Four Powerful Image Quotes for a Successful 2016

As you and your team begin to move forward in your plans for a successful 2016, it will be helpful for you to reflect on and share the following powerful image quotes… Together, these four quotes will ensure that your focus and efforts provide the results you are seeking… Here are the four powerful image quotes:   1 – “If everything I’ve done is just the beginning, then what is next?”      This is a powerful question because it forces you to look forward and identify your next level of achievement.   Everything before today was only a preamble to your NEXT project or accomplishment.  Now that you’ve gotten to where you are, what do your past experiences and current resources make possible??     2 – “It is not only what we do, but what we do not do, for which we are accountable” – Moliere   Accountability, as I shared in my leadership parable Rapid Teamwork, begins with empathy and is a conscious decision to take personal ownership of your team’s results.  That means that it is not only what you do, but also what you choose not to do, that impacts the people around you. That is especially true with communication – what is said, and what is not said.  Silence is often interpreted as consent – so take note of the things you are allowing to occur without addressing or correcting them..      3 – “What needs to happen this year (month? week?) for my team to consider it a success?”   When you look back at the upcoming year (or month, or week)...

Team Leadership and Another Kind of Caterpillar Story

You are already familiar with the story of transformational adversity – caterpillars will turn, after hibernating in a cocoon and struggling to escape, into a beautiful butterfly… But there is another kind of caterpillar story that shares a lesson on team leadership and offers a warning to organizations and teams who become too comfortable or predictable.  There is a species of caterpillar called a processionary caterpillar. It has been so named because once the group leader establishes a direction, all the others will fall in very closely behind and move dutifully in the same established path.   As a matter of fact, the followers’ behaviors become so automatic that their eyes become half-closed as they shut out the world around them and simply allow the leader do all the thinking and decision making about which direction to pursue. Their behavior is rote and automatic and mindless. An experiment by French naturalist Jean-Henri Fabre demonstrated the surprising strictness of the processionary caterpillars’ behavior when, on one occasion, he enticed the leader to start circling the edge of a large flower pot. The other caterpillars followed suit, and quickly formed themselves into a closed circle of caterpillars, where the distinctions between leader and follower became totally blurred, and the path had no beginning and no ending. Instead of getting bored with or even acknowledging the nonproductive activity, the caterpillars kept up their activity, without any adjustments, for several days and nights until they dropped off the edge of the flowerpot from exhaustion and starvation. Relying totally on instinct, past experience, custom, and tradition, the caterpillars achieve nothing because they mistook activity for achievement. ...

7 Days to Being a More Thankful Teammate or Team Leader

One of the most empowering lessons I have been fortunate to learn is that in the midst of virtually any circumstance or situation, thankfulness leads to happiness.  Every day can be Thanksgiving. A favorite quote of mine over the last few months is from Maya Angelou.  She wrote that we should “Let gratitude be the pillow upon which you kneel to say your nightly prayer.” But I haven’t always done that. As a coach, one of the major regrets I carry with me is the memory of how tough I was to play for when I was younger.  Not because having high standards was a bad thing – but because I was so focused on performance and results and driving my team to improve that I very seldom took the time or saw the importance of saying thank you for their efforts. The job of a coach, and often of leaders, often seems to be to find the gap between where your people are and where they need to be for your organization to meet the goals you have set… But a constant focus on what is missing, or what needs to get better, or where the flaws are can turn aspirations into frustrations.  As a coach, or manager, or principal, or leader in any arena, rather than seeing the hole, we should step back more often to appreciate the doughnut.  We should find things to be grateful for. When I was intentional about catching my team doing something right, the energy in the gym always seemed to go up.  And I soon learned what many successful corporate managers...

Are You Handing Off Important Things to Teammates?

