The Message Matters
The first 45 days of 2017 have been active. Who is going to do what and by when are the main topics. Our work had us either facilitating for a team, engaging in dialog with an individual, or observing a company in action. In all three of these settings we became aware of a key differentiator in performance tied to a specific moment, and hope by sharing it with you that it might stimulate a discussion with your team.
The moment of influence is when your product offering or service comes in contact with the customer, and things are not going as scripted. What gets said and how both sides are left feeling appears to have a large impact on customer satisfaction and employee engagement. We also noticed that when a leader sits down with their team and helps them jointly craft what to say at these moments, and ties them back into the teams internal values, you have the potential to tap a powder keg of productivity. These have been 'aha' moments for us, and we are excited to share more detail on this below.
Flying the Friendly Skies Vs. the Feeling of Love
A recent business trip had us back on United Airlines instead of Southwest, and we noticed a great example of how the flight attendants on Southwest have just the right language to handle a frequent conflict point, and the team at United does not. On the evening United flight home there were 10 bags that had to be checked at the gateway. This changes the duration of the flight by an average of 30 minutes for the person who now has to go to baggage claim. United had increased the flight time of the passengers on that flight by 300 minutes. As I put my sport coat into the bins that must have been packed I was dismayed at how much room there was. In one striking example a ladies white handbag was all by itself.
Compare this to the flight on Southwest the next week -which was just as full - and there were no bags checked. I witnessed a similar hand bag being pulled out by the flight attendant, and then with the tone of grace and the firmness that comes with her uniform she asked the owner to place it in the seat in front of her so other travelers could get their luggage up in the bins.
Our perspective is that the training Southwest puts their team through to handle the common conflict points is not just good for the customer, it really empowers the employee as well. The crew at United were very friendly, they were hustling, and they have a long list of things to get accomplished. Yet it was clear dealing with the issue of how people shirk when in groups, and not having bags checked was not something they had prioritized or practiced. When you have a team member in a position to work with a customer of any kind consider carefully the language you have empowered them to use. If it isn’t practiced you are leaving up to chance the satisfaction of both the customer and your employee.
The Three Leader Laments That Are Killing Your Culture
It may not be a welcome point of view, but a haunting reality started to appear to us about what happens when a leader laments, or complains. It guts the commitment of almost everyone on your team. We identified three of these culture killers and share them in the hopes that you may check yourself in your efforts to improve. The first lament comes in the form of getting off focus. This occurs when you take different courses of action that are in your head, and start to leak them to your task-oriented team. Your team wants to know what you need and what is the plan? If you are winging it or juggling multiple strategies, and thinking it doesn’t matter because they don’t tell you about it, think again. They are not going to tell you, almost instinctively they will cut their commitment by 30% immediately.
The second lament comes in a moment of frustration when small items are brought back to you by the team. The questions are low level, off topic, and drive you nuts. Your response appears to be a clarifying statement, but it also stops your team in their tracks. “I Don’t Care” about this or that the leader says and admonishes the person for bringing them something small or trivial. But wait, if your direct report cares about it, and you the leader say you don’t care, then why should they care? These are just the wrong words. Leaders can’t say them. They are a sign that the team is struggling solving a problem and they don’t have the language or the latitude to resolve an issue. This is a teaching point for the leader and the team at the right time. We all have said, “I don’t care” at one time or another and we meant no harm, but harm is done right down to the very core of your teams engagement. The leader has to care.
The third lament of a leader that guts the engagement levels of your team is allowing people to share the stories of how people have lost their jobs. Myth and story are life staples for humans and it is only natural for bad news to be shared inside human systems. Yet some companies don’t realize how much damage a culture of fear can have to employee engagement. Leaders can’t dictate what is and isn’t said on every topic, but they can model the right behavior by not joining in the stories and by sharing with the story tellers what the consequences are on both sides of the telling the “people get fired around here” stories. If you are looking for your front line to think and move with purpose you want them to feel empowered to make decisions and communicate. They need to be able to make mistakes of commission while moving towards the goal. When a leader allows the fear to reign, they cannot then expect people to think for themselves. It is just a bad bet for the employee and leads to the worst kind of person, the one who quits but keeps showing up to work.
What A Trip to Mt. Vernon Can Teach Anyone About the Pace of Sales Dialog
We recently observed a sales meeting for a software company and were asked to listen to a new inside sales rep role play to learn what to say to a prospect. The tone and confidence were there, but we didn’t get the sense that the conversation was going anywhere. When asked for feedback I wanted to come up with an image that wasn’t tied to sports, so asked the new employee if they had ever been on a house tour like Mt. Vernon where George Washington lived. She replied in the affirmative and so I asked, do you think the tour guide is in sales? From this question a nice dialog ensued where I was able to get my point across that different types of dialog have different pace to them almost like a music score. In the case of Mt. Vernon, the tour guide needs to keep us moving on the treadmill so the group behind us can view the room, and they want us to connect with the house so we spend money at the book store.
The image of the house tour resonated and so we broke out the stages of a sale into different rooms of the house and started sharing it with other companies. We have been calling it “House Tour Theory” and are enjoying how it applies to a range of institutions. Non-profits, professional services, and software companies have all been able to tweak the conversations in the different rooms, yet they agree that the conveyor belt should always be moving forward. Feel free to use the image below for your customer acquisition and success processes. Please share with us how it works or needs tweaking for you.
The three moments of maximum influence: a customer service conflict point, a leader lamenting, and the salesperson keeping the deal on the conveyor belt. In all three, The Message Matters!
Have a great next 45 days and see you on or around April fools day!
