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High Performing Teams

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High Performing Teams


How do you build high performing teams?  How do you build trust?  How can you become corporate athletes?

This is about what it takes to build teams and lead them in today’s business world.  This isn’t about authority, it is about influence.  This is about the Law of Solid Ground.  And understanding that trust is something you have to earn as a leader.  And knowing when to train, perform, celebrate and rest to be a corporate athlete.  Because this is a marathon not a sprint.  And the 4 stages of team performance: form, storm, norm and perform.  And knowing what stage you are in and how to get to the next one.

Building trust is step one.  According to John C Maxwell’s book “The 21 Irrefutable Laws of Leadership”, trust is the foundation of leadership.  He talks about the Law of Solid Ground. And that to build trust a leader must exemplify the qualities of:  competence, connection and character.  People will forgive occasional mistakes based on ability, especially if they see that you are still growing as a leader.  However you need to own up to it and make sure it doesn’t happen again.

How do you build trust in an organization?  How do you know you are on Solid Ground?
Go through “The Trust Check List” and evaluate your ability to adhere  to certain behaviors.  These behaviors if followed consistently, can help to build trust.  And here they are:
1. Keep promises and honor commitments?
2. Acknowledge and apologize for your mistakes?
3. Remain loyal to the absent?
4. Share information, both positive and negative, with the people who need it?
5. Involve others in decisions that affect them?
6. Give credit where credit is due?
7. Communicate consistently, regardless of the situation or the person’s authority or influence?
8. Honor confidential and sensitive information?

And even with the foundation of trust teams go through 4 stages before they really get to performance:  form, storm, norm and perform.  And you can’t skip a stage.  You need to go through each one.  And when you add a new team member that team has to go through it all again…..so what are the stages and how do you get through them?

Forming – this is the stage where you are just getting to know each other and everyone is polite and has not figured out how to challenge the leader or the team.  This stage may feel very nice but it can get you into trouble as I learned when I was working in advertising.  The team was so new that we did not know how to challenge the advertising campaign that was being created.  It led us to make the worst advertising campaign I have ever been associated with…I wish we had known about the 4 stages of team performance.

Storming – this can be the scariest stage. This occurs when people start to challenge the leadership, the other team members, begin to jockey for position. There is a lot of tension and it is best if someone helps the team to get through the storm.  To use this as an opportunity to create some “rules of engagement”.  People need to be able to challenge the work, the direction of the team.  This is really for the purpose of making it better.  Keep it out of the personal and focus on the work or task at hand.  If you are a team that can storm well you will get to a high performing team that will exceed expectations.

Norming – now we are all starting to calm down, settle into our roles and forgive each other’s little idiosyncrasies.  At this stage you are now able to focus on the work and not be distracted by the little things.  You understand each other better and have come to appreciate your differences and how this adds to the final product.

Performing – now this is the stage, this occurs when the team has gelled and come together and knows each other so well that you can almost anticipate things they may say or recognize that their insight will take an idea to the next level.  I had the opportunity to lead a team like this and we increased revenue for our company for our clients and won awards for our product.  I don’t even think we realized at the time what we could accomplish.  It doesn’t happen often but when it does it is magic.

So now how do you make sure that your team doesn’t burn out.  What can we learn from athletes?
We need to train, perform, celebrate and recover.  In the corporate world we do not always take the time to celebrate even if it isn’t a 100% win but to at least take a pause and say what we did well and what we learned so we can apply it to the next challenge. And we do not rest. We do not recover.  We spend most of our time in the perform cycle 12 – 14 hours a day – this will burn you out. As a leader give yourself and your team permission to rest to recover. I did and it worked. We had off-sites outside skiing or hiking and no business just fun – this is how we recovered as corporate athletes.

Building and leading high performing teams is not easy but it can be done.  Start with trust the foundation of leadership.  Make sure you are on Solid Ground by adhering to your Trust Check List. And then evaluate which stage of performance your team is in and get them through it. And don’t forget to celebrate and rest.  Remember this is a marathon not a sprint.

Tune in every Thursday at 8am PST to Chat with Chicules: What They Couldn’t Teach You in Business School

Leadership – what it takes to lead today

Posted by Editor on
Leadership – what it takes to lead today


Is leadership about authority or influence?  Does the real leader hold the position or the power?  Are they running the meeting or leading the people?  How can you make sure you are truly leading?  Follow the laws of leadership and you can’t go wrong.

There are a lot of books out there that talk about leadership but the one that I have gone back to time and again is “The 21 Irrefutable Laws of Leadership”  by John C. Maxwell.  This book was recommended to me by a work colleague and he said it is the best book you’ll ever read on leadership because it covers everything.  I thought really 21 laws are you kidding me isn’t there just a top 5 list that I can look at and be done with it all – and he said no – Leadership is not easy and as the world around us becomes more complicated so do the types of skills, values and behaviors that you need to be able to tap into to truly lead.  I tap into the laws in this book all of the time depending on the situation and it has been a great resource.

Here are the 4 that I tap into in different situations:

The Law of Influence – leading through influence versus authority – think Princess Diana versus Prince Charles.  Using authority may be faster but it does not have staying power.  True leadership cannot be assigned or appointed it must be earned.  A title can buy you time to either increase your level of influence with others or erase it…practicing the law of influence is critical to being a good leader today.

The Law of Navigation – Anyone can steer the ship, but it takes a leader to chart a course.  There were two explorers in 1911 who wanted to be first to the South Pole and one leader and their crew survived and the other did not – why?  Because one charted a course with all of the details planned from supplies, to capability of the crew, to rest stops and the other did not.  In business taking the time to think through a plan is critical for success think Target launching in Canada and Tim Horton’s expanding further into the US.  Did they chart a course or just steer a ship?  Taking the time up front to think through the strategy is the right thing to do – solving the strategy through the execution is a costly endeavor.

The Law of Buy-in – People buy into the leader first, then the vision.  Maxwell states “that if people buy into the leader but not the vision get another vision and if people buy into the vision but not the leader get another leader”.  This happened to me with the brand and integrated fundraising project for a not-for-profit organization and we changed leaders midway through the project.  I was taken off the project to focus on another launch, a lottery product, and a new leader was brought on. The result – the project stalled and I had to come back to lead the project.  Clearly people had not only bought into the vision but also the leader.

The Law of Intuition – Leaders evaluate everything with a leadership bias – they learn to read the intangibles like:  the situation, the trends, the people, the resources, and themselves.  I had my best training on the law of intuition when I worked in advertising especially when working on a pitch.  A pitch involves completing against other agencies for a project or piece of business.  The law of intuition helped me to see the need for a change in leadership on the creative team, answer questions with candor and courage given the client’s culture and develop cheerleaders among the consultants assigned to a 90 day review for a piece of business. The law of intuition helped me to see what other’s could not and develop a strategy for success.

By understanding and tapping into these laws of leadership you can be ready for any situation. This is what they couldn’t teach you in business school….because you have to live it to get it.

Tune in every Thursday at 8am PST to Chat with Chicules: What They Couldn’t Teach You in Business School

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