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Perfect teams are like fuzzy benchmarks
September 8, 2014 | By Neil Ducoff | 3 Comments
Every leader has a story of that “perfect team” of people. The stories are always about a shared passion to achieve the near impossible – to overcome all obstacles. There’s camaraderie, mutual support and knowing that everyone has your back. And then there’s that sprinkle of magic that gives each and every team member the belief that, together, they are unstoppable. But gradually over time, members of the team move on and replacements are brought in. The legacy of greatness remains, but that magic and electricity is different … or else absent entirely.
For leaders, it is a privilege to lead such a perfect team. But how does such a team come together? Is it by chance or by design? Perhaps the real question is, can such a team be persistently and consistently replicated? Perfect teams are like fuzzy benchmarks. You know the stats they’re capable of producing. You know the required skills and can articulate how all the players should seamlessly interact. You think you know all the ingredients … but it’s getting that mixture just right that eludes you.
Here are some no-compromise leadership insights to make perfect teams more of a constant as opposed to just a legacy moment:
- The state of YOU matters: As a leader, you are not invincible. You are subject to all the stresses and trials that life can throw at you. Think back to your state of being when you led that perfect team. You were on your game. You were focused and driven. You were decisive and bold. You brought out the best in your people. That’s the leader your team experienced. That’s the leader that inspired and pushed them. I always tell leaders that they must want success by a factor of ten over those they lead. Yes, there are times when your team will pick you up when you fall. But when picking you up becomes a job … or when the team senses that you’re stuck in burnt-out mode … believing in you is no longer a good investment. Resentment and distrust festers on both sides of the relationship. Be vigilant about your state of being. Don’t blame others for your funk. Do something like hire a leadership coach.
- Vision erosion: The very first tenet of No-Compromise Leadership is to “have absolute clarity on where you are taking the company.” Grand visions may be inspiring, but it is absolute clarity that establishes the foundation that supports all visions. Absolute clarity means defining exactly what’s required to achieve the vision in terms of commitment, time, hard work, innovation, skill requirements, sacrifice, potential hazards and more. Without a foundation of absolute clarity, visions erode over time. And once your vision begins to erode … so too will your perfect team or your hopes of achieving one.
- Sense of urgency dial: Sense of urgency is the energy that drives growth. As a leader, you control your company’s sense of urgency dial. If your personal sense of urgency dial is redlined at ten and your team’s sense of urgency dial is set at a comatose two … you and your leadership team are not paying attention to information flow, systems, accountability, quality, performance, productivity, deadlines, customer loyalty, cash flow and other components that keep both leadership and team sense of urgency dials synced at high performance levels. The moment the dials fall out of sync … so too does the opportunity to create a perfect team.
- Lost in legacy: If you keep talking about that one-time perfect team that achieved the extraordinary, today’s team will do nothing but become tired and resentful of the story. They’ll wonder why “what was” can’t happen today. Monuments and ruins of once great civilizations are facts and content for history books – it’s not for today’s business that changes as fast as a thought flowing through a brain. Leaders build the present to measure against the past. Got that?
- Believe in people: I recently read a story written by a leader that had an awakening. He wrote about how he finally found the courage to look in the mirror and have that tough conversation with himself, confronting the fact that all the good and bad in his business is what he created. He wrote about how, as the years passed, his belief in people deteriorated into “me against them” resentment and distrust. His story was about acknowledging the truth about his leadership and how he created the dysfunction that caused stress in everyone. Most importantly, he laid out his plan to change and re-launch his career as the leader he knew he was capable of being. He is now prepared to retake his company and lead it through a long overdue culture shift. And he’s prepared for the pushback and possible employee defections that may occur. You can only regain your belief in people when you first acknowledge that you’ve lost it.
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