The Promise of High Performing Teams

Why do we hear so much about the importance of teamwork and high performing teams? UCLA Coach John Wooden won a record 10 NCAA basketball championships because he focused on the basic fundamentals that make a team great. He didn’t care how talented a player was. He understood we could accomplish so much more as a team, than you can as a group of individuals working together. There is a price to creating high performing teams, which most leaders aren’t willing to pay. Those that do, find their investment rewarded greatly.

Today, most people assume because they are in the same department, they are part of a team. Many hiring managers have a tendency to focus on top talent, rather than how well the individual will fit with their culture. People unconsciously favor natural talent to work ethic, effort, and motivation.[1] Teamwork takes dedication, commitment and hard work. Many leaders take a short-term approach that it is easier to work independently as part of a group rather than commit to the steps of becoming a high performance team. In reality, once they have committed to developing a high performance team, everything is easier.

Several years ago I worked for an organization that was, ironically, providing leadership and teamwork training to businesses. The company was struggling with sales during the 2008 recession, so I was asked to leave my position in training and development to focus on increasing sales. The sales department had hired and lost over 50 sales people from 2008-2011. None of them were able to have the success needed to remain working there. Clearly, the sales process was not working. I found that the sales practices of the company incentivized individual performance versus team performance. I learned everything I could from the best performers, and I brought my own experience as well. When I began to share my ideas, I was told my ideas would not work. In this situation, I felt it easier to take my own approach rather than follow the current process. I was working on a “team”, but we did not function as a team. I became the top sales performer within a year and I remained one of the top performers. Then I was promoted to sales manager.

Because of the toxic culture this was a big challenge. As a manager, there was tremendous pressure to produce. Ownership had a short-term focus and had little patience for the work it would take to change the culture. Top performers behavior was seriously disruptive. Because sales were low, leadership opted to allow top performers to work from home to reduce friction and drama. It would have taken time and commitment to hold them accountable and build a cohesive team. Instead, this short-term approach created sales results which were difficult to sustain. Sustained results require much more than individuals with talent working separately. It requires people who are willing to work hard and put the team ahead of their own personal ambition and agendas. It requires that the members of the team trust each other’s motives and actions. It required me to take more ownership of the process and be more courageous than I was at the time.

My experience is that business leaders are afraid of replacing disruptive top producers. They rely on their production and are not sure they can replace it. In my experience, your organization will thrive without these disruptive talents. I find that when they leave, trust increases and the rest of the team is more willing to step up and take greater responsibility. I would rather have a team of average players who are committed and motivated to work together, than a “team” with great talent who thinks they can do it alone and so would you. Billy Bean, the manager of the Oakland A’s starting in 1997, showed the impact of average players working as a team who could get on base vs. the all star with a “big bat.” His approach was revolutionary and was chronicled in the 2011 movie “Moneyball” starring Brad Pitt.

Several years ago, Boyd Packer was at a county fair in Vermont. He was interested in the main event, which was an ox pull. Teams of two oxen where given three chances to pull a sled of cement blocks starting at five tons. As more weight was added, teams were eliminated until one team remained. He observed several teams; one in particular with enormous oxen seemed favored to win. They did not even place. Instead, an unlikely much smaller team won the event. He asked the local New Englanders how this was possible? They explained that the small team pulled at exactly the same time allowing their energy to be evenly distributed through the yoke creating tremendous power. The bigger teams did not work as well together and the difference of one second as the oxen would pull caused the energy to be lost and the pulling power to dissipate.

Teamwork is one of the greatest advantages any organization can have. It will have more positive impact than any individuals with intellect or natural strength or ability. Change is happening so quickly today. It is reported that information doubles every twelve to eighteen months. Computing power doubles every two years. We must learn to work as a team to keep up.

If teamwork is so vital to our sustained success, why are there not more effective teams?

  1. It takes commitment, effort and courage. It takes a willingness to embrace change to create high performing teams

  2. Most leaders do not know how to transform their people into a high performance team.

  3. Many leaders are under so much pressure to produce today, they forget about the need to produce tomorrow and the day after that.

  4. There is a culture of blame. If the leader blames, he cannot expect anyone else to take ownership either and this creates a vicious cycle of poor accountability.

