Category Archives: Blog

Common Mistakes When Team Building

Even the most carefully created team building plan may fall prey to mistakes. Because people are all different, what works in one group may be less successful in others. There are some common mistakes that occur when team building. Being aware of these mistakes ahead of time can help you avoid them. And if they do occur, you’ll be able to quickly spot them and correct course.

Allowing Cliques to Develop

One of the most common errors when team building is allowing cliques to develop. This happens when a group of people become insular and only want to interact with each other. They may exclude others, gossip, or simply keep themselves apart from the rest of the team. Clearly, this is exactly the opposite of what we want to happen when we are engaging in team building. The other side of cliques developing is that certain people may be consistently left out, ostracized, or otherwise excluded. Be attentive if you see cliques developing. Some signs that cliques are developing may include:

  • People only wanting to team or pair with each other
  • The same groups or teams consistently forming
  • The same person being consistently left out or left until last

You can help avoid clique formation by encouraging (or even requiring) people to team or pair with different team members. Encourage interaction with the whole group. Also make conscious effort to include everyone and invite everyone to participate.

Not Delegating Tasks

A failure to delegate can undermine team building. Be sure to delegate tasks when you facilitate team building. Also make clear that, when working in groups, tasks should be delegated. It is not uncommon for team members who are very focused on “winning” or “being the best” to take over group activities and not delegate to their group members. Reinforce how important this is, and that the goal is not winning at all costs. You might include activities which teach and reinforce delegation skills. When tasks are not delegated, the team does not get the experience of working together – they are simply led by the “expert.” This can create resentment and lead to negative feelings and interactions among the team.

Rewarding in Private/Criticizing in Public

Feedback is a key component of team building. A common mistake people make when team building is to only give negative or developmental feedback when with the whole team, while reserving rewards and positive feedback for private times. This is especially egregious if there are one or two team members who are consistently criticized in public but only rewarded in private (or worse, not rewarded at all). Developmental feedback is important, but if a team has a sense that they do nothing right, or that they are going to be called out or humiliated in public, they develop resentment and low morale. Be sure to save individual developmental feedback for private meetings with the person. You can give developmental feedback to the whole team when you are together. And make sure to praise as openly as you offer developmental feedback.

Disjointed Plans of Grandeur

As dangerous as it is not to have a team building plan, having a plan that is too complex or grandiose is also something to avoid. A common mistake when creating a team building plan is to pack the schedule with too many activities, trainings, and meetings. This makes your plan unnecessarily complex. Also be wary of expecting miracles – that one session of broomball or one potluck will solve any interpersonal problems in your team. Keep your team building plan interesting, but avoid making it too ornate, multi-faceted, or complex. Plans like this are frustrating to administer and manage, and even more frustrating for the team members who have to engage in the activities. They may result in resentment of you and the program, which does little to build your team!

Types of Team Building Activities

There is a wide variety of team building activities that you can use in developing your team. Using a mix of games, activities, and social events helps keep your team building plan interesting and engaging. Each team will respond to different activities, so be open to switching up the type of team building you do. Also seek input from your team about which activities they enjoy and find valuable. It takes a lot of people to make a winning team.


Studies show that fostering a sense of play is a great way to foster camaraderie and team work. Using games also infuses a sense of fun and, depending on the game, a sense of friendly competition that can help people open up and form strong relationships. There are a variety of types of games you can use in team building, including:

  • Icebreakers or “get to know you” games
  • Shared task games
  • Problem-solving games
  • Interaction games

No matter what type of game or games you chose for a team building session, there are several key components to any effective team building game:

  • Focus on learning and remembering names
  • Focus on the game itself
  • Focus on strengthening relationships
  • Cheers and pats on the back


Group activities can also be a great way to build a team. Activities that are created specifically for team building are one option. Your training department can be a great source of information for team building activities, and there are a variety of excellent books and workbooks to draw from. Activities which are not specifically “team building” activities, but which encourage your team to interact with each other, are also valuable for building your team. Simply engaging in an activity together, whether a recreational activity or a community service activity, can give your team members a chance to take the focus off of work and instead focus on getting to know each other.


Training, development, and education also offer opportunities for team building. When your team builds a new skill together, learns a new technology or process, or otherwise engages in professional development as a group, this reinforces shared goals. Include some education in your training plan about team building specifically as well. Engaging in education about how to function better as a team has clear benefits, as team members build a set of skills together that they can then apply to working with each other. However, any shared learning experience has the potential to create a stronger team. When people learn together, they support each other’s development and can find a shared sense of purpose in learning something new or building a new skill. Take time to ask your team what they’d like to learn. You can also focus on the team’s strengths and development areas in planning education.

