Setting Goals, Building Trust and Catching Buffalos

This is the final video in the series. Ian and I have been talking about the process of building a high performing team.

In the beginning it starts with decisions the leader must make around team membership and size. The qualities and skills of the people on the team define what kind of team it will become.

To be high performing you need people who are hungry. People who want to achieve and who have the discipline and endurance to actually carry out the tasks required for success.

But as Patrick Lencioni writes, they must also be humble and smart.

This means they are open to learning from others, place the team above themselves and show good judgment when dealing with people. Leaders of high performing teams are both wise and courageous with team selection.

They know this is their most important task.

When it comes to team size, between 5 and 10 is the ideal number. Too big and you lose the ability to meet often, to go deep into issues and to be agile and responsive.

Clear Goals and Trust are the next big building blocks.

We talk about these in the video and once again we turn to lions to bring lessons back into business. In particular we draw our biggest insights from those lion prides who pursue big, dangerous quarry like the African Cape Buffalo.

Goals create focus and they concentrate effort. Skilled and committed people concentrating their effort on a few big things leads to breakthroughs.

But often in teams there is the temptation to have too many goals.

I come across teams with as many as 10 or 15 priorities. Our adage is too many priorities mean none at all. By clear we mean the few vital things the team must achieve with excellence or nothing else it achieves will really matter.

Trust relates to team members’ confidence to speak up, to disagree, to own up and to be vulnerable.

Despite being so obvious and widely spoken about, many teams still struggle with both of these concepts.
Not only have most teams not clarified the few vital things, but there is also not the level of trust in place to have the kind of open, free-flowing, often heated and spirited debate, so necessary for making decisions that generate commitment.

This mixture of goal confusion, ambiguity and low trust is a proven recipe for mediocrity and low morale. The exact opposite of high performance one is trying to create.

High performing teams have mastered this challenge. Not only can people accurately describe the goal, they can also describe in detail their part in achieving it too. And they are not afraid to speak up, to disagree when it’s required and to encourage others to speak out too.

Not that they are disagreeable, quite the contrary.

It’s that they are so committed to the team and so badly want the best for the business that they are slightly paranoid that something important will be missed.

Building a high performing team is easier than it seems.

It does not require a new theory or great intellectual insights. But it does ask for courage from the leader and a real commitment from the whole team to doing something special and in the process avoiding the well-worn path of playing it safe and mediocrity.

We hope that you will enjoy this short video … as much as we enjoyed making it.

We also always love hearing from you.

What question would you like answered when it comes to building a great business culture, leading an organisation, or setting up and sustaining winning teams? No question is too big or too small. We will do our best to answer all of them in a meaningful way or at least to point you in the right direction.

Please comment below. We would love to hear from you!

To view the full series, and for more articles and resources, please visit www.leadershipworks.co.za or www.ianthomas.net.

Or you can follow us on our travels on Instagram @grant.ashfield | @ian_s_thomas.

What do lion prides do with passengers?

Tackling the thorny issue of poor performance and unmet expectations is vital if a business team wants to be successful and breakthrough to the next level.

Ian Thomas and I discuss this question in the 2nd video in the series.

The key is to deal with these issues early, directly and of course kindly. It’s a mistake to wait.

Waiting does everyone a disservice. People want to know where they stand and they rely on you to tell them and guide them.

I am a beneficiary of this. Ten years ago, after a consulting session with an Executive Team the CEO invited me for a chat. He got straight to the point.

No elaborate preamble or attempt to soften what he was about to tell me. I recall his words clearly. “We like you. We want to work with you, but today you disappointed me. We have not hired you to tell us what we already know. Your job is to bring us deep insights from your experience, to challenge us and to force us to talk about the things we would rather avoid.”

That was it. Simple and clear. I had to get better if I was to keep working with them. It was a turning point for me and our business.

This was unusual. Mostly senior leaders allow too much time to pass. The real issue I think is the discomfort with the conversation. We hope that the other person will somehow gain the insight by themselves and take the steps to change, without us being in the uncomfortable situation of having to challenge them.

In a lion pride the issues are so much sharper and real.

Here if you don’t contribute you don’t share in the rewards of the hunt and ultimately you fall out and die. It’s stark but its true. The sustainability of the pride relies heavily on the contributions of each individual but the individual is not more important than the pride.

Contribution and performance defines membership.

Are you moving too slowly to tackle behavioural and performance issues on your team?

Are you avoiding the uncomfortable conversation about someone’s performance or behaviour?

Take action today!

Begin by writing down what you expect. And yes, write it down. It’s important to be specific. Avoid generalising. This is not about their character. It’s about their contribution and behaviour – be crystal clear before going on.

Check your intent. You are doing this out of love and respect. The other person wants to grow and improve as much as you do and you are a necessary part of this process for them.

Don’t sugarcoat. Be direct and sincere. Offer help and support but don’t take on responsibility for their choices and actions.

Then follow up and follow through with rigour.

In the next video, Ian and I talk about building trust and goal setting. These are the next vital steps in building a great team.