  5. There is a bias toward talent. Often high potential performers are overlooked because they do not immediately stand out. A team of dedicated and committed people will outperform a group of individually talented people.

  6. Incentives often reward individual versus team performance.

  7. Not enough time is devoted to building trust with team members.

These challenges can be overcome. Working on a high performance team is fun and energizing. The return on investment is exciting and profitable.

Think of the best team you have ever been on. What made it great? What did you accomplish? Years ago, I played basketball in a city league. The members of this team were not particularly talented or fast. We had fun together and we worked cohesively. One Saturday, we were practicing on a court by the beach. A group of young and individually talented men challenged us to a game. They were supremely confident in their success and told us we should be ready to lose. Instead, they became frustrated as we began pulling ahead. We were playing as a team. They were showcasing their individual talents and eventually began arguing and blaming each other. They lost and left in disgust and frustration.

How do you get committed to the team? You have to be willing to own the results of the team. You can’t say you are succeeding and failing because of someone else. It is our boss, our co-workers, or our customers who are fault. Our marketing is poor, our product is weak, our leadership doesn’t know what they are doing. You must own the results of the team you are on. Regardless of title and position, you can influence the team to improve, by your commitment to the team. It is easier to blame and go it alone or leave. That is what many of us do.

If you are willing to pull together, you will be rewarded. I have a client that today is absolutely thriving as a high performance organization. There are multiple teams at many different levels. It took several years of hard work to make some major changes. They had to ask one of their founding principals to leave. This process took tremendous courage and commitment. The individual was immensely talented but toxic. The team was so much better in the long run. They were able to heal and come together to fulfill the very important mission of the organization. At the time, there was uncertainty about losing the talent of this individual, though there was damage to this person’s reputation and also the organizations reputation. The results two years later were unmistakable.

It is so much fun to be an underdog that exceeds expectations. Your leadership matters to the performance of the team. You do not have to be the smartest or most talented. You just have to be the most committed to creating team performance. You are much more effective as a team than alone.

The author Spencer Horn is the President of Spencer Horn Solutions, LLC. Additional articles which may interest you: 7 Steps For a More Productive Team; Leadership Is About Impact Not IntentionHow To Prepare Your Next Generation Of LeadersIncrease Your Effectiveness As A Leader With Perception Science;  How To Create Success From Failure; How To Get Your People To Change TodayCure For The CEO DiseaseThe Importance of Values; Results Killing Virus

If you would like to take a closer look at how much more productive your team could be through greater teamwork, message me and I will send you a comprehensive diagnostic tool.

[1] Chia-Jung Tsay, an assistant professor at University College London, “Beware Of The Bias Toward Natural Ability”, Harvard Business Review, April 2106, pgs. 28-29

The Results Killing Virus

Are your results being impacted by an infectious disease? Science has proven that attitudes are literally catching like a virus. We live in a society where avoiding responsibility (non-responsibility) and placing blame is deeply rooted in our culture. Do you allow your mood to be determined by how others treat you? Do you feel others cause you to be offended or frustrated. If you do, you are probably infected with the highly contagious blame disease.

Blaming is often associated with strong emotional feelings. Author Daniel Goleman writes, “…emotions are contagious. We ‘catch’ strong emotions much as we do a rhinovirus – and so can come down with the emotional equivalent of a cold.” (Daniel Goleman, Social Intelligence) American Psychiatrist, Daniel Stern, says our minds are continually interacting through a type of neural WiFi. (Daniel Stern, The Present Moment in Psychotherapy and Everyday Life, 2004, p. 76) Parents blame teachers for low test scores, teachers blame parents for unruly children, employees blame their bosses when work gets too hard, and citizens blame the government for their economic woes and more.

When we think our problems are externally caused, it reduces our power! It causes us to focus on who to blame rather than on finding a solution and changing our circumstances. If we believe our problems are external, then we are at the mercy of those external conditions. For some people this is convenient. It gives them a ready made excuse when things go wrong. Taking personal responsibility is a much more difficult doctrine. True, some circumstances are beyond our control. I will discuss how to approach those in future articles. Let’s inoculate you from the blame virus.

Stop the spread of blame today!

