Four Things Your Team Needs from You

A reminder for busy team leaders

If you are a team leader, there are two facts about you. You are busy. And you have followers.

To do your job well, keep your sanity, and develop your team, you have to provide them with some important things that ironically, will also ease your stress. Here are four of them.

Clear expectations. It is difficult to read someone’s mind. When you clearly share what needs to be done and what the priorities are, your team members can plan their work accordingly and may not have to ask as many questions later. When in doubt, spell it out. Warning: don’t be patronizing.

A listening ear.  You can learn a lot by listening to your team members. Prompt discussion. Ask questions. Find out how things can be better, from their point of view. If they feel you care, they will go to bat for you.  Warning: have healthy boundaries so that discussions don’t turn into rambling detours…example, have 30 minute meetings or take someone to lunch so there’s an expected end time for the discussion.

Time. Particularly if you are new leader, your team will need time to learn how you like to do things. Don’t expect them to adjust to your preferences overnight. Once they do, you’ll be saving time and stress. Warning: find a balance between being specific about your preferences, and being unyielding or fussy.

Space. Micromanaging doesn’t help anyone. Give your team members some authority over their projects. For example, allow reasonable freedom in writing and formatting documents. Allow them to suggest changes to a long standing task…you might find a much more efficient method to getting it done! Warning: even the most proactive team members need some guidance. Don’t throw them to the wolves, but don’t require them to report on every step they take, either.

Now You: 

Question: What do you want out of your team leader? You can leave a comment by clicking here.

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Should I Accept Your Coffee Invitation?

10 Questions that help me choose wisely

CA-coffee 1

“Let’s grab coffee sometime.”

How do you respond to that?

Do you add the coffee appointment to your already brimming calendar? Do you refuse all coffee appointments? Do you put off answering? 

On the day I began writing this, an article from Entrepreneur magazine called Why I Don’t Want to Have Coffee with You was being circulated.  It was an interesting take by a small business owner, and a couple of fellow small business owners I respect praised the article for encouraging discipline when it comes to this practice. Then a respectful rebuttal article, Why I Do Want to Have Coffee with You was written, which was also interesting.

So, I decided to share the article on my Facebook page and ask for feedback. It generated lively dialog, which was fascinating. 

Initial feedback on my page was completely opposite of what appeared on my other friend’s. Most felt the author’s take leaned toward being self-absorbed. As is often the case with me, I land somewhere in the middle.

So, if you ask me to coffee, here are some questions I may ask myself before I say “Yes” or “No.” Feel free to use these questions yourself when you have similar opportunities. 

  1. What’s the purpose of our get together? Are you wanting to have coffee so we can make a real connection (not necessarily a lifelong friendship but a sincere, warm acquaintance) or under the guise of “tossing ideas around” so you could push me to buy or join something? You know the difference.
  2. Could something bigger than business be happening? There are times that a conversation becomes something more important than business. (Those practicing a faith may consider these “divine appointments.”) If I have a hard-and-fast rule not to have coffee with someone unless it would be good for my business, I may miss something very important.
  3. Could you become a good friend, or at least a pleasant business acquaintance? Sometimes you hit it off with someone and make a good friend out of what started as a networking opportunity. And even if you don’t become personal friends, there may be value in our having a warm business-based acquaintance–if nothing more than for the joy of knowing a good person.
  4. Would it be good for future business? While I may wonder whether the time will have an immediate “payoff” for current business (and let’s be honest, many professionals think this way) is it possible that the seeds we plant now will pay off later? For at least three of my VA clients, we met weeks in advance of any money changing hands for my serving as a VA.
  5. Does our meeting have a reasonable goal/agenda? While the above points may be valuable, I probably don’t have time to have several “Let’s grab coffee” meetings a week. There’s nothing wrong with being wise with my time. Can we have at least a loose purpose to the meeting? (Although, I admit, one of my best client relationships came about because someone else said, “You two need to know each other.” At first we weren’t sure why. It became evident the more we talked.)
  6. Can the meeting happen in some other way? The original article mentioned this, and in the case of two of the above clients, we met at a conference we were already attending, and with the other, via Skype. Technology can be of help and a 20-30 minute phone or online call saves the additional time spent commuting, chit chatting over the coffee, etc. This works particularly well with ongoing relationships where you already communicate regularly (i.e. with clients)
  7. Do we currently do business together? The original article noted the “difference” between small and large clients and the attention they would get. That’s a slippery slope. A “small” client now may have more work later, or be connected to a potential “bigger” client they would recommend you to. If we currently have a working relationship–small or large–it’s probably wise for me to be open to cultivating that relationship, if for no other reason than to appreciate you for trusting me with your business.
  8. Have we had coffee before? Depending on the purpose of getting together, I may need to discern whether these sessions are becoming complaining sessions (i.e. if a colleague or co-worker goes over the same stuff each time) and to evaluate how our meetings tend to go. Do we walk away uplifted or frustrated over what feels like a waste of time?
  9. Are you suddenly more interested in me because I could help your business? I’ve had at least a couple of occasions where I run into someone I’ve known for years but don’t have regular interaction with, and either the conversation ends up being all about them (i.e. lacking mutual back-and-forth small talk that would be expected) or they are suddenly interested in talking with me because they now own a new business and think I would be great for it, when I am pretty sure if they weren’t in this new business, they wouldn’t be reaching out to me. I can see right through that and I’m not inclined to go further in the conversation.
  10. Can you or I be of true help to each other? In some cases, a person who wants to have coffee needs some encouragement, resources or even some coaching/counseling–or maybe just be put in touch with another company or vendor that can serve them better. If I discern that is happening, be prepared that I may give you a referral and decline future invitations. Or, it may be a great opportunity to get to know what the other does so we can make referrals in the future to one another.


