Leading New Teams
Wendi McGowan-Ellis 0:11
Welcome to "Your Authentic Path to Powerful Leadership" with Marsha Clark. Join us on this journey where we're uncovering what it takes to be a powerful woman leader. Well, Marsha, welcome back yet again.
Marsha Clark 0:23
Thank you, Wendi. Welcome back to you and our listeners, too.
Wendi McGowan-Ellis 0:25
Yes. Well, I'm feeling a little untethered since we've kind of, we're doing a standalone episode this week, or not doing little mini series. So, you know, just feeling like all slick, like when the orthodontist takes your braces off, and I'm feeling a little raw. But you know, here we are.
Marsha Clark 0:48
All those things that were held in place, yes, yes, yes. Well, that is quite a visual. And you know, it's a visceral description of that feeling of untethered because we're not connected to something bigger, larger, multi, you know, episode. But when we do those mini series episodes, it does feel strange to have this solo topic floating next. But in reality, this episode is, you know, I would call it being nestled perfectly in the middle of the recent focus that we had on building teams, setting expectations, leading with intention, and building safety in preparation for where we're going to go in these next few episodes as we look at organizational systems through a variety of lenses. So, in a way, even though it's not an official part of a series, it fits quite nicely here.
Wendi McGowan-Ellis 1:36
Well, okay, I feel better already. I've calmed down now. So, today's focus is on leading new teams. And I am very excited about this topic because I feel like the economy right now is in a shift. And so there are people who are taking on new challenges whether it be within their own organizations - they're staying, but just moving to a different department and therefore they've got a new team - or they're taking on an entirely new company and organization. So, you have a couple of very effective and popular tools you're going to share with everyone today, right?
Marsha Clark 2:12
That's exactly right.
Wendi McGowan-Ellis 2:13
Excellent. Okay, so I'm already recognizing how this content fits right in with what we covered in those previous episodes on high performing teams, especially that first one around expectations.
Marsha Clark 2:26
Yes. And for our listeners' reference, that recent episode is number 103 and in it, we emphasize the importance of creating clarity for everyone. And what we're going to cover today adds a couple of helpful tools that also support a leader's quest for clarity, and especially in those crucial phases of forming and storming.
Wendi McGowan-Ellis 2:49
Well, I know from feedback that your tool episodes are always a favorite of our listening leaders. So, let's dive into that first one you offer in your book, "Expanding Your Power". This is what you call a new team checklist. And it's a series of questions for leaders to explore with their team members. So, everybody might want to get out a pen right now.
Marsha Clark 3:13
That's right. It'll be in the book, but the book's not out yet. So, we'll have that. But it is an important point, Wendi. And this isn't just an academic exercise for leaders to think through and ponder while they're sitting at their desk. It does require the full participation of the team. And the questions, hopefully, will evoke responses that actually help the team to evaluate and develop their norms, how they're going to operate together. So, I recommend that leaders pull their new team together and think ahead about the answers to these questions. And so, as a leader of your new team, you'll capture your team's responses to these questions. So, not just what you think but what everybody thinks. And you'll then distribute the consolidated list to every new team member. And the response may also inform your list of mutual expect expectations, which is what we covered in one of our high performing team episodes.
Wendi McGowan-Ellis 4:07
Okay. And this checklist itself has six questions, right?
Marsha Clark 4:10
That's right. And the first two questions basically ask the team to consider behaviors that support success and also behaviors that block success. So, the first question is, and think about this, that you're asking yourself as well as your team. First question is: "What behaviors do we want to display in order to achieve strong performance?" And I try to always give some examples to kind of get the juices flowing, if you will. And so examples of this might be the clarity of communication - what is that going to look like, how are we going to communicate to each other? And then again, gathering input from everyone, and that's not only to develop these norms but also in thinking about what kind of decisions will we make and how will we get people engaged in making those decisions with us.
Wendi McGowan-Ellis 5:02
Now, does the leader contribute ideas to this list as well or is it just the team members?
Marsha Clark 5:08
Always a good question on that. The sequence matters, right? So, what I recommend is that leaders do contribute and (and this is a big 'and') and that they go last. So, you don't want to go first because sometimes whatever you say then sets the tone and others might have, whether it's a conscious or unconscious, leaning that they're going to go along with the boss. And in some cases, if the people don't necessarily agree with what you said, they may just withhold or withdraw or stay quiet, limiting their participation.
Wendi McGowan-Ellis 5:44
And I'm assuming that in reality, the team may have already been working together before this conversation can actually happen. But that doesn't mean you still don't ask this question, right?
Marsha Clark 5:56
Well, that's right. And in reality, you know, this team could be plugging away on the project. And, you know, for whatever reason, you're just now having the opportunity to set these expectations. So even if you have an existing team, this is a good reminder, or calibrator, or threshold standard setter. And so you still want to ask the question. And the adaptation, if you will, may include asking what behaviors are we currently demonstrating that support strong team performance? And then what else can we do in addition to that, to reinforce or support or extend that strong team performance.
Wendi McGowan-Ellis 6:36
Got it. That totally makes sense.
Marsha Clark 6:38
All right, so that then leads us to the second question and that is: "What behaviors do we think will disable (the flip side, right) strong team performance?" So, examples for this might be not checking out our assumptions, lack of clarity on what the desired outcomes might be - that vagueness or ambiguity or uncertainty.
Wendi McGowan-Ellis 7:01
Does this get tricky for a team that has already been working together? How do you keep people from feeling defensive about their own position?
Marsha Clark 7:12
Well, it does. I think that is a tricky place to navigate. So, I want to acknowledge that. And you probably want to keep it generic enough. So, if the team has been operating, we're not going to call out Joe or Susie or Bob or Jennifer, whatever as it relates to individual performance. You want to talk about team performance, number one. And notice I asked what behaviors do we think will either enable or disable strong performance versus what behaviors on our team have disabled strong performance? So, we're not in the accusing, criticizing, blaming place. We want to keep it at that behavior level and not make it personal.
Wendi McGowan-Ellis 7:51
And yet people will still take this personally, won't they, I mean especially if the behavior described is something that they do, like multitask during meetings, or worse, just not even show up for meetings.
