Nov 27, 2007

Why Leaders Fail

7 Ways To Build High Performance Teams

Are you managing an organization and want to boost your team's performance?

Whether you are heading up a division of a major corporation, leading a governmental agency, coaching a sports team, starting a new company, or just took the position of President from your local Toastmasters, you'll need to know the secrets to building a great team.

Questions new leaders will likely face are:

How do we get people contributing unselfishly?
How do we create unity, a sense of community, and wanting to be part of the team?
What can I do to make an immediate impact?

You must have a plan. You must act. You must be decisive. You must be inspiring.

Fail to do these things and you likely will struggle to achieve your objective(s).

Questions may arise about your leadership capabilities if you do not answer difficult questions quickly. As someone who studies leaders, I recently completed a poll of the actions and strategies of great leaders who build great teams. In this study, I evaluated previous leaders of great nations, head coaches of winning franchises, and interviewed teachers and other local leaders in California. In sharing these qualities with you, the goal is to help each of us create better teams to lead to more empowered and successful organizations.

Here are our seven most successful strategies to build a great team:

1. Build a core nucleus.
2. Raise the bar of expectations.
3. Keep consistency in all things.
4. Have a singular objective, supported by three related objectives.
5. Promote people with performance success to leadership positions.
6. Recruit new winners to build around the core nucleus.
7. Create an atmosphere of fun, success, and being part of something special.

1. Build a core nucleus. If you want to build a fire, you will not succeed with one log. With two logs, you might get a fire to burn for a little while, but the fire will almost always goes out before the full energy of the logs are consumed. Yes, a fire requires three or more logs to burn efficiently. You cannot build a bonfire without three logs. So, start with your three "logs" and build a nucleus around them. Phil Jackson of the Chicago Bulls used the power of three in his "triangle offense" which featured Michael Jordan, Scotty Pippin, and Horace Grant. Pat Riley used the power of three with the Lakers' 80's dynasties with Magic Johnson, Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, and James Worthy as his "showtime" offense. Bill Walsh and the 80's 49er organization used the power of three with Jerry Rice, Joe Montana, and Roger Craig. The Cowboys used the power of three with Troy Aikman, Emmit Smith, and Michael Irvin in the 90's. The power of three is the key to your nucleus, and it must start there.

2. Raise the bar of expectations. Did people fail before you? Is your organization in chaos? This is a good time for you to implement your program, as people are looking for leadership in times of chaos. In times of failure, we must learn. In times of chaos, we must lead. Leaders raise the bar of expectations. Winning is the objective. Building upon success is usually the strategy. So, find a small goal, set it, and achieve it at all costs. But raise the bar. The first year, set a goal for 30% improvement. The second year, raise it again. The third year, set a goal for 100% success, with 200% effort, and watch your success grow. Jon Gruden, Coach of the Raiders from 1998 to 2002, set a goal to beat division rivals in his first year. He did that in 50% of the games, a marked improvement upon his predecessor's record. The next year, Gruden aimed for the playoffs. He missed the playoffs but his team fought valiantly. The following year Gruden's team won twelve of sixteen games and went all the way to the AFC Championship before losing to the Ravens. The next year, the Raiders lost to the Patriots in a game many felt was a gift from the referees. A step back, Gruden left. The new coach kept his nucleus. He also kept the same workout schedule, the same playbook (with some new wrinkles), and the same great players (Jerry Rice, Rich Gannon, Tim Brown) and took the team to the Super Bowl before losing to Gruden's Buccanneers. Which leads me to our next key: consistency.

3. Many leaders fail because they are not consistent. If you have a plan, and you know it is a GREAT plan, then STICK to your plan. Use consistency to grow your team. In consistency, there are three components to success:

a. consistent habits
b. consistent location
c. consistent people

Consistent habits are important for individual performance, and also important for team performance. If you hold a meeting for your organization on Tuesday at 7pm, keep it at that time and don't change it unless absolutely necessary. Location is also important. My father is a Distinguished Toastmaster, which is Toastmaster's International's top ranking of achievement. He informed me that when he stepped down from President of his organization, the new President changed locations three times in one year. Their club went from twenty-eight members to eight. When the club drops to eight Dad says "that's when they start to fail." Well, I figure a DTM ought to know a key to consistency.

I once had a sales manager who frequently pulled salespeople out of one territory, then assigned them to a different geography. The team struggled under his poor leadership. The new manager assigned both geography and vertical markets to his team, and kept those territories 80% in place for three years. His team succeeded dramatically higher than the previous manager's team.