The question of whether I should have coffee with you can’t be answered in a black or white way. It really needs to be considered on a case-by-case basis, with humility balanced with wisdom.


Now You:

Question: Do you accept coffee invitations? Why or why not? You can leave a comment by clicking here.


Teamwork Activity: Are you puzzled?

Let's have some fun...

illinois puzzle

Through the years, I have used a puzzle of a United States map to demonstrate principles of personality, productivity and communication at workshops I conduct. When preparing for my latest workshop, I discovered that Illinois had come up missing. My husband carefully took a printout I made of the state and crafted a brand new piece. Sweet, right?  (It worked at the event, but guess what I found a couple of weeks afterward?)

Puzzles are a great way to inspire teamwork in the workplace, so today I’m offering you a practical suggestion to build a sense of camraderie with your coworkers. That type of culture helps us all beat stress and feel a little less overwhelmed.


This exercise requires cooperation, strategy, and project management. It cannot be completed by just one person, although various employees may spend more time on it than others. The goal is to complete a project using something from everyone, and to celebrate the accomplishment without having to identify the “best” contributor.

What you’ll need:

  • A puzzle made up of enough pieces that you can equally divide among all employees in a particular department.
  • Sandwich baggies or envelopes to divide the pieces equally. Each employee should have no more than 10 pieces.
  • Flat surface in a reasonably open area, but not in the way

What to do:

Announce that the team will be assembling a puzzle together over the course of a period of time that you select. (I recommend your first puzzle take no longer than two weeks to complete.)

Distribute baggies or envelopes with an equal number of puzzle pieces to employees to each employee.

Tell employees that they are to contribute to the puzzle one time per day. Contributing can be as simple as laying one of their pieces on the table, or spending a couple of minutes trying to fit together pieces that are there. They can only “work on” the puzzle for less than five minutes per day (either contribute pieces or trying to assemble.)

Throughout the time period (for our example, two weeks) you should begin to see the puzzle come together. At first, there will just be loose pieces on the table. However, as the supply grows, there may be some attempts to fit pieces together.

Be sure to encourage along the way and establish some type of reward the whole team can enjoy once the puzzle is completed (i.e. lunch brought in.)

You may wish to frame the puzzle and hang somewhere to remind team members of the fun you had!

A Thank You and a Special Message

Looking back, looking forward

Beth at coffee shop

I’m sitting here at one of my favorite writing places, enjoying a cup of coffee, thankful as I wrap up the 10th Birthday month of HOPE Unlimited. I thought it fitting to take today’s blog post to reflect a bit and share with my reader family my thanks and what they can look forward to in the future.

By the time this post goes live, and the birthday month is over, I’ll have given away 10 Chick-Fil-A cards, thanks to Sims & Karr Financial Solutions, provided several blog posts with lists of 10 great helps to overwhelmed professionals, shared our first collaborative post (thanks, contributors–join in the next one here!) and have added several new clients.

On a personal level, I celebrated a birthday, enjoyed a meaningful wedding, got into a bowling league, (enjoying the surprise of reaching a personal goal and bowling my highest game ever) and journeyed through the sometimes confusing and frustrating process of discerning some vocational/business choices with the help of God, my husband and family, and dear friends. I’m also seeing the effect of stress on people as a whole and coming to understand that I can continue to be of help to overwhelmed professionals, whether directly in client support or indirectly in providing resources.

The tricky part of that is to make wise decisions about what and how much to offer and when, since HOPE is a business with a mindset influenced by ministry and I hope, generosity, and I need to be careful not to become too much of an overwhelmed professional myself! I’m taking it one leading at a time.

So this month (May 2015), I am offering access to the Virtual Training Classroom (VTR) Conquer Your Calendar: 12 Keys to Taking Control and Feeling Less Stress with Your Commitments in a unique way. I want ANYONE to be able to access these materials because I believe they will help you become less stressed. I don’t want finances to keep you from getting this resource. At the same time, the information is valuable and the education is worth some investment. So I’ve decided to offer the class at a “Pay What You Want” basis. Passes are available from now through the end of the month. The quicker you join, the more time you’ll have to go through the materials on your own and if you wish, be part of the Facebook group.  Please join in! (or at least view the free 5-minute class.)

In addition to the above, I plan to continue the weekly blog post on Mondays, the 5 on the 15th newsletter on the 15th of each month and remain active on several social media channels, sharing tips and encouragement to bring HOPE to overwhelmed professionals. I also plan to continue to create resources/books for the foreseeable future. (I’m available for speaking, consulting, and virtual assistant opportunities as well if that is applicable to you or someone you know.)

So, thank you for celebrating HOPE’s 10th birthday with me last month. Please stay in touch and let me know how to bring HOPE to you so you can feel a little less overwhelmed at work!