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How to Keep Things Going While You’re Away: Leadership Case Study

Monday, November 15th, 2010

When You’re Out, Is Your Team Able to Function Without You?

The best leaders train and empower their team so others can step up and move projects ahead without hesitation in the leader’s absence. Here is a case study that can help leaders and managers think through the preparation, training and delegation necessary to be away from the office, using a very realistic scenario. (more…)

Free Activity: Ethical Polling

Thursday, March 25th, 2010

IMPORTANT:

  • This activity runs more smoothly if you prepare a Summary Sheet in advance, preferably on a flipchart page or a whiteboard. See below for an example.
  • You will need help displaying the results of this activity. Identify a participant in advance who can help you quickly, accurately and legibly tabulate the responses on the flipchart sheet that you have prepared.

Introduce Activity/Give Instructions

Pass out the Handout and Scoring Sheet to each participant.

REVIEW the instructions on the Handout, and explain that their opinions—the way they label the behaviors— will be anonymously collected, summarized and then discussed with the group.

The Handout asks what category each of 20 behaviors belongs to:
Clearly ethical, clearly unethical, or some shade of gray.

ALLOW participants 5 – 6 minutes to work through the list and categorize each of the behaviors as E, L, M, D, or U.

Once participants have finished filling out the Handout, direct them to summarize their own results on the Scoring Sheet.  Participants should not write their names on this scoring sheet when they turn it in to the facilitator.

ALSO MAKE SURE participants understand that they are to list the actual numbers of the items in the boxes, rather than a count of how many items they labeled in each category.  (This makes it possible to tabulate the responses.)

Sample Summary Sheet: Flipchart/Whiteboard

In advance of the session or while participants are working on their Handouts, prepare your whiteboard or flipchart page to display a summary of the data.

Directions: Set up a flipchart sheet or whiteboard as shown below (this table has been shortened to save space). Summarize the participants’ responses (from their Scoring Sheets) by placing tally (or hatch) marks in the table below.  Tally marks will enable the group to see the patterns of the responses.

Item E L M D U
1
2
20

 

Polling Activity Debrief

Collect all Scoring Sheets and summarize them on your whiteboard or flipchart. When the participants’ individual tallies have been recorded for all to see, proceed with the debrief.

ASK:

  • What makes categorizing some of the behaviors difficult?  Which items were difficult to categorize?
  • Can a behavior be “slightly unethical?” or “Close, but not quite unethical?”
  • What criteria did you use to categorize your choices?  In other words, as you grouped the behaviors on the list, what were your choices based on?

               Possible examples of criteria:

  •            • Would the violation be discovered?
  •            • Were people emotionally affected?
  •            • Were significant dollars involved?
  •            • Would this behavior physically harm anyone?
  • Do you think people consider impacts or consequences when they are making their choices about ethical issues?  Which impacts make the most difference?

Discuss the results displayed on the flipchart summary. Look for certain item numbers.  Were most of the behaviors listed as E or U, or were many more listed in the gray columns?  ASK participants what patterns stand out for them.

POINT OUT items (behaviors) that have the widest range of responses.  Have the group discuss why these items might have received the range of responses they did.

SUGGEST that a possible explanation for items having a range of responses (tally marks in several categories) or items where a large number of responses labeled the behavior as M is that the organization’s policies and guidance on these behaviors might not be clear enough.

As time permits, discuss other patterns participants see in the responses. It’s likely that very rich discussions will occur around the issues raised by this exercise.

MAKE ONE OR MORE OF THESE KEY POINTS:

  • As we gain experience in the workplace, we tend to see things less often in terms of black and white.  Where we draw the line between right and wrong tends to become a bit blurry.
  • When right and wrong become blurry — when we are operating in the gray zone — we should fall back on the guidance of our experience, or the guidance of rules, procedures, and laws for direction.
  • It’s not possible for organizations to guide every specific behavior, or to have a rule or regulation to cover every situation. That’s why it comes down to the individual and to his or her choices.
  • Employees need to understand the intent of the organization’s code of conduct, and have an understanding of its values (and for the organization to have clear values).