October is here, and that means that we are in the middle of Football Season! For millions of fans who have been holding their breath and suffering through the desolation of late summer athletic programming, the next dozen weekends will be a feast of entertainment. As a basketball coach, even I can appreciate the excitement that comes with fall – the smell of grass fields and tailgate grills, and the sound of pads colliding and whistles blowing. But football season also brings with it a powerful reminder for managers and team leaders. As you watch games over the coming weeks, pay attention to the quarterback. In football he is the most important player – he touches the ball and makes decisions and controls the team’s offensive performance. But the key lesson that great quarterbacks share with us as an audience of leaders is that he knows when to give the ball to others and allow them to carry it forward down the field. The best quarterbacks don’t keep the ball themselves – they distribute it to ensure that others’ talents are taken advantage of, and to ensure that others on the team feel valuable as contributors to the team’s success. In basketball, the point guard plays a very similar role. In fact, I think you could conclude that the most powerful player on ANY team, if he or she is intelligent and wants to succeed, soon learns that the key to maintaining and growing their power is to give the ball to talented people and let them make plays! Too often, though, weak leaders feel the need to clutch...

Clear Expectations are Vital Part of Successful Teamwork

Successful teamwork begins with establishing crystal clear expectations.  This is true not just for leaders, but for communication between teammates as well. The more intentional you can be about ensuring your message is received, understood, and acted upon the more success your team will enjoy.  Still, the reality is that every organization struggles at times to do this, and it can have dangerous consequences. Imagine the following situation and how it might be similar to interactions on your team: Steve meets a teammate in the hallway and shares the following comment: “Hey Louie, I think it’d be terrific if we could get those papers over to Suzy.  She needs them to bill the client, and I do not want her saying it was our department that dropped the ball.”   That could be a problem. No, there is not a problem with the papers themselves (although it is likely that Suzy won’t be getting them anytime soon). The problem is that Steve has been very poor in communicating with his teammate – and has done a horrible job of sharing clear expectations, which is a vital part of successful teamwork. Steve has assumed that his teammate is clairvoyant instead of being incredibly clear about the specifics of what he wants done and when it needs to be done. He was not clear in explaining to Louie that a) he is asking for help, b) he needs Louie to go and find the papers and deliver them to Suzy, and c) it specifically needs to be done by lunchtime the next day. Steve, like many of the people on teams you...

A Special Incentive for Rapid Teamwork Pre-Orders

I am excited to announce that my next book, Rapid Teamwork, will officially launch on September 21st, 2015. For the many fans and followers and friends that I have had the pleasure of connecting with over the last few years, I wanted to offer you the opportunity to pre-order the book and receive a couple of great gifts for doing so. Rapid Teamwork tells the story of Greg Sharpe, a manager that readers can easily relate to. Greg’s team has been underachieving and struggling with a few issues.  What he and his executive team experience during an unusual rafting retreat is a lesson on how to become a more productive team quickly – creating a stronger, more unified workforce. And if you Pre-Order before SEPTEMBER 1st, and share a review on Amazon or Barnes and Noble, I would like to thank you by sharing a FREE copy of two of my other team leaderhip e-books.   Simply email me when your review is live to get these two special incentives: 1 – A copy of the 15 Day Team Challenge (a $9.99 value!) 2 – A copy of the eBook Sustaining Results (a $4.99 value!)   Rapid Teamwork is an entertaining story where you will discover the five ingredients that all GREAT teams have in common, and will take away tools and ideas to apply those same positive traits to their team culture and transform your stressed employees into truly invested owners. By applying the insights that Rapid Teamwork shares, you will:    – gain clarity about the specific steps for building a GREAT team    – discover the most neglected area of team leadership    –...

Keys to Retaining Your Team’s Top Talent

Today’s guest post is by Mike Figliuolo, co-author of Lead Inside the Box: How Smart Leaders Guide Their Teams to Exceptional Results (you can get your copy by clicking here).  (You can learn more about Mike and the book at the end of the post.) Here’s Mike: Erin joined your team about a year ago. She came in with many other candidates for a job opening and she impressed you in the interview. She was far and away the best candidate. You knew you would be lucky to get her to join your team. Since her first day of work, she has lived up to the high expectations she set in her interviews. She took over ownership for an important process on your team, and has not only mastered it quickly but she’s demonstrated the initiative to improve it. She reduced the time it takes to deliver her service while improving her output’s quality. Since she reduced the time she needs to complete the main job you hired her to do, she’s been identifying new projects she can take on to help the team. Erin is the first to offer to fill in when someone else is out of the office, as she views that as a great opportunity to learn about other business areas. You feed off of her enthusiasm and enjoy working with her. If everyone on your team was like Erin, you would have the most amazing team in the company. Erin is a joy to lead, but she presents you with a big leadership challenge. Her talent makes you realize she could move on to...

