How A Team Can Do Big Things

What Makes a Team

A group of people does not make a team. That’s something that any business leader figures out quickly. You don’t just rattle off names and put people in a room and voila!, have a team.

A team, especially a highly-effective team, is a leadership challenge. When a team is working, it delivers extraordinary performance.

That’s the focus of Craig Ross’s work and his new book, DO BIG THINGS: The Simple Steps Teams Can Take to Mobilize Hearts and Minds, and Make an Epic Impact . He is CEO of Verus Global, where he designs and delivers lasting solutions that transform leaders and teams.

I recently asked him about how a team can do big things.

 

Why are teams performing below their potential?

Teams don’t fail because they lack the technical talent they need to succeed. Also, they don’t fail because the members of the team aren’t good people. More often than not, teams flatline before they reach the finish line because they aren’t practicing human connection skills. They lack the ability to work together. It’s that simple.

It’s heartbreaking because it’s so common place: Organizations throw talented, experienced, successful people together, call them a team, and then expect them to team together in talented ways. But it doesn’t work that way, because connecting effectively as human beings is a skill.

 

“Teams flatline before they reach the finish line because they aren’t practicing human connection skills.” -Craig Ross

 

Consequently, teams with immense potential suffer from DSD: They’re Distracted, hopelessly Stressed, and Disconnected from each other as teammates and their purpose. As a result, these teams perform below their potential.

 

Characteristics of a “Do Big Things” Team

What are the characteristics of a team that can do big things?

Most teams have the right ingredients to succeed, such as talent, resources and customers. What they often lack, however, is a recipe to bring the talent and resources they have together. After spending over 65,000 hours working with and studying teams around the world and reviewing the research available on this topic, we’ve discovered that recipe. It consists of seven steps that create the thinking and actions that occur consistently in teams that achieve and deliver remarkable objectives.

That recipe is called The Do Big Things Framework.

 

How does a leader ensure that the team gets their whole heart in the game or they “flatline” as you say it?

Leadership Lessons from a Walk Across Spain

Learning from the Camino

 

“The Camino is the ideal training ground for leaders.”

That’s the line on the back liner of the book jacket that pulled me into a surprising story. How to practice leadership with “a pilgrim’s heart, a wayfarer’s grit, and a navigator’s gift for reaching the destination.”

Exactly.

Reading leadership consultant Victor Prince’s book, The Camino Way: Lessons in Leadership from a Walk Across Spain , was a way to take that journey without actually walking that far. For the hours reading the book, I walked with Victor and took in the lessons and applications for leadership. Victor graciously talked with me about his journey. Before his leadership work, Victor Prince was previously the COO of the US Consumer Financial Protection Bureau and a strategy consultant with Bain & Company.

 

“It’s no use walking anywhere to preach unless our walking is our preaching.” -Francis of Assisi

 

Make the Leadership Decision

Why did you decide to do the “Camino”?

I do long distance hiking and biking trails as a hobby. I focus on trails that are long and have accommodations along the way and don’t require camping. The Camino meets both those criteria, and I finally got to it when I was able to take a month off during a sabbatical. The Martin Sheen and Emilio Estevez film, The Way, also got me interested. I knew the trail had ancient roots, and many people got an epiphany when walking it, but I was more focused on it as just the next trail I would check off my list.

 

Leadership Lesson: tell your team about your goals and the reasons you are pursuing them.

 

You received a passport for your trip with 7 leadership lessons that struck you. As you made the journey, how did these impact you?

At first, I was focused on the main purpose of the pilgrim credential (pilgrim passport), which is to collect the stamps from hostels along the way to prove you walked the route. As a goal-driven over-achiever, I loved the daily sense of accomplishment I got with each nightly stamp. I only noticed the list of the 7 values pilgrims were asked to live by while on the Camino after a few days of walking. They captured the spirit I found in other pilgrims. They were simple things like, “Make others feel welcome,” and, “Think about those who will follow you.” They also struck me as exceptionally thoughtful values to follow even while off of the Camino. As I had alone-time walking, I reflected on how these values would have been helpful for me to live by in my past roles leading teams at work.

Copyright Victor Prince, Used by Permission

Would you share an example of how perspective can change on this journey?

One of the values is, “Welcome each day – its pleasures and challenges.” While walking an average of 15 miles per day for a month, a pilgrim on the Camino experiences many challenges as well as pleasures. I learned to put challenges into perspective. My most challenging day on the Camino came after a 24-mile day that resulted from a mistake in my planning. When I started the next morning, I was tired, sore and grumpy as I stared at a big hill I had to climb. It was a hot July day. I started to wonder if I had bitten off more than I could chew with this whole walk. ‘What on earth am I doing walking across Spain?’ I asked myself. I slogged on and when I got about halfway up the hill, I saw a marker for a pilgrim who had died on that spot. That put my challenges into perspective. I realized that, while this was my worst day on the trail, this adventure was something I knew would be difficult but that I had chosen to do. That made me realize that a bad day doing something I love is still a good day. When I got to the top of the hill, I snapped this picture which changed my life. I used this picture to headline my blog about the Camino that went viral around the world and led to this book.  The fallen pilgrim named on the marker never made it to see that view, but he inspired me and I dedicated this book to him. The leadership lesson I learned from this is to put bad days at work into perspective.  A bad day at work is better than a good day without a job.

 

7 Values to Live By

  1: Welcome each day, its pleasures and challenges

  2: Make others feel welcome

  3: Share

  4: Live in the moment

  5: Feel the spirit of those who have come before you

  6: Appreciate those who walk with you today

  7: Imagine those who will follow you

 

Lessons from the Camino