The Best New Year’s Resolution You Will Ever Set: Stop Setting New Year’s Resolutions

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Stop Setting New Years ResolutionsIt’s the start of a new year. If you are like most people your optimism for positive change is at the highest it will be for the next 365 days. There is something almost magical about a new year. It is a clean slate. A chance to start over. We have visions of changing; of finally getting in shape, of starting to travel, building stronger relationships, and improving our finances and career.

And yet, deep down we know the ugly truth: Most new year’s resolutions fail faster than milk goes bad in the fridge. We know this. That’s why many us don’t even bother to set goals for the new year. We know it is fruitless exercise. We wish it was different, but our experience tells us that new year’s resolutions just don’t work.

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Why New Year’s Resolutions Fail

There is nothing inherently wrong with a desire to improve your life as you enter a new year. Growth is a natural part of the human experience. We are actually happiest when we are growing, even though it may not feel that way when that growth is pushing us to do new and uncomfortable things.

So why do new year’s resolutions fail at such a high rate?

New year’s resolutions are actually based on a false premise: That the reason we have not been doing the things we wish or achieving the goals we desire is that we have lacked commitment. Commitment is indeed a large part of achievement, however it is not enough. If it was then the number of people you find in the gym would not soar over 500% between Jan 2nd and Jan 15th, and then drop down to normal levels by the end of January every year.

So if commitment is not enough, perhaps it is that we lack persistence. Perhaps people who are more successful in achieving their goals are more persistent. However, while goal achievers are indeed more persistent, that is not the cause of their achievement. Saying that we need to persist if we desire to achieve a goal does nothing to address the reasons WHY we struggle with persistence. Saying that persistence is linked to goal achievement is like saying umbrellas are linked to rain. They are often found together, however the umbrellas did not cause the rain.

Give up New Years Resolutions and replace them with this simple strategy:

Download our free planning template here.

So, if new years resolutions do not work then what are we to do? I have found that a very simple strategy works far better.

Instead of focusing on the new year, consider focusing on the next 90 days. This will not be nearly as exciting as dreaming about how your life could be different in a year’s time, however it will be more actionable and more realistic. Ninety days is just not that long of a period of time to achieve big things. It is, however, enough time to achieve important things. You may not be able to get to your ideal weight in the next 90 days, but you could begin a reasonable exercise routine. You may not be able to change your finances in 90 days, but you could set up and monitor your spending.

The beautiful thing about setting goals for the next 90 days is that you CANNOT dream too big. And in 90 days – guess what: You get to evaluate how you did. You have the opportunity to ask what worked and what didn’t and make adjustments for the next 90 days.

As a leader, you MUST get this right. You cannot ask other people to change and grow if they cannot see you changing and growing.

So, let make a new year’s resolution to NEVER again to set a new year’s resolution. Let’s start thinking about what we can do over the next 90 days.

In order to help you get started we have complimentary worksheet for you. Click here to download this resource and get the next 90 days off to an amazing start!

Here’s to an amazing 3 months!


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LeaderShift is a complete leadership development system that has everything you need to hire, develop, and retain a highly effective team. All for the fraction of the cost of other development tools.

The Best Possible Way to Plan For 2022

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While the New Year brings boundless opportunity and the possibility of a fresh start, most of us find ourselves starting the New Year without a clear plan.

Why? Because while a New Year offers the opportunity for a fresh start, we also drag the past into the future with us. What I mean by this is that the longer that we stay in the same job, the more likely it is that we see that job from a stale perspective. There is old saying that goes something like this; “Do you have five years of experience? Or the same year five times?”

While it is easy to see that a peer or another employee has started to take their job for granted, it is much harder to see this challenge in ourselves.

The quality of your life is determined by the quality of the questions you ask.

When we have a ‘stale’ perspective the questions we are asking are often not helpful. In other words, a salesperson could continually ask “Why can’t I sell more?” or a manager may ask “Why can’t I find more engaged employees?”. While neither of these questions is inherently bad, they are also not helpful. This is because they are too often asked from a stale perspective. We are not really seeking an answer. We are actually seeking to change our circumstances without changing the only person that we can change – ourselves.

