Culture defines us in our family units, businesses, and organizations. It distinguishes who we are and how we are described. Employees can readily describe their organizational culture, using such words as supportive, open, results focused, etc. Much of that culture is built up over years or even decades. Yet we don’t have decades to build a successful team culture; we endeavor to create a strong and powerful culture within one to two years. We do this deliberately and consciously by defining the culture we want and then bringing it to life. When team members start to identify strongly with the team, we know that the team culture has become embedded.
THE 8 ELEMENTS OF HIGH – TQ TEAMS
As a result of working with hundreds of teams over many years, I have found that there are certain elements of High-Performance Teams that can be summarized by the acronym VIVRE FAT!
The idea of VIVRE FAT is not to create a group of ‘bon vivants’ or ‘gourmands.’ It’s rather about focusing on the ingredients that will create a great team that fulfills its mission and realizes its vision. Let’s examine each of the eight elements more closely.
High-Performance Teams know where they are going and have a keen sense of direction. The Vision syncs with the overall company vision yet is distinct to the team. The Vision is not something created and communicated by the team leader alone; rather it reflects a core team effort, allowing all to feel ownership. The Vision is a motivating factor that propels the team forward. It allows team members to set clear goals, and targets and measures success. The Vision encompasses not only the business but also other aspects, such as team, people, key financial metrics, industry, and stakeholders. Besides Vision, we may also want to define the ‘purpose’ or ‘mission’ of the team, which essentially defines its ‘raison d’être’ or reason why the team exists.
“Every company needs to nurture its own culture organically, developing a distinct personality.” -Douglas Gerber
High-Performance Teams identify with the team and are proud of it. This sense of pride is due, in part, to the personal efforts that each team member has invested in moving towards High Performance. Identity forms an important part of one’s own self-perception and may even be more powerful than company or industry Identity. Identity places the team first and knows that team effort is a key to overall success. The sense of being part of something much bigger drives team members the extra mile. They believe what they are doing has meaning and creates value.
Low unemployment rates have led to a highly competitive talent market. The Conference Board predicts talent shortages in key sectors over the next 15 years and in a recent survey identified that “…attracting and retaining talent ranks as the foremost concern not only among CEOs but also the rest of the C-Suite, including CHROs and CFOs.”
Organizations are coming to understand that career development is a powerful strategy for retaining top talent. They also recognize that recruiting is easier and more effective when they have a reputation for developing talent. And—for better or worse— given the visibility that social media facilitates, candidates are making choices based upon an organization’s reputation for staff growth and development.
“Career development is a powerful strategy for retaining top talent.” -Julie Winkle Giulioni
Early in his career, Rodger Dean Duncan interviewed interesting people like Lyndon Johnson, comedian Jack Benny, Baroness Maria von Trapp, pollster George Gallup, and anthropologist Margaret Mead. He traded jokes with Norman Rockwell and discussed home carpentry with Robert Redford.
Later, as a leadership consultant, he advised cabinet officers in two White House administrations and coached C-suite executives in dozens of Fortune 500 companies. He also headed global communications at Campbell Soup Company. He received his PhD in organizational behavior at Purdue University, and writes a regular column for Forbes.
“You can rent a person’s back and hands, but you must earn his head and heart.” – Rodger Dean Duncan
Change Your View
Like you, I’ve interviewed many leadership experts. Were there any surprising interviews that gave you a different perspective?
The interviews for LeaderSHOP certainly provide some thought-provoking perspectives.
Drew Dudley emphasizes the value of regarding every new day as a fresh start and an opportunity for self-reflection on specific behaviors. Leadership, he says, is not a title or accolade. It’s a daily choice about personal practices. His Day One approach to personal management involves making your life less about living up to the expectations of others and more about a disciplined commitment to acting on your core values each day.
In discussing purpose and meaning at work, Dave and Wendy Ulrich highlight the importance of humility in the leader. Humility, they say, is at the heart of a growth mindset that encourages and unleashes learning that, in turn, gives meaning to work and fosters engagement.
Bill George talks about how “authentic” leadership is made possible when the practitioner follows an internal “true north” compass of selflessness and integrity.