Marsha Clark 8:05
It is. I mean, that still can happen, no doubt about it and it's, you know, that example of "if the shoe fits". And if the behavior being described is one that I personally do, then I may feel some chagrin, if you will, and will likely go to that defensive place. But, if you, as a leader, already know that you have some unproductive behavior showing up on the team, there are a couple of options to help buffer, if you will, that defensiveness. And the first is to set up the expectations in your initial one on ones with the individual team members to say that you want to have this team conversation and one of the outcomes from the meeting will be exploring behaviors that are helpful and those that aren't helpful. So, you're, you're kind of priming the individuals to know what the conversation is going to be. And explain to each of them that the exercise is not intended to call anyone person out. It's intended to identify how we all want to work together as a team, and then you would reinforce that message at the opening of the meeting.
Wendi McGowan-Ellis 9:08
Okay, I'm so glad you set it up like that because I probably would have just plowed on ahead into the exploration and then ended up with some upset team members.
Marsha Clark 9:18
With not having that intention at all, right? I mean, to you, it's just that here's the way the world works, right. So, it's natural, and I would say especially for personality styles that are more direct and driven like you and I, we have those personalities. And so, we want to lay things out on the table, dissect them, you know, maybe forget about how it may be landing with others or not put that at the forefront. And we have to recognize that some people need a little bit of prep and ahead of time planning and thinking, processing time for what's going to go on in that team meeting.
Wendi McGowan-Ellis 9:54
Exactly. Okay. So, questions one and two deal with behaviors of team members. What's question three?
Marsha Clark 10:01
So, question three helps us get clear about what I would describe as logistics, information and processes, and things like that. It's more administrative almost, if you think about it. And so, I usually prime that discussion with a list of typical project related logistics and then ask for input on what else might be needed.
Wendi McGowan-Ellis 10:23
So, what do you start with on this logistical clarity list? That sounds like a big, that's a big sandbox there.
Marsha Clark 10:31
So, I ask for one: "What are the defined requirements, deliverables or outcomes that this team is committed to to deliver?" Second is: "How will our performance be measured?" Because I may think it's all about time when in fact, it's time and budget and and and. So, we've got to know what those success factors are. And I often say, if we fast forward a year, what do we want people to be saying about whatever it is the work that we've done? So, another way of thinking about defining success. And then what is our timeline for each of these projects? And are their milestone deliverables versus the final deliverable? Who are all of the stakeholders, so who has skin in this game, whether it be a single internal client, external client, vendors, providers, contractors, whatever all that may be that usually, most things I know in the organizations I work in, there's lots of moving pieces and parts. So, I've got to know who to include in gathering information, and then feeding back information based on status and so on. I also ask "How will we make decisions as a team?" And if you think about this, there's the I'm going to ask for input, I'm going to make the decision as the team leader. It can be the we're gonna vote on this and majority wins, it can be we all might have a different point of view and we're going to try to reach consensus, which may not be what I think is exactly right, but I can get behind it and support it. So, all of those different processes, if you will, for getting to a decision. Are we clear on roles and responsibilities? And you know, this one has so much to do with change management. Am I clear? Or if we're upgrading technology or if we're streamlining processes, I used to do it this way all the time. Now, you're asking me to do something different? And so are we all clear about that? And then do we have clarity on what and when we need to escalate things? So, whether it's my team members escalating to me, me escalating to my boss, that can be certain clients who might be complaining, stakeholder groups that might be upset. It can be dollar values over which I have some authority, and then those that are higher than that we have to go up. So, all of those kinds of things. Do we understand how and to whom work or tasks will be assigned? And that's so that if we have subject matter experts, but you don't want one person to have 80% of the workload, and the other four people only have 5% each. You want a good distribution of workload, and have backups. So, because things are going to happen. And then do we all know what resources are needed and available to us? So, this is everything from budget, dollars, people, full time, part time. And what technology support will we have, especially if it's things that include technological changes and extensions.
Wendi McGowan-Ellis 13:33
So, I have a quick off the script question. And that is, do you ask these questions, not only when you're taking over a new team, or you're now the leader of a new team, but for every new project that the team takes on? Okay, so you're asking these questions over and over and over again and sometimes the answers will be the same. Like, I would think that are we clear on, do we have clarity on... Actually, you know what, now that now that I'm talking about it, they will change every time. The answers to this will change every time.
Marsha Clark 14:15
Depending on who your stakeholders are and if the person who's on point for it has a lot of experience, or it's a brand new thing for them. I mean, you know, that's why you want to make intentional and conscious decisions and have those conversations. You know, the other thing that this reminds me of is we have a tool that's called I call it a project charter, and it outlines all of this stuff so that... Okay, you know what, I'm thinking, I have to tell our audience, I'm going to be totally transparent. It's not in the book, either. We need to put that in the book. We need to put that in the book. And the publisher said it hasn't been printed. So we could still have time to do that.
Wendi McGowan-Ellis 14:52
We're going to do that. Okay, so, but I think my point is, definitely for all of our listeners, if we had clarity on all of these questions at the beginning of every project, how many headaches you would avoid!
Marsha Clark 15:06
Amen. You know, it goes right back to the 'when we know better we do better'. This helps us to know better and we get alignment so we're all operating from the same set of templates, frameworks, guidelines, processes.
Wendi McGowan-Ellis 15:21
Exactly. And so not only avoiding headaches but creating a team environment where you're effectively and efficiently producing high quality results consistently and really enjoying each other while you're doing it.
Marsha Clark 15:35
That's right. None of us like working on the 'oh, we screwed it up again, oh, we fell short again'. So, yes, all of that is true.
Wendi McGowan-Ellis 15:42
And I think the main reason why people screw up on projects is because there's a nebulousness to the project. It's not that they're intentionally trying to sabotage something, it's just they don't know what the target is.
Marsha Clark 15:56
Well, and Wendi, I'll just say this. I was on a coaching call this morning. And this is a gentleman in the technology world and he inherited a less than stellar system that he's now responsible for supporting. So, in my this was our first coaching call this morning. And I said, 'So, what keeps you up at night?' and he said, I don't know how to predict whether that thing is going to come up tomorrow morning and work or whether it's not because there's no documentation, nobody here was the one who built it so we don't have the systems knowledge and experience with it. And if you have these things targeted somewhere, you at least have a starting point to know where to go because the reason that documentation doesn't get done is because we're so busy fixing what broke and then the next thing breaks, and we never stop to sit down. So, that's the point of the charter two and it's a more structured and methodical way to ask the questions up front that will save you hours and hours and hours of headaches and anxiety.