Social Gatherings

Don’t underestimate the power of social gatherings to build your team. While it’s always important to recognize that family and other commitments can make it difficult for some team members to engage in social time outside of work, gatherings can still be a valuable tool in your team building kit. Whether you have regular team lunches where the topic of conversation is anything but work, an annual holiday gathering, or period get together after work for dinner, drinks, or other fun, social gatherings help to take your team out of their work environment so they can focus on each other. Ask your team what type of gatherings they would enjoy. Be wary of gatherings that center on alcohol, both for liability reasons and because it excludes those team members who do not drink. Vary the type of social gatherings so that those who may not enjoy one type of gathering have other options. Encouraging your team to spend time together as colleagues helps to further foster camaraderie and relationships.

What Are the Benefits of Team Building?

Team building has many benefits, to both the organization and the individual employees that make up the team. Team building helps to create a sense of cohesion, reinforce shared goals and values, and greater camaraderie. Team building also helps teams be more effective, as they communicate more openly and are more motivated to pursue shared goals. An investment in team building activities is an investment in success.

Better Communication and Conflict Resolution

One of the greatest benefits of team building is better communication. People who have a sense that they are on a team, with shared values and goals, are more likely to be personally invested in one another. This facilitates communication because people want to reach shared goals, and have a shared sense of purpose or vision. Team building helps team members develop strong communication skills, and also helps the team establish communication systems. Improved conflict resolution is another benefit of team building. Clearer communication in and of itself helps to facilitate better conflict resolution. The shared goals and values of a team, along with the increased personal investment and stronger personal relationships that form in a team, also helps to foster an environment in which conflicts are addressed openly and productively.


Team building helps to create more effective teams. Team building activities create a sense that team members are pulling together toward a common goal or set of goals. This sense of shared purpose tends to foster effectiveness and productivity. Team building also helps the team find greater effectiveness through developing skills in delegating tasks, collaborating, communicating, and creating processes that leverage each team member’s skills. A team that has a sense that they are working together, and in which the team members trust each other to honor their commitments, works more efficiently and effectively.


Team building activities can be a powerful source of motivation. Spending time together as a team is a chance to reinforce shared goals, set new shared goals, and strengthen relationships with team members. A sense of shared goals and values serves as valuable motivation. When infused with a spirit of healthy competition and camaraderie, team building activities also motivate team members because there is a sense of not just working for one’s self but for the good of the entire team. Team building activities help remind your team what they’re working for and why, which can be a valuable boost to motivation.


One of the most powerful benefits of team building is a sense of camaraderie. The reinforcement of shared values and shared goals which goes along with team building helps create a sense of camaraderie and collegiality. Team building activities help to strengthen the interpersonal relationships between team members. Team building gives team members a chance to get to know each other beyond just their work functions, and helps to foster a sense of shared identity. Taking the time to create relationships that go beyond simply interacting over work responsibilities helps team members to invest more in each other emotionally and personally. This creates a sense that team members aren’t just pieces of a process, but people with feelings and needs. When team members have a sense of camaraderie, they are more likely to want to collaborate, help each other, and support each other.

Breaking Down the Barriers

We are each responsible for changing our stereotypes and breaking down the barriers. Are your own assumptions based on things you have heard from others, in school, TV, or the movies? Is it possible that some of your negative images are incorrect — at least for some people in a certain group? Rather than making sweeping generalizations, try to get to know people as individuals. Just as that will reduce the stereotypes you hold of others, it is also likely to help reduce the stereotypes others hold of you.

Changing Your Personal Approach

Once you’ve identified and understand your baggage, what do you do to make changes? Often, the beliefs you hold are the result of your own cultural conditioning; they determine whether you will seek rapport with individuals who are different from you.

The first step is acknowledging that you’re human, will probably make some mistakes, and likely do have some stereotypes. Next, work to become more aware of your inner thoughts and feelings — and how they affect your beliefs and actions.

We typically make a judgment about someone in less than 30 seconds. To change your personal approach to diversity, try these steps when you make contact with a new person:

  • Collect information
  • Divide out the facts from your opinions, theories, and suppositions
  • Make judgment based only on the facts
  • Periodically refine your judgment based on the facts
  • Try to continue expanding your opinion of the person’s potential.