Elizabeth Crook emphasizes that our gifts are found at the intersection of what energizes us and what we know how to do. Hint: it’s probably something you’ve been doing in one way or another most of your life.
Hugh Blane talks about a mindset he calls JDTM—Just Doing the Minimum—and how getting clarity on what lights your internal fire can be a critical step toward high achievement.
Rob Fazio gives specific examples of how honest conversation is the key to handling office politics. He also says that listening is bad for your health—that is, listening to discouraging messages from others or to negative self-talk.
Ann Rhoades, former Chief People Officer at Southwest Airlines, underscores the importance of rewarding behaviors that are the foundation of the culture you want—and taking quick and decisive action when expected behavioral norms are violated.
Social psychologist Dan Cable talks about a de-motivator he calls “learned helplessness,” and he explains how leaders can create a work environment that encourages smart risk.
Ira Chaleff reveals the secrets of saying “No!” without getting fired, explaining the situations in which refusing a directive is not insubordination but rather smart collaboration.
Jim Kouzes explains how a feedback-friendly work environment is to everyone’s benefit and why dialogue skills are a hallmark of effective leadership.
Carmine Gallo teaches communication techniques used by great presenters as disparate as Steve Jobs and Pope Francis. The “Rule of Three,” he says, has been used by everyone from Thomas Jefferson to Goldilocks.
Career coach Mary Abbajay discusses approaches to “managing up”—dealing proactively with an incompetent manager in a way that doesn’t derail your career. She suggests tactics ranging from keeping the manager (overly) informed to building your own reputation by filling in where the manager is deficient.
Marshall Goldsmith and Sally Helgesen talk about how striving for perfection can serve you well early in your career (because it supports doing outstanding work), but it can later hold you back because being so invested in precision can dissuade you from taking the kind of risks that characterize strong leaders.
Other people I interviewed—like Brian Tracy, Tom Rath, Jodi Glickman, Laura Vanderham, and Stephen M.R. Covey—provide a rich mosaic of ideas on leadership and personal development. People tell me the individual conversations are interesting, but the real value is having them all in one place that provides insightful “connective tissue.”
“Teamwork has been given a bad name by a world of bad practitioners.” – Rodger Dean Duncan
To stand out and make a big impact as a leader, you need to be well-versed in fundamental leadership skills.
Ron Ashkenas and Brook Manville are the authors of a new book from Harvard Business Review Press entitled The HBR Leader’s Handbook: Make an Impact, Inspire Your Organization, and Get to the Next Level. The book is a back-to-basics primer for both aspiring and experienced leaders, which describes the fundamental leadership practices: Creating a unifying vision, shaping strategy, building a great team, driving for results, innovating for the future, and leading yourself. The authors, both respected leadership experts and consultants, based the book not only on their own experience but also on interviews with over 40 successful leaders and a review of the most enduring themes and seminal articles that have appeared in Harvard Business Review in the past several decades.
“A leader’s role is to raise people’s aspirations for what they can become and to release their energies so they will try to get there.” -David Gergen
Back to Basics
Why a “back to basics” leadership book now? With so many new leadership books and articles every year, why a new Leader’s Handbook from Harvard Business Review?
Brook: We wrote this book to give the pendulum of “leadership” a needed push back towards its timeless and pragmatic origins: leadership defined as achieving a significant impact by building an organization of people working toward a common goal.
In recent years, leadership as a discipline has expanded to include not just a lot of gimmicky and ephemeral concepts but also a wide variety of basic self-improvement techniques: how to make checklists to order your day, how to stand before an audience to project authority, how to resist the temptations of too much social media. Such advice can be helpful but can distract rising professionals from the bigger picture of why leadership ultimately matters and what they should aspire to. We wanted to take leadership back to its historical meaning and show would-be leaders the value of tried and true practices that can help them make a real difference in whatever they are trying to accomplish with other people.
In addition, getting back to the fundamentals, as we write in our book, will heal several myths or misconceptions that have arisen about leadership: That there’s only one “model” of leadership, based on specific traits and behaviors; that leadership is only about one’s self and character, and not building, inspiring, and aligning an organization; that leadership is so different from “management” that leaders don’t have to understand operations and deliver regular results; that leadership no longer matters in a world of networks and less-hierarchical enterprises. Successful leaders, through history and into the most productive organizations today, demonstrate otherwise.