The author Spencer Horn is the President of Spencer Horn Solutions, LLC. Additional articles which may interest you: Leadership Is About Impact Not IntentionHow To Prepare Your Next Generation Of LeadersIncrease Your Effectiveness As A Leader With Perception Science; How To Create Success From Failure; How To Get Your People To Change TodayCure For The CEO DiseaseThe Importance of Values

One Reason a Healthy Culture is Essential

Are you having a hard time attracting the best talent? Here is one reason and one thing that will help.

Disengagement And The “Love What You Do” Myth

5 Dynamics of Increased Engagement

Diseangaged Employees

I am not sure how many times I have heard the saying, “If you do what you love, you’ll never work a day in your life.” (Marc Anthony) If you are like me, you have heard this or something like it a bunch. When I heard this, I felt inspired to search for what I love, because after all, I don’t like to work! My life experience, and the experience of some very successful people I know, has taught me this philosophy is costing business, relationships and families dearly.

Have you ever had an employee that you were so excited to hire and it didn’t turn out well? Have you been the employee and starting a job with so much hope and enthusiasm only to find out it was not what you thought or expected? Have you experienced team members who became disengaged, frustrated, or angry and left?

Have you ever been in a relationship that started of with great promise? You found your soul mate, only to realize that initial feeling was not sustainable? When this happens, many leave their current partner and go off in search of the ideal they thought they found the last time. This cycle can be repeated again and again searching for the perfect ideal.

What is going on here? According to Gallup, 70% of employees are disengaged. Disengagement caused by unrealized expectations is the problem. Well-meaning parents and other mentors in our life want to inspire and encourage us. They tell us how great we are. They tell us we deserve the best things and the best people in our life. They tell us to follow our passion. They tell us we will be most successful when follow our passion. You want to believe this. I want to believe this! Who wouldn’t want to believe this?!

It is important to follow our passions and interests. It certainly makes life better. However, take caution about “never working a day in your life.” A quote by the singer Toni Braxton adds balance to the Marc Anthony quote: “To do what you love can sometimes be stressful.” We need to be prepared to handle the adversity and challenges of life that will surely come. What happens when things don’t work out like you planned? How do you react when things don’t go your way? I know that this has happened in my life and in the lives of almost everyone I know. We have had jobs and careers were we were following our passion and doing what we loved. However, even in these circumstances, we all had to do things we were not excited about, that felt like work.

Many of the youth today and our current workforce are not equipped to handle the challenging environments of business. They have not learned how to work. They are not prepared to handle the disappointments of relationships. Many give up when things don’t go the way they had expected. They may quit a job or relationship. Or worse, they stay and are miserable. It is how we behave in these challenging times which defines individuals as leaders, and as dedicated spouses and significant others. Many who are not equipped to handle disappointment show up in a way that is detrimental to the business or to the relationship.

The point here is not that we can’t pursue our ideal and passions; it is that we learn how to manage our disappointments, challenges and setbacks. There are definitely valid reasons to leave personal or work relationships. There are also many relationships that can be saved, improved, and become deeply fulfilling when we fight through the storms.

Five dynamics of increased engagement.

  1. Create a great culture:

    When ranking job satisfaction., 72% of respondents indicated that respectful treatment of employees at all levels was “very important”. This was the top contributor to overall employee satisfaction. This ranked higher than pay and benefits. Hiring and HR professionals must ensure their workplace culture and employee engagement strategies are of equal importance to compensation, benefits and other responsibilities. Here is an additional reason to develop a great culture!

  2. Be honest: 

    64% of employees rated trusting their senior management as the second most important contributor to job satisfaction. (SHRM, Employee Job Satisfaction and Engagement Study, 2015) Be open about the way it really is at your company. Don’t paint the picture that everything is perfect. Let candidates know there are challenges. The pay received is based on work, which requires effort. Being honest will help develop trust with leadership and narrow the gap between expectation and reality, which are necessary ingredients of employee engagement.

  3. Hire for behavior, train for skill:

    Find the people who are willing to be flexible and fight through adversity. Use effective tools, these will help remove the frustration of hiring by helping you, better match people to jobs. There are effective tools to create accurate job models based on your best performers and input from management. With the correct application of these tools, you will more effectively attract the best candidates. These tools will also help hiring managers ask the right questions to find the best possible person for the job. When you effectively match people to positions, you will strengthen the culture, increase employee engagement, increase productivity and reduce turnover and waste.