Which leads us to the best question I have ever come across when I am seeking to plan the next year:

If I was fired from this job, what would my replacement immediately do?

How would that person look at things differently? I got this idea from a book that former Intel CEO Andy Grove wrote called ‘Only The Paranoid Survive’. When Intel’s memory-chip business was getting battered by Japanese rivals in the 1980s, Mr. Grove asked Intel co-founder Gordon Moore: “If we got kicked out and the board brought in a new CEO, what would he do?”

Mr. Moore answered that a new CEO would get Intel out of the memory-chip business.

“Why shouldn’t you and I walk out the door, come back and do it ourselves?” Mr. Grove retorted. He then did just that, reshaping Intel from a memory-chip producer to a microprocessor maker.

Why should you be fired?

What are the reasons why you are fireable? How have you missed expectations in the past year? What skills have you neglected to develop? What has happened that should not have? What opportunities were missed?

Why should you be re-hired?

Now that you have fired yourself, you will need to get yourself rehired. When you start a new job you have to interview for it. Pretend that you are preparing for that interview. Ask yourself what you learned last year that may you more capable in your job. Do you have the qualifications to achieve the objectives of the job this coming year? Also, when you interview for a new job you have to provide references. What would your boss, customers and peers say about your performance this year? You may want to rewrite your job description. What do you need to change in terms of your skill, behavior or attitude? What do you need to optimize that you have been doing the same way for some time? What could you eliminate? What do you need to do a better job with? If you have been in your job for a long time and are struggling with your own passion and engagement – trying reading our blog post on The Power of Why. Make sure you take the time to write out your commitments as you start your new job.

You need to accept the job.

If you are going to accept the job this year, then you must be clear about what you are committing to. If you have done this exercise properly, then you should find your excitement level and motivation is higher than before you started this exercise!

Remember when you started this job – you were excited. There is no reason why you cannot recapture that excitement as you plan for the New Year.
Make sure that every year is the best one yet by making every year a brand new start.

So go ahead – fire yourself – then rehire yourself with a clear picture of what you desire in 2022!


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LeaderShift is a complete leadership development system that has everything you need to hire, develop, and retain a highly effective team. All for the fraction of the cost of other development tools.


How Do You Get Employees To Change?

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Can you really get employees to change?

For those of us in leadership, the answer to that question had better be a resounding ‘yes’! However, the degree to which we are successful in getting other people to change is certainly a different question altogether!

Research shows that your success in getting employees to change hinges on how you answer one critical question – and the strategies that flow from your answer.

The challenge for many leaders is that (unknowingly) the strategies they employ encourage employees to resist change – rather than embrace it!

Do you celebrate failure?

Often when we conduct our signature LeaderShift Process participants are confused when we ask them if they ‘Celebrate failure to the extent that ongoing learning takes place.’ Their confusion stems from the fact that most high achieving leaders would never consider celebrating failure. Failure is to be avoided at all costs! And yet we know that almost every success we have experienced in life involves learning, and in many cases, mistakes.

While we ultimately do not want to fail, we know there will be small failures along the way in any undertaking. While it may sound strange to you, in order to get another person to change you need to create the expectation of failure – not of the entire change process – but that there will be failure along the way.

This leads us to a fundamental question: How do we (as leaders) approach the change/failure dynamic – and what might we need to do differently to encourage the team we seek to lead to change more consistently and positively? Carol Dweck, professor of psychology at Stanford, has researched this question and finds that there are essentially there two ways that people approach change:

A Fixed Mindset.

This way of looking at the world says that people (ourselves included) don’t really change that much at all.

People who have a ‘fixed mindset’ believe that their abilities – and those of others – are essentially static. In other words, we are good at some things and not as talented in other areas. In this mindset your behavior is a good indication of your natural abilities. This leads to an avoidance of challenges because failure would reflect badly on your true ability level. In this case, negative feedback is seen as a threat – and you definitely don’t want to be seen as trying too hard – just in case you fail. That way if you fail – well – you always have the defense that you didn’t try that hard.