Moving at the Speed of Your Values
The last 45 days had us watching a series of human systems move either quickly or slowly through challenges. We started to notice a few common threads in the efficient teams. They had a language for resolving conflict, and had a structure of values that helped them answer questions without stopping to talk with the authority figures. Those values helped each team member gain confidence, which developed their character. This last part on developing character stuck out to us because of some common perceptions on character being a fixed trait. The perception is that character falls into two camps: you either have it or you don’t. Most people don’t know how to teach it, they just know it when they see it. This leads us to the question that is the title of our next section.
Can You Develop Character?
We started to notice that the right human system can build and develop character with a series of commonly held values, that allow all of the members to build daily momentum with good choices. This crystallized for us when visiting the Naval Academy in November with our 12 year old son, Ryan.
We were 90 minutes away from the Academy, and with a free afternoon couldn’t pass up the chance to check it out. The midshipmen have positioned the book store right next to the security gate, so our first step was to pick up a few souvenirs for Ryan's sister and mother. A favorite pastime of ours is to buy a magnet for the fridge to commemorate past travels. Within minutes a coffee cup, exercise shorts, a sweatshirt, and the magnet were easily secured. Navy had just beaten Notre Dame at the football stadium that day, so there was a bit of a line, and we passed the time looking out the windows at the ships bobbing up and down. Soon enough it was our turn and we chatted with our attendant, got our receipt, and were off.
Twenty feet away from the counter and halfway out the doors Ryan turned to me and said with a surprise, “Dad the magnet is in my pocket!” We were literally inches away from stealing a $2.99 magnet on federal property. We did a quick about face, and went back to our attendant just as she finished with another customer.
With chagrin we presented our honest mistake and paid for the magnet. I remarked that the honor code at the Naval Academy was really important. And here is the moment that hit me. She smiled and said,
“It makes you feel really good."
It, being the honor code, the values that cover every situation that a person could encounter while at the Naval Academy, made her, an attendant at the book store, feel really good. Wow. Now that is a large human system that can move with speed. Their values are dynamic and all encompassing.
Turning to our 2017 hopes and dreams, one of them is that you and your teams will be able to align your interests and values in such a way that you effectively navigate the conflict and tension that accompanies worthy challenges and goals. With that in mind we have created a DIY alignment exercise for you to use with your teams. Click on the documents below or download HERE. We compiled it from a variety of sources and if you use it, let us know how it went.
"Branches & Roots": A Look at Strategy and Competition Through the Lens of Business and Sport
A Banyan Tree Strategies Communication
The final 45 days of the year are here, and we expect them to fly by as delightful distractions abound. We are happy to be closing out another volume of Branches and Roots and want to thank you for your feedback and comments throughout 2016. We finish with four vignettes that will hopefully inspire you to spread the spirit of thanksgiving throughout your family and friends this holiday season. If you find any of these ideas worth sharing, please do so, as a new subscriber referred by a friend is the best present we can receive.
Vin Scully Retires....and Gives Us a Final Gift: Perspective
Vin Scully called his last Dodger game this September at AT&T Park in San Francisco, as the Giants moved on in the National League Playoffs. His career began in Brooklyn in 1950 when Jackie Robinson was still playing for the boys in blue. 67 years later at age 87 he decided to end what has to be one of the longest running media relationships of all time. Mr. Scully was honored and interviewed all season long, and in the final article by the LA Times a quote struck a chord with us on a wonderful way to think about change. When asked if he was sad to be leaving after all this time, he made a small adjustment to a line from another legend, Dr. Seuss and offered, “Don’t be sad it’s over, smile because it happened."
The fall of 2016 has brought to an end many things we wish could continue, not the least of which are the lives of spouses, parents, and dear friends. We wanted to pass on to you this “smile because it happened” quote as encouragement as we work through the endings and struggle to adapt to change.
How Can 14 Wolves Change the Course of a River in Yellowstone Park?
Talk about your head scratch questions; how can a wolf change a river's course? Do they dig on the sides with all their might? We invested the four minutes to watch this video and have found a series of situations to raise the following question: If the wolf equals tension, then where in your life do you need to increase the tension a bit to reach a desired outcome?
As we seek to finish 2016 on a high note both individually and with our teams, how will you play with the constraint of tension to effectively develop practice and performance? Too much tension will suffocate most people and not enough has its own challenges. We have noticed that the best leaders work with this concept daily to understand just how much each member needs to reach their peak. We thought the video introduced the concept in an interesting way, and if shared, could stimulate some fruitful dialog between you and your team. You might consider asking, how can we let the wolf in here a bit for our joint benefit? If you come up with something worth sharing, please do so here.
What Will Your Totem Pole for 2017 Look Like?
At the end of any year, many of you will be asked to think about how to make next year better. This isn’t always the question some want to hear. What if this year was an all-time year? How can we improve on that? We thought we would adjust the perspective with a different type of question. If your life was a totem pole and it takes you an entire year to complete the next section, what should it look like and why will it inspire someone? Hopefully this point of view will afford you the chance to dream about your future and to also realize that your efforts have the ability to encourage others around you to strive forward.
As you dream, if a relationship or a situation is a perceived obstacle, what are you going to do about it? Are you going to “act” it out by using silence or violence to get your way? What about learning some new communication techniques to “talk it out.” Is that possible? You may have been facing this dilemma in your head for quite some time and we would like to encourage you to look at next year as your chance to create a great work of art that could stand for decades. Dream about next year’s edition of you, this is the perfect time of year for it.
Designing Your Team From Scratch? Jack Clark Has a Few Ideas For You
Another thing that leaders do this time of year is think about their teams and how they are performing, and if any tweaks are needed to improve next year. If you are in this frame of mind we highly recommend you watch this 12 minute video from Rugby Hall of Fame player and Coach Jack Clark. He has been the coach of USA Rugby and for the Cal Bears and his players for decades have walked their talk. He is now sharing how to build out a system of values for your team, and once they are codified and defined they can be measured and required.