Wendi McGowan-Ellis 16:51
Exactly. Okay. Question four.
Marsha Clark 16:54
All right. So, question four in this new team checklist is - I kind of think it's a deep one. And if you've listened to some of our previous podcasts on this topic, it's: "How will we build trust in each other and as a team?" And we know that it's not just I automatically trust you or I automatically don't trust you. So, that's what I mean when I say I think it's a deep question.
Wendi McGowan-Ellis 17:19
Yeah, that is a deep question, especially for a newly forming team. So, do leaders really just throw that question out there or is there a more subtle way to get to the same end result, because I can just imagine asking that question of a new team on day one and having everyone stare at me just like I grew a second head or something.
Marsha Clark 17:41
Yes, and especially if I've never really thought about trust in a more granular way, right? So, what are the behaviors that build trust? What are the behaviors that break trust? It's not just, I trust you all in or I don't trust you all in. And so, some teams, admittedly, may balk at going deep in the first meeting. So, there's some reading the room, if you will, required on the part of the leader to make sure that it's a productive and a safe conversation. And the last thing I want to do as the leader is to create distrust on day one by asking the group to go to a place of vulnerability that they're not really prepared for. So, I am going to suggest to our listeners that you go back and you read chapters five and eight, in our first book, "Embracing Your Power", and brush up on this topic of building trust and the psychological safety that's included there as well as in chapter two of the "Expanding Your Power" book. And I'd also consider the same approach that I mentioned before, setting the groundwork first with each individual person and asking that question ahead of time, and then giving people a chance to think about teams, that they've been a part of where they felt trusted and they trusted their teammates, and then ask how trust was built in those teams. So, we're not asking you to, again, call out any individuals behavior that might not have been as trustworthy, building that trust at mutual trust. But, you know, starting, 'I talked to each of you about this. Here's what I heard.' What else do we need to do here? So, it's a building activity in the group, accumulative building activity in the group. And so, starting with that blank sheet of paper, in contrast, can be intimidating. So, asking about previous teams where trust was high and then shifting those behaviors to the new team, I think can help with that transference of ideas, if you will.
Wendi McGowan-Ellis 19:35
Yeah, I can easily see myself doing this with a new team. And I like the idea of easing into the conversation instead of just throwing the question out there, especially if you haven't had much time to get to know and build trust with the team members individually.
Marsha Clark 19:55
For those of our longtime listeners, I've talked about the meeting before the meeting and, you know, that's so much about what it can make or break, really having the deeper trust and having the deeper conversations. And it also goes a long way in creating that psychological safety that is so critical to these kinds of topics. And, if I may, then that takes us to question number five: "How will we handle conflict or disagreements?" And it's not quite as sensitive or vulnerable as question number four, but if someone is naturally conflict avoidant, even talking about addressing conflict makes them feel uncomfortable, right? I'm getting, you know, my, my stomach is flipping now. So, I use a similar approach to digging for examples of maybe how they've handled disagreements in the past, and then pull those ideas forward. And again, another reminder that chapter nine in book one, "Embracing Your Power", we do a significant deep dive, and we have six podcasts on conflict management. So, I think all of those are useful reference points in trying to answer these questions.
Wendi McGowan-Ellis 21:00
Exactly. And another thing is that these topics, trust and conflict are also covered in a number of our podcasts. There's that whole series on conflict which we did in episodes 52 through 57. And then we had a series on trust, which was before that - episodes, 22, 23 and 25 and then the one on psychological safety, which was episode 51. And then, in case our listeners didn't realize this, they can go to your website to the podcast area and there's a search function. So, if they type in conflict, the episodes directly related to that topic will show up, or if they remember a keyword in the title, they can also search that way.
Marsha Clark 21:41
So, thanks. You always have our references, Wendi. I love you for that. So, many of our tools build on or support another tool or another process. So, we also have a directory of topics that correspond the podcasts on the website. And that's marshaclarkandassociates.com if you're looking. So, if you're looking for that specific topic, as you said, just click on insights at the top of the page, scroll down and click on "Embracing Your Power" book club Reference Guide, because that attaches the pages in the book along with the podcast number. So, you've got both reference points.
Wendi McGowan-Ellis 22:17
Fantastic. Yes, honestly, listeners, I have downloaded that guide and it sits on my desktop, like it sits right there. So, easy access. Okay, so now I think we're ready for the last question in your new team checklist.
Marsha Clark 22:31
"What feedback loops do we want so that we ensure that we stay aligned?" And you know, again, in the example, what is going to be the cadence of one on one meetings between me and my direct report or them as team leaders or managers and their individual team members? What are going to be the cadence of team meetings where we all get together? And then what is the cadence of stakeholder meetings? So, those are all ways to stay and ensure that we have alignment on what we're doing, when it's going to be done. any obstacles to overcome and so on.
Wendi McGowan-Ellis 23:10
Exactly, so nobody gets too far off the beaten path. I mean, you know, this is an excellent one and it seems logical. And of course, you want us to establish some guidelines up front for these regular check ins.
Marsha Clark 23:23
Absolutely and just as important as setting up those regular check ins, it's critical that you honor those commitments as much as I would call it humanly possible because you set the group up for some pretty serious, I would describe it as cynicism, when you say you're going to meet regularly but then continuously break those commitments, canceling meetings, especially the one on ones. So, it's the 'Yeah, yeah, you've got that on your list, but you're not, you're not walking your talk.'
Wendi McGowan-Ellis 23:52
So, in this section, in the new book, you also make a couple of other suggestions that seem fundamental, but are also critical reminders for building and maintaining trust. And that's where you remind the leaders and the readers to tell the truth and admit mistakes. Why did you feel it was important to highlight those two, what I see are pretty foundational points in this section on leading new teams?
Marsha Clark 24:20
Yes, and they're two of the 16 behaviors that we, that are part of the Reyna trust model that we talked about in building and sustaining trust. So, I am a very strong proponent of not making stuff up. Right? So, this sense of as the leader I always must know the answer because if you don't know the answer, just admit it and let them know when you'll have the answer and get back to them. And that is one of the biggest builders of trust, if you will. So, I highlighted two of these behaviors and again from the Reyna model. So, if you model these two behaviors, you're encouraging your team to do the same and you, as the leader, will be better informed regarding really what I would describe as the accurate status of team performance. So, if I tell the truth and admit mistakes, I'm giving you not only the invitation but also the permission and the expectation to tell the truth and admit mistakes.