When you have a stereotypical thought about a group that is different from you, follow it up with an alternative thought based on factual information that discounts the stereotype. Engage in honest dialogue with others about race that at times might be difficult, risky, or uncomfortable, and look for media portrayals of different races that are realistic and positive.

Possible answers:

  • Seek information to enhance your own awareness and understanding of discrimination
  • Spend some time looking at your own attitudes and behaviors as they contribute to discrimination within and around you
  • Evaluate your use of terms, phrases, or behaviors that may be perceived by others as degrading or hurtful
  • Openly confront a discriminatory comment, joke, or action among those around you
  • Risk a positive stand against discrimination when the opportunity occurs
  • Become increasingly aware of discriminatory TV programs, advertising, news broadcasts, holiday observations, slogans, and other venues
  • Investigate and evaluate political candidates at all levels regarding their stance and activity against discrimination
  • Contribute time and/or money to an agency, fund, or program that actively confronts the problems of discrimination
  • Sever your affiliation with organizations that have discriminatory membership requirements
  • Read publications to educate yourself in the area of a culture other than your own
  • Learn some of the language of those in your community who speak other than standard English

Encouraging Workplace Changes

Diversity initiatives usually start at the top of an organization, but change can be affected from any level. If you work in human resources, or in a functional position of authority, consider performing a cultural audit to describe the overall working environment, unwritten norms, possible barriers, and the existence of race, gender, and class issues.

  • Learn about the values and beliefs of others in the organization. Be alert for biases and stereotypes
  • Identify ways to value uniqueness among your colleagues
  • Watch for changes in relationships. Is there hostility among co-workers? What distinguishing background characteristics do you notice?
  • Suggest and take steps to implement discussions or workshops aimed at understanding and eliminating discrimination with friends, colleagues, social clubs, or religious groups
  • Leave copies of publications that educate about diversity in sight where your friends and associates might see them and question your interests

Encouraging Social Changes

Below are several suggestions to encourage breaking down stereotypical barriers in social, community, and other non-work settings.

  • Suggest and take steps to implement discussions or workshops aimed at understanding and eliminating discrimination with friends, colleagues, social clubs, or religious groups
  • Investigate the curricula of local schools in terms of their treatment of the issues of discrimination (also discrimination in textbooks, assemblies, faculty, staff, administration, and athletic programs and directors)
  • Evaluate your buying habits so that you do not support shops, companies, or personnel that follow discriminatory practices

As you gain more awareness and knowledge about groups different than you, not only will your stereotypes lessen, but you will also become better equipped to educate and challenge others about their stereotypes.

This post is from Octobers topic on Workplace Diversity, which is also a course on our Mini-MBA program online from Harvard Square.

Understanding Stereotypes

Everybody is different and we encounter a diverse set of people every day. Some differences cannot be seen by just looking at a person. Treat each and every person you encounter with respect and dignity. Through this chapter we will begin to identify what if any stereotypes a person may have. 

Stereotypes vs. Biases

A stereotype is a conventional, formulaic, and oversimplified conception, opinion, or image. One who stereotypes generally thinks that most or all members of an ethnic or racial group are the same. Typical words used with stereotyping include: clannish, aggressive, blue-collar, lazy.

Bias is a preference or an inclination, especially one that inhibits impartial judgment. The use of bias is more subtle. Often it is evident through the addition of qualifiers or added information to spoken statements. For example, you may hear “Jane González, who has a degree, will be joining our staff”, implying that having a degree sets this individual apart from most Hispanics, who may not have degrees.

Identifying Your Baggage

Baggage is defined as intangible things (as feelings, circumstances, or beliefs) that get in the way.

From an early age, you learn to place people and objects into categories. As you grow up and are influenced by parents, peers, and the media, your tendency to label different racial, cultural, or other groups as superior or inferior increases significantly. This can be referred to as your baggage.

Though often you are unaware of what constitutes your baggage, you can begin to uncover it by monitoring your thoughts when you encounter an ethnic last name, see a skin color, hear an accent different than yours, interact with someone who has a disability, or learn that a person is gay.

As these events occur, look for consistency. Do you have the same reaction to members of a given group each time you encounter him or her? Ask yourself: “Do I have these reactions before — or after I have a chance to know the individual?” If the answer is before, these are your stereotypes. Work to label these automatic responses as stereotypes and remind yourself that they are not valid indicators of one’s character, skills, or personality. Because stereotyping is a learned habit, it can be unlearned with practice. And remember not to judge yourself; a thought is private, and not an action.