For more articles and resource visit www.leadershipworks.co.za  | www.ianthomas.net. Or you can follow us on Instagram at @grant.ashfield | @ian_s_thomas.

Are you measuring what really matters LeadershipWorks

Are you measuring what really matters?

We are past halfway in 2017. Are you on track?

Every organisation measures sales and cash flow and operating profit. What we call the smart stuff. You will have a very clear idea of these things I am sure. But is your organisation healthy?

Some say this can’t be measured.

That’s not true. It can, but you have to ask the right questions and then be willing to talk about what’s really going on – with an unusual level of honesty. The numbers are vital but they don’t tell the full story. They don’t give you the full picture about what’s going on or how well you are doing.

The other part of the story resides in people’s loyalty and commitment to the organisation. In their personal productivity and how much extra of themselves they are prepared to show and give. In how willing they are to work together, to grow and take risks and to get out of their silos and pull in the same direction.

This is where the real breakthroughs will occur.

What questions will you ask yourself for insight into this part of your business?

Let’s start with your Executive Team.

  1. Are the right people on board and is it small enough to be effective?
  2. Does everyone participate in constructive, unfiltered conflict and debate around important issues?
  3. Are members of your team focused on team number one? Do they put the collective needs and priorities of the larger organisation ahead of their own departments, technical areas and ego’s?
  4. Can members of the team be genuinely vulnerable with one another?

Then, have you created clarity?

  1. Is everyone on board around a clear vision and strategy that differentiates you from competitors?
  2. Does your leadership team have a clear, current goal around which they rally and which everyone feels ownership for?
  3. Do your leaders demonstrate through their actions what behaviours are valued and what will not be tolerated?
  4. Do all your employees, with their heads and their hearts, identify with your organisation’s reason for existence, strategy and goals?

Finally, do you passionately reinforce what’s most important?

  1. Do your managers have a simple, consistent and non-bureaucratic system for setting goals and reviewing progress with your employees?
  2. Is non-performance challenged and are individuals who don’t fit your values actively managed out of your business?
  3. Are your compensation and reward systems built around teamwork and the values and shared goals of your organisation?
  4. Are your meetings effective?

Twelve questions to think about as you go into the last five months of this year.

Make a start. Involve others.

Take some risk. Invite your team to come along with you. Truly listen.

Be resolved.

Most importantly, start the discussions that ultimately will make the biggest difference to the success of your organisation and business.

Please comment below. We really do love hearing from you. What are the most important questions that leaders should be asking in your organisation?

First Who Then What Team Right People

Do you have the right people on your team?

A few years ago I had the privilege of working closely with Jim Collins, author of Good to Great and How the Mighty Fall.   Having the right people on the executive team is a subject he has researched deeply. It’s the whole basis of his work, captured in the maxim, “first who then what.”

It’s also a subject we are often asked to advise on by the leaders we work with.

The question is vital.  I see many organisations trying to achieve a significant performance improvement and culture shift – without really taking seriously the most important question of all, who is sitting around the table?

Team selection – applying the ‘first who then what’ principle – is arguably your most important job as the Chief Executive. At the top you’re not just selecting your team, you are creating the cultural blueprint of your organisation.

This is because what happens on your team, the tone you set and the behaviours you display, are magnified across the whole company.

I’m working with a newly appointed CEO. She inherited a team of 17 people. She knows they need to be fast, agile and responsive. But this team is too big, too unwieldy, too bogged down by consensus and other dysfunctional behaviours, so she must make changes.

(See our previous post on team size;  Is Your Team Small Enough?)

We spent time together talking about what kind of team she really wants.

She wants an executive that learns quickly from mistakes, bounces back from setbacks, where people argue and debate, not to improve their personal position but to find the best answers to support the cause.

She wants a team where people bring data, evidence, detail and logic to discussions but who are also fiercely passionate about the mission and believe in the work. She wants people on the team who enjoy the confidence and admiration of their peers and who have the respect of those they lead.

She realises now that whether they ever become this kind of team at all is a result of who is on the team in the first place.

‘First who then what’ is critical to her plans.

Patrick Lencioni has recently written about this subject.

His latest best-selling book The Ideal Team Player describes 3 essential human attributes for team membership. He asks if the people on your team, or those that you are about to employ, are humble, hungry and smart with people?

  • Put differently, do they think more of others than themselves and are they able to be vulnerable?
  • Are they eager to help? Do they love getting results and do they work hard?
  • Do they exercise good judgement with people and group dynamics, aware of the impact and effect of their words and actions?

Why team selection is so important is because people with these attributes are much more likely to create a true high performing team, which displays all the performance characteristics we wrote about last time.

In conclusion the qualities that people bring with them into your organisation and onto your team are essential and as a leader you should be selecting for these things as much as the person’s skillset and experience.

To help my client, the CEO, with her decisions, I have shared these attributes and the six characteristics Jim Collins describes for the ‘right people in key seats’ with her. It has benefitted her greatly.

Making changes will be uncomfortable, delicate and demanding. But to get the business onto a different path she knows it’s her most important task and it’s one that she has to tackle head on.