Wendi McGowan-Ellis 24:21
So, Marsha, would you share a personal example of a time when you as a leader had to either acknowledge that you didn't have all the answers or information or you had to own up to a mistake? And then what happened when you did that?
Marsha Clark 25:30
Yes, so the 'I don't know' response came up most often during change - I mean, kind of logical in that regard as well, so reorganization, new contracts, that sort of thing. And I think most of our listeners can probably relate to the very active rumor mill that accompanies big changes, 'Did you hear', 'Can you believe?' 'What about', you know, kind of thing, and I, what I would do when anyone came to me is I would track down the accurate information. But I would also say, 'I don't know but let me see what I can find out about it.' And maybe I came back with it still, that decision is still being made, or that information has yet to be discovered, or whatever. And then I would send out a communication to everyone. And what I usually did was acknowledge that this is the rumor, this is what's kind of going because I want to help then make the connection to them between the rumor they're hearing about and the facts. And then I would provide those facts. And, you know, when it came to admitting mistakes, I would just say, 'I screwed up. And, you know, we're now gonna go make it right.' And, you know, I'll give you a perfect example, I had a woman who wanted to talk to me about her career. And she called, set up the meeting, and, of course, I'm always happy to talk with employees, and she was a couple of layers down in the organization. And we had an open door policy, and I would, I was a mentor to many. So, she calls and we have the meeting and then the next thing you know, I have a customer issue that I have to deal with. And so I have to reschedule it. You know, one time we're all going to have those so that, you know, business as usual. But then she reached out, we rescheduled. The second time I get called up to the CEO's office because there's something he must talk to me about and he needs to talk to me about it right now. So, second rescheduling. And then for I don't even remember what the third one was, because here's what she said to me. I don't want to meet with you because, clearly, it's not a priority. So, I screwed up. I mean, that's the I really screwed up big on this one. And I said, You know what, whatever it was that was pending, I could shift and change. You know, I always told my team, customers always get my first priority. As a leader in this company, if the top four executives call you typically, that's my second. And it doesn't mean employees aren't important. It's just that there's a practical aspect to all of that. And so, it's about expectations. And so, the first two calls were in accordance with what I said was my way of operating. But then I mean, it just it you could have punched me in the gut, took my breath away. And I said, I cannot, I've got to make this right. And I did, but it was, and that was so many years ago, and I still get a knot in my stomach when I think about it. So, we all have those. And when they happen, we don't double down. We admit and fix. And that's the real point. So, you know, I think it's important to model that honesty, that whether you want to call it humbleness, or humility. And I want to add that you can't give the 'I don't know' answer all the time.
Wendi McGowan-Ellis 28:40
Or you'll be removed from your position.
Marsha Clark 28:44
So, constantly being unaware of what's going on in the organization or not being prepared to respond to questions, it can most definitely negatively impact your credibility, and the trust that others place in you. So you've got to build in the focus, the time, the energy, and work on the planning and the preparation, and of course, always following through to provide those committed to answers. And this is where this is the job of leadership. So, I just want to point that out. Again, you don't have to know all the answers, but you want to know enough that you can help guide your team to achieve what they're trying to achieve in service to the larger organization's purpose or mission or assignment. And so, that is the role of the leader. So, don't think that that's extracurricular activity. It is your job.
Wendi McGowan-Ellis 29:37
Exactly. Great advice. So, the last thing you want to be known for is as the clueless leader, or as someone who's always dodging those hard questions. So, it's really a balance of that honesty when you don't know for sure, but you're following up as soon as you find out. Obviously you can't anticipate every question or know every detail, but you need to show that you can and will provide answers in a timely way. Okay. So, in addition to the leading new teams checklist, you also highlight two other planning tools that can be really helpful with clarifying and communicating roles and responsibilities, which is crucial, not only for new teams, but any time a team has some turnover changes.
Marsha Clark 30:29
Yeah, maybe it's a reorganization or maybe you just lost a person or maybe you just had a new person, I mean, and that yeah, redistributes the work. So, our project management and quality friends that our listeners will likely be familiar with these tools. And I've just used them for years and find them especially helpful. So, in allocating tasks and assignments, the main tool that I want to highlight is a variation of responsibility charting, and that's a tool that was developed by Richard Beckhard. And it's a process that helps assign roles, key decisions and actions kind of going back to that list of logistical questions. And it focuses on ensuring that all players, all people on the team and stakeholders are clear on their responsibilities, their decision making scope and authority, and it helps to reduce the ambiguity, the wasted energy, and really adverse emotional reactions when individuals or groups when those inter personal relationships get affected by that change.
Wendi McGowan-Ellis 31:29
Okay, that sounds like a miracle tool. So, give the dirt.
Marsha Clark 31:34
All right. So, when used well and when used consistently it can definitely solve a lot of the typical problems that a team might face when they're forming, or reforming, or anything that helps teams through that norming and storming phases. And that probably does in some cases feel like a miracle. But the usefulness of this responsibility charting lies not only in the end product of an agreed upon chart, but also in the new understanding and appreciation of people's roles and required behavior that grows out of this charting process. So, I've seen responsibility charting used very effectively in the following what I would call interdependent situations, change and transition management (we talked a little bit about that), project management also mentioned earlier, cross organization integration efforts. So, bringing two functional teams, three functional teams, you know, different geographies together, so it could be functions, geographies, business units, you know, and so on, and then really just in team development and role clarification.
Wendi McGowan-Ellis 32:38
So, this responsibility chart, it looks like a matrix, correct? That's what I'm kind of getting in my head, okay. So, you're basically mapping out the activities required for a project or a team against the various players involved, the team members, and then also other groups involved - senior management, managers, stakeholders, right?
