4 ways to build a highly adaptive, intelligent team

Leadership is always messy, so embrace the chaos | practice (split each time) | 4 ways to build a highly adaptive, intelligent team
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March 7, 2024
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Leading the Way
Leadership is always messy, so embrace the chaos
(John M Lund Photography Inc/Getty Images)
Finding the balance between life and work is messy for leaders, but embracing the chaos, sharing your struggles with your team and giving them the freedom to create and make their own mistakes can boost morale and engagement, says Alli Webb, the co-founder of Drybar. "It's okay to say, 'Yeah, I don't really know. What do you think? Let's go figure it out together!' That's such a more empowering stance as a leader that I really embrace now," Webb advises.
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Put it into practice: Successfully balancing work and life is an illusion, says Webb, who recommends taking it a day at a time -- sometimes you'll be able to home with your family, but other times not. "Trying to be all of these things in perfect balance, it just doesn't exist."
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SmartBrief on Leadership
4 ways to build a highly adaptive, intelligent team
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Adaptive thinkers seek to learn more, have a growth mindset and are flexible and open-minded, writes Karim Morgan Nehdi, the CEO of Herrmann, who offers four ways to build a team with those characteristics, including teaching them how to handle ambiguity, encouraging self-reflection and offering continuous learning opportunities. "With greater self-awareness, your team gains a better sense of their strengths and values -- and can adjust their behaviors accordingly," Nehdi notes.
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Put it into practice: Start building a team of adaptive thinkers by learning about the diverse ways your team thinks, Nehdi recommends. "You can leverage these differences for better thinking, collaboration and innovation by embracing them."
Smarter Communication
How managers can help their team members advance
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It's a manager's responsibility to coach their direct reports to success and help them up the ladder by advocating for them with their bosses, especially if their superiors need to learn about them or have heard unfavorable feedback. "As a manager, you should be providing the perspective of someone you work closely with, the skill set they have, and the value they bring. Provide alternative narratives to wrong perceptions or ideas," says Kerry O'Grady, director of teaching excellence at Columbia Business School.
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Put it into practice: Use time with your team members to coach them on other skills they may want to strengthen that could help them in their current role or in a new career if they so choose, says Natalie Maguire, vice president of communications at GIPHY. "Learning how to coach means prioritizing active listening, being adaptable to other styles, learning that your way isn't the only way, and not playing it safe," adds O'Grady.
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In Their Own Words
We follow leaders because of their passion, fairness and willingness to have others challenge them instead of being "on a self-serving mission of ego gratification," says Nigel Morris, a managing partner at QED Investors and a co-founder of Capital One. "I've always believed that the way you create reciprocity and encourage people to be willing to challenge you is by challenging yourself and pointing to your own vulnerabilities in your logic," says Morris.
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Daily Diversion
Amsterdam-based street artist Frank "Frankey" de Ruwe is creating fun public pieces such as a toy police car jumping between building entryways, affixing white horns on bridge pillars to make them resemble a rhinoceros and a placing a stuffed monkey rappelling down a the side of a building on a bed sheet. Frankey posts photos on his Instagram account and says he doesn't expect the artwork to be permanent, noting they can be easily removed without damaging structures.
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SmartBreak: Question of the Day
"Happy birthday!" goes to this race car driver who, coincidentally, was the first female ever to qualify for both the Daytona 500 and Indy 500 in 1977. Who is she?
VoteMaria Teresa de Filippis
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VoteLella Lombardi
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About The Editor
Which phrases have you used that may have hobbled collaboration?
Let's agree to disagree
 44.55%
It's too late to change course now
 6.64%
I've done my part, the rest is up to you
 4.74%
That's a terrible idea
 4.27%
We don't have time for this
 18.95%
Something else
 20.85%
Candace Chellew
Candace Chellew
Chellew
Among the 211 of you who took yesterday's poll on what phrase you use most often that can shut down collaboration, nearly half used my favorite phrase, "Let's agree to disagree." This one is so popular because it sounds very diplomatic and makes you appear to be taking the high road when, in my case, anyway, I'm just tired of talking about the issue at hand and would like to move on.

It's good to see minority responses for "That's a terrible idea" and "I've done my part, the rest is up to you." While "Let's agree to disagree" is just as dismissive as these phrases, it may feel less hurtful than when a manager harshly rejects your idea or leaves you feeling abandoned when you need their help.

Better phrases could be, "My perspective is different, let me explain ..." or invite them to explain theirs. The best solution may emerge when you take time to hear each other out.

Instead of dismissing someone's idea, explain that it's not an alternative and offer to brainstorm more ideas. If a report needs to do much of a project on their own, try framing it as a growth and learning experience, but make yourself available for questions and brainstorming next steps if they get stuck.

I would also like to thank the readers who wrote in to gently and graciously correct my incorrect use of the phrase "fig leaf." I was, of course, trying to say that I try to extend an "olive branch" to someone I disagree with.

As Rick K. said, "You only extend a fig leaf to Adam and Eve."

Thanks, Rick, for the laugh and the lovely correction. Everyone who corrected me did so with kindness, which I greatly appreciate. SmartBrief on Leadership readers are the best!

If this newsletter helps you, please tell your colleagues, friends or anyone who can benefit. Forward them this email, or send this link.

What topics do you see in your daily work that I should know about? Do you have praise? Criticism? Drop me a note. And don't forget to send me photos of your pets, your office and where you spend your time off.
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Meryl Streep,
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