A Growth Mindset.

This way of looking at the world says that people (ourselves included) can and do change all the time.

The ‘growth mindset’ believes that abilities are like ‘muscles’. It’s not that some people are not more talented than others – there is not question that Michael Jordan is a truly talented individual. However, we can and do develop our abilities (and talents) through practice. With a growth mindset you will accept more challenging assignments. You are more likely to accept negative feedback, in fact you may seek it out, because you know that it will eventually make you better.

Can you give me some practical examples?

Once you understand this critical difference in mindset you can start to recognize the ways that we inadvertently reinforce a fixed mindset with others. Here are just a few examples:

Telling our kids ‘You’re so smart!’ or ‘You’re so good at_______’.

Telling employees that they are so good at speaking, communication, or project management etc.

So what can we do differently?

As leaders, we need to start praising the effort rather than the natural skill.

While many leaders will object to this insight – it seems a little too touchy feely to many. Now, I am not saying that we should ignore results. Nor am I saying that we should not hold people accountable to results. To the contrary, what I am suggesting is that while you recognize the results (or lack thereof) you attribute the results to the effort rather than talent.

Let’s use an example to reinforce this point. Consider the performance in a given week of the following two employees:

Employee A: Does all the right things/the right way but gets crappy results. You know this is because the circumstances that particular week just did not line up correctly.

Employee B: Does not do the right things/the right way but gets great results. You know this is because the circumstances that particular week lined up in a way that promoted positive results.

If you answered Employee ‘A’, then you need to consider how you provide feedback and direction to your employees.

In other words – can you celebrate failure to the extent that ongoing learning occurs? Because if you can’t – then you will surround yourself with fixed mindset team members that have already reached the extent of their potential.

And that is not a future that I would wish for you!

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How Do You Know If You Are An Effective Leader?

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Try This Simple Test to Assess Your Leadership Effectiveness

One of the hardest skills to self assess is our own leadership effectiveness. The challenge we face is that when our team misses it’s goals, it is hard to assess the reasons WHY. How much of this miss was based on my leadership, coaching and communication? Or are members of the team disengaged and disinterested? Was the goal realistic? Or did the circumstances make the goal impossible to achieve? What exactly was the reason for the miss?

Leadership in Times of Uncertainty

You have probably found your leadership role incredibly difficult for the last 18 months. At least that is what I hear on a daily basis from the leaders that we coach. Not only is it hard to attract, retain and motivate team members in the current environment – we also are dealing with constant uncertainty.

Times of crisis and uncertainty test our ability to lead unlike any other. And I cannot remember a time when the future (both immediate and short term) is more uncertain. Let’s be honest: it’s pretty hard to communicate with confidence when it feels like everything around you is constantly in a state of change.

Leadership could be compared to going on a journey. As with any journey, in order to be successful you need to know where you are, you need to know your destination, and you need to have a plan. Even in the best of times we may need to adjust our plan. In times of crisis and uncertainty it may feel like our plans are constantly changing. And if it feels like that for us, it probably feels even more confusing for those we are seeking to lead.

Do you feel like your team is walking along with you on this journey? Or do you feel pretty much alone?

I believe John Maxwell said it best, “He that thinketh he leadeth, and hath no one following, is just out taking a walk.”

Can your team clearly communicate what they are trying to achieve?

To many leaders, asking their team what they are trying to achieve sounds silly. Since I often have the opportunity to interview team members in their organizations, I know that typically their team members either do not know what their goals are, or they do not see their goals as realistic based on their current circumstances.

How is that possible you might ask? You have told them what their goals are. You even asked if anyone had any questions about how to achieve the goals that you have outlined.

Did they just repeat what you wanted to hear? Well, in a word – yes. That is exactly what they did. Now, before you are too quick to place the blame on ‘them’, let’s make sure that at least part of the blame should not rest squarely with you as the leader.

Why can’t I just ask my people how I am doing?

It would be nice if we could just ask the team: Am I am effective leader? Do I communicate well? Do you feel comfortable giving me candid feedback?

You see the challenge here don’t you? It would be a rare employee that would be willing to answer candidly.