Marsha Clark 32:57
That's right. Yes. So, that's the typical layout that we can all see and understand. I think it works very well. And I find that placing the players the different players that are involved, as you said, across the top of the matrix, since that's typically a finite number of people or number of groups. And I can do a high level chart with groups like finance, legal as placeholders if I don't know how they're going to assign it there. But then on the next level of detailed charting, I list the actual individual who would need to be involved so I'd have their names there. And then down the left side is a column is where I would list the activities. And that's where I would, and I call them chunks, right, so chunking the work. Deliverables might be a chunk, decision making might be a chunk, and that list can get pretty long. So, I like to use the left column, if you will, for the longer of the two lists.
Wendi McGowan-Ellis 33:46
So, we map out our stakeholders and our activities. So, then what?
Marsha Clark 33:55
This is where I recommend either and I've used both of these and find both of them useful. I call it the first one is called a RASIN and the second one is called a RACI. And these are methodologies for charting these actual responsibilities. If you haven't been involved or certified in project management tools, I think they're pretty easy to use because I was never, you know, I was around before we called we had project management offices and PMO's and all that good stuff. So, you just learned to use these charts as a part of the person who was leading any kind of task or assignment or project. So, the acronyms are really easy to follow. And the hardest part is finding out who goes where on the chart. And that's the importance of the conversation, too. And it's probably helpful for everyone if I break down what each of these acronyms mean. I'll start with RASIN and unpack each of the levels of responsibility and I will also say that these charts are all over the internet so anybody who wants to go look at something like this right this minute, go out there and look at Rasin chart or responsibility charting. They'll find plenty of examples. So, RASIN being the first so here's what the letters stand for: R stands for responsible to make it happen. That's the person I look to as the point person, if you will. A equals authority to approve or veto. S equals support. And support is the involvement of resources, support can be providing information, support can be getting it done on time. So, time, people, money, information, those are the kinds of things that support, whose support do I need? I equals informed, I equals informed. So, let me clarify that - their involvement is not needed, but they need to know what's going on. So, they need to be informed. And the N is being more specific about not involved, so, I don't even need to inform you. This has nothing to do with you. So, don't get caught up in 'Should I be in that meeting? Are you keeping something from me?' We're making a very deliberate decision.
Wendi McGowan-Ellis 36:15
So, a quick side question. Also, can the same person be in more than one of these? (Yes.) Okay. So I'm seeing that maybe responsible to make it happen also has the authority to approve or veto. Okay. So, these levels of responsibility are also reminding me a little of the levels in the delegation checklist that you included in your first book, "Embracing Your Power". And we did a podcast episode on that back in August of 2022, called "Leadership is Not a DIY Job".
Marsha Clark 36:49
Right. And there are some similarities, for sure. And the primary difference that I would call out for our listeners is that a RASIN chart focuses on responsibility across the entire project with all stakeholders versus a delegation checklist is focused primarily on a leader's direct report. I'm delegating a task to you. And you may need a RASIN chart to accomplish it but I don't need a RASIN chart to delegate it to you. So, the RASIN chart is much more expansive in that way.
Wendi McGowan-Ellis 37:19
Okay. That really makes sense. So, will you take a few minutes to unpack those levels of responsibility that line up with RASIN?
Marsha Clark 37:28
Yes, absolutely. So, we'll start with R which is, again, who is responsible to make it happen. So, for each and every action, there must always be a clearly identified player who is responsible to make it happen so we're not in this finger pointing, I thought you were doing this, I thought you were doing that, you know, kind of thing. And it doesn't necessarily mean the person responsible has the authority, thoug it could to your point earlier, but the central purpose of the process is assigning responsibility or designing, so, who has the R. There can only be one person responsible. And that's my anecdotal experience as well as what the research tells us because for someone to adequately receive the assignment of the R the decision can be broken down into different parts. So, you know, if you look at being consistent with what is often referred to as organizational effectiveness principles, there's value in pushing that R down into the organization for the person closest to the work.
Wendi McGowan-Ellis 38:29
Okay, what do you mean by that, pushing the R down?
Marsha Clark 38:32
So, I'm a big believer in letting those closest to doing the actual work be the person who drives that task or assignment. They're the most informed, they're the most practical, and they know all the pieces and parts and I will provide them information like, here's the timeframe, here's the budget, any specific requirements, and then I let them take it from there. And of course, I'm going to have periodic check and balance meetings, but I'm going to push that down.
Wendi McGowan-Ellis 39:00
Okay. So, moving on to the A, the authority to approve or veto. What's going on there?
Marsha Clark 39:06
Yes, so, this is sometimes a confusing concept of responsibility. You have responsibility, but not authority. So, while authority may rest at another level, so I may give you the responsibility that you can spend money up to $500. But anything over $500 you have to come to me for approval or veto. And, you know, it doesn't in any way diminish that individual's responsibility to this. And quite practically, in most instances, the A or authority to approve is a sign off function, right. And sometimes that's contractual, sometimes it's fiduciary, you know. I mean, when I became an officer, my limit went way up, because I was a fiduciary agent of the company and so on. So, it's often required for management control, budget, policy, audit, contract, all those are our reasons and things to take into account. So, getting crystal clear on who has authority at what level is critical.
Wendi McGowan-Ellis 40:05
And being sure everyone knows who has what authority levels. I mean, I guess it goes without saying that knowing who has the authority is just part one. That information needs to be communicated consistently.
Marsha Clark 40:19
That's right, that's right. It's a prime example of assume nothing. So, when it comes to the complexity and the consistency of organizational communication, so this is where any kind of action item checklist after meetings can be crucial to ensuring that everyone's on the same page, and everyone knows who is doing what.
Wendi McGowan-Ellis 40:39
And, you know, Marsha, some of this isn't that hard to do. I mean, really, I guess the political aspects of deciding who is responsible and or who has authority over decisions, resources, et cetera, it can be challenging, but once that hard part is done, then tracking all of that is pretty easy with these tools.
Marsha Clark 41:03
Yes, I agree with what you just said. It's a disciplined approach. I mean, that's the real real thing here to managing teams and projects. But you and I both know, not everyone's naturally inclined to follow a disciplined process. And you know, just because a project or team leader doesn't come to the table with a disciplined approach, doesn't mean that you as a high performing team member can't offer up those processes and tools. And, actually, even as I'm saying this, it lines us up perfectly for that S aspect of the RASIN charting because S stands for support. And here is where we would be clarifying what type of support is required specifically for each project, and in some cases, even each task. And you would identify who needs to be involved, who can help you with required resources, with required information, time, people, money, all of that. At this step, you would also explore whether you're going to need additional external consultation or expertise to supplement the team. There may be subject matter expertise that we don't have. We're either going to borrow it from another department in the company or we're going to hire a contractor or vendor consultant or whatever. And each project needs to have a fresh set of eyes on this step, and not just go through the motions and sort of automatically plug in the names of everyone who worked on the last project that was similar to this one, but take the time up front. And you know, the leader ship principle is go slow to go fast or slow down to speed up, and remove assumptions and biases from previous projects. And I want to also pull into this part of our conversation, especially if we didn't do a good after action review on the last project. If we just do what we did then, we're gonna make the same mistakes and not apply any learning from how we could do it better. So, I just offer that up as well.
Wendi McGowan-Ellis 42:58
Right. But you're not saying start with a completely blank slate on every new project either, right?
Marsha Clark 43:04
Well, that's right. Okay, you can certainly use the previous RASIN charts, but they're almost like a jumpstart or a prompt in whatever new project you have. It just gives you a framework again, going back to discipline approach, but it's not a simple cut and paste, right, from one project to the next or even this assumption that it's a one size fits all. You know, again, I'll go back to my coaching call this morning. He inherited one system that was a mess, but his other systems were running fine, thank you very much. So, two different kinds of things you would use there. And you want to widen your perspective with each project to make sure it's getting the analysis and thoughtfulness and intentionality and the consideration that it deserves.
Wendi McGowan-Ellis 43:46
Yeah, I like that nudge, Marsha, that, you know, it's really easy to get a little complacent with project management when you've got a track record of success, templates you've used and you start to, I guess, start kind of, you know, phoning in the planning part.
Marsha Clark 44:02
It's true. And I would even offer that it's borderline hubris, right? And for our listeners, I had to look up this word a long time ago, but hubris is arrogance on steroids. So, if I've been on some of those successful teams, but I may forget what made them successful in the first place. But it was probably my attention to detail and planning. But then after I do that so many times, that's where the complacency can, you know, set in. And so using something like a RASIN charting process can help us to avoid that pitfall and make more deliberate decisions in this situation. And remember how I say the answer to every leadership question is "It depends." There's going to be some different variables here, and we've got to take that into account.
Wendi McGowan-Ellis 44:48
Exactly. Okay, we're ready for the I, informed.
Marsha Clark 44:52
That's right. And so it focuses on involvement that is not needed. So, I don't need you to come to all project meetings and weigh in but I need to inform you when any decision we've made or any action we're going to take impacts you. And it can be in a direct or an indirect way. And this is largely due, as we all know, in most organizations, there's lots of interdependencies, right, the ripple effect of what we do, whether it's between functions or work units, or whatever. And that careful identification of the I who needs to be informed is important, too, so that we don't get bogged down in decision making and, therefore, negatively impact effective implementation. And it doesn't mean, however, that these players with an eye roll can stop or veto the activity. I want to be clear about that. That goes back to the A, right? The I represents an obligation to inform key individuals, and it doesn't imply any attempt to limit information flow to others.
Wendi McGowan-Ellis 45:56
Will you give us an example of that in a project?
Marsha Clark 45:58
Yes. Okay. So, let us be really practical. Even with this podcast, there are action items where you and I have decision making authority. For example, the scheduling of the studio for recording dates, that's you, right? You have that responsibility. And as I'm saying this, I'm also thinking, Natalie has some say in this, and she has a much better sense of...than I do.
Wendi McGowan-Ellis 46:18
I want to be clear. I report to Natalie. Natalie tells me when you can do things.
Marsha Clark 46:23
And she tells me when I can do things. But once we lock those dates in, then we inform the rest of the team who then uses that information for other activities like we've got to schedule the guest if we're going to have guests, developing the performance notes, editing those performance notes. The team doesn't come back and debate all these dates, but they might tell us if there's a problem and we adjust accordingly. But it's not like it's a collaborative effort with everyone on the team weighing in. There's some critical pieces and parts but it's a discussion point, and not, it's informed.
Wendi McGowan-Ellis 47:00
Right. So, that's a perfect example. And it's also a great example of how you have to consider who all really does have a say in the decision beyond simply informing them like with Natalie.
Marsha Clark 47:12
Well, that's right. That's the beauty of this process. It forces you as a leader to sit down and figure out who needs to be involved and how and at what level.
Wendi McGowan-Ellis 47:23
Okay, so, the perfect segue to the last letter and step in the RASIN methodology, which is the N.
Marsha Clark 47:31
Yes. The N stands for no involvement. You know, at first glance, the N or no involvement may seem a bit redundant. So, if there's no true other designation, surely this implies no involvement. While this is true, though, the N is used to ensure that duplication of effort is avoided or to signify a change in the way an activity or task may have been done in the past.
Wendi McGowan-Ellis 47:56
Well, and I'm really glad that you elaborated on that because I was wondering why this even needs to be bothered with putting someone with an N designation. But that makes sense. If someone on the team has shifted responsibilities to another part of the project, I can see why you'd want to be intentional about communicating that that specific person may not need to be involved anymore or even informed on the status of the project. Or possibly on certain tasks, maybe specific groups don't need to be involved at all, say the legal team or the marketing team.
Marsha Clark 48:31
Well, that's right. And it's another helpful way to ensure that we're being thorough and intentional and not making assumptions. And I'll also add that all of the many types of responsibility charting tools out there, and there are many, the RASIN methodology is one of the few that adds this N element. And that's one of the reasons I like it. And I just want to say, I think the N is particularly for those who may suffer from FOMO - Fear Of Missing Out - and so, want to be involved in everything, have high inclusion needs, all of that kind of stuff. We're not excluding you, we're just saying you don't need to be informed. You've got your own stuff to do. You're an S on another chart or you're an R on another chart or an A on another chart. But on this one, you're an N.
Wendi McGowan-Ellis 49:19
Right. Okay, so in addition to the RASIN chart option, you also referenced the RACI chart tool in your book. Now, how is the RACI different from the RASIN?
Marsha Clark 49:29
Yes, and I offer both because in my 25 plus years doing work around this, some companies and organizations use one and some use another. So RACI is sort of the how you say this chart, R is responsible, A is accountable, C is consulted, I is informed. And again, there are many iterations of these charting tools, so, I'm just giving you two of them.
