Team Time Alignment


The synergy that occurs when a whole team focuses collectively on (1) efficient use of time and (2) attention management empowers the whole group. When everyone is moving in the same direction, trying to be effective and efficient with time, real progress is made in 30 days. And in 90 days teams are transformed!

Work is being executed, and meetings are meaningful. Everyone’s time is well spent. Meetings get shorter and more focused. People come prepared to meetings, because they have more time to plan, prepare and execute work. The Team Time Transformation is underway!

When I begin working with a Team to enhance and expand productivity, we begin with shared purpose and clear, shared Desired Outcomes. Then, the whole team works on calendar alignment.

Calendar Alignment focuses on:
               • efficient use of time and
               • attention management tactics that empower the whole group.

There are 2 Principles of Team Calendar Alignment
               1. Use other’s time wisely
               2. Ensure you have adequate time to act on tasks assigned.

Simple principles, but hard to achieve. We begin with the Team Calendar Gut Check.

Gut Check: Use Other’s Time Wisely

If you convene a meeting you must ask yourself: is this a good use of these people’s time?

Longer meetings (30 – 90 minutes) are meetings that ask people to think.
Thinking Meetings engage people. These meetings leverage the brain power around the table.
Decisions get made. Processes get developed. Feedback is taken. Adjustments are offered.
The organization and leaders move forward after meetings like these. It is time well spent, as long as the right people are around the table. People feel valued and engaged when they are in these meetings.

How do you figure out if you are leading a Thinking Meeting? Ask yourself. Ask your attendees.

• Am I leveraging their collective thinking?
               This means they do most of the thinking and talking. You ask a couple of questions.                   You listen and sift and sort through their insights.
                          If this is what the meeting is, then you have a Thinking Meeting.
                          Plan for 30 -90 minutes, depending on the content you need to cover.

Stand Up Meetings (5-12 minutes) are for Information Transfer.
You have information. You have updates. You need to communicate new expectations.
You need information and updates shared. Then you need 10 minutes tops. It’s a Stand Up.
Stand Ups share:
               • critical information,
               • update status, and
               • get teams aligned.
These are Alignment and Update Stand Ups.

Before you schedule a meeting, and bring everyone together, ask yourself:
What do you need from your meeting? If you want to leverage their thinking, then you need more time. If you need to share your thinking and get updates, then you need less time.
Respect people’s time. It is the most valuable asset you and they have. Use it with care.
I have a colleague who walked out of a meeting with his co-worker.
The co-worker turned to him as they walked to the parking lot: “Well, we can’t get that hour back.”
“Yeah. I know. What was the worst part for you?”
“I think it was the Soul Sucking part.”
“Which Soul Sucking part?”

Yikes! This is a true story, and that must have been a terrible meeting.
The simple act of thinking about how you are spending the collective time of your team will help you learn to respect their time and talent. This, in turn, will ensure that the conversation between those two co-workers is not one that takes place after a meeting you convene.


Recently, I was driving to a healthcare client site through the mountains of Virginia.  It was a sunny day that illuminated beautiful fall scenery.  Going downhill, a sign that read “Trucks Use Lower Gear” grabbed my attention.  A short distance later, I saw a runaway truck ramp and thought, ”Yep, definitely better to use a lower gear”.

The same is true when navigating relationships at work and at home. We all have a Relational Gear-Box that allows us to shift into the right gear to navigate the conversational landscape.  In their excellent book, 5 Gears: How to Be Present and Productive When There Is Never Enough Time, Jeremie Kubicek and Steve Cockram point out how to shift into the right gear for the circumstances we face (including Reverse Gear for when we need to back up from mistakes).

The Relational Gear-Box from Kubicek and Cockram looks like this:

  • First gear— you fully rest and recharge without any outside interference from work or technology.  You are completely off-line:  no smart phones, no computers, aka al natural.

  • Second gear—you connect with family or friends without the involvement of work.  You have arrived home from work and set boundaries to guard specific time for family.

  • Third gear—you are socializing.  You are at work or home and able to shift up or down as needed.  This is pivotal as it connects social to business (not just all business, all the time).

  • Fourth gear—you are working and multi-tasking, running and gunning.  Most of us spend about 80% of our working time in 4th gear.  Some of us wake up in and stay in 4th gear all day.

  • Fifth gear—you are fully focused and in the zone, working without interruption.  This is deep thinking strategic or creative time.

  • Reverse gear – you are stuck in a ditch.  You made a mistake and have to back up and take responsibility to get out of the ditch.  For example, “I am so sorry I missed the appointment, may we reschedule?”

Using these gears consistently allows us to bring a new level of relational intelligence to our lives which offer a competitive advantage in our task-driven world. 

So, on a given day I would ask these three questions:

 1.      What is your Gear order?

2.      What are your Stress Gears?

3.      What are the Gear Tendencies of the people around you?

All too often people go through life without truly connecting and, as a result, miss out on experiences and relationships that could have the power to bring them great joy and fulfillment.  When we recognize what gear we are in and then understand what gear we ought to be in for the particular time or place and shift accordingly, we can improve our ability to connect with the world around us.

So avoid the runaway ramp by down shifting when necessary and never forget that we always have reverse gear as an option to navigate our relational landscape.


I was recently talking with some close friends at dinner about their experiences with what actually happened behind their manager’s closed door.  The answers were varied, if not surprising, and will have an impact on engagement, productivity and retention.