I wish it was that simple. The good news is that there is a simple process you can follow to determine how effective you are being as a leader. Not as simple as just asking – but a ton more reliable.

1. Create a space for your people to share their feedback.

There is a simple maxim that I often repeat:

Be efficient with things – be effective with people.

I don’t know about you, but in my rush to achieve important goals I often find myself trying to be ‘efficient’ in my dealings with others.

To get the kind of feedback you want you are going to need to sit down individually with your people, whether it be face to face or over some sort of video conference call. This has to be a two way dialogue so make sure you are not feeling rushed to finish the call in just a few minutes.

Here are the questions that you want to ask each member:
• From your perspective, tell me a little about what is happening?
• What are your goals? What are you trying to accomplish?
• Where are you currently on those goals?
• How confident are you in the progress you are making?

2. Listen carefully to how they respond.

Take a step back and really tune in and listen to how your people respond. In order to assess this you cannot be multi tasking. That would be the essence of being ‘efficient’ rather than ‘effective’.

What is their perspective? Does it align with what you have been communicating? Are they sharing information with you in an engaged manner? Or are they just repeating what you have previously told them?

To be truly ‘effective’ you need to assess engagement on three levels:

Words: Do they use words indicating they are engaged? This is the easiest step, but can be overlooked if you are not focused on it properly. The words they choose to use can indicate a lot about their engagement. For example, there is a difference between someone saying that “the company wants me to” or “you want me to” versus someone saying “I want to” or “here’s what we should do.” Nobody says “I have to go to the beach”, they say “I want to go” or “I get to go”. Make sure that the words indicate a desire to engage, not just a repetition of a directive.

Tone: Their tone of voice will also indicate how important this is to them. They will answer with some sort of emotion or lack thereof depending, again, on their feelings of involvement. Tone, cadence and inflection typically change when someone is talking about something that is important to them.

Body Language: Our bodies respond differently when we are engaged versus when we are not. Whether you are having this conversation via video conference or face to face, be sure to pay attention to your colleagues’ eyebrows and eyes as an indicator of their engagement and emotion. When a person is engaged their eyebrows lift and their eyes may even sparkle. When they are in doubt, their eybrows may furrow and their face may show concern.

This simple test will help you to determine if your people understand what you are trying to accomplish and it they are fully engaged in the process of making it happen.

But if the answers you get to these questions leave you concerned, then perhaps it is time to examine how you could be contributing to the engagement level of your team. This is not to say that the lack of engagement is your fault, but as a leader, it is your job to fix it.

At The Oxley Group, we are experienced leadership coaches who help executives achieve the meaningful results it takes to build and grow a successful organization. Click here to download our Free Action Guide “The 7 Deadly Sins of Leadership (& How to Avoid Them).” Or request a Free Strategy Call to start you on the path to accomplishing your goals and accelerating your team’s progress.Leadershift Online

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How to Make Sure Your Team Engages in Constructive Conflict

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Getting Team Members to Engage in Constructive Conflict is Critical to Getting the Best Ideas.

It’s no secret that your team will come up with the best ideas when they engage in spirited debate.  The challenge is that too often teams play ‘nice’ and do not always speak up when they have divergent views. Or perhaps they do speak up, just not in a constructive way, and this can lead to even less participation from other team members in the future.

Working in a remote environment only makes this predicament worse as team members cannot ‘see’ the verbal clues from their peers – clues that might encourage them to speak up. To make matters worse, it is easier for more outspoken team members to dominate the conversation.

How to encourage conflict

What we need is a simple way to break this pattern of interaction with the team. A way to encourage conflict in a constructive way. One that can even work in a remote environment.

Want better ideas from your team? Follow this simple process:

In order to encourage dialogue in an honest and constructive way we suggest taking a lesson from history. In the early 16th century the Catholic Church began appointing a ‘devil’s advocate’ to argue against the canonization of a candidate for sainthood. It was this person’s job to take a skeptical view in order to promote debate. It is important to note that their actual views were irrelevant to the role they were asked to play.

