How to Build an A Team

a team

Build an A Team

Those who aspire to be successful quickly realize that individual performance isn’t usually enough. Only a team of committed individuals can accomplish great things. So a leader’s job turns to finding, selecting, and cultivating an amazing team.

If you wonder whether you are performing at your best, look at your team. My philosophy has always been that, if they are growing, your company will follow.

 

“Successful business leaders prioritize talent-development as a recruitment tool in the same way top athletic coaches do.” -Whitney Johnson

 

One way to tell whether you are growing is to look at where your team falls on the S curve. Based on Whitney Johnson’s proprietary research around disruption, every organization is a collection of individual S – or learning – curves. You build high performing team by optimizing these individual curves, including yours. In her book, Build an A-Team, you will learn how to manage people all along the S-curve and what to do when they reach the top of the curve. As employees are allowed, even required, to surf their individual S-curve waves, disrupting themselves, you will not only be less vulnerable to disruption, you’ll also be a boss people want to work for.

 

“The mind and skill-expanding opportunity motivates great engagement more than money or accolades.” -Whitney Johnson

 

After the release of your last book, Disrupt Yourself, you traveled and met the leaders of many organizations. As you spoke with them, what surprised you most?

Many people feel stuck, like a genie corked in a lamp; if somebody (usually their boss) would just pull that cork, they could make magic. They say, “I’m ready to disrupt myself. How can I persuade my boss to let me?” Or, “How can I get my team to disrupt themselves? How can I get my boss on board with that?” In Build an A Team I answer these questions and address the fact that, in most cases, fear of failure is the cork. We may be the cork in the bottle—our own, and our employees’.

 

“Want to know if you are about to be disrupted? Take the pulse of your workforce.” -Whitney Johnson

 

Be the Boss People Love to Work For

Tap the Power of Collaboration

collaboration

Boost Your Team‘s Potential

If you want to create amazing results, you must almost always learn the power of collaboration. In a world that seems more polarized than ever, achieving true collaboration may seem more difficult than ever.

Dr. Thea Singer Spitzer is the founder of Critical Change, LLC, and she believes that we need a new approach. A consultant, strategic advisor, and coach to top executives for nearly 30 years, she has researched and experienced these issues first hand.

Her new book, The Power of Collaboration, is a guidebook to effective teamwork. I recently spoke with her about her new book and her unique perspective on collaboration.

 

“Collaboration is no longer just a strategy: It is the key to long-term business success and competitiveness.” -Bob Mudge

 

The Power of Collaboration is the title of your new book. Tell us about that power and why tapping it is vitally important. 

The Power of Collaboration is reaching an entirely different level of achievement by working exceptionally well with others. When we do this, we alter the climate and create radically better outcomes rather than trying to convince others that ‘our way is the right way’ or working around those others if we are unable to convince them.

When we are really collaborating, we create what Michael Schrage calls, a ‘communal brain.’ We not only bring out everyone’s best, we’re able to turn those ideas into a ‘collective intelligence,’ which allows us to achieve better results.

Turning individual perspectives into collective intelligence isn’t a new concept. Most companies are much better at it than they were 10 or 15 years ago. But those improvements may be making us lackadaisical. We’re so busy patting ourselves on our backs for the distance we’ve come, we’re not realistically assessing where we are still falling short. The idea of collaborating sounds simple because of the progress we’ve made. But in a world where people with opposing views on nearly every topic imaginable must come together to achieve organizational objectives, it’s not as easy as it sounds.

Employees and teams may be quite capable of handling their specific areas of focus. But unless they work together in a whole different way, products, services, and profits will suffer. Do your colleagues work together so well that your company is positioned to create the next all-electric car (or your industry’s equivalent)? If you can’t answer this question with an unequivocal “yes,” then it is vitally important that you and your organization tap this power.

 

“Access enables collaboration.” -Thea Singer Spitzer

 

Lessen the Rifts

Do you think it’s more or less difficult to get employees to work together today than in decades past? Why or why not?

That’s a great question.  Sadly, I believe it is harder today.

9781632651235The number of people in the United States who feel drawn to those with similar beliefs, and cut off from those who differ, is growing. Rifts among people holding opposing views are creeping into the workplace. This creates schisms and reduces trust between staff who may have previously worked well with each other. It often increases ‘us versus them’ thinking, alienating folks from others, and making collaboration more challenging.

People want to fix these schisms. Some think that in order to improve collaboration, the rifts need to be resolved first. Fortunately, that isn’t the case. Successful collaboration calls for honest conversations about deeply held views. Those dialogues need to happen in a way that maintains trust and allows people to mesh divergent perspectives into great solutions.

The philosophies and practices offered in this book help lessen schisms and reduce ‘us / them’ thinking in ways that build a collaborative culture.

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?

When Agreement is Disagreeable: 4 Keys to Leading Your Team

This is a guest post by Julie Williamson, PhDChief Growth Enabler with Karrikins Group where she leads strategy and research. She is the coauthor of Matter: Move Beyond the Competition, Create More Value, and Become the Obvious Choice.

 

4 Keys to Leading Your Team

Recently I sat in a meeting with the CEO of a $1B+ company, together with all of his senior leaders, a team of around 12 people. The CEO, Kevin (I’ve changed his name for the sake of confidentiality), was frustrated beyond belief with his team because he wasn’t seeing the behaviors he wanted from them, especially when it came to reporting on their respective businesses.

Kevin sat at the head of the table and gave very specific and detailed instructions about what he wanted to see every month. Then he looked around the table and asked, “Have I made myself perfectly clear?”

Heads nodded slowly in agreement.  Yes, he had made himself perfectly clear.  It was also perfectly clear to me, based on the body language I was seeing around the room, that while he had been understood, that’s as far as it went. He had not achieved anyone’s agreement that the requirements were something they were willing to do, alignment from the team members that they would shift their behaviors to meet those requirements, or a belief that his demand was something that would be useful or meaningful to them. Clear as he was, he was not going to see the results he wanted.

If you feel like you are being clear, but you aren’t seeing results from your team, there are four areas to consider as continuums:

 

Clarity is useful and important: You need to set clear expectations to successfully lead people. But keep in mind that it’s not enough. Stopping at clarity can prevent you from seeing better ways of doing things, especially if you don’t actively create conversation about the outcomes you want. In my follow-up conversation with Kevin, his first reaction was essentially, “I’m the CEO, so I get to set the standards, and they need to meet them.”  That approach was working horribly for Kevin — which he was brave enough to acknowledge.  By stopping at clarity, Kevin had set up a situation where his people were spending time and energy on tasks that they felt distracted them from growing the business, and which they only did half-heartedly if at all. They were doing their worst work on the things Kevin felt were most important to run the business.

 

“Clarity comes from action, not thought.” –Marie Forleo

 

Agreement is equally important, but perhaps not in the way you would expect.  People don’t actually need to agree with you to get on board, as Jeff Bezos from Amazon has famously demonstrated with his ‘disagree and commit’ value (see his 2017 letter to shareholders). What’s important is that people are intentional about whether they agree or disagree — and make a choice to then align or not align their behaviors.

How to Create A Loyalist Team

loyalist team

The Magic of a Great Team

 

Great teams feel almost magical.

These rare teams build with care and intention. They operate at an incredibly high level of productivity and achieve extraordinary results.

Dysfunctional teams are unproductive, draining, and stressful. You’re always watching your back, focused on managing up, and fighting outside your silo.

Linda Adams, Abby Curnow-Chavez, Audrey Epstein, and Rebecca Teasdale honed their expertise inside some of the largest and most powerful businesses operating today. The four authors have led the human resources, talent management, leadership development, and organizational effectiveness functions of multiple Fortune 500 companies including Ford Motor Company, Pepsi, and Target. Currently, the four comprise the TriSpective Group, catering to companies like PetSmart, Kaiser, Orbitz, and others.

 

The best teams perform so well it appears they are one single organism.

 

Their book, The Loyalist Team: How Trust, Candor and Authenticity Create Great Organizations, tackles the difficult subject of teams. Their work on creating high-performance teams has yielded expertise and results for all of us to learn from. I recently asked them to share some of their research.

Loyalist Team Group Shot

What are some of the characteristics of a great team?

We studied thousands of teams in dozens of industries and found that the highest-performers had the same set of traits and characteristics. On these teams, individuals trust each other without reservation and assume positive intent, put the team agenda ahead of any personal agenda and hold each other accountable. We call them Loyalist Teams because they are loyal to one another, to the team, and to the organization as a whole.

 

Study: high performing teams put the team agenda ahead of personal agendas.

 

You outline four different types of teams in this book. If you’re the new leader, how do you know your team’s persona?

A new leader can use one of our team assessments, including the Loyalist Team Snapshot that’s available for free on our website. We also suggest learning about the characteristics of Loyalist Teams and looking for them on the new team.

Leaders can ask themselves a series of questions including: Are there only pockets of trust on my team or do all team members trust one another? Do team members believe that “We only win together,” or are they more likely to think, “I look better if you lose”? How often and how well do team members put the real issues on the table and discuss them candidly and productively?

If trust is consistent across the team, individuals know their success is tied together, and they readily discuss even the tough issues, then the new leader is starting in a great place. If those elements are missing, we suggest the leader learn more about the less effective team types and determine actions to take to move the team along the spectrum to becoming a Loyalist Team.

 

Team is not a destination you permanently reach, but more a way of working together.

 

Characteristics of a Toxic Team

On the other side of the equation are the toxic, dysfunctional teams. What characterizes them?

We call the least effective teams Saboteur Teams because on these teams, someone is always trying to sabotage someone else’s effort. Team members spend as much time watching their back as doing their own work. There’s a “Get them before they get me” mentality, and people often dread going into work. Bad behavior and poor performance go unchecked, and there is an overall sense that nothing will change.

 

What most contrasts a Saboteur Team with a Loyalist Team?

Loyalist Teams face winning and losing together. When the heat is on and the team is under pressure, Loyalist Teams find ways to come together and prevail. They learn from mistakes and losses, adjust and move on. Saboteur teams, already splintered, disintegrate into heated factions and waste time assigning and avoiding blame during the toughest times. While individual team members focus on self-preservation at all costs, the team’s performance spirals out of control.

 

Leadership Tip: Consistent trust allows team members to discuss the tough issues.