Please comment on the post below or send me a mail,  (grant@leadershipworks.co.za) and I will send the ‘right people in key seats’ characteristics on to you.

Next time I will write about a subject I am very passionate about. Lions.

In a lion pride, team selection and membership is an essential part of their survival. It’s a life or death issue. Prides that thrive have powerful individuals and everyone benefits.

I will talk with Ian Thomas, author of Power of the Pride and he will share his deep wisdom from a lifetime spent watching lions and working with teams.

patrick-interview-leadershipworks

The Ideal Team Player

Teamwork is a subject that receives so much attention.

Almost every organisation wants more of it and is willing to invest in getting it – especially at the top where it is often in the shortest supply.

But do we know what qualities to look for in someone who will make a good team member?

The Ideal Team Player Book Patric Lencioni

Well this month Patrick Lencioni released his latest book, The Ideal Team Player.

It’s written in his usual style as a fable and it’s a wonderful read. In the book he describes the qualities of an ideal team player. I had a discussion with him about these qualities.

Question: Patrick what is your latest book all about?

This book is focused on individual team members rather than the dynamics of the team as a whole. I wrote it because while I’m confident that almost any group of people can become a team with the right amount of guidance and support, there are some individuals that greatly accelerate the process because they share three distinct attributes.

Question: What are these attributes?

The first and most important virtue of an ideal team player is humility.

A humble employee is someone who is more concerned with the success of the team than with getting credit for his or her contributions. People who lack humility in a significant way, the ones who demand a disproportionate amount of attention, are dangerous for a team.

Having said that, humble team players are not afraid to honestly acknowledge the skills and talents that they bring to the team, though never in a proud or boastful way.

The next virtue of an ideal team player is hunger – the desire to work hard and do whatever is necessary to help the team succeed.

Hungry employees almost never have to be pushed by a manager to work harder because they are self-motivated and diligent. They volunteer to fill gaps, take on more responsibilities and are eagerly looking around corners for new ways to contribute to the team.

The final virtue of a team player is not about being intelligent, but rather about being wise or smart in how to deal with people.

Smart employees understand the nuances of team dynamics, and know how their words and actions impact others. Their good judgment and intuition help them deal with others in the most effective way.

Question: What is the payoff for the team of these attributes?

The impact of ensuring that members of a team value and demonstrate these attributes cannot be overstated. Most teams that struggle are not lacking in knowledge or competence as much as they are unable to access that knowledge and competence because of dysfunctional behaviours.

A team full of people who are humble, hungry and smart will overcome those dysfunctions quickly and easily, allowing them to get more done in less time and with far fewer distractions.

Actually I’ve come to the conclusion that these three seemingly obvious qualities are to teamwork what speed, strength and coordination are to athletics—they make everything else easier.

Question: Of the three do you think any is more important than the other?

Yes, undoubtedly for teamwork the most important of these virtues is humility. The ultimate foundation of being a team player is a person being willing and able to put the team’s interests above his or her own. Only a truly humble person can do this effectively.

Question: Finally Patrick how do managers cultivate these qualities in their teams?

The most reliable way to ensure that teamwork takes hold is to hire only ideal team players. Of course, that is neither possible nor practical, especially considering that most leaders don’t have the luxury of creating their teams from scratch.

But all leaders can certainly do their best to try to recruit, select and hire people who are humble, hungry and smart when an opportunity arises to bring on someone new.

In my book I’ve outlined interview questions and assessment resources that can help managers and leaders mine for the qualities in potential job candidates. By interviewing thoroughly and checking references with an eye towards a candidate’s reputation and behaviour, a manager can hire people with a high degree of confidence that they’ll be good team players.

Patrick-Lencioni Interview LeadershipWorks

This book is a must read for any organisation that’s serious about teamwork.

All too often an organisation launches into the team building process without first thinking about this critical piece of the teamwork puzzle – the individuals and the qualities they possess.

We still have a few copies of the book to give away.

Please comment below – tell us what individual qualities are important to you in the members of your team and we’ll send a copy of the Ideal Team Player to selected contributors.

Patrick-Lencioni-South-Africa-Interview-LeadershipWorks

Building High Performance Business Teams – Patrick Lencioni Interview

Patrick Lencioni is a best-selling author, speaker and consultant. He has worked with thousands of senior executives in organisations ranging from Fortune 500 corporations and professional sports teams to universities and nonprofits.

He is the author of the international best sellers The Five Dysfunctions of a Team and The Advantage, which are weekly fixtures on international bestseller lists; his books have sold over three million copies.

Jim-Collins-Interview-LeadershipWorks

Turbulence, Leadership and Greatness

Jim Collins hardly needs an introduction. He is a student and teacher of enduring great companies – how they grow, how they attain superior performance, and how good companies can become great companies.

He has authored and co-authored some of the worlds’ best selling books on leadership. Built to LastGood to GreatHow the Mighty Fall and Great by Choice is standard reading for leaders looking to gain a competitive advantage. Grant Ashfield caught up with him to discuss his work and to find out how to lead and pursue greatness in turbulent times.