How to Motivate Your Team with Numbers

I was reminded of an important technique you can use to motivate your team while talking with my son about the basketball camp he attended this week. One of the things that makes him a good player is intrinsic motivation – he practices on his own because he just enjoys getting better.  He doesn’t do it because dad offers him milkshakes or other extrinsic rewards. Now, there is NOTHING WRONG with sharing rewards and celebrating individual or team performances… what gets rewarded often gets repeated… but if the external reward is the only motivation, study after study has shown that the effect will soon wear off and provide only diminishing returns. As many managers and leaders have learned, if you only focus on numbers and results you need, you often lose your people… but if you focus on your people, you often get the numbers and results you need! The motivational technique I am sharing today is something that applies to basketball, to business, to education, to medicine, and to virtually any industry where people can be inspired to give more effort and focus to their jobs. It is terrific to have high-performers who are intrinsically motivated… but there is an idea that will not only inspire your thoroughbreds to push themselves, but will also help to stimulate your average Joes and Jills to push themselves! You can motivate your team with numbers. At my son’s basketball camp, the staff had identified 6-8 different drills that were important to player improvement – and had the kids working on the drills for a set amount of time. Whether it was...

Assigned Seats Are Even More Effective Outside of Schools

Teachers have used assigned seats for decades to arrange and organize students in their classrooms, because it was convenient.  In my classroom, I used to assign seats and would switch up those assignments at different points during the year to allow students to interact and build relationships with people that they otherwise likely wouldn’t have talked with. But leaders in any field should find a way to assign seats to their people at meetings and events – and not just for organizational efficiency. Assigned seats can be a powerful positive catalyst for building relationships and creating cohesiveness among coworkers!  They provide a simple and fun way to build trust and awareness in your team. I used to pair up athletes with different partners to encourage competition – they would push teammates they weren’t as friendly with to go harder. And that was helpful. But one of the unintended but noticeable consequences of paring up different athletes for drills was that they talked to each other.  First only a little. Then a little more. So by the end of our season, they were more skilled, yes – but they were also far more aware of and friendly with each other. And it is the same way for coworkers as it is for athletes… When you have a lunch, or a meeting, they will naturally sit next to people they ALREADY know and are comfortable with – but THAT doesn’t help you build relationships across departments or between strangers. Connections are the most powerful thing you can build within a company – because you NEED your people to recognize and appreciate...

How to Build Accountability With a Team Character Draft

With the NFL draft approaching, millions of people are getting excited about the addition of talent to their team rosters.  Most people can see and appreciate talent – but great leaders know that talent alone is never sufficient.  Talent without character and trust – traits of great teammates – will always underachieve. So how do you build an appreciation of character and emphasize the importance of great teammates, while also creating a culture of accountability among your athletes? Well, even for a veteran coach that sounds like a tall order… but it really is possible. Early in your next season, after you have chosen you teams, I suggest that you take time off the field or away from the court to have a team character draft. This “draft” requires that you, as a coach, chose two players from your team that best represent the core values you want to emphasize – maturity, attitude, responsibility, etc. These two players MUST be your two most “high character” kids, and seniority or skill level should play no part in this selection. These two athletes will be your “Draft Captains” and THEY will be tasked with selecting teammates much like they might in a scrimmage game. Instead of picking their team based on skill, height or strength, though – they will choose the best available people based purely on “character”. Once every player is chosen in your team character draft, you as the coach will keep up with who is on which team – and will hold the teammates accountable for the actions of their members. Throughout your season, you will be able...