Handout: Ethical Polling

Directions: What category does each of the behaviors on the list belong to?

E Clearly Ethical.
L Light Gray. Ethical, but a little fuzzy.
M Medium Gray/Fuzzy. Not obviously unethical, but not really ethical either.
D Dark Gray.  Shady.  Leaning strongly toward unethical.
U Clearly Unethical.

 

1. Conducting personal business on company time (sending personal messages on company e-mail; extending lunch breaks to run errands).
2. Using or taking company resources for personal purposes (home office, kids’ school, etc.).
3. Calling in sick when you’re not really sick.
4. Going to work to meet a deadline when you’re obviously sick or contagious.
5. Telling or passing along an ethnically- or sexually-oriented joke.
6. Engaging in negative gossip or spreading rumors about someone.
7. Bad-mouthing the company or management to co-workers.
8. Bad-mouthing the company or management to people outside the company.
9. Reading information or documents on a co-worker’s desk or computer screen without their knowledge.
10. Passing along personal information shared in confidence.
11. Ignoring an organizational rule or procedure.
12. Explaining behavior with, “No one told me not to do this.”
13. Failing to follow through on something promised by a date/time without renegotiating the deadline.
14. Withholding work-related information shared in confidence that others may need.
15. Letting someone fail at a task to strengthen your own position.
16. Accepting credit for something that someone else did.
17. Manipulating or withholding information in order to make a sale.
18. Failing to acknowledge or failing to attempt to correct an obvious mistake.
19. Expecting someone else to check your work for errors or flaws.
20. At tax time, making two copies of your personal returns on the office copier.

 

Polling Scoring Sheet

Directions: Write the numbers of the items on the Handout that fall into each of the following categories. For example, if you marked items 4, 7 and 12 as E (Ethical), write 4, 7, 12 in the large box on the E (Ethical) row.  Do the same for each category (E, L, M, D, U).

 

Scale Items at this Level
E
Ethical
L
Light Gray
M
Medium Gray
D
Dark Gray
U
Unethical

Please hand this form to the workshop leader after recording your responses.
Do not write your name on the form.
 

This activity is excerpted from the Leader’s Guide for the video training program Ethics 4 Everyone.

Need more help in this area? Ethics 4 Everyone provides a powerful ethics overview for any type of organization. In just 15 minutes, viewers see why focusing on ethics is key to organizational and individual success. They are also given an ethical action test, tips for solving ethical dilemmas, and more.

Top 5 Icebreakers from CRM Learning

Monday, April 6th, 2009

1) Six Letter Cross-Out

 

Instructions: Write the following letter combination on the flip chart:

 

BSAINXLEATNTEARS

 

Ask participants to copy down this row of letters. Then ask them to cross out six letters from the line so that all the remaining letters in the sequence form one common English word. Allow 5 minutes for them to do this brain teaser. Now ask for their answers. If some came up with banana, they are right! Ask them how they arrived at their answer. They should have crossed out the phrase, six letters, so that the remaining letters spell out banana. Explain to the group that although the clue is huge, many of us do not hear it because we are caught up in the details and take it literally to mean eliminate six letters. We see ears and tears which obscures the obvious. It’s analogous to getting caught up in the details of life and missing the big picture. So often we see the trees, but not the forest, and it’s easier to lose our way and our perspective.

 

2) Popsicle Sticks

Break participants into groups of 3-4 people. Give each team a bundle of nine Popsicle sticks (coffee stirrer sticks or short cocktail straws will work just fine, too). Ask participants to stand up around their tables. Draw this figure on your flip chart:

 (three triangles in a row, composed of three Popsicle sticks each, with the bottom corners of each pyramid touching)

 

Have participants arrange their sticks in the same configuration. Give the group their challenge.

 

The group’s job is to make as many triangles as they can with the sticks, moving only three of them. The minimum number of triangles they must make is seven. That means they have to leave six sticks in place, and can move only three—any three they like. This is a timed exercise. They will have just two minutes to create as many triangles as they can.