Understanding What This Means

Knowing as much as you can about your own ethnocentrisms helps you recognize how discomfort with differences can prevent you from seeing others as “fully human”. With practice, you can identify feelings and thoughts, filtering them through a system of questions designed to help you change your baggage, or perceptions.

This post is from Octobers topic on Workplace Diversity, which is also a course on our Mini-MBA program online from Harvard Square.

Making an Impact

Some people stand out, while others fade into the background. But if you want to make the most of interpersonal relationships, you have to be able to leave a lingering positive impression on the people that you meet. People’s first impressions of you are what dictate if they want to get to know you any further. You want to make sure, then, that you create an impact on people. 

Creating a Powerful First Impression

You’ve probably heard this saying before: you don’t get a second chance to make a first impression. 

In today’s fast-paced world, you have to maximize the time and opportunities you get with the people that you meet. If you managed to secure a conference with a client or potential partner, for example, make sure that you don’t leave anything to chance for that meeting. And that goes with the impression that you want to leave behind.

The following are some tips in creating a powerful first impression:

  • Dress to impress. Beauty is within, but this doesn’t mean that people don’t make conclusions about you based on your appearance. If you want to create a great first impression make sure that you look your best. Whenever you’re presenting yourself to other people, be clean, well-groomed and dressed in clothes that fit and within the prescribed dress code 
  • Be positive. Nobody likes to talk to cranky, irritable, and pessimistic people! Instead, people are drawn to those who smile a lot and radiate a pleasant disposition. If you want to be remembered, make them feel welcomed and appreciated. A positive experience is as easy to remember as a negative one!
  • Communicate your confidence. Powerful first impressions are those that show you are self-assured, competent, and purposive. Always establish eye contact with the people you are talking to. Shake hands firmly. Speak in a deliberate and purposive way. 
  • Be yourself! Meeting people for the first time can be extremely anxiety-provoking, but do your best to act naturally. People are more responsive to those who don’t come across as if they’re putting on a front or are very controlled. Let your personality engage the other person.
  • Go for the extra mile. Do more than the usual that can make you stand out from the rest. For example, if you’re going for a job interview, show that you studied the company very well and know their mission and vision. If others can see that you appreciation a social situation, they are more likely to remember you positively. 

Assessing a Situation

All interpersonal skills involve sensitivity to what is going on around, especially what is happening with the people you are interacting with. After all, context variables, such as timing and location, can change the meaning of a communication. You want to make sure that you are not just saying the right thing, but you are saying the right thing at the right moment.

If you want to make an impact, you have to factor in the situation. 

The following are some tips in assessing the situation:

  • Listen, not just to what is being said, but also to what is NOT being said.  An excellent interpersonal skill to master is a keen observing eye. You have to be able to note the body language of the people around you in order for you to be able to respond appropriately. For example, there is body language that says “go on, we like what you’re saying.” There is also body language that says “I don’t want to hear that right now.” 
  • Identify needs. A second way to assess the situation is to ask yourself: what does this social occasion need right now? A newly formed group, for example, likely has members who still don’t know one another. The need then is for someone to help break the ice. A group that is tired from a long working day probably needs an opportunity to relax and unwind. Knowing these needs can help you respond to them more appropriately.
  • Practice etiquette. Etiquette may seem like a useless bunch of rules to some people but they serve a purpose: they tell you what are generally considered as acceptable and unacceptable for certain situations. It helps then that you know basic etiquette rules so that you don’t make a faux pas that can ruin the great first impression that you made.

Being Zealous without Being Offensive

Enthusiasm, diligence, and persistence are all great virtues to have, especially if you’re in the business of creating social networks. However, you have to be careful that your persevering doesn’t cross the line to pestering — or worse harassing the person. 

The following are some tips in being zealous without being offensive:

  • Focus on what is important to the other person. Being “other-centered” is the best way to monitor your own eagerness to make contact with other people. Before you do something, make that habit of asking yourself: does this action address the need of the other person, or is it merely addressing my need?  
  • Respect boundaries. Everyone has personal boundaries, and it would do us well to respect them. Not seeing clients without an appointment is an example of a boundary. The same goes for not accepting calls during the weekend or past regular office hours. Work within these boundaries, and you’ll be able to communicate your courtesy. And if you don’t know what a person’s boundaries are, you have nothing to lose in asking!
  • Make requests, not demands. As mentioned previously, we can always do our best to persuade and influence other people, but we can’t force them to do what they don’t want to do. So always courteously ask for permission, and verify agreement. And if they say no —- then accept the no as an answer, unless you have something new to offer. 
  • Note non-verbal behavior. Similar to the tip in the previous section, always be guided by the other person’s non-verbal response to you. If you find that they are already showing irritation — example they speak in a gruff, annoyed tone when talking to you —- then perhaps it’s time to back off. But if they appear open to you — they look at you with interest while you speak — then it’s advisable to go on.

