be helpful (perhaps led by either an internal or external facilitator/coach) include:

  • Have the group establish clear intentions and commitments for how they want to work together; identify specific expectations with respect to their participation and behaviour as members of the team.
  • Co-create meaningful group goals that they will collectively be accountable for. Find ways to make them measurable.
  • Incorporate the company’s core values into this work if these values have already been articulated. If not, consider engaging the group in identifying the core values that will guide their work, behaviours and mindset.

Develop mutual and personal accountability for team objectives and performance
Build in appropriate personal and team accountability assessments for both the goals of the team and the overall behaviours. Some companies are incorporating this kind of accountability into performance reviews and compensation models.

Encourage the team to bond and to get to know each other better – as leaders and as people!
Trust and engagement are critical if the group is to work together in a more meaningful and collaborative way. Create opportunities for the team to get to know each other better both professionally and even personally as people. A few ideas:

  • Consider a session or exercise that allows the team to identify and acknowledge each member’s individual strengths. Each executive has their own unique set of talents, skills and personal attributes. By acknowledging the breadth and depth of talent in the group, the team can operate with more collective bench strength. It’s also a very affirming exercise to have your colleagues acknowledge you for your unique strengths.
  • Invest some time away from the office to allow the team to get to know each other as people. Whether it’s a team-building exercise or simply a more casual social opportunity, knowing people beyond their ‘working widget’ self can build more productive and trusting relationships. It also adds to the camaraderie experience, which for many people is an important fulfillment factor in their work lives.

Review, support and celebrate
As you grow your business you’ll also want to continually grow your people. This effort should be continually revisited, nurtured and supported to ensure your executive team is actualizing its potential on an ongoing basis. Consider opportunities to review, support and celebrate the objectives, goals and successes of the team – just as one should for others within the broader talent pool of the company.

Enlist the right support to do this right…
If you don’t feel comfortable or have the right expertise to get this process going, consider hiring a third party with expertise to help you coach your team in this work.
Remember the purpose behind all this is that a strong, cohesive and collaborative executive team will bode well for the business. As I said before, your observation has already put you on the right track. Go with it and trust that if you work on this together, you and your team will generate great success.

Best of luck!


If You Attended Today’s CICA Webinar….

October 29, 2007

Thank you to everyone who attended the Webinar I presented today at the CICA exploring TGIM worklife with Emotional Intelligence! It was a great turn-out (more than 400 attendees!) and based on the questions I received at the end – a very enthusiastic group indeed.

I thought I’d post the links to some of the articles I mentioned that might be of interest (rather than having you search for them). So here are a few:

1) Emotional Intelligence at Work — an article I wrote for HR Reporter that provides an at-a-glance summary of some of the concepts I explored today about EQ.

2) The Lizard who wouldn’t eat…. About using your Signature Strengths to feel gratified at work.

3) Tips to Make the “Bigness of Monday” Just a Little Bit Lighterwhen you could use a little boost. And the Globe and Mail article “Thank God it’s Monday“.

4) Finding Flow: Intense Work but Without the Struggle

5) Is HR Prepared to Keep the Keepers — another article I wrote for HR Reporter on employee engagemeng for high performers and high potentials.

6) Employee Engagement – Respect

AND….there was one participant who asked about self employment as a career option…so for those that might be interested, my reflections starting my 10th year in biz

AND…there’s much more so I invite you all to have a look at the blog…and visit again! Also – I did mention that I’d be introducing a tele-class program in January for leaders who want to develop more resilience at work (to navigate and deal with the ever-increasing load and work-life hurdles we talked about).

More about that later but if interested, please let me know by email or a call and I’ll be sure to keep you in the loop as I confirm the details (with no obligation of course).

Of course, if interested in exploring how you can learn more about developing a TGIM worklife for yourself and/or others you work with….please do get in touch! I’d love to hear from you.

To a TGIM worklife!


This just in: Free the humans!

August 20, 2007

If you read my post yesterday, I ended with a call for ideas on how to ease towards and back into September and work mode….with more joy and less angst. Well, this just in: Two colleagues in the coaching world that I respect very much are starting a movement called “Free the Humans” — and kicking it off on Labour Day with a “Free the Humans” be-in picnic!