  4. Provide the right praise:  

    Many of the younger generation, coming in to the work place, do not know how to respond well to adversity and criticism. Many are part of a generation, which have been praised by well-meaning parents who told them how smart and talented they are. Sporting programs meaning to boost self-esteem may also be contributing to the problem by providing awards for kids who just show up. The result is well stated by the psychologist, Carol Dweck, “many can’t function without getting a sticker for their every move.” (Mindset, Carol Dweck, 2006) Employers are perpetuating the problem through recognition programs to support these employees who need constant reassurance and can’t take criticism. The alternative is to praise for taking initiative, for commitment, for overcoming a setback, for learning something new.

  5. Develop your people:

    Organizations that dedicate a portion of their budget to professional development send a message that they invest in their employees. Additional benefits of professional development include personal development and greater opportunities for career advancement. Although employees continue to place value on professional development opportunities, fewer organizations are investing in these types of benefits. (Society for Human Resource Management, 2014. Workplace Visions: Trends in Workplace Professional Development. Issue 3)
 As more and more of the experienced workforce retire, developing employees becomes more necessary. Employees are more likely to be engaged when they feel their employers are invested in helping them develop their careers.

Implementing these suggestions takes commitment. The payoff will be worth the investment!

How to Defeat the ‘Fog of War’ in Business

5 Steps To Overcome The Challenges And Setbacks We Experience in Business

There is a phenomenon in battle called the “fog of war’. What it means is when individuals who are fighting in a war perceive they are losing. They may act according to the perception and retreat when in fact the unit or army they are part of is winning the war. The fog of war creates a challenge for generals and their armies. If individuals and individual units feel they are losing from their perspective, they may give up which prolongs the victory. The same phenomenon can happen in business.

In our daily fight to be successful in our roles, we will have defeats. Perhaps we have a disagreement with a co-worker or supervisor. Perhaps we lose out on a sale we were expecting to win. Perhaps a client has a poor experience with our service or product, etc. Sometimes these events can cause us to think and feel our isolated experience is a sign of enterprise wide problems. This can cause discouragement and discontent with some members of our team and can spread to others.

I have fought feelings of discouragement many times. I have experienced personal losses in a business sense and was tempted to think, we must be ‘losing the war’ as a company and maybe I should give up or move on. I also know from experience, we get what we focus on. We will find evidence of our predominant thoughts. When I focused on challenges and failings, I would feel discouraged and questioned whether we could achieve our goals. Conversely, as I began to focus my thoughts and energy around the successful outcomes I desired, my results inevitably changed and my perception of where we were as a company changed. That perception increased my confidence and satisfaction with my company.

The ‘fog of war’ in my experience seemed to happen when our business was in what Bruce Tuckman called the storming phase of team development.  Tuckman proposed his model of team development called forming, storming, norming and performing in 1965. Forming is where we set goals. This can happen at when a company is new or when changes occur. It can happen when we lose or add new people. Storming is where we feel comfortable enough with each other to express discontent and challenge each other. It can be uncomfortable and unpleasant. Norming is where we start to give up our own personal crusades and agree with others to make the team function. This phase is not about avoiding conflict, it is about coming together. The final phase, performing, is where the team is achieving goals and things are running smoothly. A company can be in one of the four phases as whole and individual teams may be in different phases. Individuals on teams can be in different phases as well.

It is easy for employees who are in the storming phase to experience the ‘fog of war’ phenomenon. If a team or company stays in the storming phase for a prolonged period, they have a greater chance of not emerging leading to business failure. If you are a leader of a company or team in the storming phase, have hope. Most companies go through similar phases. The following suggestions can help shorten the storming phase and remind team members that even though they may experience setbacks from time to time, they will ultimately succeed.

  1. Challenges Are Temporary:

    Let your team members know that the challenges of this phase are temporary. Educate your team that all companies go through similar phases. Just naming this phase of team development will help give the team hope things will get better keeping the, positively engaged.

  2. Focus On Outcomes:

    Keep your team focused on positive outcomes desired. It is easy to get fixated on failures. Remember, we tend to manifest the results of our predominant thoughts. Keeping the team focused on positive outcomes will help dissipate negative energy.