Wendi McGowan-Ellis 49:56
Okay. You not only offer those two responsibility charting methodologies in your new book but you also break down the process for how to develop a responsibility chart, which I found really enlightening. So, will you share that process with our listeners?
Marsha Clark 50:13
Yes. But before you get started with the charting, let me offer what I would call a high level consideration. Each player, and that can be a person or group, is assigned one of several behaviors for each activity. A person's not always going to play the same role. It will be dependent on the specific needs of each activity. So, a person might have to provide active support or resources for a certain kind of action, and on another activity may simply need to be informed or consulted before the action is taken. So a typical approach to responsibility charting, and it's the process I share in my new book, is that two or more people (and these are leaders) whose roles interrelate or who manage interdependent groups will formulate together a list of activities, actions or decisions that will affect their relationship and they'll record that list along that vertical axis, as I described earlier, and then they'll identify the people involved in each activity. And it's their list of players. And then they capture that list on the horizontal axis of the table. So, again, players can include individuals directly involved in a decision, bosses of those involved, groups, and that can be direct reports, project team members, you know, all the matrix dotted line kinds of relationships need to be considered. And then any external people like suppliers, or customers, or vendors, or suppliers. And so, the chart is developed and then shared with others for discussion. And it can be created by the leaders or it can be developed by the subordinates and checked out with the bosses, depending on the maturity and the familiarity that your team has with some of these tools. But in any case, participants of the process should develop their chart according to the work to be done and not necessarily according to the status or authority of the players on the chart.
Wendi McGowan-Ellis 52:13
Okay, we need to say more about that. What do you mean by the chart being developed by people doing the work versus those with status or authority? Why is that important?
Marsha Clark 52:25
Again, I go back to my belief that the people closest to the work itself are better informed than I am in defining the most efficient ways of doing the work and achieving the desired outcomes. Now, I know there are going to be exceptions because there's more junior people or less experienced people and it may be something brand new that either me as a leader or my team has ever done, so which case we would do it all together. But this idea of you also need their psychological buy in and you need them to make it work, so, they have more skin in the game when they have an opportunity to contribute. And they're gonna know things I don't know.
Wendi McGowan-Ellis 52:24
So, once this chart is initially developed, what's the next step in the process?
Marsha Clark 53:09
Yes, so basically, it's the visual representation of the project plan. And so, you got to socialize it with anyone who wasn't a part of the meeting that developed and put people's names in boxes. And the group that develop the chart really needs to test it out. So, with any of the players that were not present during its development or production, and then preferably no major player should be absent, right. So, if it's a major player, you hope they're there but for whatever reason, they may not be and you want to make sure they are informed and on board. And the participants can also use the chart to check expected behavior and to hold each other accountable or call attention to others when their actual behavior falls out of line with the consensus that we agreed upon in the responsibility chart. So, it's like it gives you permission to when we are making exceptions to what we agreed upon and maybe intentionally, maybe, unintentionally, maybe we default to old practices or whatever. But it gives us a touch point or a basis to go back to. And the decision about who assigns a letter to a role, let's just say can be tricky, and ensure that if players that are not present in the development of the chart, have input into it. And the lack of buy in on roles can certainly significantly impact effective implementation. But one other thing, Wendi, that I want to say is that they also know their workload better than I do, all the different pieces and parts and things that they whether it be their day in day out responsibilities as well as project assignments, new project assignments. And so making sure that one person is not taking the heavy load on that. By getting their involvement, you know, you're better informed about that.
Wendi McGowan-Ellis 54:53
So, for anyone who hasn't created one of these charts, you also offer some step by step suggestions on how to fill it out, which I'm guessing, I mean, our listeners definitely will find helpful and I can't wait to hear this.
Marsha Clark 55:07
So, I do think there are some what I would describe as fundamental ground rules for responsibility charting, and I these are included in the book and I highlight five of those. And the first one is to one assign all the R's first, right. So assigning the R's first will help to balance out those workloads that I mentioned a moment ago. And no more than one R can exist for any one activity and getting agreement on where the R resides. Is it Wendi's job, Natalie's job, Marsha's, job, Zach's job, Bret's job, Misty's job? You know, that's the first step.
Wendi McGowan-Ellis 55:41
Okay. I like this recommendation for how to help figure out who was responsible when the team or the leaders are having a hard time trying to determine that one R because I feel that that happens very often that people try to assign three R's, five R's and now we're off to the races with confusion.
Marsha Clark 56:04
Yes, well, it comes down to that old adage, we've all heard it. If everyone is responsible, then no one is responsible. And we can't all leave a meeting thinking we have equal responsibility for the same task because if we do, then it's likely the task description was at too high a level. So, it's informing you in that regard.
Wendi McGowan-Ellis 56:24
Okay, give us an example.
Marsha Clark 56:26
All right. So, let's use the podcast again, in our example. So, if the task is produce podcast, if that's the high level task that we set, we may have three or four people on the team thinking that it's their responsibility with little or no real direction, true direction. But if we break that into sub tasks, which is one of the suggestions that I offer in the book, then it becomes much clearer on who's responsible for what piece or segment or element of that higher level task is required. So, one person books the studio. Who's responsible for that? Wendi. Another writes the performance notes. Who was responsible for that? Tracie. Someone edits the notes. Who's responsible for that? Marsha. One person manages the actual recording in the studio, you. We have an actual editor, Zach. It's at that level of detail that we can start to identify, and really parcel out specific responsibilities and know who holds the R for each task.
Wendi McGowan-Ellis 57:26
Okay, I really like that phrase, 'Who holds the R'. I'm gonna go to Michael's and get an R.
Marsha Clark 57:35
Yeah, it creates clarity. And, you know, when it's said out loud and deliberated with the team, everybody gets the opportunity to be clear. And once that R is placed, then the other letters can be agreed upon with the ground rule, again, that no box can contain more than one letter.
Wendi McGowan-Ellis 57:54
Why is that, because I'm pretty sure I've seen some RACI charts online, you know, for example, with an R/A or C/I in the same boxes.
Marsha Clark 58:05
You know, where I think that happens and it's, and I think it's a legitimate exception, is when you are a small team and you haven't gotten all the team members there yet, or you're growing so fast that everybody wears every hat all the time. I think that's where that comes into play. But avoiding, you know, I just want to say to our listeners, avoid assigning too many A's. It leads to great difficulty in getting a decision made. Only have one R. You know, re-negotiate as people join the team so that you can then make adjustments and modifications to the responsibility charting because you now have additional resources that you can assign these things to.