This post is from September’s topic on Interpersonal Skills, which is also a course on our Executive Mini-MBA program online from Harvard Square.

Influencing Skills

The skill of influencing others is a valuable asset to have; it can help us sell products and ideas, convince people and institutions to assist us, and even get the world to change! After all, while we don’t have the power to control other people, we can always do our best to persuade them.

Seeing the Other Side

The first step in influencing other people is entering their world. This means setting aside your own point of view, and looking at the situation from another person’s perspective.  Remember, each person is unique, and consequently sees the world differently. You can’t always assume that what’s clear to you is clear to the people you are talking to. 

In short, you have to be able to answer this question for them: “what’s in it for me?”

Seeing the other side involves knowing what is important to the other person(s): their values, interests, and preferences. Do they have strong feelings against what you are pitching to them?  What would it take to for them to get over their resistance? What are their characteristics, personality traits, social status, or professions that can you use in order to make your point more convincing?

Research, active listening, and keen observation can help you in “seeing the other side.”

Building a Bridge

A second skill that can help you during situations that need persuasion is bridge building.

Bridge building is the process of increasing rapport and affinity between people. It can involve making the other party feel at ease talking to you, gaining their trust, and identifying common interests. 

Bridge building is important in persuasion because people are more likely to agree with someone they like, trust, or see as “one of them.” Aside from bridges improving the over-all communication between two parties, bridges can also serve as negotiating grounds. Bridges translate to common interests, which can be the foundation of win-win scenarios.

The following are some of the ways you can build bridges in your interpersonal relationships:

  • Active Listening. If you want to gain another person’s trust, you have to communicate that you value their presence, and that you are exerting the effort to understand what they are saying to you. Listening attentively is a way to do this. 
  • Use Common Language. An indirect way of building bridges is showing by your words, manner of speaking and even by body language, that you are one with the other person. For example, use business language when you’re speaking with the company CEO, but use laymen terms when speaking with blue-collared workers. Pay attention to how the other person phrases his statements; if they’re formal, be formal, and if they’re casual, then follow suit. Similarly, attend to their pace of doing business. Some people like to relax before a deal, others like to go straight to business. Adjust your approach accordingly.
  • Highlight Similarities. No matter how differently two people appear they will always have at least one thing in common. If you want to persuade a person, find these areas of similarities and emphasize them. An important similarity to emphasize is common interests — goals that you both share, that the proposal you’re pitching can address. The previous skill of “seeing the other side” can assist you in this process.  
  • Sustained Communication. Lastly, consistent and sustained communication about matters of interest can help you in influencing other people. If you feel that there is significant resistance to you or to your proposal, or there are marked differences between you and the other person, just persistently meet with the person and open communication lines. Sometimes, your mere visibility in another person’s circle can increase your likeability and credibility.

Giving In Without Giving Up

Issues are rarely black and white. In most cases, there are areas within a contention that you can compromise upon. If you want to improve your chances of influencing other people, be willing to make some concessions —- even if it’s just at the levels of simply agreeing to differ, agreeing that the other person has a right to their opinion, or agreeing that the other person has made a reasonable argument.

The skill of giving in is important because people generally don’t want to deal with individuals whose intention is to win at all points, or be declared “right” for the sake of being right. This makes the relationship confrontational rather than collaborative. The discussion becomes an argument, and the atmosphere turns tense. If you want to enhance your chances of winning someone over, be willing to consider —and even agree upon —reasonable requests. You may even volunteer to take losses in areas you can afford to give up, as long as you don’t lose sight of the main goal.

A person who is willing to “give in” from time to time comes across as sensible and realistic. Moreover, concessions communicate a sincere desire to do what is best for another person. At the very least, it can promote a culture of “quid pro quo”; I will give you something, if you give me something in return. 

The trick lies in choosing what you will concede. Understandably, you don’t want to “give up” and concede the very thing you are selling. Keep sight of the main goal and judge what you can sacrifice based on this main goal. If you can create a win-win compromise between what you want and what the other person likes, better. 

This post is from September’s topic on Interpersonal Skills, which is also a course on our Executive Mini-MBA program online from Harvard Square.