 According to Darlene Russell and Charmaine Sherlock — the co-founders of this event and social movement — “the intent is to celebrate the 40th anniversary of the famous Summer of Love and to mark our reluctant return to work”.

Darlene says on their blog: “We thought this would be the perfect occasion to introduce Free the Humans, the new social movement committed to freeing the human spirit and liberating the imagination at work.”

Very coooooool. So if you are anywhere near the Hamilton area on Labour Day – mark your calendars and check it all out at their blog:

And if you’re not from the area…..stay tuned in because as Darlene said, this is about much more than a one day event: it’s a social movement and they inviting others to help co-create a new way of being at work.

Gotta like the sound of that!

Also worth noting, Darlene and Charmaine are also offering a fantabulous program for organizations wanting to perk up their people with their unique coffee breaks. If you’ve ever witnessed Darlene in action with her creativity, well, you’ll know you’re in for something special!  It’s all on their blog – so check it out!

To freeing the humans and a TGIM work life!


Courageous Leadership…

May 31, 2007

Courageous and authentic leadership. These are two key words that are coming up for me as I reflect on what I want to share with you with respect to last week’s Prism Award presentations.

In my previous post, I promised that I’d follow-up and post some of the lessons learned from the winning companies. Here’s my first go at this…there’s lots to tell but I’ll start with just a couple points and perhaps share more another time.

1) Core Values at the heart of success and engagement: at least three of the Prism winning organizations talked about how their work began with an exploration of their personal and/or organization’s core values. Core values -are generally words or themes (sometimes phrases) that capture an individual’s or company’s “DNA”. It’s what you stand for; what you deeply belief in –and ultimately should be aligned with your behaviours, attitudes, actions. It’s the essence of one’s character’. We all have our own unique set of core values fundamental to who we are. We’re at our best and tend to experience more fulfillment when we express these values in our day-to-day actions and ‘being’. And so when an individual leads and performs from their core values – they are more authentic.

Tribute Communities, Impact Communications, National Ovarian Cancer Foundation — the first three presentations — all relayed a host of goals, objectives, challenges, etc. Each, however, started with articulating their core values. Then they brought them forward into action. It was the first time I’ve heard so many of the Prism winners (I’ve been to at least 4 years of these events) speak to this theme. So this year, it was clear that the winners were showcasing ‘authentic leadership’ in full force!

2) Investing in the process — in unknown territory….takes courage. Some of the winning clients conceded in their presentations that at first they were a bit reticent about the investment of some of the coaching initiatives (e.g. the time away from ‘actual work’, the cost, etc.). Also, the coaching work initially was something that was a bit unknown to them…..outside of their comfort zone…i.e. what’s this thing called coaching? Whaddya mean we’re going to discover our values then put them to work?! I have so much work to do – can afford this time and get involved in something like this??

Well – fast forward — the winners were all unequivocal in their testaments that it was the “best time spent”. The results in terms of increased efficiency, better teamwork, more engaged stakeholders paid off in spades. Elizabeth Ross, head of NOCA (the not-for-profit winner) said “I wondered what my donors would think of me spending all this time on (discovering core values, etc.).” Well, she said she now knows it was the best thing she could do for the organization.  They work smarter….and are more compassionate (one of their core values) and they and their constituents are the better for it. 

In one case (Sysco), the client had to really sell the coaching program internally. It was a very ambitious program and very much ‘outside of the box’ in terms of typical corporate training in that organization. He took a huge chance. And he took a huge stand because he believed in the program. That took courage.  And the results stood  him well. He’s now received the go-ahead to do another year…with even more funding.

All these leaders (from Tribute, Impact Communications, NOCA, Sysco) took a chance on this ‘fairly new thing called coaching’. The work was outside of their usual ‘work’. The conversations were different. They were all courageous. And the work allowed for more authentic, reflective, powerful leadership. And it lead to better performance, improved teamwork and more inspired leadership.

….that’s powerful. They are the leaders….still a minority among Canadian employers, they are the leaders showcasing how to bring the best out of their people…..