Wendi McGowan-Ellis 58:49
Right. So, you're changing some of the A's into S's or maybe I's or maybe even N's. Okay, that sounds like a lot of the common pitfalls you share in the book around using these types of charts.
Marsha Clark 59:01
It's definitely example of some of the pitfalls. And here's why. If you have, if an activity has several A's, say there's one R, six A's, one S, one I, it's going to undoubtedly be difficult to get anything done. You know, too many A's will slow down the process. And think about that, it's in terms of getting time on the calendar to review it so they can make an informed approval choice. Or it can be that you think you've done all the work, and then they want you to go back and do seven more things. Or it could be they're so busy they haven't even looked at the email or they haven't accepted your meeting request. So, all of that is part of that slowdown. And so, then there's another common pitfall, which is if a second rank manager fills out the chart, one might find, if you will, a skewing of A's under senior executives, and subordinate managers tend to give their bosses more A's than the bosses in fact, want. Right? And so, this is, here's what I'm going to say. If you want to step into, be the leader you want to be in the world, you know, be the change you want to be in the world, be the leader you want to be in the world, take ownership and give yourself authority to make those decisions. And if they want to take it away from you, or reduce it, or modify it in some way, that's fine. But step up and say, I'm ready. I'll take this on. And I just think that's a great way to not only get the experience and the growth and the learning from that, and, I balance all these things out, but also know whether your culture is a forgiveness or permission one. But that's another aspect, another variable to consider.
Wendi McGowan-Ellis 1:00:46
It is. And I think it's called a common assumption that senior leaders are the be-all, end-all authority on decision making. And it's actually true that they want to pass off and share that authority down if they're true leaders.
Marsha Clark 1:01:02
Well, that's right, because I want to go back and remind our listeners, once again, one of the biggest transitions is to go from being the person who solves the problem to being the person who sees that the problem gets solved - to being the person who does the work and waits for someone else to give approval for it versus being the one who sees that the work gets done and offers their own approval.
Wendi McGowan-Ellis 1:01:23
Right. And I like that this responsibility charting creates a dialogue between the top leaders and their direct report across the organization, from peer leader to peer leader and all the way down the org chart.
Marsha Clark 1:01:39
It does. Yeah. And when people see how the tasks are aligned with responsibility, authority, et cetera, they have that visual that's really handy, right, and right there. And when the chart doesn't necessarily line up with the reality, it creates an opportunity for a reality check. Wait a minute, we we diverted from the chart, what are we doing here? Is that a one time deal or is that something we should change? Because we all, we do and we learn, and we hope for continuous improvement in relationship to that.
Wendi McGowan-Ellis 1:01:39
Exactly. And it's data driven decision making.
Marsha Clark 1:01:40
That's right. That's right. And I want to be clear. There's a lot of thought, focus, energy and work that goes into starting and developing a strong team. And these tools in the others that we've introduced in previous series on building high performance teams really can help you, our listeners, navigate the many variables to take into account. And we've all learned a lot through our trial and error ways, right. And I offer these recommendations to help reduce the number of trials and errors along the way to building and leading successful teams.
Wendi McGowan-Ellis 1:02:42
All right, so in our segue to wrapping up, Marsha, you've shared some great insights today on leading new teams with these tools you've introduced - the new teams checklist, the RASIN and RACI responsibility charting tools. Are there any final thoughts or recommendations you'd like to share with our listeners today on leading new teams?
Marsha Clark 1:03:05
Well, and we're throwing in the charter.
Wendi McGowan-Ellis 1:03:08
Oh, yes. That's right, that's right. We're adding another. Okay!
Marsha Clark 1:03:10
That's right. We're adding the charter. So, I just want to say. Using these tools is a perfect example of slowing down to speed up, because you can get a little bit overwhelmed, I gotta do this, I gotta get these people together, I gotta build a chart, all of those kinds of things. But if you take the time to plan and organize on the front end of these projects, I guarantee you (and I don't do that very often) but I guarantee you're going to have less breakdowns and misunderstandings, thus, less rework as the team and the project progresses.
Wendi McGowan-Ellis 1:03:41
Well, and I'm already thinking about another project that I'm working on right now that I'm going to spend this weekend applying these frameworks to. So, Marsha, thank you, as always, for offering not only practical tools, but also your own experience with using them in a way that makes sense, realistic, adaptable.
Marsha Clark 1:04:01
Well, of course, my pleasure in all of that, Wendi, and it is rare that I offer anything that I haven't used myself because then I have not only the (what I would describe as) academic knowledge of it, but the practical knowledge of it.
Wendi McGowan-Ellis 1:04:13
Absolutely. Okay, everyone get ready to shift gears a little for the next few episodes from our focus on individual team leadership. We're going to begin an exploration of life and organizational systems, which is highlighting the industry thought leadership of Barry and Karen Oshry.
Marsha Clark 1:04:14
Yeah, I can't wait to get to this. I mean, and I want to say to our listeners, it is rare in the organizations that I've worked in, both in my own corporate experience as well as the many clients that I supported through that and in the last 25 years all the consulting and coaching clients and organizations that I've worked in, organizational systems is the least paid attention to, of all of it. So, if you think self awareness, interpersonal, team, organization. We think about organization as an organization chart. There is so much more to all of that and I can't wait to bring that to our listeners.
Wendi McGowan-Ellis 1:05:20
Yeah. All right. Well, thank you, listeners for joining us today on our journey of authentic, powerful leadership. Please continue to download, subscribe and share this podcast on iTunes, Google, Spotify, wherever you like to listen. Please note that we are well over 25,000 downloads and we are super excited here at Team Marsha Clark and Associates.
Marsha Clark 1:05:43
Yay! Yes, thank you, Wendi, as always for guiding us through these conversations. And then, listeners, thank you for being a part of our community and our learning team because we're all in that together, as well. And so, I hope you found some value in this and you know, no matter what we're doing or what letter we might have next to our name - an R, an A, an S, an I, a C, an N - or whatever. We can all do it better when we're doing it together and supporting one another. So, "Here's to women supporting women!"
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