Two things jump out to us. The first is that Clark is selling the concept of pushing decisions as far out in the system as possible. This is very hard for insecure leaders to do, they are unsure about the outcome and as such want to control everyone and have all hard questions come back through them. This is the definition of a “Kingdom” culture. Clark specifically describes how his first value of “selflessness” allows every member of his team to make quick decisions. They just ask, “What is best for the team?” and the answer appears. This is brilliant.
Clark also highlights the differences between authority and leadership. He articulates that every human system must have a chain of command, yet every member of the team has the ability to be a leader. As you are looking to equip even the newest hire to help your company, consider taking a page from his book and outlining the differences between the two. It just might empower your younger employees more than you can imagine. Authority is how decisions are made, leadership is how you inspire others.
"Branches & Roots": A Look at Strategy and Competition Through the Lens of Business and Sport
A Banyan Tree Strategies Communication
Attitudes Are Contagious, Is Yours Worth Catching?
The phrase "finishing strong" comes to mind as we peer around the corner at the next 45 days. Plans made for 2016 have been launched, challenged, met, and in many cases are almost complete. If your plans involved some stretch goals it is at this point in the year where the pain exists and the questions linger. Will we make it? Most of our readers are leading themselves and others through these active times, and if you ever wonder why you care about attitudes, we have found some research that backs up what your gut has been telling you all along. Energy transfers quickly between humans. Join us for a few quick looks at how some are improving in the area of team performance.
Trusting Your Spider Sense
How fast can you tell the mood of a room? How is it that in an instant we can pick up the buzz or the tone? Something in our make-up affords us this capacity, yet for decades managers have dismissed the productivity benefits of person to person energy transfer when it comes to getting things done. Often times the grumpiest person seems to be able to reign over all, and decide that smiling might hurt the bottom line. Culture-oriented advocates will run up against the dreaded “what it is the return on investment” and seldom have any real proof behind their soft skills training.
Recently Wayne Baker of the Michigan School of Business wrote a short piece for the Harvard Business Review titled “The More you energize your coworkers, the better everyone performs.” It proves that attitudes matter and can increase worker productivity. Baker writes about concepts like a reciprocity ring, and mapping relational energy, which have been effectively proven to increase the productivity of teams. We encourage everyone to click through to the different studies they have completed as you look to develop your own teams.
Colin Powell himself has stated that “perpetual optimism is a force multiplier” and if you are trying to get the team across finish line it doesn’t hurt to re-read the Little Engine That Could. Attitudes ARE contagious.
In Pursuit of Play
Something has been in the water in Seattle since 2010 when Pete Carroll took his "pursuit of play" practice methodology to the Seahawks. We think his work with Michael Gervais gets right to the heart of attitudes being contagious, especially in the highly negotiated world of NFL players practice time.
Every NFL athlete knows he is a going out of business sale, every down could be his last, and this includes practice reps. Their finely tuned bodies must perform at the highest level or the system will produce the next man up. If that happens, the opportunity costs of being a professional athlete immediately start to show their ugly faces. Hidden by the fame and the glory is the difficulty in skill transfer to a non-sport, normal work activity. In short, NFL players have every incentive in the world to not want to practice hard. “Coach, I got this,” can be code for, why should I exert myself now if it is unclear how it is going to help me play well, and earn my next contract regardless of whether we win the game or not.
Talk about a tough culture nut to crack, yes you can scare them into practicing and try to force it. But Pete Carroll took an interesting flank into this problem. He asked the question, can we create a culture of people aspiring to be their best, and learning how to do that by competing with each other and their best self. At the core of this mindset is an attitude that is positive and adaptable, someone who is ready for anything. Gervais and Carroll have been tapping into their players imaginations and are passionately in pursuit of play. Think about your own teams, could you change things up a bit to develop a fresh perspective on learning to enhance performance? There is some good science to back this up that our friend Dr. Glen Albaugh recently shared.
Its All On The Line at the Ryder Cup
The United States has won two of the last ten Ryder Cups. It’s an ugly stat that very few in the golfing world are letting go unnoticed. Task forces have been formed, greats of the game have gotten into verbal skirmishes of how we should adapt, and it’s been a mess.
Finally we have the Ryder Cup the US should win, a huge golf course in the middle of the country, and the European team has six rookies. Yet the matches still have to be played, and the putts holed. Right in the middle of the event lurks a hard truth. The Europeans like each other more, they play for each other, and they team up faster than the US side.
For us, a group of golfing, team creating, tinkerers, this is excellent theater. We are watching the following themes this weekend at the Ryder Cup, and are curious what you notice as well.
Any way you slice it, this is Phil Mickelson’s Ryder Cup. He bristled under the PGA of America’s leadership, used his well-deserved clout to change things, and has planned and prepared alongside Davis Love for the last two years. He is an all-world performer who loves the high stakes. Watch how he interacts with others, as he balances his drive with being too controlling for some peoples tastes.
The local crowd should have an impact before the event is complete, see if you can notice in the post round interviews if it adds to the resolve of the European team, or undermines their confidence.
Let’s see if the American’s can live out their “13” image on their head covers promoting the "We Are 13" fan campaign and get the Mo (momentum) going collectively.
Book Review - Can You Keep Your Cool When The Building is on Fire?
The Red Bandana" by Tom Rinaldi
Welles Crowther died saving the lives of others in the South Tower on September 11th, 2001. He had ample time to leave the building, he carried others to safety and kept going back up into the fire zone to save more. He died less than 50 feet from safety along with other firefighters. They weren’t running for it, they were planning how to help even more people. The thing about Welles Crowther, he wasn’t a fire fighter, he was a trader for Sandler O’Neil. His attitude in the midst of chaos was that of clear and direct communication to people in duress, to people on fire. He gave them a pathway to follow and saved their lives. His attitude and story are now available for all to learn about in a new book by Tom Rinaldi by the name of “The Red Bandana”. The story of the families love and the survivors stories are compelling and most contagious of all is the courage so many showed that day helping others.