One person indicated that her best managers always had office hours, reminiscent of her college days.  She felt that she always knew that she would be heard at some predictable point and could escalate urgent matters as needed.  Her boss was an active partner in managing up and engagement.  She felt validated.

Another person lamented the lack of predicable interaction with his boss.  His experience was quite different.  Not only did he feel invalidated, at times he felt almost invisible.  This lack of predictable interaction made it challenging to manage up, to read his boss, and to know what and when to escalate.

So, what should happen behind the Manager’s closed door and when?

We advocate for Well-Run 1:1 Meetings:  15- 30 minutes in duration and held at least once a month, (weekly for new hires.)  By well-run, we mean meaningful interaction with somebody who is actively present and actively participating.  This means no phone, no computer, no texting, and no interruptions.  Done well, this builds a trust bridge for great working relationships.  Here is the model used with many of our clients.

1:1 meetings (30 min max) once a month (and ad-hoc as needed).  The main purpose is to Listen, Understand and Exchange Information about:

1.      Assignments / Work-load Balance -  what’s working well, what’s not, distractions

2.      Developmental Plans / Activities / Training / Tools - Internal Customers, Continuing Education Certifications / Degrees, Shadowing, Cross Training, Networking, Tools / Technology needed

3.      Recognition / Coaching / Staff Feedback- Shared Successes, Constructive Thought Partnering

4.      Feedback for Leader - Things leaders may not see (blind spot) or need help on

5.      Other Satisfiers / Dis-satisfiers – Job enrichment ideas, ergonomics, environmental, etc

6.      Continuous Improvement / Innovation– As you drill into new /changed responsibilities

When done with authenticity, Well-Run 1:1 Meetings set up the foundation for performance expectations and directly address any issues in the employee’s world.  This, in turn, makes the performance review almost an afterthought, because you both have already sought out what really matters.

Please be on the look-out for other tools in future blogs as we employ Behind the Manager’s Closed Door to address specific things like;  coaching / mentoring skill development, 1:1 for recognition, 1:1 for lack of performance, 1:1 for formal discipline, and 1:1 for removing drama.




Civility in the workplace is essential.  Not a cold civility as in, “I will be polite to you while on the inside hatred is coursing through my veins.” I mean civility as a culture of respect and forbearance, even curiosity and kindness:  a culture where habits of both manners and mores exist that helps everyone navigate how to act and interact with one another.

Uncivil behavior in the workplace drives down productivity, kills employee engagement, and impacts your bottom line.  People are effective when they are bringing their best selves to work, and when their colleagues do likewise.

Researcher and author Lars Andersson defines workplace civility as “behaviors that help to preserve the norms for mutual respect in the workplace; civility reflects concern for others.” Thomas Spath and Cassandra Dahnke, co-founders of the Institute for Civility in Government, assert: “Civility is claiming and caring for one’s identity without degrading someone else’s in the process.”

But how do we put these ideals into practice?

Here is a quick list of norms that can cultivate great civility in your workplace today:

1.      Say “please” and “thank you”.  We learned it in kindergarten and the lesson still applies.  It applies to everyone, from CEO to front line new hire:  thank people for their work, their attention, their time, their effort.  I recall a Professor in college who would recapture everyone’s attention by saying in a very quiet voice, “May I please have your attention now.”  That quiet authority spoke volumes.  When she spoke we paid attention.

“Thank you” is the most valuable habit a leader can have.  How else will people know what behavior to repeat?  “Thank you” is a great way to instill the values, expectations and aspirations you desire.  And a public thank you that is specific and swings between the personal and the communal helps everyone know which direction to move to create success:

“Bill, your presentation on Friday was excellent.  The slides were few, easy to read and captured both your point and the attention of our audience with great images.  You were prepared with your data, but knew it cold enough that you simply peppered the facts in with a larger story.  Most helpful were the few, on-point specific examples you gave to illustrate your key points.  Everyone in the audience stayed with you, and I had several positive comments from the client. Great work.”

Now Bill and everyone else know several things to do or keep doing to be successful in their work.  It adds so much more value than simply saying, “Great job with the presentation Friday, Bill.”

When thank you is leveraged as an opportunity to coach the right habits, everyone wins!

2.      Be respectful of other people’s time.

Being on time communicates respect.  So does ending on time.  Time is our most valuable asset:  use it wisely.

3.      Say “I’m sorry” when you make a mistake or damage, intentionally or unintentionally, a relationship.  Here is the hard part:  work on meaning it when you say it.  This is not as easy as it seems: we need to allow ourselves to feel regret, to experience empathy for the other party, and then honestly and wholeheartedly say, “I am sorry.”  Look the other person in the eyes when saying, “I am sorry.”  Your regret will show, and that will make a difference to the person or people involved.

4.      Respect and pay close attention to the ideas and perspectives of others.

I could spend a great deal of time with this one, but I will move on to:

5.      Listen.  Really listen.  Listening is an essential skill, yet it is one we do not practice.  What levels of excellence could we achieve if we became expert listeners?  Begin by remaining quiet and deeply attentive when others are speaking.  Pay close attention to the words, gestures, ideas and meaning.  Attempt to see the world through their eyes.  It is a powerful experience to be listened to thoroughly.

Robert Fulghum, in his book All I Really Need to Know I Learned in Kindergarten, captured the essence of civility when he quipped:  “Play fair.  Don’t hit people.  Say you’re sorry when you hurt somebody.”

For more on this topic I recommend Pier Massimo Forni’s book, Choosing Civility, the Twenty Five Rules of Considerate Conduct.