Tips for making good coffee (and building better teams)

2703412787_6446b4fba6_mThere are many ways to make coffee.   You’ve got your pre-ground coffee. You’re pre-packaged coffee. Whole Bean coffee.  Self-roasted coffee.  Instant coffee.

And as many types of coffee, there are just as many ways to make coffee.  Drip. French Press. Instant. Percolator. Etc etc.

For the purposes of this post, let’s look at three ways of making coffee:

  1. Buy a can of Folgers, dump the coffee into a drip coffee maker. Brew. Drink.
  2. Buy a pre-packaged coffee (Keurig, etc) . Stick a ‘pod/cup’ into the maker…make coffee.
  3. Buy whole bean coffee, grind it yourself every morning before brewing. Put it in a French Press. Boil Water to 199 degrees exactly.  Slowly pour heated water over grounds. Stir slowly. Let simmer for a few minutes.  Press the grounds out. Pour coffee. Drink. Enjoy a great cup of Joe.

Now…I’m not going to say which method is best…but a good cup of coffee made via French Press is hard to beat. If you like good coffee…try Method #3. If you want the cheapest coffee method, go for #1…it’s drinkable but not memorable.  Method #2 provides a decent cup of coffee and is relatively cheap and easy, but not always memorable.

Of course, there are other approaches to making coffee….but going into them will just confuse all of us…because this isn’t really about making coffee…its about building and leading a team of people.

In my experience, the majority of folks in the world of business take an approach to team building and leadership similar to Method #1 above. They take the ‘prepackaged’ approach by looking for the most cost effective approach to every problem while ignoring (or minimizing) quality. These folks build average teams and deliver average services / products to their clients. There are some leaders out there that are able to take approach #1 to build a quality team that builds / delivers quality products and services, but on average, most leaders taking this approach build teams that aren’t memorable.

There are other leaders who take the pre-packaged approach in method 2. They hire consultants as a ‘team’ to come in and build something. When that team is done…they move on. Then…another team has to be brought in to build something.   Rinse. Repeat.    Team A comes in, does X and leaves. Team B comes in, does Y and leaves.  Just like discarding the pre-packaged coffee pod after one use, these teams can be discarded upon completion. Knowledge transfer occurs at times..but other times it doesn’t.  Most times, these teams do good work…but something is lost over time. With this approach, the leader is able to keep an eye on costs and quality but over time they start to lose the ability to really understand what has been done and how its been done.

Then…there are the leaders that build  a team following an approach similar to method #3.  They find the best people they can find. They pay for those people. They take the time to prepare those people for their jobs and give them plenty of support. They monitor their teams to ensure things are moving along properly and do whatever they can do to help each employee reach their fullest potential. They provide feedback and motivation for these teams and watch as they build great products and services. These teams are the memorable teams that build memorable products and services.

There are times when each approach is valid of course. Sometimes you don’t know the ‘best’…sometimes you just need someone to make sure the lights are kept on…but if you are trying to build a team for the long haul – and one that you can use to beat your competition – you’d better be looking at an approach similar to the French Press approach.

To make a good cup of coffee, you need to focus on quality and preparatione.  To build a good team…focus on the same things. You’ll make a memorable cup of coffee – and a build a great team.

Image Credit: French Press Coffee I on flickr

So you want to be a Change Agent?

I was recently reading Dagmar Recklies’ article titled What Makes a Good Change Agent? and started thinking about some of the people that I know who are good at change…and some who completly destroy any opportunities for change.

In the article, 15 Competencies are listed that a good change agent should have.  These competencies are:

15 Key Competencies of Change Agents

  1. Sensitivity to changes in key personnel, top management perceptions and market conditions, and to the way in which these impact the goals of the project.
  2. Setting of clearly defined, realistic goals.
  3. Flexibility in responding to changes without the control of the project manager, perhaps requiring major shifts in project goals and management style.
  4. Team-building abilities, to bring together key stakeholders and establish effective working groups, and to define and delegate respective responsibilities clearly.
  5. Networking skills in establishing and maintaining appropriate contacts within and outside the organization.
  6. Tolerance of ambiguity, to be able to function comfortably, patiently and effectively in an uncertain environment.
  7. Communication skills to transmit effectively to colleagues and subordinates the need for changes in the project goals and in individual tasks and responsibilities.
  8. Interpersonal skills, across the range, including selection, listening, collecting appropriate information, identifying the concerns of others, and managing meetings.
  9. Personal enthusiasm in expressing plans and ideas.
  10. Stimulating motivation and commitment in others involved.
  11. Selling plans and ideas to others by creating a desirable and challenging vision of the future.
  12. Negotiating with key players for resources, for changes in procedures, and to resolve conflict.
  13. Political awareness in identifying potential coalitions, and in balancing conflicting goals and perceptions.
  14. Influencing skills, to gain commitment to project plans and ideas form potential skeptics and resisters.
  15. Helicopter perspectives, to stand back from the immediate project and take a broader view of priorities.

Looks like a fairly good list.

Take a look at some of the main terms found in these competencies.  You’ll see words like:

  • Sensitivity
  • Flexibility
  • Networking
  • Tolerance
  • Communication
  • Interpersonal
  • Political Awareness
  • Influencing

Great list…and one that many many people overlook when they are trying to bring change into an organization.

If you want to be a Change Agent, the first thing on your agenda should be to understand where the organization (and you) have been.

The second thing you need to do?  Listen.

Why is listening so important?  Because you can’t change what you don’t know or understand.  The only way to learn and understand is to listen to the organization and the people within it. In order to create lasting and meaningful change, you’ve got to understand why things have been done before you suggest changing things.

For lasting change, take a look at the 15 competencies above and make them your competencies. Do this and the change you want might just be a bit easier to bring about.

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