"Branches & Roots": A Look at Strategy and Competition Through the Lens of Business and Sport
A Banyan Tree Strategies Communication
Membership Matters...Where Do You Belong?
In a perfectly efficient world, we at Banyan would be able to know the first thing that popped into your head when you read the title: where do you belong? Collecting the data from several thousand people all at once would be amazing. We feel fairly certain that you did have an answer, as we all belong to some sort of group. Families are groups, as are schools, sports teams, churches and with the Olympics ongoing it is hard to leave countries off this list. For most of 2016 we have started to notice another enterprise that is paying attention to our human need of belonging, and our strong sense of group. That group is the for-profit business.
As we head into the fall and the fast dash to finish 2016 on a high note, we thought we would share a few things we have noticed about our sense of belonging. Even though it is remaining as strong as ever, it seems that we are distributing it to more entities. We appear to be in a time of great expansion when it comes to options for membership. In our lifetime, we have gone from three TV channels and no remote to millions of options on YouTube. When it comes to your personal tastes in reading, our subscriptions have expanded from maybe a magazine or two, to hundreds of likes on Facebook that keep us connected to a brand or cause. It also looks like our belonging is expanding from the big three of family, religion, and country, to everything we purchase or consume.
As students of how groups become teams in both business, sport, and life, we thought a few quick vignettes on the expansion of the membership economy could be of use to you as you lead your collective teams.
The Power of Extending Membership to Someone Else
The Olympic Games in Rio have had a series of compelling story lines that accompany the stunning vistas of the Rio skyline, with none more heart wrenching than the delegation of refugees who are competing without a country. Think about that; they don’t have a country. They don’t belong to one of the big three groups. Yet here they are, competing under the Olympic flag. Is there a country in the world that wouldn't want an Olympian as a citizen?
Our guess is the prospects for these athletes are solid. They will find countries, and chances are they will make a contribution greater than some who were born into that nation. Being without something can make one cherish it when it is returned or found. This is exactly where we think business owners can make a difference in a person’s life. When looking at your potential employees, you are extending to them a chance to belong. They get to become a member of your team, and membership can lead to access and to success. As you are scanning the horizon seeking great talent to transform your company, keep an eye out for those scrappers who may be a tick light on talent, but will never undervalue access to your group.
Can Your Brand Connect Into a Customer's Sense of Belonging?
If a brand is a promise wrapped up in an experience, and membership equals access to scarce resources, then the question is can your brand deliver a sought after experience? An example is that anyone can go to Disneyland, but only the members get the back stage conversation with Mickey and Minnie. In fact Disneyland has its own executive training center that allows other companies to learn how they have created millions of members around the world who vacation almost exclusively at Disney properties. Talk about a small world…
Most companies would die to have this sense of connection with their customers. In the midst of segmenting their members, Disney still finds a way to make the person who bought the general admission ticket feel like their access to the Magic Kingdom is scarce. Brilliant! Our central question here is, how can we incentivize our customers to want to become members? If you are having success with this at your company, please share with us here.
Book Review - A Book That Puts it All Together
“The Membership Economy” by Robbie Kellman Baxter
Silicon Valley consultant Robbie Baxter does an excellent job of outlining how different size companies can adapt to the emerging membership economy. She shares how to bootstrap your own idea all the way up to how Weight Watchers adapted to this new market reality. There are take a ways for how business owners should work with their employees and their customers. This is not just a book for the head of marketing, it is applicable for any parent or grandparent as they look to stay current with how people’s sense of belonging is driving their actions.
Going from the Big Three of Family, Religion, and Country to hundreds of affiliations can cause stress across the generations, if you get really stuck, take solace, at least you don’t have it as bad as good ole Charlie Brown…
A Banyan Tree Strategies Communication
Conflict is King
Happy 240th Birthday to America! As we think about our nation's birthday in the midst of an interesting political time here in the USA, World News has really dominated the last 45 days. Trying to shed light on all the scenarios in Europe is daunting, but if we use our lens of 'group into teams' we found some similarities in the happenings in London with what companies face when they don't fully engage all of their constituencies. Henry Kissinger's paragraph in a WSJ op-ed this week synthesized it best for our tastes. "The coin of the realm for statesmen is not anguish or recrimination: it should be to transform setback into opportunity." Seems like you could change the word statesmen with coach, manager, leader, or parent and it still rings true.
The Fourth of July and the US 240th year had us thinking about anniversary numbers and things long past being relevant still today. We noticed that this is the 400th anniversary of William Shakespeare's death. Historians have been helping us understand just how much our Presidents have been influenced by The Bard, even after 400 years. Here is an interesting article by Edward Rothstein.
The number 400 then had us leaping off to the upcoming anniversary of our country's discovery by Europeans in 1620. We started to wonder if there is anything we can learn from those early pioneers. Our research turned up something we found of interest. It turns out that even though this group of explorers had to be bound close together and cooperate in order to survive the journey, once they got here, conflict reigned.
From a media perspective, conflict makes for good copy, and it appears that we are entering a period of well documented strife. This time around, however, thanks to the smart phone, we have three billion journalists jamming the endless channels. We wonder where a young Kissinger would find the opportunity in that?
Cat Scratch Fever
If a politician must communicate why they are the right person for the hour at hand, and we have for decades laughed at how they will say anything to get elected, then the time may have come for the mid-career professional to take a page from their book. Two economies, the old and the new, are crashing into each other with massive force and frequency these days. The collateral damage are the people who work as employees. The language we use to discuss how a company shrinks its employee base will always mask the harsh reality for the person who has been let go. Terms such as RIF (reduction in force), normalize, and other catchy explanations keep the people who remain comfortable in their seats, yet in the back of their mind they have to be wondering: Am I next?