Setting Expectations

First things first: your employees need to know what you expect of them in order to succeed. We will work through the four steps of setting expectations. 

1. Define the requirements.

2. Identify opportunities for improvement and growth.

3. Discuss the requirements.

4. Put it all in writing.

Defining the Requirements 

The first step is to define the requirements for the chosen task. In other words, what will success look like? You will want to develop your own set of criteria first, and then review it with the employee to get their valuable ideas and input.

Here are some questions to help you get started, focused around the five W’s and the H.

  • How does the task tie into organizational goals?
  • Why are we doing this task?
  • What are the key parts to the task?
  • What steps will be involved?
  • What should the end result look like?
  • Who will the employee need to talk to?
  • When should the employee report back?
  • This framework can be used for individual tasks, projects, and even expectations about the position itself.

Identifying Opportunities for Improvement and Growth

The best expectations are those that encourage the employee to grow and stretch. So, when setting expectations, you should explore all the possibilities and share them with your staff members.

Here is an example. Let’s say you have some training tasks that you would love to delegate, but you’re worried that the task would overwhelm anyone on your team. After all, many people aren’t comfortable speaking in public.

However, during your expectations meeting, one of your senior staff members mentions that she is interested in learning more about training. This is the perfect opportunity to reduce your workload and to help your employee develop her skills, not to mention increase her job satisfaction. Everyone wins!

Likewise, your employee may have hopes and dreams but may be unwilling to share them for fear of being rejected, or for fear that they can’t meet their own expectations. Your leadership and encouragement is essential to help your employees grow and develop. Encourage employees to try new things and provide them with the support they need. An action plan that gradually increases tasks and responsibilities is one way to do this.

Setting Verbal Expectations

Expectations can be verbal or written, depending on the situation. For informal expectation-setting meetings, such as a new, simple task, verbal expectations can suffice. 

To make sure you’ve covered all the bases, use the 5 W’s and the H during your discussion.







Putting Expectations in Writing

It’s never a bad idea to write down your expectations. This document can be kept for your records, and it can be shared with the employee so they have something to refer to.

Motivation and Leadership

A successful manager is a good leader who is able to motivate and inspire employees into action. Highly motivated employees are more productive than unmotivated employees. They are creative and passionate about their work. Motivated people are aligned with the company’s values and show more loyalty to their organizations. Middle managers need to understand that motivation is the key to running a successful team.

Basics of Motivation

There are both internal and external motivations. Managers often focus on external motivations. While external motivations can be useful, they are only effective if they mean something to the employees.

External Motivation:

  • Pay
  • Recognition
  • Fear
  • Promotion
  • Rewards

It is important that managers take the time to understand the personal, internal motivations of individuals, and try to link personal goals with work. Social responsibility is an example of connecting personal employee beliefs and motivations to company procedures. 

Internal Motivation:

  • Family
  • Environment
  • Success
  • Community
  • Personal time

In order for managers to motivate employees they must be motivated themselves. Their work needs to reflect their internal motivations.

Equity Theory

Adam’s Equity Theory is named for the psychologist who developed the idea. Basically, employees are not motivated to work if they believe that they are putting more into a job than they are getting out of it. When employees see this type of discrepancy, they react in different ways. They may become less productive, unruly, or leave the organization. Managers need to try to balance what people put into their work with what they get out of it.

Typical Employee Inputs:

  • Skill
  • Time
  • Commitment
  • Trust
  • Effort
  • Support

Common Employee Outputs:

  • Pay
  • Benefits 
  • Advancement
  • Security
  • Recognition

Expectancy Theory

The Expectancy Theory looks at motivation through a system of rewards. It uses the concepts of Expectancy, Instrumentality, and Valence.

  • Expectancy: This is the relationship between effort and performance. For example, I will sell more if I work overtime.
  • Instrumentality: This is the relationship between the performance and the reward. For example, if I sell more, I will earn a bonus.
  • Valence: This is the value that people place on the reward. For example, the overtime is worth the bonus.

What is Leadership?

Leaders do more than issue orders. Leaders must provide answers to difficult questions and create the culture of their teams. Effective managers are good leaders. 

Roles of Leaders:

  • Determine a vision.
  • Communicate that vision effectively.
  • Provide employees with all the necessary resources to achieve this vision.
  • Balance the interests of employees and the organization.

Situational Leadership

Situational leadership is the belief that the employees determine the leadership style of the manager. The maturity of the employees determines whether a leader is task-oriented or relationship-motivated. There are four levels of maturity in the Hersey-Blanchard model along with four corresponding leadership styles.


