Managing Mondays: No Help Allowed!

Imagine this: One of your employees comes to you with an urgent problem and you know exactly what to do. It would take you only moments to make everything right in his world again.

But should you necessarily step in and help?

Think about the results of stepping in to solve the issue (or becoming the momentary hero and saving the day.) By giving him the answer, are you really helping him?  Or perhaps are you inhibiting his learning process?

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When people are forced to work through details of the problem and potential solutions, they tend to develop their understanding of how to resolve future situations. Their learning capacity is greater when they use critical thinking skills to manage their way through a problem.

Always make new mistakes. – Esther Dyson

Let Them Make Mistakes

Let’s face it: No one likes to make mistakes. A mistake can be an embarrassing blow to an ego. But what would a person learn if they were always just handed the answer? Probably not a lot.

Mistakes allow a person to learn and grow.

Mistakes help people to move forward in life by embracing the mistake and learning a valuable lesson. Think back to one of your mistakes in life. If someone had just handed you the answer, would you have learned as much from the situation?

“I am the wisest man alive, for I know one thing…that I know nothing.” –Socrates

What We Can Learn from Socrates?

Socrates gained fame for frequently engaging others in conversations, attempting to define broad ideas. During his conversations,Socrates placed himself in the position of student, which forced his respondents to act in the role of teacher. By taking the subordinate role, you can guide others toward a better understanding of the topic at hand.

Invite or allow them to teach you about the situation they are having difficulty with. By teaching you, they will increase their understanding and come closer to a resolution.


No need for the handcuffs or interrogation room, but much can be learned through a line of pointed questions. Start from the beginning and walk them through the problem they are struggling with, step-by-step. Only ask questions and don’t contribute to the resolution.

As the person answers each question, they will revisit the steps which brought them to the situation they currently face. As you facilitate this process, continue to ask questions which
will lead them to the
ah-ha moment.

In the end they will have resolved the situation on their own by working through each step.

So What? And then what?

If you could only ask the person these questions, could you help them resolve their problem? The answer might surprise you.

The point of this line of questioning is to get to the source of the issue by digging deeper, thereby leading to the solution. In the end, as you continue to ask, “So what?” or “And then what?”, they will have determined the source of the problem they are facing. And they will gain insight into how they can benefit from it or make a change for the better.

Some of my career’s most valuable lessons have been learned by working through things on my own, and being allowed to make mistakes. Inspire your team to work through situations, permitting them to succeed on their own. Once they have worked through the situation, invite them to lead others through similar situations in this way.

Bonus Result

In the end, this will also train them to lead others and themselves through a positive learning process.

What other ways can you inspire your team to learn? What have been your positive experiences with asking questions and not being “helpful?” Have you experienced an “ah-ha moment” because someone allowed you to discover your own solution?

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Jason Christensen
is National Accounts Manager at Milwaukee Electric Tool
He is an expert in managing virtual teams and loves steamed broccoli

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Managing Mondays: What Do You Want From Me?

Living up to other peoples’ expectations can be difficult and hard to figure out! And this is even more pronounced if you are an employee who works remotely from the office. So how do you get through the difficult challenges of meeting or exceeding expectations of others?

How do you determine if you are doing everything anticipated of you and delivering what is expected of you?

Ask Questions

If you want to deliver on expectations, you need to know what those expectations are. In order to do this, one must be up front with the people they work with and revisit expectations regularly to decide if you are on track. One has to discover not only what their manager expects of them, but what is expected from them by others.

Set Milestones

Setting milestones will keep you on track to achieve your goals. As you progress through your scheduled milestones, be sure to communicate them. This is key to allows others to get the sense of what you are actually accomplishing even though they cannot see you working first hand.

Clear Communications

No one can see and appreciate the massive effort you are putting in, so be sure to readily communicate what you produce in terms of actual results. Share your output with the team. Remember ,when you work remotely, no one is there to see your accomplishments first hand; the only way they will ever find out is if you are delivering on your expectations and sharing your progress. They only know what you tell them. So clear communication requires that you show them in a humble way so as not to be boastful.

Remember, you are simply communicating your progress.

Demonstrate Commitment

As with any great team, loyalty and commitment  are critical. Be sure to demonstrate the attributes of a good team member:

  • On virtual team, everyone works together and depends on one another, so be sure to give your team members what they need in a timely fashion.
  • If there is an announcement or break-through from which everyone could benefit, be sure the group is notified.
  • Share success stories with your team; if something worked well for you and improved a process, it is likely something similar will work for others on your team. And before you know it, your point of interest has become a best practice for the entire group.
  • For the most part, people enjoy helping others to succeed, it makes them feel good inside . So if someone helped you carry out a task you could have not otherwise done yourself or was just assisting you in meeting a timeline; tell the group. People appreciate the recognition and are grateful you recognize their efforts.