  3. Be A Role Model:

    Make sure you as the leader and your team leaders model the attitude that the team will emerge victorious. Team members must be able to look to the leadership for how to act in times of challenge and difficulty. A negative team leader will multiply the ‘fog of war’ dynamics if not addressed by discipline or replacement.

  4. Demonstrate Confidence:

    Show your team you have faith in them. Team members can lose hope and exhibit behaviors that hurt the team. Let them know they are a valued member of the team. Help them understand the impact of their performance and behavior on the success of the team.

  5. Celebrate Success:

    Encourage the team by sharing any team successes no matter how small. Celebrating successes will lift morale and give hope the team and organization is moving in the right direction.

Cure For The CEO Disease

4 Steps To Overcome CEO Behaviors That Erode Culture

Do you know a CEO or top executive that is unaware of their impact or overestimates their abilities? Leaders who are out of touch with the truth about how they “show up” is all too common. This phenomenon is what Daniel Goleman calls the “CEO disease”. Goleman reports…”the higher up the ladder a leader climbs, the less accurate his self-assessment is likely to be.” (Primal Leadership, Pg. 92, Daniel Goleman (2002)).  The problem is that as a leader climbs the organization, the less feedback he or she receives. According to James Conway and Allen Huffcutt, who analyzed 177 separate studies that assessed more than 28,000 managers, found these managers were not receiving consistent feedback on their performance. The lack of feedback problem is reported to be more acute for leaders who are women or belong to a minority. (See Peggy Stuart, “What Does the Glass Ceiling Cost You?” Personnel Journal 71, no. 11 (1992): 70-80).

The predominance of the CEO disease has a large negative impact on cultures of businesses all over the world. When leaders drive negative emotions within their organization, they erode the foundation of a culture that enables people to excel. Leaders who are aware of their impact and work to drive positive emotions will conversely strengthen the culture that enables people to excel.

Four steps to cure the CEO disease:

  1. Recognize That You Can Change:

    Many leaders have the mistaken opinion that they need to be accepted for who they are, because after years of habits and behavior they can’t change. The latest neuroscience has destroyed the myth that we can’t change. We maintain neuroplasticity until we die, meaning, we can make changes to how we think and behave. American author and futurist, Alvin Toffler, says “The illiterate of the 21st century will not be those who cannot read and write, but those who cannot learn, unlearn, and relearn.”

  2. Create A Safe Environment:

    Create an environment where it is safe to give and receive feedback. Some people fail to give feedback because they fear punishment or the leader’s wrath if they dissent. Some only give positive feedback because they do not want to be labeled negative or going against the party line. Some are afraid to give feedback because they don’t want to upset others or hurt their feelings. By creating this environment, CEO’s and managers will get a more accurate finger on the pulse of their organization. Understand that all feedback you receive is subjective. Each leader gets to determine what to do with the feedback they receive. Knowing what people really think is always better than ignorance.

  3. Increase Self-Awareness:

    Be willing to take a 100% honest look at yourself. Many executives work with coaches to improve their self-awareness. Consider participating in a 360 review. This can provide a valuable roadmap for behavior change. Work with great training and development organizations who will provide you with a safe environment to strengthen your leadership competencies. These environments should push you out of your comfort zone to learn and grow. When we are out of comfort zone, our most challenging leadership behaviors surface and a skilled facilitator will help accelerate awareness and behavior change.

  4. Persist:

    Recognize the process of becoming an effective leader is a lifelong pursuit. Even the most effective leaders recognize they can make improvements. For the best leaders, making minor adjustments and behavior improvements sets a powerful example for the team and will pay dividends on the emotional and cultural health of the organization which will translate to better financial results.

For more information on how to cure your CEO disease, call Spencer Horn Solutions today 702-807-4698 www.spencerhornsolutions.com

The Benefits of Investing in Human Capital

Business executives are always asking training professionals to justify investing in internal and external training. These decision makers want to understand the return on investment (ROI) as they might with a new software program or a marketing campaign. Many also ask why leadership training? There is enough data available on training, including data on Rapport’s training, to justify an executive’s investment in their most valuable asset…their people.
To answer these questions, it is important to understand the current global economy. One of the greatest challenges that organizations face in their quest to thrive, is the ability to change. Thousands of companies have failed while others are thriving. The difference is those that are thriving have the ability to adapt and meet the new market realities. The quicker an organization can change, the sooner they are able to thrive. What allows companies to adapt and change is a culture of leadership.