Since many team members may be reluctant to voice their concerns or viewpoints, appointing a devil’s advocate provides two important benefits:

  1. It immediately causes at least one member of the team to have to argue against a particular course of action.
  2. Since at least one member of the team is thinking both critically and skeptically – it opens the door for other team members to add opinions that may have been difficult to voice otherwise.

Our recommendation is that you rotate the role of devil’s advocate rather than allowing one person to assume to the role permanently. This will ensure that each team member is forced to develop their critical thinking skills and presentation skills. It also ensures a diversity of opinion and insight is promoted within the team.

Here is the process we recommend that you follow:

  1. Identify an issue or a project that there are – or there should be – different viewpoints on.
  2. Identify an individual that has either an interest or knowledge in the subject matter to be discussed, or perhaps you just want to get them involved.
  3. Reach out to the team member you have identified and let them know that you would like them to play the role of devil’s advocate. Giving this individual enough advance notice of their role should improve the quality and clarity of their arguments.
  4. Brief the team ahead of time on your plan to encourage critical thinking by utilizing a devil’s advocate. Introduce who will be playing the devil’s advocate role. Encourage team members to forward any ideas that would help their team member playing the devil’s advocate prepare for the discussion.
  5. When the day of the meeting (whether remote or not) arrives, make sure you remind the entire team of the process you are using. Introduce the devil’s advocate to the team and make sure everyone understands their role. While the devil’s advocate’s role is to be skeptical, other team members are always welcome to chime in on any side of the discussion.
  6. After the discussion is over, be sure to conduct an After Action Review. Ask team members for feedback on what worked well and what could be done better next time. In fact, the team could provide feedback to the devil’s advocate on their performance afterward. This would serve as insight to all team members on how to prepare for future assignments when they are asked to be the devil’s advocate.

That’s it. Oh, except for one thing. What about the naturally argumentative team member? We do not recommend allowing them to take a point of view that they agree with. Make sure that you assign them a role where they have to defend against their actual view point. This will cause them to be a little less passionate and perhaps more thoughtful in the way that they engage with the team.

This post is an adaptation of a insight that I first gained from “To Foster Innovation, Cultivate a Culture of Intellectual Bravery,” by Timothy R. Clark.

Want To Accelerate Progress? Quit Setting Goals!

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Let’s Be Honest: The Planning Process Is Broken!

You know it is true. We set annual goals – all too often at the urging of our company or our manager. We know it is a fruitless exercise. A waste of time.

But we have to have goals don’t we? How would we measure our progress? How would we know if we were winning? How would we know who the top performers are? How would we set budgets?

In all honesty it is not the goals that are the issue. It’s when and how we set them.

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Frustrated Manager

Why Are We Preoccupied With The Year as a Planning Time Frame?

For as long as anyone can remember we have set annual goals. I suppose there used to be many good reasons for this, not the least of which was that the system that we operated in was pretty stable. Not much really changed over the course of a year. However, I am sure you would agree that is not the case today!

I don’t just mean in this COVID-19 Pandemic Adjusted Reality we find ourselves in. I mean: Has it been true for the last few years? I don’t think it has. Most people realize that change is accelerating – and we can only assume that it will continue to do so from this point forward.

The critical weakness of annual goals is that they are measured over – you guessed it – a year. There are too many problems with this to list them all here, but let’s just spin through the top 3:

  1. It is almost impossible to foresee the circumstances that will exist over the next 12 months. 2020 is perhaps a exaggerated example of this fact, however even in a ‘normal’ year annual goals are set and largely ignored until the following year’s planning process begins.
  2. Annual goals may inspire some people, however they lull many of us into a false sense of security that there is time to waste. That we have time to work on goals ‘later’ – after all we have a year.
  3. Annual goals are too often connected to compensation. You rolled your eyes didn’t you? Of course they have to be connected to compensation – don’t they? Well, no they don’t. Not if you even remotely believe that problems #1 and #2 are true. In addition, too often managers review an employee’s goals for the first time in a year when they are conducting their annual performance review. No wonder the annual performance review is reviled by managers and employees alike.

Great. Annual Goals Stink. So What Do We Do Now?