“Dreaming big and having the courage to pursue those dreams – despite the risk – is essential for leaders. But you also need to get others to share your dreams, vision, and purpose.” -Ron Ashkenas, Brook Manville
Today I board a Southwest Airlines flight knowing that there’s a hole in the center of the heart-shaped corporate icon. Cofounder of Southwest Airlines, Herb Kelleher, just passed away at the age of 87.
He was a legend not only in the airline business, but in any type of business. He was a unique mix of innovation, motivation, and vision.
Here are a few of his quotes on strategy, customer service, culture, and leadership. So many of these quotes I have used whether on stage in a presentation or in a boardroom.
Rest in peace, Mr. Kelleher.
Kelleher Quotes to Inspire Your Strategy
“We have a strategic plan. It’s called doing things.” -Herb Kelleher
“Just because you don’t announce your plan doesn’t mean you don’t have one.” -Herb Kelleher
“A company is stronger if it is bound by love rather than by fear.” -Herb Kelleher
“We don’t apply labels to things because they prevent you from thinking expansively.” -Herb Kelleher
“When an issue comes up, we don’t say we’re going to study it for two and a half years. We just say, ‘Southwest Airlines doesn’t do that. Maybe somebody else does, but we don’t.’” -Herb Kelleher
“Leading an organization is as much about soul as it is about systems. Effective leadership finds its source in understanding.” – Herb Kelleher
“Treat your employees like customers.” – Herb Kelleher
If you’re like many in my social media feeds, you’ve picked your word for the year or even three words. A well-chosen word acts like a guide.
Why not take it further and try a picture?
We’ve all heard that a picture is worth a thousand words. It crystalizes everything. A picture can represent an accomplishment and embody a feeling. It can transport you to another time. When I look at a picture, my mind adds sound and makes it come alive.
If a word exercise is powerful, try an image. Make your chosen words its caption.
“I believe that visualization is one of the most powerful means of achieving personal goals.” -Harvey Mackay
Visualize Your Future
I know someone who swears that goals are more achievable if they are visualized.
Put up a picture on your refrigerator of your dream home. Years ago, when I was a child, I had a vision of my future home and sketched it out on paper. Once, when my parents came to visit us, my mom stepped back and couldn’t believe it. “I’ve seen this house!” she said, “You drew this as a kid!”Read the rest of this post...
Whatever negative words you have heard this year, it’s time to let them go.
Scrub Off Negative Labels
And then there’s the negative labels others have stuck on you. This is one of the mistakes I cover in The Book of Mistakes that the most successful people master.
Don’t let the negative labels others carelessly slapped on you stay with you. From “not management material” or “not a team player” to “lazy” and “worthless,” it’s time to scrub them off like those sticky price tags on a present.
“Once you replace negative thoughts with positive ones, you’ll start having positive results.” -Willie Nelson
Recently I read The Leader Architect by business leader Jim Grew. It was a practical guide written by someone who has clearly wrestled with the issues facing many leaders. In one section of the book, he discussed the need to reduce the power between leaders and followers. I reached out to ask if we could excerpt that section with his permission as I believe it is insightful:
Reducing the Power Gap
The doorway to change is reducing the power gap and the communications gap between you the leader and your people.
Here are five steps you can take to reduce the power gap in your organization.
Get over your title.
It’s an invitation to contribute, not a statement of rank. Colin Powell, one of the highest-ranking generals in the United States, said, “The day soldiers stop bringing you their problems is the day you have stopped leading them. They have either lost confidence that you can help them or concluded that you do not care. Either case is a failure of leadership.” If you imagine yourself as helper instead of leader, you’re off to a good start.
That ability looms in the background of all employees, but it is of tiny consequence to the business. It is not an element of leadership; it’s emotional blackmail. If you rely on it, you’ll get the response of people who feel blackmailed—all defense and no initiative. Usually, if you must fire a person, it’s your failure for hiring them or not training them. Occasionally, folks self-select out, but not often.
Apply railroad leadership.
When you walk around, stop, look, and listen (especially listen). You don’t have to produce brilliant anything, other than thanks.