  • M1 = Immature employees have neither the desire nor skill to work.
  • M2 = Employees are unskilled, but willing to learn.
  • M3 = Skilled and willing workers, but they are not confident.
  • M4 = Mature employees are able to work independently.


  • S1 = Inform people what their tasks are and how they are to be done.
  • S2 = Direct employees and sell them on the task.
  • S3 = Provide less direction and focus on relationships and shared decisions.
  • S4 = Delegate authority and responsibility.

Strategic Leadership

Strategic leadership is the ability to see the big picture and forecast the future of the team or organization. This type of leader creates plans that consider the growth and direction of the business as well as the people within the organization. Strategic leaders are able to effectively prepare themselves and their teams for the future that they see. 

Qualities of Strategic Leaders: 

  • Adaptable:  The ability to adapt to change and guide others through change is important to strategic leaders.
  • Thoughtful: Leaders consider why things are happening before they take action.
  • Empowering: Strategic leaders motivate employees and encourage creativity and initiative.
  • Intentional: Strategic planning requires leaders to make informed decisions.
  • Rewarding: Recognizing and rewarding talent is a motivational tool of strategic leaders.

To learn more on this topic, buy our acclaimed self-directed training manual on Leadership and Influence for only $9.99. Delivered as downloads, it includes the training manual, answer guide, podcast, and digital badge.

Understanding Change

Change is constant and will always occur, and understanding its components on an individual level can help us relate it to an organizational level. Change is important to understand, as it effects many facets of an organization. Its effect on the individual is of great importance as it will filter through and influence all levels of the organization. Organizational change can create fear and uncertainty, it is important to understand these influences; what is expected when they do occur, and preparing for them when they happen.

Influences on Change

Typically causes of change can be split into two categories: Internal and External. 

No organization is an island and external forces are always influencing and interacting with its existence. Individuals and organizations may have very little ability to influence such external factors such as politics, culture, economy, societal changes, or technology. It is important to understand that if the change is the result of an external factor, accept the change, and then modify any internal processes or items that are affected by the external influence. 

Internal factors are very numerous, as almost any item or event can influence change within an organization, but some of the more influential ones are employees, policies, organization structure, managerial, and financial. With internal causes of change we have the most ability to control and prepare the outcomes of such events. The benefits of this are numerous as we can prepare with education, communication, training, and support. These tools will help mitigate any negative outcomes which may occur as a result of the change. 

Common Reactions to Change

  • Denial: If a change is announced some people may feel that the change is not necessary. They may be reluctant to listen or deny any facts or information presented to support the change. 
  • Resistance: With any change there will always be people who resist the change. Resistance is very common and stems from a fear of the unknown. Not knowing how an event is going to turn out can be a scary event for those who go through the change. 
  • Anger: When change occurs and the norm is uprooted, people can experience anger. People may lash out and become uncooperative during this time. Humans are creatures of habit, and when that changes people can become angry.
  • Indifference: People just may not care, or the change may not have an impact on their routines or work. Be wary of this, as the change may be intended to have an impact, if the individual is indifferent about it the change then they may not understand or accept it.
  • Acceptance: Changes generally occur for the better and have a positive influence on those involved. Even with positive change acceptance may not happen right away, but should occur quicker as opposed to when the change is perceived to be negative. 

Tools to Help the Change Process

Preparing for the change is very important as with preparation comes more chance of success. These tools will help facilitate the change process and provide it the best chances for success.

  • Communication: Keep the lines of communication open before, during and after the change as on the fly changes may be needed. This will help with any unforeseen events that occur during the change. It will also help to learn for the event which should make future changes occur even smoother.
  • Education: Educate all parties to the reasons for the change, and what the expected outcomes will be. People want to know why a change is occurring. It will also help to stop and clear up any rumors that may have been spread.
  • Training: Make sure all parties are trained and up to date with any and all material required for the change. A very important step if the change involves adding or removing anything in the business
  • Flexibility: When change is planned, not all events can be foreseen. Be flexible and ready to modify or update the current plan to account for any unforeseen events.
  • Affected Parties: It is especially important to have the individuals that are involved in the change participate in the change process. They may be able to shed light into the subject from an expert’s point of view.

These tools will help battle any negative reactions when they occur, and with more preparation the change should be smoother.

This post is from August’s topic on Change Management, which is also a course on our Mini-MBA program online from Harvard Square.