Sure it takes a little extra effort to keep everyone in the loop and to make sure you are living up to expectations, but in the end you will have achieved greater success through clarity and communications.

What are some best practices you have in place on your virtual team? How have you gone above expectations and communicated your best practices to your team? How have you encouraged others to think about clear communications and how it benefits everyone? What can you do in your next team meeting to stimulate conversation toward these goals? I would love to hear your thoughts!

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Jason Christensen
is National Accounts Manager at Milwaukee Electric Tool
He is an expert in managing virtual teams and loves steamed broccoli

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Managing Mondays: 10 Steps to Long Term Conflict Management

You are infuriated! The situation is out of control and you just don’t have time to deal with it right now.

So what do you do?

Make a plan!

1. Schedule a time to discuss the situation allowing time for the problems to cool off; many things do not get completely settled in the heat of the moment. Choose a neutral location where you both can keep your bearings.

2. Identify the problem. Be calm and civilized with each other. What triggered the issue? Why does it bother you?

3. How did you each contribute to the problem? What did the other person say? What is your version of the story? Try to listen more than you talk.

4. Take ownership of your portion of the conflict. What did you do to cause this? Admit guilt if it is your fault.

5. Collaborate on possible solutions. What is the desired outcome of each person?

6. Discuss possible solutions and how each would fit into the equation.

7. Determine which solution best fits the situation and take action. Choose one resolution come to an agreement on how each individual will contribute toward this solution.

9. Follow up with another meeting to discuss your movement.

10. As each of you comes to a resolution, forgiving and forgetting; take the time for a handshake or a hug allowing growth and camaraderie through conflict resolution.

Do you have any other thoughts?
Are there some problems that just cannot be solved?

Bookmark Managing Mondays: 10 Steps to Long Term Conflict Management

Jason Christensen is back in Chicago now working at Milwaukee Tools!
He can be reached at


Managing Mondays: That’s Impossible!

How do you get what you want and still make everyone happy?

I have always been the kind of person to find a way to get things done. Perhaps it’s shear determination, or it’s a passion to locate a method of accomplishing the goals I wish to achieve. Maybe it started in childhood when my mother said, “no” to a request of mine, so I went to my father asking the same question. I can’t tell you how many times I heard the line, “What did your mother say?”

Lesson learned; if it doesn’t work the first time, then take a different approach.


“Start out with an ideal and end up with a deal.” ~ Karl Albrecht

  • First you have to know exactly what you want, define it, and determine acceptable variations. This will keep you focused and on track.
  • Prepare carefully and research all aspects of the deal. This will ensure you are fully prepared for any counters you may incur.
  • Negotiation is nothing personal, so don’t make it a personal attack on the other party. And don’t take the other party’s actions as a personal attack upon you.
  • Look at the situation from the perspective of the other party and show compassion toward their situation. Be wise; empathize!


“If you can’t go around it, over it, or through it, you had better negotiate with it.” ~ Ashleigh Brilliant

  • Listen to the needs of the other party.
  • Be persistent.
  • Don’t expect to “win” the first time. Your first job is just to start the other person thinking.
  • Work through the terms, discussing multiple resolutions.

How can you accomplish your objectives without compromising your values?

  • Give a little to allow the other party to feel as if they gained some ground.
  • Admit, when appropriate, the validity of the other party’s arguments.
  • Avoid ultimatums and other forms of non-negotiable demands.
  • You must be fully prepared to lose a great deal in order to make a great deal.


“The first principle of contract negotiation is don’t remind them of what you did in the past; tell them what you’re going to do in the future.” ~ Stan Musial

  • Work together with the other party for a common resolution.
  • Don’t be selfish; try to base a solution incorporating the needs of the other party.
  • Negotiation is always best if both parties are happy and you can develop a win-win outcome.
  • Put your bargain in terms of his or her needs, advantages, and benefits.
  • Define and set a timeline for the transaction to take place.

Negotiation can bring with it a negative association, so be sure to take the time to fully understand the situation, be a good listener, work to develop win-win resolution and never compromise your values. Using this advice to achieve your goals will give you a new confidence in life to go out and take the world by storm.