Emeritus Professor of Leadership at Harvard Business School, worldwide speaker, and the author of seven bestselling business books, John P. Kotter states: “Powerful macroeconomic forces are at work here, and these forces may grow even stronger over the next few decades. As a result, more and more organizations will be pushed to reduce costs, improve the quality of products and services, locate new opportunities for growth and increase productivity…..Leadership…creates organizations…and adapts them to significantly changing circumstances.” (Leading Change, John P. Kotter, pp. 3, 25.)

In 2008, IBM came to a similar conclusion in its Global Human Capital Study: “More than ever, today’s global organizations are focusing their time and attention on maximizing the value of their workforces. As corporations, nonprofits and government entities are becoming more globally integrated, and as traditional geographic and competitive boundaries disappear, the need to identify, develop and connect talent has never been more critical.”

The study surveyed senior HR executives from 400 companies in 40 different countries. The executives identified the importance of an adaptable workforce that can rapidly respond to changes in the outside market and leadership to guide individuals through change and deliver results. These companies also cited a lack of leadership capability as one of their top workforce challenges.

Successful organizations are acutely aware of the need for leadership development and the numerous benefits of leadership training:
• “The goal of leadership is to help people find their voice, where needs in the organization and marketplace overlap with talent, passion and conscience. When people truly find their voice, they don’t need to be supervised; they manage themselves because their motivation is internal rather than external.”
~Stephen Covey

• Improved morale: People need to have the feeling they are learning, growing and developing new skills. This keeps them engaged.

• Training helps people get connected to their company. To develop and share common goals. They believe more in their company and want it to succeed. When people start moving in the same direction with a common goal, they create a culture that will propel their company to success.

• Growth is change, and it will not happen without a shift in culture that changes the way employees work, act, innovate, talk, learn and collaborate. One of the greatest challenges an organization faces is changing its business culture. Training helps organizations create this culture shift by moving people out of their comfort zones and into the leadership behaviors that drive success.

• A 2008 leadership training study by Metrika-Phoenix found that leadership training strongly influenced behaviors that improve performance at work. The survey had a higher than 72% response rate, a confidence level of 97.5% and a margin of error less than 5%. Over 92% of training participants reported improvement in the following behaviors:
-Increased understanding of how their behavior impacts other people
-Willingness to take additional risks and push themselves.
-Greater willingness to support others and work as a team.
-They hold themselves and others to higher standards of accountability
-The ability to express more passion and enthusiasm.
-Greater self-confidence and a sense of increased self potential.
-More awareness of the potential in others.
-They are developing better focus on tasks and are getting better at showing initiative.

• The only thing that increases productivity within an organization is people. People are the only asset that appreciates in value. People may be developed and their performance improved. All other assets like buildings, equipment and systems deteriorate and depreciate.

• Talent shortages require organizations to focus on developing and retaining talent.

• When employees feel appreciated, they are more likely to stay with a company. Many employees feel training improves their opportunities for advancement and thath they receive the necessary tools to be more effective at work and in their personal lives. “Having employees whose work and personal lives are balanced has tangible benefits—both for the employees and the organization overall—including an increased ability to attract and retain skilled people and higher production, satisfaction, and morale.”
~Joan Gurvis

More than ever, it is imperative that organizations continue to invest in their people. The current economic challenges associated with globalization demand that organizations change their approach and develop new leadership skills. It is critical that employees are more focused, confident and effective than ever before. To be effective, successful leaders will partner with outside organizations to develop their skills and serve as role models and mentors.

The ultimate responsibility to develop leadership lies with the entire organization. Effective outside partnerships are not enough. HR departments acting alone are not enough. Potential leaders must be identified and provided with direction, opportunity and guidance in order to develop. When the entire organization understands the benefits of developing leaders and works together, the necessary cultural ingredients to adapt and thrive will exist.

Sources:
IBM Global Human Capital Study (2008).
Kotter, J.P., Leading Change