Managing Teams

Middle managers are usually in charge of teams. Managing teams is difficult but rewarding. Teams are made up of individuals who have to learn to work together as a single unit. Teammates often go through a difficult adjustment period before they reach their optimal level of performance. Fortunately, the right leadership will enhance the effectiveness of teams.

The Good and the Bad of Using Teams

Like everything else there are good elements and bad elements associated with using teams. Before setting up a team, determine if you are able to handle the bad and the good.


  • Work is faster.
  • Work is more efficient.
  • More ideas are generated.
  • There is more consistent feedback.
  • Teammates teach each other.
  • Accuracy improves. 


  • Teams are as strong as their weakest members.
  • Differences in interests make unity difficult.
  • The environment can become political.
  • Personality conflicts cause problems.
  • Leaders need to motivate people.

Kinds of Teams

Each team is different. There are five kinds of teams recognized in modern business. 

Five Teams:

  • Informal: These are more like friendly associations that work together. Leaders are not necessarily appointed.
  • Traditional: These are assigned teams with clear leaders such as department heads.
  • Problem-solving: Temporary teams that are brought together for a specific purpose or project are problem-solving teams.
  • Leadership: Teams made up of people in authority are leadership teams. Councils and committees are examples of leadership teams.
  • Virtual: This is a new team. It is comprised of members who do not work in the same geographic locations and meet virtually.

Work Team Characteristics

Effective teams share certain characteristics. Middle managers need to be familiar with the characteristics of effective teams in order to create a working team.


  • Direction: The goals and direction of the team are clear.
  • Expectations: Team members understand what is expected of them.
  • Qualified members: Members are qualified to complete their assignments.
  • Practical procedures: The procedures are clear and relevant.
  • Strong internal relationships: Team members work together and respect the diversity of the group.
  • Shared responsibility: The projects are the responsibility of the group.
  • Strong external relationships: Members work to educate employees outside their team.

Enhancing Work Team Effectiveness

Every team has difficulties. Like any other relationship, team members will have their good times and bad. Managers, however, can take a few steps to enhance the effectiveness of the team.


  • Communicate clearly: Communicate the roles and expectations clearly and respectfully.
  • Choose members carefully: Have team members work on jobs that cater to their strengths. 
  • Lead by example: Set the tone for appropriate behavior and communication. Foster trust within the team. 
  • Evaluate: Evaluate the effectiveness of the team, and make any necessary adjustments.

Organizational Structures and Process

Every organization needs structure. People rely on processes that clearly define their roles and responsibilities. Organizations, however, are made up of people, and middle managers need to address the human element as they design structures and processes to help guide their employees.


Departmentalization is the process that divides work groups into areas. These areas are divided into different departments such as research and development, sales, production, and finance. There are five categories of departmentalization.


  • Product: The departments are responsible for manufacturers.
  • Geographic: The locations define the departments.
  • Customer: The different types of customers define departments.
  • Functional: Areas of specialty are divided into departments. This is probably the most familiar type of departmentalization.
  • Process: The steps of the production process make up departments.

Organizational Authority

Organizational authority is chain of command that establishes the authority of management and employees. There are different methods for establishing this authority.

  • Direct hierarchy: This is the direct flow of power from the top to the bottom. All department employees have an individual boss. 
  • Line authority-function: Employees have authority over those immediately below them.
  • Staff authority-function: Employees have no authority, but can offer advice to others.

No matter which type of organizational authority is used, it is essential that managers delegate assignments so that they involve employees in the process and do not burn out.

Job Design

Job design is important to improving morale and reducing turnover. It uses different rewards to increase satisfaction such as job enlargement, simplification, rotation, and enrichment. It allows employees to help create their own job descriptions:

Managing Job Design:

  • Share objective: Explain the exact objectives that employees need to achieve in their jobs.
  • Allow them to create a plan: Allow employees to organize their work how they wish, as long as they meet objectives.
  • Help with implementation: Assist the employees in implementing their plans.
  • Allow them to trade tasks: Make it easy for employees to trade tasks. It does not matter who does what as long as the tasks are complete.

Designing Organizational Process

Designing the organizational process means putting it all together. Use the design process to create organizational processes. The steps of the design process are simple, and should be familiar from the information found in earlier posts.

Design Process:

  • Review objectives and plans: Determine the objectives, and choose a plan to implement that will help reach those objectives.
  • Determine expectations: Recognize what tasks will need to be done in order to achieve the goals and objectives.
  • Create departments: Build work units to focus work activities.
  • Delegate authority: Assign authority within the work groups.