What have you found to be a good tip in getting what you want? How has negotiation worked out well for you? And have you ever been burned because of poor negotiation on your part or because of  unethical behaviors of others? Or, have you ever had to compromise your values to get what yo wanted? Was it worth it? I’d love to hear your stories and ideas!

Bookmark Managing Mondays: That's Impossible!

Jason Christensen is back in Chicago now working at Milwaukee Tools!
He can be reached at

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Managing Mondays: Virtual Team Bonding

A growing number of companies are instituting virtual workforces allowing the employees to be closer to their customers and working in a remote environment. These remote employees work distantly from the members of their team and may rarely have in person contact. As a manager you soon learn you can set up a group of employees to work as a team, but that doesn’t mean they will feel like a team.

What’s lacking is the personal bonding. In an office, personal bonding usually occurs with colleagues working side-by-side day after day. Relationships develop; people learn about one another, understand each other’s skill sets, hear about family life and gain perspective of each others personal interests. With so many virtual teams spread far and wide across the globe today; can you still cultivate the bonding experience achieved in an office?

The answer is “yes,” but it is not going to be without challenge, effort and proper systems set in place.

A bond is a close personal relationship that forms between people working toward shared goals using collaborative efforts. So how do you duplicate this in a virtual team environment?

“When everyone works together, things start getting done and the nearly impossible tasks are accomplished.”

Where to Begin

Start with a group meeting in person, if possible. Miscommunication and conflicting expectations often arise early in the project. This formal gathering will allow you to:

  • Set goals and objectives as a group.
  • Define team roles.
  • Establish relationships amongst team members.
  • Construct a team identity.
  • Build a foundation for trust.

If you are not able to bring everyone together in person, create a virtual environment where the team can gather to collaborate on these objectives. It may not be as effective, but it will begin the process and allow your remote employees to interact on a more personal basis.

Developing Team Goals

The entire team needs to have a clear understanding of their purpose and what they are looking to accomplish. Through collaboration a team can develop the goals and the processes needed to achieve their objectives. As the leader it is important you guide the team making sure their action plan is (SMART):

  • Specific
  • Measurable
  • Attainable
  • Relevant
  • Timed

By allowing the team to set the goals for themselves it gives them ownership in the process knowing they had a part in the decision making.

Defining Team Roles

The process of team bonding encourages team members to learn how to manage conflict, evaluate group performance, and provide feedback and support encouraging each member to reach their highest potential. In a team-oriented environment, every member contributes to the overall success of the organization. While each person may have a specific job function, everyone is unified to accomplish the overall objective.

Each team member should have a definite role as part of the group and every member of the team needs to be aware of each associates function and responsibility. Having clearly defined roles enhances the understanding of the workflow and increases productivity. Thereby each member of the team understands what the next person in the process needs to complete their task and can be sure to provide them all the facets needed to do their job properly.

Getting to Know Each Other

In your initial gathering you should allow time for people to get to know one another. You should have a round table where each team member takes a few minutes to talk about:

  • Who they are.
  • Where they came from.
  • Family.
  • Their interests.
  • Life experiences.
  • Personal goals.
  • Professional background.
  • Their role on the team.
  • What they are looking to achieve in their career.

These types of discussion will open doors for common bonds between the members of the team allowing them to take interest in one another.

Following these discussions the information should be gathered and posted to a team site. As time goes by people lose track of the information shared and interests change so the site should be easily updatable by each member of the team. A good online forum readily available is Facebook where private groups can be created. This forum also allows each person to upload pictures and other information about themselves creating a more personal, humanizing dimension to people who are otherwise perceived as distant and unconnected.

Building a Team Identity

A common feeling of identity is a vital part of taking your group from solitude to companionship. People have an inherent interest in feeling part of something special. During your initial assembly allow the team to work together in developing a distinctive individuality.

Once developed, use this identity on all project documents, presentations, team sites, and related materials; it will further strengthen the character of the group

Trust Building

Cohesive teams cannot be built without trust. Each member of the group needs to have full faith in the other members knowing each team members is skilled and dependable in his area of expertise. However, trust takes time to grow and mature; so how do you cultivate trust?

