Building an Effective Team

“There is no I in Teamwork.” – Unknown

“The ratio of We’s to I’s is the best indicator of the development of a team.” – Lewis B. Ergen

“Teamwork divides the task and doubles the success.” – Unknown

“A group becomes a team when each member is sure enough of himself and his contribution to praise the skill of the others.” – Norman Shidle

Over the last several weeks, it seems I have had occasion to talk to a number of new business owners working to grow their company.  Encouragingly, there is a growing base of business leaders interested in building organizations that accomplish something different, something more.  They have a restlessness about them – a willingness to challenge old paradigms and think outside the box.  There is no shame in their approach as they question their own judgment and learn from the lessons of others.  To borrow a phrase from my friend Mark Cahill, they are willing to “steal with pride”, and I love the prospect this foretells for the future of business. Continue reading

What Motivates You?

“Ability is what you’re capable of doing. Motivation determines what you do. Attitude determines how well you do it.” – Lou Holtz

“The problem, often not discovered until late in life, is that when you look for things in life like love, meaning, motivation, it implies they are sitting behind a tree or under a rock. The most successful people in life recognize that in life they create their own love, they manufacture their own meaning, they generate their own motivation.” – Neil deGrasse Tyson

Ever wonder what motivates people?  Why people do the things they do?  Why some are so focused on getting ahead, while others prefer continuity?  Why some pour themselves in to their work, while others find great balance in work and family life?   Or do you wonder what keeps people engaged with one organization when bigger opportunities or higher pay might exist ‘across the street’? Continue reading

A Child’s Perspective on Business

“There is only one boss.  The customer.   And he can fire everybody in the company from the chairman on down, simply by spending his money somewhere else.” – Sam Walton

I recently had the privilege to speak to a group of young African American boys about leadership and what it takes to be successful.  This particular program (put together and hosted by our own Rick Rodgers) was designed to help these young boys develop the skills necessary to become tomorrow’s leaders.  It included a number of presentations with respected business leaders in the community (CEOs, CFOs, etc), as well as a group project to develop a business plan for a potential endeavor.  In short, it was a multi-day course that will no doubt enrich the lives of these young boys. Continue reading

Don’t be a Dysfunctional Team

“Like so many other aspects of life, teamwork comes down to mastering a set of behaviors that are at once theoretically uncomplicated, but extremely difficult to put in practice.” – Patrick Lencioni

“Success comes only for those groups that overcome the all-too-human behavioral tendencies that corrupt teams and breed dysfunctional politics within them.” – Patrick Lencioni

Our company recently developed a new leadership program – the Diversity Leadership Advantage Program (DLAP).  The program was designed to help us further invest in the development of our top leaders, but with a focus on encouraging diversity both in terms of participants and their perception on how to become a more effective leader. Continue reading

Challenging the Status Quo

“Group and organizational dynamics tend to pull organizations toward average or below average performance.  Psychological inertia tends to make innovation unlikely.”

“The status quo tends to defeat meaningful change because people are constrained by their basic nature and the “rules” of the environment they work in – Said another way, people don’t like change because it upsets their world and causes chaos.  Every system strives hard to maintain itself and resist change.”

[Chaun Mikuleza]

This past week I was in Milwaukee for a series of senior leadership meetings.  A key topic of our meetings was around the continued transformation of the business to one that can operate as a “fast and agile company”.  This week’s quotes are from a presentation one of my colleagues gave in those meetings around the importance of developing a “culture of change”.  They struck me as worth sharing with you, as I have always embraced the concept of change.

Change is never an easy thing.  And yes, there must be a balance to how much change you push.  But in truth, change is necessary.  Innovation cannot occur without change…without challenging the status quo.  Without it, organizations are doomed to gravitate toward mediocrity.

I can recall past resistance to change in many of the organizations I’ve worked for and with – be it technology, new processes, or simply changes to the organizational structure.  “Stop changing things and let us catch our breath”, and “why would we need to do that…we already have a good process” were two of the many responses I recall.  But looking back, there is no question those changes were beneficial to those organizations.

If an organization is to truly become a market leader in its industry, it must evolve.  It must change.  And it must create a “culture of change.”

From Ideas Come Answers

“From perspective comes clarity.  From clarity comes clear thinking.  From clear thinking come ideas.  And from ideas come answers.”

[Andy Andrews]

By now you are beginning to see a theme emerge around innovation as an “institutionalized” process for organizational success.  I’ve been saving this leadership quote for a few months now because I believe it speaks to the concept of innovation, particularly the importance of perspective when driving innovation.  What I love about this quote is how it chains the importance of starting with perspective if you hope to end with answers.  So let’s speak to the concept of perspective.

