How Leaders Break the Trust Barrier for High Performance

4 Elements to Creating A High Performance Team

 

Trust. Find any high performance team with sustained success and you’ll find it. It’s the glue of relationships. It’s the desire to serve the team over self.

As important as it is, you’ll receive little training on it in an MBA program. You may have experienced it, but it seems elusive. Few can describe it; fewer can teach it, and finding a leader who can create it multiple times seems like a dream.

Enter Colonel JV Venable. He’s a graduate of the USAF’s Fighter Weapons School. He commanded and led the USAF Thunderbirds and 1100 American airmen.

 

“Commitment is the demonstrated will to deliver for the people around you.” -JV Venable

 

Teaching trust is crucial. Think about the trust needed to fly within inches of another yet at over 500 miles per hour. You just can’t imagine doing it without the highest degree of trust. JV’s new book, Breaking the Trust Barrier: How Leaders Close the Gaps for High Performance, shares lessons from his experience as a Top Gun instructor with all of us. I recently asked him about creating this level of trust and how everyone can learn from his experience.

 

“Alone we can do so little. Together we can do so much.” -Helen Keller

 

Harness the Power of the Thunderbirds

What drove you to write this book?

Book CoverAs you might imagine, the insights and sensations that came with flying on the point of the Thunderbirds were pretty special. More often than not I got the feeling my jet was being furthered by the five jets on my wing.  I was convinced it was an emotional surge until I felt the shift on a particularly smooth day, half way through my first year on the team. In the middle of the demonstration, an unexpected but very real surge of energy hit my jet and it began to turn the entire formation — like a giant hand lifting up my left wing.  During the debrief it became obvious the surge came from the rate of closure and end-game proximity of my left wingman.  He was so close that he caused that wing to become more efficient and produce more lift than the one on the right.  That was the moment I realized it wasn’t just a feeling I was being carried by the team around me; the surge was real.  Just like stock car racers on the track at Daytona, we were drafting. The more I thought about it, the more I could see drafting’s effects everywhere, and the thought would change the way I looked at the world around me.

I wrote Breaking the Trust Barrier: How Leaders Close the Gaps for High Performance out of the passion borne from the physical and emotional surge that began that day on the Thunderbirds.  My goal is to share that passion with people just like you.  We need to spread the leadership bug, and this concept of drafting will make you a carrier.

 

“No team can excel over the long haul without trust.” -JV Venable

 

Leaders and the Drafting Phenomenon

How can understanding the phenomenon of drafting help a leader?

In racing, the concept of drafting is based on a leader cutting a path through the air for those behind him, and a trailer being close enough to the leader’s bumper to shift the drag from the leader’s bumper to his own.  That same concept was alive on the Thunderbirds in the air — and on the ground.

Every unit within our organization was minimally manned, and each relied on the others to help execute its role. Our amazing people were lined up, bumper to bumper, taking the weight, the drag off the individuals and elements in front of them, while they plowed the path for those in trail.

Once you realize the impact closure can have on your team, you’ll see drafting everywhere you look.  Cyclists in the Tour de France, the V formations of migrating geese, even ducklings on a pond will make you realize how your actions can cause gaps to close or expand, and accelerate or slow your organization down.  That dwell time will give you an understanding of the positive impact, or the repercussions of your actions, before you put them in play.

Drafting makes leadership something you can see.

 

“Nearly all men can stand adversity, but if you want to test a man’s character, give him power.” -Abraham Lincoln

2000 Pilots

Rewrite Code to Create Trust

What A Teenager Dying of Cancer Taught Me About Leadership

This is a guest post by Matt Tenney. As an author and a speaker, Matt shares insights from his journey as a prisoner, monk, and social entrepreneur. He teaches leaders how to improve by focusing on service to others. You can also follow him on Twitter.

As inspired as I often am by the heroes I meet through the work I do with Kids Kicking Cancer, I never thought that I would learn incredible lessons about leadership from a patient in a pediatric cancer unit. But earlier this year, that’s exactly what happened.

I had the pleasure of meeting a teenager named Daniel. It didn’t take long to realize that he is one of the most kind, polite, and positive people I have ever met. He has also lived an incredibly challenging life.

Years ago, he was diagnosed with cancer. He had surgery, went through the hell of chemo and radiation therapies, and left the hospital free of cancer thinking that he would live the rest of his life without having to worry about it.

But, within a couple years, the cancer came back. He went through the hell again, and again left the hospital thinking he was finally done with being sick.

This time, though, when the cancer came back, it was everywhere. He was told that there was nothing that could be done to treat it and that he would probably only live a few more months. I spent time with him minutes after he had received this news. It was obvious that he had cried.

It’s OK for leaders to cry.

He told me that he hadn’t started to cry until he saw his mother crying. Apparently, being told you’re going to die is not that bad. What really hurts, he said, is seeing those you love deal with the fact that they’re going to lose you soon.

Despite this news, Daniel still came to the class I led that day. In fact, he was the first to arrive and the last to leave. He was incredibly positive during the class and was a great role model for the younger students.

Great leaders continue to lead by example even when things are really, really tough.

Learning From Life’s Storms

Photo courtesy of istockphoto/sebastian-julian

Growth in Difficult Times

One Saturday in March we had the oddest weather in Nashville.  You’ll know exactly the type of day I am describing because we’ve all seen it.  One minute it’s a magnificent sunny day, then an approaching ominous cloud unleashes a downpour of rain.  Then, as fast as it comes, it disappears and the sun returns only to repeat the process over and over again.

I usually wish for that perfect, sunny day.  Most of us do.  We don’t like the bad weather, the dark clouds, lightning and thunder.

 

“Skillful pilots gain their reputation from storms and tempests.” -Epictetus

 

It’s like that in life, too.  I am always hoping for that perfect weather.  We don’t want to be sick.  We don’t want to have difficulties at work.  We pray for everything to be just perfect.

As I think about my career, my life and my experiences, I can honestly say that I’ve grown more in the difficult times.  When a storm is raging in my life, I am forced to a new place.  I have to change tactics, learn a new skill, and do something differently.

 

“Be still and know that I am God.” –Psalm 46:10

 

Lessons from Life’s Storms

Here are a few storms I’ve experienced: