Archives For Leadership

Have you ever been on a great team?
 
Maybe you haven’t won the NBA Finals but no one could touch your Little League team. Or maybe, it’s your team at work–always on budget, on time, producing great work and having fun while you do it. Great teams are a gift. Great teams are rare. Great teams are a lot of work…but worth it.
 
What does it take to build a great team? What does it take to be a great team member?
 
For the last two weeks I’ve been immersed in a really productive planning session with my team at work (hence the lack of writing). We went deep, really deep into everything we’re doing. We got a lot done but a more important by-product was a great team building week. After seventeen trust-falls, we hit a really big breakthrough…just kidding. As I’ve observed great teams in action, both from a distance and up close, here are eight things I believe it takes to build a great team.

How to build a great team 

 
1. Great teams get prioritized. A team may start out with multiple agendas and priorities but if they don’t come together around a common vision and set of shared priorities, they aren’t going anywhere. You may see individual greatness but team greatness simply won’t happen. I’ve written about the importance of getting your own day prioritized, the same thing is true for your team.
 
2. Great teams don’t force it. It’s hard to force trust and friendship. It’s not about trust falls and forced social mixers. It’s been tried many a time, but doesn’t work. Rather, be yourself and let the relationships develop naturally. Sure, there will be some awkward moments but stay after it. Getting beyond the surface relationally will bind your team together.
 
3. Great teams spend time together. Email is great but email alone will never build a great team. Regular face time is vital–body language, tone of voice, back and forth, posture–nothing replaces face time. You also need to get some extended time together, road trips, new experiences and dinners out. Getting out of the office context allows you to learn more about your team members. 
 
4. Great teams take time to form. Yes, there are those stories of the couples that meet, get engaged and married a week later, but let’s all agree it’s not the norm. Relationships take time, they take conflict and miss-communications, they take apologies and forgiveness. The only short-cut might be taking on the role of a servant, care more about your team than yourself and you’ll see the relationship blossom.
 
5. Great teams require you to play your position. Don’t make your teammates do your job AND don’t envy your team members positions. You’ve got a role to play and if you neglect your position, someone else has to pick up the slack. In life there is always someone better, smarter, prettier, wealthier, shorter or taller. We’re diverse for a reason and your team needs you to be you.
 
6. Great teams back each other up. We’re selfish by nature. If the ball isn’t coming to me why would I move. The true hustlers and the true team members will support each other and get behind each other even if they aren’t the center of attention. You shouldn’t need to do their job for them, but when the load is too heavy to haul on their own, you should be there to help pick things up.
 
7. Great teams build the right culture. Don’t build a culture, build the right culture. A culture might be your personal preference and what works for you. The right culture is what is best for the organization; sometimes they’re the same and sometimes they aren’t. Always asking yourself, “What’s best for the team?”, will keep you from building the wrong culture.
 
8. Great teams enjoy their work. Joy filled enthusiasm to show up and perform your job everyday is huge. This is driven more by attitude than it is circumstances. If you’re heart is in the right place, engaged, excited, humble, then you should be able to enjoy it regardless of the job. This includes the good times and the hard times, the right team is invaluable in both.
 
What’s lacking from your team? How can you be a catalyst towards greatness? It’s worth the effort, I promise.
 
For more on this subject check out my book Authority on Amazon.
 
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Who is the best sports team of all time? We could debate this subject for the rest of our lives. But, for the sake of keeping things civil, I’ll just tell you: it’s the 2013-2014 Seattle Seahawks… if they can stay out of trouble this year.

Whether in football, business or a non-profit, all great teams have two things in common: Unity and Diversity.

There is a reason that 5’6″ point guards like Nate Robinson can make it in the NBA, alongside of 7’6″ centers like Yao Ming. They’re diverse in their gifts (short and tall, in this case), but they’re united in the mission to create a great team and win. This diversity allows them to fulfill the necessary roles to accomplish their collective mission.

The same idea is true of leadership teams.

Great teams celebrate Diversity.

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I was traveling on the East Coast for work in March and stayed up way too late one night to finish watching the Mexico vs USA World Cup qualifying game. As soccer so often goes, it was a thrilling match that ended in a tie! …Not my favorite. I tend to be competitive and like to see somebody win, ties don’t do it for me. Just being honest. I don’t always like conflict, but competition is thrilling.

And while we all enjoy a clear win/lose situation on the playing field, the thought of being on the losing side of a conflict at work or at home can leave us anxious, defensive, and discouraged. It doesn’t have to be that way.  

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Who are you talking to and what do they want to hear?

I’ve been doing this blog thing for the last four months and these are some of the questions I’ve been asking myself. I’ve written and published 54 blog posts; some I’ve loved and others not so much. It’s a lot of work and on the days I haven’t felt like staying up late to finish, I’ve wondered what’s the point. The one thing that’s kept me going is remembering I started out with a clear purpose to challenge, encourage and maximize leaders. Without this rudder I would have been tempted to give up already.

So, I’ve made up my mind to keep after it, but how can I be sure I’m reaching my audience?

Get to know them.

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Criticism. No one loves getting criticism. We often look for feedback from those in authority over us, usually chasing positive affirmation. When the feedback comes and it’s critical, we can find ourselves wondering what we were looking for. Criticism is generally a commentary about how we can do something better. Some people appreciate it, but the implication is still that they must have somehow failed.

We all need criticism.

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I enjoy learning and writing about leadership—mobilizing people and resources to seize opportunities and solve problems. Nothing makes me more giddy than seeing progress and growth. I love it when things get done. 

In leadership conversations, everyone talks about the importance of delegation in order to get more accomplished. Delegation, at it’s finest, empowers an individual or team to do more than they could ever do alone. Delegation, at it’s worst, is passing the buck on a to-do list you just don’t care about, but probably should

Delegation is a matter of healthy growth, and sometimes survival. However, there are two things that you should never delegate. They are important, but not always urgent… until it’s too late.

There is a war on our time and priorities.

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Vision. It’s a tricky thing.

Extremely important, yet sometimes elusive and hard to pin down.

Without it, an organization is lost. But with competing visions, an organization is doomed to frustration. One person says to go left and another says to go right, and it doesn’t take long for everyone to be confused. Vision and clarity have to be driven by the senior leaders of the organization. Those with the authority and responsibility need to set the course and direction for everyone to follow.

BUT, vision also needs to be fostered from the bottom up. A healthy organization draws the best out of its people and creates an environment for them to dream and add momentum to the vision.

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“I don’t care.”

One of the most dangerous comments people – and especially leaders – can make. 

We’ve all had those situations where we’re juggling a million things, and someone comes up and asks yet another question, or has yet another idea, and the knee-jerk response is “I don’t care, figure it out.”

The real truth is: leaders do care.

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This post is part of the Maintaining the Balance series. See my previous post on Clarity and Morale.

Speed and Stability are both necessary, whether you are completing a project, building a leadership team, managing organizational momentum, or participating in an athletic competition.

Some of us are motivated by passion to prioritize speed over stability. Others are hesitant to move too fast, perhaps out of fear, and err on the side of being too cautious.

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Leading and Learning

March 7, 2013

Your business often hinges on the people who are not directly part of your organization. Vendors, consultants, and partners are, in many ways, as much a part of your organization as the people on your payroll. This puts you in a leadership position with them, much like your own staff team.

These secondary organizations have their own internal missions, and they see you as a customer, not necessarily as a member of your organization. No matter how helpful UPS is to your distribution, your business will always be one of many customers looking for shipping solutions. The key is to find a way to engage your partners, consultants and vendors as part of your organization.

Your success means their success

And you know better than they do how your organization will be able to succeed.

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