If you have implemented the recommendations above you have already taken great strides in laying the foundation for strong trusting relationships. To further nurture the process I have listed a couple ideas I have seen used successfully:

  • Start a buddy system, a first source of information. Each team member is a assigned a buddy, preferably one who compliments the others skills and abilities, carefully chosen to be a mentor to one another. This unit relies on each other for answers to questions, advice and general commentary. When the group members utilize the expertise each offers, they understand the value of their counterparts in their roles and enhances their confidence in the group.
  • Assign group projects. On a rotating basis pull together members of the team to complete goal related projects impelling them to work closely with one another gaining knowledge of the other team members capabilities and strengths.
  • As a manager it knowing the strengths of your team gives you the ability to build the bench strength by delegating. By knowing the strengths of your team, when approached for assistance, you have the ability to ask them to utilize a particular team member who may be stronger than you in the particular area. Essentially you are assigning “go to” guys for particular areas where a member of your team is strong. Not only does this free some of your time, it is also an exercise in building bench strength and most of all it enhances team members confidence in one another.
  • Injecting humor, at the expense of yourself helps to break down barriers and creates an understanding with your team you are regular person
  • Willful collaboration among team members and sharing information to assist each other in achieving goals is a key attribute to encourage within a team.

As the trust expands through the group, the team members will start support the other members of the team and pick each other up if they start to tumble.

Enhancing Communication

“The single biggest problem in communication is the illusion that it has taken place.” – George Bernard Shaw

Communication amongst a virtual team enhances the fellowship of the group and should be made as easy as walking over to the water cooler. There are many possibilities to augment a virtual community:

  • Shared virtual workspace.
  • Online forum such as Facebook.
  • SharePoint site to store team files.
  • Instant messaging program.
  • Weekly conference calls.
  • Web Conferences.
  • Virtual conference rooms.
  • And believe it or not — the telephone!

Celebrate Accomplishments

Nothing is worse than working so hard to achieve greatness and no one ever finds out. It is important to celebrate the wins on a team and send a flag up the virtual flag pole staking your claim. As a leader it is your duty to communicate these wins to everyone who will listen and reward the members of your team for their accomplishments. Congratulatory compliments are a vital part of bonding people on a team. Make the announcements personal and call on the individual(s) responsible to “toot their own horn” in a group setting explaining what they did and how they did it.

Virtual Gathering

One of the greatest challenges with a virtual team is the social solitude people feel outside of an office environment. To offset this seclusion you can coordinate activities which build identity, unity and a competitive spirit within your entire team.

  • Hold an online poker tournament.
  • Depending on the group, a combat game might be of interest.
  • Host a Second Life event.
  • Participate in a virtual team farming exercise.

There are many games and social events to take part in over the internet or through electronic gaming devices; pick something fitting of your team which allows them to accomplish a common goal.

Todays virtual environment can be taxing and as a leader you must work hard to unite your group. Personal bonding in a virtual environment is going to be challenging, but the more you can do to develop this connection between group members; the more productive they will be, greater motivation they will have, morale will increase , retention rates will be greater and you will have a strongly bonded team.

What are some methods you have seen used in a virtual workforce situation?

Bookmark Managing Mondays: Virtual Team Bonding

Jason Christensen is back in Chicago now working at Milwaukee Tools!
He can be reached at

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Managing Mondays: Facebook, a Viable Workplace Tool?

Can Facebook really be used as a serious workplace tool?

The answer may surprise you…

With so many virtual teams scattered and far flung around the globe we need to find a way to cultivate the team bonding experience achieved in an office. In today’s mobile workforce the sense of presence is limited which in turn decreases the opportunity for team bonding, communication and trust. Sure we all have email, phones and other means of communication; but what opportunity do we have to really get to know each other? What can be done to stifle the disconnect and bring people closer together?

The answer is…Facebook.

Why Facebook?

What’s lacking in the virtual workforce is the personal bonding which typically occurs when colleagues work side-by-side day after day. Relationships develop; people learn about one another, hear about family life and gain perspective of each others personal interests. A bond is a close personal relationship that forms between people working toward shared goals using collaborative efforts.

So how do you duplicate this in a virtual team environment?

How Do I Get Started?

Start by creating a Facebook group for your team. If you company is large make sure you pare it down to only include the members of your team directly. Be sure to incorporate your team identity and include basic information to the group such as:

  • Links to company site and other team sites.
  • Newsletter.
  • Upcoming events including: Webinars, conferences and other programs where someone from your team will be present.
  • Update your group or fan page on a regular basis with helpful information.
  • Answer FAQ’s (Frequently Asked Questions).

What Should Each Team Member Post?

Now you have your group set up and you are ready for your team to join the group and start posting. If any of your team members are new to Facebook here are some guidelines to assist them in determining the content they should share:

  • Individual bio’s
  • Background
  • Education
  • Work history
  • Areas of expertise
  • Certifications
  • Training
  • Work Goals
  • Family happenings
  • Personal Interests
  • Pictures
  • Personal Goals
  • _
    At first they may be apprehensive about contributing personal information to the group, let’s face it many people are a little uneasy about tipping their cards. Make clear to them you would not expect them to share any information they would not otherwise discuss if they were in an office setting. Explain to them you are working to create a more personal, humanizing dimension to people who are otherwise perceived as distant and unconnected. It is also significant to note to your virtual team there are many security settings on Facebook allowing them to pare down the information they choose to share with the group.