What is perspective?  Webster’s dictionary had two definitions I thought relevant in this case:

  • The capacity to view things in their true relations or relative importance
  • The interrelation in which a subject or its parts are mentally viewed (point of view)

So what does perspective have to do with innovation, solving problems, or gaining answers?  The answer is: everything.  Relevance.  Relationship.  Priority.  Point of View.  Before you can even begin to develop ideas that lead to answers, you have to gain perspective and clarity on the issue.

Think of how Apple has revolutionized the MP3 player, cell phone, and tablet market.  To be fair, they didn’t invent any of these devices.  The iPod, iPhone and iPad are all variants of technology that existed far before Apple created them.  But what Apple focused on almost entirely was perspective.  The perspective of their user.  How their customers would consume information.  How their customers might use their products.  So they had to put themselves in the shoes of that customer.  They had to start with perspective.  And I think we’ll all agree, Apple products are cool because of “how” you use them. Because of how they interface with you.

This is why it was so important for an organization to institutionalize innovation across the company.  Each of you has a unique perspective.  Many of you work directly with and beside your customers.  And in doing so you gain perspective – the perspective of those customers.  That is so important.  For any business to successfully deliver on the promise of its offerings it must start with that perspective.

Finding New Opportunites through Failure

“I haven’t failed; I’ve found 10,000 ways that don’t work.”  — [Thomas Edison]

“Success is the ability to go from failure to failure without losing your enthusiasm.”  — [Sir Winston Churchill]

“Fear of failure is the only thing preventing you from succeeding.” — [Alison Levine]

“100% of the shots you don’t take don’t go in.”  — [Wayne Gretzky]

Today I would like to talk about the importance of failure in ensuring an organization’s long-term success.  Yes, failure!  I’m guessing you didn’t expect leadership to talk about the importance of failure as part of a weekly Leadership Quote segment.  But the truth is failure is a necessary component of success.  Through failure we learn important lessons necessary to achieve success.  We gain the wisdom needed to improve and become successful.

I’m sure most of you have heard of the vacuum cleaner brand Dyson.  The Dyson vacuum cleaner is one of the best performing products in its industry.  Why?  Because of the revolutionary way in which it works.dyson  Instead of using vacuum cleaner bags, it uses a vortex process that “spins” the dirt through the machine, allowing the air to circulate through while dropping the dirt down into the catch basin.  As a result, the product works far more efficiently than any other in the market because it doesn’t lose suction or get clogged up.  But did you know that Sir James Dyson, the inventor and founder of the Dyson vacuum cleaner company, tried unsuccessfully 5,127 times before he succeeded.  HE FAILED 5,127 TIMES!!!

Now, before you run off and say “well, Kip told me to go fail”, let me clarify my point.  Many businesses today don’t have the luxury for everyone to go off and fail 5,127 times.  But what they should have is a culture that is willing to recognize its failures and improve on them.  One that says, “Nope, that didn’t work. Let’s try something different.” One that recognizes our failures are its best opportunities for succeeding.

Does your culture embrace failure as a necessary step towards success?  Are your fellow team members encouraged to innovate, to take risks, and do drive for new and creative solutions to meet your customer’s needs?  More importantly, do they operate in an environment suited to support failure as a necessary evolution toward success?

The Power of a Team

For this week’s leadership quote, I thought I would feature a couple of quotes that carried the same theme:

 “None of us is as smart as all of us.”   – [Ken Blanchard]

“Talent wins games, but teamwork and intelligence wins championships!”   – [Michael Jordan]

The power of a team is amazing.  Individually, we can only do so much.  But collectively, a team can multiply its impact.  Its strengths can be magnified, and its weaknesses minimized.  A team that understands itself, recognizes its potential, relies on its team members, and focuses on the collective over the individual is truly a powerful thing.

Think of some of the greatest teams in sports history, and you will see one common theme – they acted and performed TOGETHER as a team, trusting that each member will do its part.  Yes, there were superstars on those teams, but they alone could not be successful without the help of the team.  On the other hand, think of how many teams have assembled tremendous talent only to have those same players act as individuals.  In the end, they fell miserably short of their expectations.

Many of my past organizations have always featured teamwork as a cultural attribute.  Their culture was built largely with teamwork at its core.  Our delivery depended on it.  Our organization required it in its very design.  Everything about those organization, and their collective successes and failures was based on the team.  And as a result, those organizations achieved significant success.  Not the individuals in the organizations, but the collective “team” of that business.

Do you foster a culture of teamwork?  Or does your organization focus so much on the success of the individual that the team can never succeed.  Think about it, because it’s quite simple – teamwork wins championships!