Recent engagements and meetings had us learning more and more about what a professional could be communicating when it comes to their strengths and capabilities. We have named a new tool Re-CAST (Career Assessment Strategic Training). We are happy to share with you the basics of what have learned so far.
In brief, we all need to be able to communicate what our strengths are, what type of team player we are, where we work best, all wrapped up in the context of the market reality for the institution. Companies are adjusting to the needs of their customers every year, and this creates an opportunity for an individual who can articulate their value to the company's needs in the future.
While some of this may seem like timeless advice, the difference these days is the duration of the commitment. The more flexible the individual can be when engaging with an institution, the more they will be able to charge for their services. A large reason for this comes from the heavy government oversight companies face when it comes to the category of an employee, and how quickly customers are changing their mind. This keeps organizations reluctant to hire someone full time. The one-two punch of a fickle customer and a strict regulator can make any business owner gun-shy.
Taking a page from a congressman who runs for re-election every two years, building your career with two-year tours of duty within a company appears attractive. How you articulate this and how you go about finding the right company to team up with now becomes a very important skill to have. Gone are the days of attending the best college possible, or to acquire the best training program possible from the largest company, and then not have to think about career positioning ever again. The frequency with which the professional will need to assess if a company is a good fit, and then communicate how their contribution will make the greatest impact, is on the rise.
We welcome your feedback on our one pager here.
Hey Buddy, How About a Lyft?
If there ever was a shining example of adapting their individual talents to the needs of an enterprise in the context of a market reality, it has to be Shaquile O'Neal. A giant from the day he was born, Shaq dealt with all the hype that came with being "The Man" in college and then the pros. He handled the expectation and learned how to share the ball and won multiple NBA titles.
Recently he has joined the team at TNT to analyze NBA games with Charles Barkley and Kenny Smith. Shaq's voice is so low, you have to turn up the TV to hear what he says, but it is always worth it. He talks and preaches about "the others" and how you only win when you get the ball moving in all five players hands. He also is completely comfortable in his own skin, and uses humor as a fantastic motivator and collaborative elixir.
His recent marketing efforts with ride sharing company Lyft had us in stitches and even if you don't find this as funny as we do, consider how Shaq is using his attributes to his advantage and adapting to the market realities of the day. Well done Shaq!
We welcome any comments and have a fun and safe Fourth of July!
A Banyan Tree Strategies Communication
Does Your Disadvantage Have an Advantage? Dr. Seuss Thinks so…Eggs Anyone??
Welcome to the final 45 days of the first half of 2016, a time of great expectation. Business deals need to close before summer starts, and the long days and warm evenings of June and July creep into even the most focused mind. Thoughtful leaders are aware of this dynamic, and are wise to let the thoughts simmer without boiling over. You can just hear the manager thinking, “Yes, let’s dream a bit, but also finish our work as well, that customer would like to have our product before they go on their own vacation."
Into this short season we offer thoughts on how you can stay adaptable in the face of a new constraint, consider a fresh way to view the difference between power and influence, and what a flywheel can teach us about our network. We close with an entertaining video on how to best use Skype for a job interview.
Eggs Anyone? What does Dr. Seuss have to do with your ability to use a constraint to improve your performance? Well, it turns out most of us only have so much resolve to repeat a task over and over, and there is a point of diminishing returns with the "rinse, repeat" strategy of human learning. This is where the concept of adding a constraint to your practice enters our field of view. Most of us have acquired some level of skill in order to meet our consumption needs, and if we are really fortunate we enjoy the tasks we are paid to perform. Yet the forces of creative destruction are high, and it pays to keep improving and adapting (anyone reading this on a blackberry??)
A recent study showed that when participants were given a constraint to their practice, their output increased over the average. A living example of this is the book “Green Eggs and Ham,” which was written when Theodore Geisel was given the constraint of writing a children’s book with no more than 50 words. A frequent way to think about this concept is in daily life, the moment something changes to the negative see if you can ask yourself, what is the advantage in my apparent disadvantage? Does this new constraint open up an opportunity to enhance my performance?
Connecting this back to you and your team's production, how might you change up the practice and or rhythms of the group with a fresh constraint? How might thinking about changes this way improve both the resiliency and the adaptability of your team? Consider asking a few folks to diversify your data set and then let us know what you come up with.
Power vs. Influence
Several years ago our work led us to draw the Tree of Performance above as a way to illustrate the difference between extrinsic and intrinsic motivation for a group of managers who were struggling to hit their goals. The idea of the image is to give the person in charge an idea of how many more levers they have to work with inside an individual, as opposed to the obvious "carrot and stick" behavioral outcome options. Recently, we began to return to this image as a way to suggest to business owners and executives that when it comes to power and influence the same could be true. Power typically only extends to the end of where the holder has the ability to monitor and therefore control outcomes (think US Military in a foreign country like Korea.) Influence, however, moves freely around and under borders, and trades on a completely different exchange: that of human emotion. It is our “ism” that flies around the world confounding leaders, and this greatly adds to our influence. Capitalism speaks to the roots of a persons need for self-improvement as they climb Maslow's ladder.
In your own life as a leader you probably toggle back and forth between using your power and your influence without much notice. Our leadership engagements have left us considering the consequences that come from using power versus influence and we have noticed that the latter far outpaces the former but can require more time and energy. When time is short, it helps to have practiced your verbal communication in tapping into your teams roots, or you will most likely go back to the old faithful “my way or the highway” levers. What have you noticed in this area?