Consistency in people is the biggest problem organizations face. The pressure to succeed is enormous -- especially when you have been failing (missing quotas, missing playoffs, blowing budgets, etc.). New leaders often have such enormous pressure to win it all in their first season as coach. I've always felt there are two reasons why relationships fail: inability to communicate and unrealistic expectations. It is no different in leadership. Reasonable expectations, clearly communicated, should result in higher success over time. However, organizations with consistently poor performance usually have an unusually high record of "firing" or "replacing" their top leaders. Organizations that succeed keep their top leaders, keep their top players, and through that loyalty attract others to their winning ways. I've noticed the biggest key with consistency in people isn't so much the exact people or the people in what position, but defining the TYPE of person for each position, so that people can come and go, but because the system is established you still succeed. We've seen this success demonstrated with the Super Bowl team New England Patriots. They have a "team" system that creates opportunities based upon a network of inter-related events. When one person drops out of position, the next comes in with knowledge of the system to fill the gap. They're winning a lot of games, so clearly it works.

4. Not knowing an objective can sabotage leaders. Have a singular objective, supported by three related objectives. Great leaders almost always strive for a singular objective. In basketball, it might be to win 50% of games. Or, it might be to attain the playoffs. A winning organization might set a goal to win their top trophy and the big game. In government, an objective might be to eliminate wasteful spending and hit a new budget figure through innovations in organization. Whatever it is, figure out what is most important, and achievable, and set that as your goal. The very best leaders go a step further and implement a SYSTEM of success. Beneath that goal, there are usually three ways to focus on daily or weekly actions, which if succeeded will lead to success of the major goal. I look at it as the singular objective is your mission. The related objectives are the goals. Achieve each goal, mission is accomplished. Fail to achieve goals, you'll know where to adjust the next season.

5. Learn from failure. Promote your successful people and learn from your failures. It is okay to fail. In fact, many organizations do not appreciate the full height of success unless they first experienced the full despair of losing. The previous examples of the Cowboys and 49ers were both preceded just several years earlier with two win seasons, with twelve or fourteen losses. To put it mildly, they were ugly. The new coach first got a quarterback, then a running back, then a receiver. And they were on their way. The way the coach found those great players was by trial and error, at first, and the players who delivered in clutch situations were promoted to those key positions of leadership. It is the same for successful sales organizations. If you wish to achieve sales success, give each salesperson an equal territory. See which one performs the best during a test period of time, and you likely have your nucleus of performers. Or, if the nucleus is established, the way to figure out who will rise above the pack is to encourage each person equally, and place them with mentors. Make sure the mentors are informed as to how to "coach" their mentored teammate. The mentors will then let you know if their teammate will make it, and also help them succeed by teaching them their own secrets to success. If people do not succeed with mentors, they might require special handling, but promoting people who repeatedly fail is not likely to result in success. Learn from failure, promote from wins.

6. Poor recruiting can be costly. Recruit new winners and surround them with winners. Sometimes we cannot promote from within. Either we are growing quickly and we must bring in new people, or the people previously in our organization left for other opportunities. Either way, we must grow from an atmosphere of success. I once was recruited from my college campus for the Businessland College Recruit training program. This program was loosely structured, yet worked on many levels. For one, my manager placed me under the supervision of the top salesperson in his branch. This was invaluable experience, as during my first three months the ace salesperson achieved the highest percentage sales success anyone had ever had in Sacramento. It was phenomenal to see the growth and excitement this success created. Other salespeople started selling successfully. Even the salespeople who struggled eventually broke out and found a way to succeed. Nobody was replaced without first shifting them onto other teams. This system created loyalty. But the old ace moved on to a new assignment. What would have happened if my manager had not recruited new people and surrounded them with winners? His success would have walked out when the ace salesman left. While he was with the branch, my manager also brought in other salespeople, and groomed the younger salespeople for success by partnering them with the veterans. It worked more than I'd have guessed. For when each previous top performer left the firm, the second or third highest performer would step in and succeed just as highly as the predecessor. A key to attract high performers is to let them know they are part of something special. If you're building something special, and the mission statement matters to the recruit, they will join your team.