 

Timing the exercise will add tension and excitement, encouraging the groups to work quickly. If they ask you questions while they are working, like “Can we break the sticks?”—do not answer the question. Simply repeat your directions: “Your job is to make as many triangles as you can, a minimum of seven, moving only three sticks.” Let them figure it out.

 

At the end of the two minutes, ask how many tables made seven triangles.

 

Acknowledge their accomplishment. Ask someone from one of the teams to come to the front of the room and draw their solution on a flip chart. Ask if any other teams got seven, but did it differently. If so, then ask them to come up and draw their solution on the flip chart. Give each person who comes to the flip chart a round of applause when they are done. This will reinforce participation.

 

Then ask if any teams made more. Eight? Nine? Ten? More? Ask the team that made the most to send a representative to the front of the room to draw their solution on the flip chart. See how many they made. Ask them how they did it. Give them a round of applause.

 

Icebreaker Debrief

• Did any of the groups break the sticks?

• And how did the rest of you feel when you saw that someone broke their sticks?

• What does this have to do with how we solve problems at work?

• Do you think you would have had the same results if you had worked on the problem alone?

• Did working in a team make your more creative or less creative?

• If you could do the exercise over again, do you think you would make more triangles this time?

• There is usually more than one good solution to any problem. You want to explore lots of different possible solutions before you decide on the one you think is best.

• Groups of people are usually more successful at solving a problem and being creative than individuals working alone.

• We often make assumptions about what’s possible/permissible without ever checking to see if those assumptions are accurate or real. Our assumptions can limit our creativity.

• People learn with experience. Watching others and learning from their experience can help us be more creative in the future.

 

3) Communication Art

Break participants into pairs. Have the participants stand back to back, each with a piece of paper and a pen or pencil. Have one participant be the communicator and the other the listener. The communicator will begin to draw on the paper and describe what they are drawing to the listener, who must then draw what is being described to them. Give the participants a time limit with which to complete the exercise. At the end of the allotted time, have participants compare drawings. Give prizes to the drawings that most resemble one another.

 

4) Diversity Scavenger Hunt

 

Instructions to the Trainer: Put the following questions on an 8 ½ x 11 sheet of paper. Make enough copies for everyone. Tell the group they have 10 minutes to complete this exercise.

 

Group Instructions: Attempt to fill in your sheet by finding a person who can say “yes” or can respond appropriately to each question. Write their first name in the space provided. You may use each person’s name only once.

 

1. _______________________speaks English as a 2nd language. What is their primary language?_________________________________________

2. _______________________speaks Spanish.

3. _______________________speaks an Asian language. Which? ________________________

4. _______________________has traveled abroad in the last year.

5. ________________________lived in another country for a significant period of time.

6. ________________________has experienced acupuncture.

7. ________________________ was born in a country other than the U.S.

8. ________________________ has parents that moved here from another country.

9. ________________________ grandparents come from the same country as one of your grandparents. Which country? ____________________________________________

10. _______________________comes from a family of 4 or more children.

11. __________________ _____ attended parochial (religious) school as a child.

12. ________________________reads one or more books a month.

13. ________________________still owns vinyl (LP) records.

14. ________________________has more than 2 children.

15. ________________________ attended college in a country other than the one in which they were born.

 

 

5) Who Started It?

In this exercise, one volunteer will leave the room and another volunteer will be picked to lead the group (the second should be picked after the first has left the room). Participants in the room will stand in a circle and the “leader” will begin a sound and a motion (i.e. swinging arms back and forth and clapping once). All of the participants in the circle must watch what the “leader” is doing and copy the motion and sound.

 

The volunteer outside the room is then asked to come in and stands in the center of the circle. The “outsider” must observe the group and discover who the “leader” of the group is. The “leader” must change the motion and sound at least two times during the exercise, and all participants must copy the motion and sound. The trick for the participants is to change their motions and sounds without giving away who the “leader” is. A common tactic is to not look at the “leader,” but rather the person directly across the circle from them. This exercise can be repeated several times to give multiple participants the opportunity to be the “leader” and the “outsider.”

 

This material excerpted from various CRM Learning videos’ Leader’s Guides.


 

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