    What Should Each Team Member Avoid?

    How do you know what is appropriate? Of course it is imperative for people to know the boundaries of acceptable material. Set specific guidelines and add to them as needed, to start…

    • All information should be non-proprietary.
    • Be respectful of the company, brand, and reputation.
    • Avoid rumors and gossip.
    • Steer clear of stories or photos which may seem provocative or make others in the group uncomfortable.
    • Set guidelines for the amount of time spent online.

    Why Incorporate FB at All?

    “We think it could be valuable when used in an appropriate way.” – Haydn Long, spokesperson for Flight Centre

    Employers are embracing Facebook and believe it can help build a sense of community amongst employees and help foster bonds with clients. A spokesperson for Facebook stated, “Facebook is an incredibly efficient way for people with real-world connections to share information and communicate, including among people who work together.” Among other things Facebook is a good way to…

    • Increase trust: Colleagues get to know one another, then like each other and when they like each other they trust each other.
    • Immerse a new employee into the group by getting to know the interests of their counterparts.
    • Have long term employees gain further insight to their colleagues.
    • Allow for a connection and create a sense of presence you would otherwise find in an office environment.
    • Stay up-to-date as people’s interests change.


    Let’s face it, remote employees are spread far and wide across the globe today and if you are looking to bolster loyalty to the company and generate a team atmosphere it is crucial you embrace the technologies available to your workforce. Rather than forbidding these tools as many employers do find ways to utilize them as functional workplace mechanisms.

    Can Facebook really be used as a serious workplace tool; what are your thoughts?

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    Jason Christensen is back in Chicago now working at Milwaukee Tools!
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    Managing Mondays: The Simple Banana

    Did you ever notice how great the banana is? How it fits so nicely into your hand; how just by looking at it you can tell if it is ready to eat? Did you ever realize it has a built in pull tab for easy opening, the peel separates and falls back so gracefully and it’s even curved toward your face for easy consumption? Yes, it doesn’t get much better than the simple yellow banana.

    For all the effectiveness the banana has to offer in its tight yellow package there is not much about it you can offer as a complaint; in fact the packaging is even biodegradable. So my question to you is how can you make your life simpler? What can you do to make everything you in your life as effective as the banana has? The answer is easy; it is execution that’s the hard part.

    Going on an Information Diet:

    “You don’t need to know everything; you just need to know where to go to get it.”

    • Watch a little less television.
    • Skip the morning paper occasionally.
    • Cut down on some of your internet time.

    Think about it; do you really remember everything you read, watched or listened to at the end of the day? And of the things you do remember how important are they to your life? Does it really affect your life when a celebrity cheats on his wife? Unless you are his agent or he is endorsing your product, I’m guessing not. So why spend time cluttering your mind with information that is going to be yesterday’s news – tomorrow?

    Instead spend some time with your family and friends or take some time for yourself to relax.

    Apply the 80/20 rule:
    Pareto’s Law says 80% of the effects come from 20% of the causes. This or similar ratios apply to most things in life.

    • 80% of your life’s complication is caused by 20% of….
    • 70% of your stress is created by 30% of….
    • 90% of your happiness comes from 10% of….

    Think about what you can eliminate to remove the complicated stressful parts of your life and apply the extra time toward those things which make you happy and add simplicity to your existence.

    Be in Control:

    “You can’t control everything that happens in the world but you can control your response to it.”

    Be in control of yourself. If someone is trying to argue with you; the only person who can allow you to get upset about what they are saying, is you! If you are feeling stress about an upcoming event, this may happen or that might go wrong; guess what? Those things are out of your control! What are you accomplishing by worrying about them? Have a contingency plan and move on.

    All too often we get worked-up about things in life we have no control over, take time to assess the situation, determine if there is anything you can do to affect the outcome and if the answer is no, then let it go. Take control of you life and put your efforts toward the things you can contribute to and make your life simpler.

    Once you start to let it all go, you will feel the stress dissipating and your mind focusing on what is truly important Let your own built-in effectiveness take over; the banana did it, why can’t you?

    What are you going to do right now, to make your life simpler?

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    Jason Christensen is National Accounts Manager for The Stanley Works.
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