7. Not having enough fun may cause you to lose top performers. Top performers like to have fun. Create an atmosphere of fun, success, and unique mission (being part of something special). If you want to win, you have to have fun. People don't have fun when they are losing. They also don't have fun if they are blamed for failures, backstabbed in communication, or treated poorly. So, eliminate poor methods of management and replace them with empowering methods of communication.

People will rise to the occasion when you empower them. How do we empower others? Let them know the expectation, create a sense of fun, urgency, and doing something special, and then coach them by letting them know they are believed in, supported, and will be looked after. How many sheep will stay in a flock where the shepherd drives one out from being in a bad mood? Like the good shepherd, look after your strays, bring them back in, feed them, and love them. Yes, love your employees. It goes against popular human resource opinion, but it is a core to ARRiiVEs mission. If we are to create more abundance, we must create more love. And love is an action word. What actions do we show? Care? Concern? Do we listen and know what makes our team want to perform? What are individual needs?

I once gained a new manager when my company merged. The old manager was reassigned to a new territory but left a short while later. Besides being affiliated with an Ivy League school, I never figured out why that manager was successful, because he never did anything to empower me or show me he listened to me or my concerns. For example, the company had failed to pay me rightful commissions because the personal in accounts payable had a bad attitude. She had decided I didn't deserve payment on the sales in question, and with my previous manager, that was as far as it went. This issue was worth $10,000 to me at the time, which was not a small amount of money to me. In my first meeting with my new manager, he asked me why I hadn't been performing much lately with my ability to sell services. I explained candidly that I was holding out on the company because the company wasn't showing me they cared about my efforts. The new manager stopped me, gained clarification, then asked for the name and phone number of the commission accounting clerk who had decided I didn't deserve payment. I then saw him pick up a phone, right then and there, and proceed to chastise this clerk for not paying "his salesperson" and asking "who are you and how could you decide to keep this man from earning his money at our firm?" She had no valid answer. I was paid five days later. My manager took care of my needs, and two months later I was at 500% of quota. I think his needs were met from that success, too.

Another manager could get people to jump through hoops for him. How? He created fun. I remember he once traded computers for box seats at a local sports arena. Yes, we took our clients there. We also took our friends and family to top notch sports events for free. It's fun to have perks from our job. It makes us want to work harder when we have fun on our job. How do we create fun? Through humor, special events, being a little goofy sometimes. The dot-coms were great at creating fun in boring atmospheres. Think about it: what's fun about computers? Not much. But what's fun when you get to work on new technology that helps people do more in new ways, and at the same time, instead of boring break rooms you can play Foosball or table tennis on your break? That's fun for many people. Some organizations launch special events, others install toys and games, others have company parties or bar-b-ques to let people know they're having fun. Sometimes, just being funny creates fun. Try putting up your goal, and explain it with humor, yet seriousness, and watch how much people embrace the new goal. As long as the humor isn't disparaging, it almost always works better than the dry approach.

As a manager of a company, show your employees that they are part of something special. At ARRiiVE, we aim to change the way business is done in the world. It sounds lofty, and people get excited about it. But if you think about it, you don't have to change 10,000 companies to change business. You only have to convince ten to change, and when they are wildly successful and when others emulate them, through the power of the "Jones" mentality, the world changes with them. How would you like to be part of a fun, exciting, successful organization who strives to make a difference? I sure do. So, I'm creating one here at ARRiiVE Business Solutions every day. Make sure to communicate what makes your organization special in each of your meetings and frequently at other times, and see how people respond.

If you are a new manager or have an organization where you want to create a great team, you now have seven tools to add to your bag of success:

1. Build a core nucleus.
2. Raise the bar of expectations.
3. Keep consistency in all things.
4. Have a singular objective, supported by three related objectives.
5. Promote people with performance success to leadership positions.
6. Recruit new winners to build around the core nucleus.
7. Create an atmosphere of fun, success, and being part of something special.

Create something special with your team and let me know about your success. I love to hear about winners and great teams. Make your team great, and you'll be considered a great leader.

Post by Scott Andrews, CEO of ARRiiVE Business Solutions.

ARRiiVE Business Solutions helps executives improve sales, launch products and services, and build dynamic, cross-functional collaborative teams. For more information, contact info (at)ARRiiVE (dot) com or call us at 1 (805) 459-6939.

Copyright © 2007 by ARRiiVE Business Solutions. All Rights Reserved. You may republish this article only if you publish in WHOLE with the COPYRIGHT and ALL ACTIVE LINKS intact.

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