Many organizations have already moved away from annual budgets to 18 month rolling forecasts. They have recognized that locking employees and organizations into arbitrary 12 month financial budgets makes no sense at all. Instead they have a rolling 18 month forecast they they revisit for accuracy and adjustment every quarter.

It’s time to do the same thing for employee goals. Why can’t we set goals for the next quarter? In fact this is likely the best year EVER to try this! Does anyone anywhere really think that goals set at the end of 2019 have any relevance to what is happening now? And here’s the great thing: You don’t have to ask for permission. You don’t have to change the structure (yet) of your company’s goal setting or compensation structure. You don’t have to sell it to your employees as ‘how your bonus will be calculated’. You can just tell your employees that a lot has changed, and you want them to not only have as good as possible next quarter – you want to help them position themselves for success in 2021.

Stop Setting Annual Goals: Set Quarterly Objectives Quarterly Objectives Planning Guide & Template

Before you even think about doing this with an employee, make sure you do this exercise yourself. In that way you will understand the process better and will be able to explain it to your people – perhaps even give examples of what your objectives are.

We have provided you with a planning template here. Here are some thought starters to get you thinking about what some ‘good’ objectives would be for the next quarter:

  • Based on what we know today, what is a reasonable objective in terms of performance for the next quarter?
  • How should we measure performance? Based on the current operating reality, is it more reasonable to measure behaviors or output?
  • What skills, behaviors and/or attitudes could you develop or reinforce over the next quarter?
  • What team goals are critical to the success of the business? How could we measure the team’s progress?
  • What significant learning(s) would accelerate progress in the next quarter?

We have provided you with a planning template here.

In our next post we will share with you some additional ideas on how to break Quarterly Objectives into manageable chunks.

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Don’t Compromise and Stagnate For the Rest of 2020.

Don’t let this the last quarter of the year be a waiting game for next year. Let’s not waste this quarter. Let’s invest it in making the quarters that follow all they can be – and more!

Do You Need Charisma To Be An Effective Leader?

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Is charisma necessary to be a truly effective leader? We would argue it is critical if you wish to reach your full leadership potential.

And yet many leaders feel that they are not charismatic. Too often we confuse manipulative charisma with true charisma. Some people may have a sort of natural charisma – however they have never worked at developing the character of their leadership – and so there is nothing there to maintain the attention of anyone once they get close. These individuals come across as manipulative once you get to know them.

The good news is that true charisma can be developed. In this Insight we show you four steps you can take to attract others to yourself and your cause.
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Leaders tell us that what frustrates them the most is having the same problems day after day

The LeaderShift Framework helps leaders move past those problems so they can experience the success they truly desire.

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Have you ever hired an employee and it didn’t work out? Do this NOW to make sure it never happens again!

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If you have ever hired an employee and a different person showed up than the one you interviewed, then this Insight is for you. I mean – not really a different person. They looked like the same person, however they did not ACT the way they said they would while being interviewed.

While it is easy to blame a lack of honesty in the interview process – there may be a deeper challenge at play here.

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What do you do with emotionally charged situations with your team?

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When emotions run high your team may approach you to discuss their frustrations with other team members. What you do next will either reinforce your position of leadership or undermine it.

Too often leaders commit one of the cardinal sins of leadership in this situation. In this Insight we will share this error – and how to avoid it while ensuring you help your whole team deal with the negative emotions that are being surfaced.

If you get this wrong you will alienate one part of your team – or in the worse case scenario – both parts of your team.

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Is it possible you have a problem with your team that you are unaware of?

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Teams are under more pressure than ever – and if you are not careful factions can easily emerge – undermining team effectiveness. Perhaps you have seen this occurring in your team. Or maybe it is happening and you are unaware of it. In times like these some team members will  become frustrated with their peers, and then reach out to individuals who see the situation much the same as they do. These factions are talking, but only to team members that see the problem the way they do.

In normal times these team struggles would be more visible – and more easily addressed  – as we would be working in the same physical space.

In this Insight, we will share with you why this is happening, why it is completely predictable, where the factions will develop, and what you must do about it as a leader.

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