Your Personal Flywheel
If your network is the sum of all your shared experiences, and your production is the outcome of your efforts, than we would like you to consider that your personal flywheel is the combined influence of all of your connections. The great thing about having a network of people you have shared life experiences with is that they are a primary source on you and your character. Another benefit is that your network also cares deeply about their own success, and they are actively growing their own careers. As the calendar year turns towards the summer months, consider allocating some of that lost time of production to feeding your relationships with genuine inquiries regarding well-being and current plans. We wrote a white paper on this topic so if it feels awkward, you can follow our script. The interaction with your network will keep your activity and acuity levels at game-ready speed at a time of year when things can slow down. The norms of reciprocity will also be in your favor, as you seek to understand what’s new with them, they will return the inquiry. Give it a shot and let us know how it goes.
Video conferencing has been around for at least a decade, and for many it is received with a mixed bag of emotions. Do I really need to see you while we are talking? Do I stare at the screen or the camera? Can we please change the camera angle as I am distracted by seeing how awful I look? These and other questions pop into people’s heads as reasons not to like video conferencing. Yet the technology is not going away, and a company by the name of SKYPE has become a global standard for communication, and therefore it pays to understand how to use it effectively. With that in mind we share a very entertaining and short video on how to interview well on SKYPE. You may want to forward it on to a friend who is graduating from college, or watch it yourself for some helpful tips in video conferencing etiquette.
We close with the reminder, when change happens, what is your new advantage?
A Banyan Tree Strategies Communication
"Citius, Altius, Fortius"; Learning How to Compete With Your Best Self as a Team, a True Challenge
Welcome to the second quarter of the year and the beginning of the last 45-days where work is still at the top of everyone’s priority stack. Your efforts to make 2016 a success should be in full swing and with a good start under their belts, many will be looking to stay the course. It is at this exact moment that quite a bit of self-sabotage occurs as we look to strike a balance between overdoing it, letting off the gas too much, and losing our momentum. Thousands of athletes are counting down the days to the 31st Olympiad in Rio; many are swift, others are strong, and all are focused. Yet how will they spend the next 124 days competing with their best self and for those of us competing in the Olympics of life, how do we keep the flame of inspiration and effort lit over the long haul?
Having great relationships with others who we share commonalities in genes, interests, and abilities has shown to enhance the quality of our existence. Coming together as a group to form a cohesive team also helps us all to strive with. Striving with, or being with are common origins of the word “Competition” and in this issue we are going to look at concepts like culture, influence, and agreement as outcomes that can be improved when the principles of striving with are implemented. Speaking of competition, The Masters is this week and we end with a golf viewing tip for you, as the splendor of Augusta National hits your television.
Is Your Culture a WOW! Or a Whatever?
One of the benefits of helping companies work on turning groups of people into teams is that you get to visit a wide variety of settings and environments. A recent trip to a professional college had us buzzing and prompted the above title. This team of 125 teachers, administrators, and service staff were on fire from the very beginning of the two-day long all-hands meeting all the way until the end. Every member of the team was making a sacrifice to be present, and the business itself was closed the entire time. Thinking of the total cost to the enterprise would make most owners blink, yet like clockwork for years these days are reserved to fill up the tanks of the people that make the company tick. If your current culture is more of a Whatever these days than a Wow, see if implementing a few of these tips we gleaned will help.
An initial idea to consider is having a common way to signal the end of a situation or event. Most companies will have gatherings, and even with the best clock management they can run long. With attention spans waning you increase the chances of having the end of your meeting being a dud, which sends your people scattering and potentially lacking vigor. Consider having something everyone does together to officially signal moving on to the next task. Think of a football team clapping their hands as they break the huddle. Your group should have its own authentic act, but as corny as it sounds it brings your people together.
Another tip is to allow your long standing employees to talk about their experiences at the company. You will be shocked at how seriously they will take this, and it signals to everyone that commitment to the company is honored and appreciated. You needn't have a perfect culture to accomplish this, and the people you are honoring will have had challenges along the way. Regardless, this ceremony binds your people to each other and your enterprise.
Finally, give your new employees a chance to answer a few key questions in front of the group, and make sure they are made to feel very welcome. One of the questions can be serious enough to let the entire group know that not just anyone qualifies to be on this team, and we are all looking to make a contribution. We really liked the question; what do you intend to contribute to our purpose, mission, and objectives? As newcomers stand in front of a group of warm fellow teammates and are given a resounding ovation after they share their answer, you are well on your way to having a culture of Wow vs Whatever. Here is a short video about how Zappos built a culture of Wow in Las Vegas where the call center employees are motivated to keep customers on the phone longer….
Your Moment For Maximum Influence
This summer in Rio there will be moments where everything will be on the line and an announcer will say that the athlete will have to live with the consequences of the outcome for the rest of their lives. In almost all cases there will be only one gold medal awarded and the winner will have a moment that makes the difference in their victory. The tension captivates millions of viewers around the world, yet what about our lives and careers, do we have similar moments? We believe you do, and would like to outline two situations that you can look for to increase your ability to influence positive outcomes for your team.
The first moment occurs when a potential customer responds to your company's offer with a standard “no thank you” objection. Very few customers answer in the affirmative when first approached, and most offer a common objection. Unfortunately, many people within the company and even the sales people accept the response as a final adjudication. This may not be the final javelin throw in the Olympics, but it is still a moment for maximum influence because the candidate has engaged you in dialog by responding to your offer with a no. You have a split second to keep them in dialog and inside your funnel of potential customers, or risk having to come back and restart the process, and take the chance to get a second no out of them. Rational people are happy to say no once, but repeating themselves on any matter is certain to draw their ire. It is at this moment of “no thank you I already have a cpa” that your team should have planned out a few key statements that will allow the prospect to look at their needs in a new light.