… and there’s much more…but we’ll leave that for another day.

Till next time,


Core Values in Action at the ICF Prism Award Ceremony

May 27, 2007

Big Cheese Coaching and Tribute Communities were in great company on Friday at the International Coach Federation (ICF) Prism Award Ceremony. As one of this year’s award recipients, we had an opportunity to present and share the highlights of our story. The room was filled with coaches, clients and others interested in learning about how coaching in the workplace could make a difference in leadership, engagement, performance – and other areas.  Congratulations as well to the other three winning organizations and the coaches – as I said, we were in great company (see full list here).

Tribute’s program was about building on success through engagement of its people. Tribute builds great communities and has been doing so for 25 years. Part of our work involved shifting the lense inwards to explore the internal community at Tribute (the diverse, talent that makes things happen every day). Starting with an exploration of the company’s core values and articulating a central purpose, we involved the whole company. The initiative unfolded over a year (group and individual coaching; company-wide meetings; communications strategy; a core values in action plan and more…). The outcomes were many: New ways of being/working together; new initiatives to energize and acknowledge the talent; leadership development — and much more.


This picture was of a few of us getting ready for the Globe and Mail photo shoot (see resulting article). There’s a more formal picture below of the Tribute gang at the event.

I was so proud to be part of this winning team – and particularly my client, Tribute Communities that truly earned this award.  Who’d guess that a home-building company would be leading the way as an ambassador for coaching at the workplace? Two years ago (when we met), they hadn’t even really heard about coaching (coaching is still fairly new afterall). But in its 25 years in business, Tribute has proven to be a leader in so many ways. So in hindsight, it’s not surprising that they’d lead in this arena too.

From my perspective, they are a dream client: respectful, open and innovative,  collaborative — and lots of fun!

But enough gushing for one day! There were a lot of gems of learning from all of the winners. I’ll share some of the themes that emerged in a subsquent post. But for now – if you’d like to hear more about how to create a TGIM worklife experience in your organization, well….I hope you’ll give me a call:)

 BACK To TGIMworklife Homepage

P.S. Here’s the Tribute gang at the event – with yours truly in the middle holding the Prism award and saying “Big Cheese”!

In the News (Globe and Mail): Coaches don’t always demand more push-ups

May 5, 2007

Big Cheese Coaching and my client, Tribute Communities, are in the news today! As a result of winning the International Coach Federation Prism Award, the Globe and Mail did a feature in the Careers section. Virginia Galt interviewed myself and two leaders from Tribute Communities management team, David Speigel and Cindy Kunz. The article appears in this weekend’s “Career Coach” section. 

YOU CAN READ IT HERE WHILE IT’S ONLINE – or better yet, if you’re out today, buy a copy. 


The headline sets up the story beautifully with reference to David Speigel’s comments about his only previous experience with coaching being that of the athletic kind and his curiousity (and subsequent engagement) with the workplace brand of coaching….(Btw, …there’s a a little irony here  because I just happen to also have a degree in fitness and used to be a fitness trainer :)…so who knows, I may just add in those crunches and push-ups at some point. Kidding.

I love this metaphor because, in essence, this work is in some ways like core training — I do core training (coaching and development work) for leaders (of varying levels), teams and companies who want to make more of a difference in their work lives. As I’ve said in previous posts – we start with the inside first and bring our strengths, awareness, growth to our outer game (the goals/results we want in work and life). We’ll be sharing more about the Tribute Communities success story at the International Coach Federation Prism Awards event on May 25th.

For now, I want to acknowledge the whole Management team at Tribute Communities (and many, many more from the broader team) that were involved with the program — and contributed tremendously towards making this program a great success.

Tribute goes to: Al Libfeld (President/co-founder of Tribute who championed this coaching program from the get-go); Cindy Kunz, Wally Kunz, David Speigel, Dino Scagnetto, Mark Cohen, Mary Liolios, Jeff Brandwein, Ray Jankelow, Sandra Noest….all champions in their own right. And to the many others at Tribute who stepped up so fully into this program and made a difference. 