Winning in this setting is not an accident, good teams plan through the standard responses, have them cataloged and are prepared to keep a prospect in dialog just long enough to either move to the next step or establish clearly that they are not a prospect.
The second area is a derivative of the first, and has to do with how long it takes an organization to respond to a potential conflict or disagreement. If you are seeking advancement it is great to be known as someone who easily handles conflict without losing their cool. This is especially true if you are not endowed with great authority inside the group. A low power person who can navigate a disagreement between two parties is a future leader, and a company that addresses conflict quickly is going to outpace a similar company that prefers to bury their issues and hope they will disappear.
Having an eye for advancement and an ear for conflict should be accompanied with some training on how to maintain mutual respect and agree to mutual purpose, and in all cases keep the dialog safe. In short, do not run into a burning building without a plan. Yet conflicts occur every day and being equipped to handle them will present you with moments for maximum influence.
Getting to Agreement When We Don’t Even Celebrate the Same Way
No better example of culture clashes that make you fall out of your chair laughing exists than “My Big Fat Greek Wedding”. The image of the parents of the groom showing up to the “let’s meet the other family before the wedding party” with a bundt cake still makes us chuckle. But what about when things are a little tenser and the stakes are higher? Dr. Erin Meyer has a new short videoout on how we can improve our chances of working with other cultures and it begins by seeing and understanding the habits of other cultures when it comes to things like celebration and disagreement. Given the diversity of most work forces, sharing insight with your team about these fundamental differences should go a long way towards allowing everyone to agree, even when we might express our agreement differently.
What to Look For After Your Favorite Golfer Has Driven Down Magnolia Lane
Next week 92 golfers will be searching for their highest and best self to appear in an effort to wear a most coveted green jacket, and pick the menu for next year’s champion’s dinner at the Augusta National Golf Club. The rest of the golfing world will be watching in earnest to see who has the goods to get past Amen corner and close the deal to win the first men’s major of 2016. If you are fortunate enough to watch the CBS broadcast we suggest you pay particular attention to the dialog between the player and their caddy when they are picking a club. Golf at its highest level requires precise touch in the midst of a mildly violent act. Moving a stick around your body in such a way as to propel a golf ball hundreds of yards and to have it stop where you want it requires an athlete to have above all things; rhythm. One of the places we build rhythm is in the cadence of communication and movement prior to getting set over a shot, and that place can be a swamp of confusion when it comes to what club to hit and how to hit it.
Recent brain science is starting to show what part of the brain is working when we are thinking, speaking and visualizing. The question that our athletes appear to be answering for us as they play Augusta National is which part of the brain produces the best result. So this week as you are watching the telecast, tune out what the broadcasters are saying and see if you can watch the body language of the player and how it changes when they find it easy to get to a number vs when it takes them longer. If you spot something cool, make sure to email us and share your findings. We will be curious how long it takes Jason Day to get into the shot, he does a lot of eye fluttering. We will be listening to Phil Mickelson talk it up with Bones, he has a high twitch brain. In the end, we will also be listening to and rooting for Jordan Speith, he rolls his ball with purpose.
Our new book is out on Amazon! Get organized for life and work at TheNextGenAlmanac.com
A Banyan Tree Strategies Communication
Don't Forget the Followers
If stimulation and activity can make a day pass more quickly, than it stands to reason that the first 45 days of 2016 have been a blur. The world is in play, the start of the year has most groups advancing their agendas, and it would appear some decade old economic plates are shifting. This combined with the fact that you have a super computer on your person at all times can make us feel compelled to be up to speed with everything, the consequences can lead to feeling busy but getting nowhere. Fortunately with the right technology and some personal awareness, we can set up filters to maintain our productivity and make the best contribution possible.
Several ideas and conversation threads began to emerge from our meetings and we would like to share with you our findings, and when you have a minute we would appreciate your comments and educated perspective. We start by looking at the strength of having a common mission when it comes to helping disparate groups come together for success. A different set of meetings had us looking more closely at what it takes to be a good follower, and we close by asking you how long it takes your team to deal with conflict.
Keep the Lava Flowing
Take the business or effort that you are most committed to and think how long it would it would last if you left it unattended. Would your business last one day, one week, one month, or longer if you stopped calling on your customers? Could your customer get the service or product you provide someplace else? Given the maturity of most of our markets and the competitive landscape the answer can be quite short. We have used this example in several settings to help leaders share with their constituents and team members just how diligently we must care for our causes. An image that appears to accompany this thought nicely is that of an island in the middle of the ocean. As long as the lava is flowing the island is growing, once it stops the ocean starts to win the battle and eventually the island is gone. In our metaphor the lava is the idea that binds and gives life to the effort. As time marches forward many people lose sight of the idea, and assume that the lava will always flow. Into this setting a simple question might be of use to you. What is the mission? Without the proper gravity applied to the situation, answers to what is the mission will favor the flippant and glib, so be sure to lay the correct foundation. Then sit back and listen to all parties, and hone in on the common elements that can be agreed on to keep the lava flowing. Teams come in all shapes, sizes, and styles in how they succeed, yet most have a common mission or idea that they sell both inside and outside the organization. If you are a leader of any type, we are curious what you will hear when you ask, what is the mission?
Good Followers Make Good Leaders
It is hard to go five minutes in America today and not hear about the need for better leaders. Most organizations are consistently messaging how they will help you become a better leader, and the word management has become the anti-thesis to leadership. Yet to lead anyone other than yourself you actually need someone else to commit to following you. On that topic we have read, seen, or heard very little. Why is this? Should you care about it? How might it benefit you to be able to follow and lead as the situation fits?