Stay tuned for subsequent Posts when I’ll share some pics from a team photo we took on Thursday while waiting for the Globe photographer.

NEWS: Big Cheese Coaching Wins Prism Award with Tribute Communities

May 3, 2007

BIG news for Big Cheese Coaching this week! The International Coach Federation (GTA chapter) has announced its winners for the 2007 Prism Awards and guess who’s in the winners circle? I am very excited to share the news that my client, Tribute Communities, has been chosen as one of this year’s recipients of the prestigious award. The Prism award honours excellence in business (or organizational) performance and leadership through coaching initiatives. As their coach, I get a spot in the winners circle too (it’s a lovely place to be:).

ICF will host an event ceremony on May 25th. The winners will be presented with their awards and share their stories of how coaching impacted their business and work-lives. We share this honour with three other award recipients.  Read the ICF release here.

Awards aside, this is a wonderful story about employee engagement; passion; leadership excellence; professional and personal development — and much more! I don’t want scoop too much just yet — we’re getting ready to share our story in the days/weeks ahead leading up to the event — but I do want to say that this client relationship has made my work-life so meaningful this past year and a half. I’m so honoured and blessed to have the opportunity to partner with such a terrific group of people.

Congratulations and thank you Tribute. I’ll be paying more Tribute to you and your (our) award in the days ahead.

ADDENDUM (May 7th): See “In the News” to read the news coverage.  And please visit home page of this blog to read more about TGIM worklife!

Stay tuned for more!

Voice of a reflective leader: how to truly ‘be there’ with your people

April 23, 2007

I have to share a post from Joe Thornley’s blog. As CEO of a PR and design firm (Thornley Fallis) with offices in Ottawa and Toronto, Joe writes: “I am regularly confronted with a fundamental challenge. How do I manage to stay connected enough with my employees that I can understand them and their state of mind and also convey a sense of the organization’s overall vision, direction and purpose?”

Great question Joe — and a sign of a resonant leader who cares. Notice his question was not “how do I make sure we are getting the most productivity out of our people”? Sure that’s part of the ultimate equation, but Joe sees the bigger picture…

He shares his experience in shifting his approach wrt to his weekly Toronto visits. Whereas he used to jam-pack his time in Toronto (he’s based in Ottawa) with back-to-back formal meetings that ‘pushed the agenda’ with lots of decision-making focus, he’s learned that those visits used to stress out his people. Now he takes a more informal, open approach and devotes more time to learning about his people and simply ‘tuning in’. He conveys the value of being there for the brown bag lunch get-togethers, some water cooler chat and informal drop-in meetings to help him understand what’s really important to his people – in their work and in their lives. Invaluable and so much more powerful than simply only focusing on task and strategy conversations.

Please read it for yourself. Joe’s post demonstrates the thinking of a reflective leader who understands the value of building relationships internally and seeing employees as way more than their functional roles. He gets that his people have lives in and out of the office. 

Joe says that being present is about so much more than just being physically in the office. He quotes an article from Suzie and Jack Welch in a recent Business Week Column: …the road to the top is paved with being there.”

So to leaders and aspiring leaders,  ask yourself this Monday morning: What does ‘being there’ look like to you in your work life? And how will you be there for your people this week? 

Thanks Joe – great inspiration for the start of the work-week!



Next Big Leadership Development Trend: Horsing around….

April 13, 2007

 I can’t believe I spent all that time, effort and $ to become certified in coaching and, more recently, the EQ-i system (emotional intelligence)! When instead, I could’ve/shoud’ve been taking horseback riding lessons!

 That’s right – I just found out that the latest leadership development trend is — get this: horseback riding.

Yuppers – heard it with my own two ears this morning on CBC Radio – a Metro Morning news story.

Apparantly, there’s a company in Alberta (sorry, missed the name) that sent its leadership team out to the barn to learn how to more effectively communicate with horses. Guess, they figure if you can teach a horse to trot, cantor and gallup – well, all the more possibilities with your own team back at the ranch…, I mean office.

 Hmmm. Giddy up anyone?

(photo courtesy of Flickr – dsutherland)