The lack of attention with following might be tied to the disruption that software and long tail businesses have been having on the established norms in the past few decades. Yet disruption by technology easily goes back to the time of Martin Luther and the Gutenberg press (Clay Shirky’s Ted Talk is a good example). It turns out humans grow tired of being forced to follow leaders and companies that gain an advantage and then force it upon the world. Freedom of choice and free will are glorious, and technology is affording many the chance to lead themselves. Yet eventually we do have some plumbing and infrastructure issues that require group cohesion, and we get back to the notion of following.
Pick a group situation like a youth sports team 16 weeks in duration, or your current employer, or your city's recreation and parks department. Without a clear plan for leading and following, chaos reigns. It is here where we offer some insights for you to consider and hopefully comment. A member of the team, company, or town might be thinking they have customer rights as if they are staying at a Ritz Carlton hotel. We have found it can be healthier if they embody the spirit of a Salvation Army bell ringer at Christmas time, asking, how might I help the team today, and what can I do to make this a better team environment? Key traits we have noticed in all-star followers are empathy, foresight, and encouragement.
What happens to us when we are tasked with following is we go through a process of seeing the needs of those around us, and learning how to keep thinking while someone else is in command. What you are thinking about is key for you to then train those who follow you when your turn comes to lead. We close this thought with a hope that you will see the benefits of following as a pathway to leading others more effectively in the future. Seek to make those around you better, understand the groups needs and advance the common cause and soon enough you will have more responsibility. At that point you may look around you and wish that you had been a better follower, who could now teach others what to do so you could focus on your role as leader.
How Big is Your Conversational Graveyard?
All of us have a conversation or two that we have held off having because the cost benefit analysis did not add up in our mind. Any group of people who assemble will eventually have a misalignment of goals and conflict and emotion will enter the room. It is at this moment that our graveyard grows, or we address the issue and move forward more equipped to tackle the next conflict as a unit. Think about your own graveyard at work or at home, is yours bursting at the seams? Recently the team at Vital Smarts shared a video where they declared the health of an organization could be tied directly to the length of time it takes them to address conflicts.
Part of the reason we all have a graveyard is that emotion is one of hardest things for our body to process, and we decide that it is safer to bury it. The challenge is that conflicts don’t dissolve, they fester. Situations arise where the old emotions reappear in an instant, and then everyone around you sits back to watch you squirm, or better yet give them a front row seat to a fireworks show. Building a conversational tool kit to manage these conflicts is one of the most empowering and career advancing things you can do for your team. It will also save your team hundreds of hours that aren’t wasted with people talking about the latest battle, or from people working at half speed dealing with the emotions in their heads.
So look at your own conversational graveyard, and think about the story that is in your head with respect to the other party. Consider setting a goal of addressing it in the next week. Like a big project that is finished, a conflict resolved can be one of the most re-energizing feelings in the world, if you want some help, give us a call and we will share some tips we have learned that make tough conversations a little easier.
Thanks for collaborating with us and sharing your thoughts on these topics here, and we will see you at the beginning of April.
Your Next Step
Happy New Year! We led off 2015 with an inspirational poem that resonated with many. We decided to kick off our third year of Branches & Roots with a new creation, focused around the different types of teams we often write about. We look forward to partnering with you in 2016.
Here we go!
Drew & Sara
Your Next Step
How will you take on the New Year?
An ominous thought no doubt.
The tasks are many and the time is dear.
Chart a course, and take the First Step.
What will your key partner need?
Potato sack races require harmony.
Understand each other through word and deed.
Listen first, agree on a goal, and take the Next Step.
How could this year make your small team take flight?
A group fed by two pizzas is sized for success.
The V8 engine roars when the timing is right.
Learn each others strengths and habits, and take the Next Step.
Your whole group gathers and agendas abound.
Leading from the front can find you alone.
Seek the middle, where the council is found.
Align the interests, and take the Next Step.
Why should a community care about each other?
Aren't we made to quarrel and fight?
Don't let the news steal the joy and smother.
Find that common why, bond together, and take a Collective Step.
Our interactions with others come in many forms and sizes.
Projects are ongoing or maybe starting anew.
Team dynamics are hard work until one realizes,
Finishing the job right is what they are meant to do.
Let's Do Something Great....
A Banyan Tree Strategies Communication
The Secret Ingredients to Winning Teams - #1 Humility
Whether 2015 has brought you joy or sorrow, success or failure, or life or death, each passing year the virtue of humility and its teachings are never far away. We hope you enjoy our findings and of course would love to hear your own perspectives on the topic here.
We would like to thank you for your support and encouragement in 2015 and look forward to our interactions in 2016. Who knows, we may even come up with another poem to kick of the year. Most certainly we will be following up with additional secret ingredients of winning teams, after humbly kicking off the first below.
A recent Wall Street Journal article caught my eye and it started us down the path of what makes a humble leader and how it works in sport and life.
So what on earth does humility have to do with business and sport leadership and team success? Depending on your bent, either nothing, or everything. Webster’s Dictionary tells us that humility is the quality or state of not thinking you are better than other people. Others have described humility as not thinking less of yourself, but of thinking of yourself less often. Regardless, in a performance driven world being confident and humble at the same time appears to be a paradox. Our attempts to solve this riddle have led us to seek out the most humble of confident groups, the U.S. Navy Seals. The men who have earned the right to say they served as a Seal are an accomplished and confident group, yet as you get to know them the dominate trait they share is a searing passion for humbly serving their team.
It appears the Seals have figured out how to have a high performing team full of confident people, who are all willing to risk everything to support the team’s mission. The correlation to other team environments is worth a closer look. How do they do it, what is their process, and can you duplicate it with your team? To start, let’s take the miles of running in the sand, the racing and beaching of small boats in high waves, and the sleep deprivation out of the equation. Most of us are just looking to get our work or sports team to come together and be a caring unit, so that we can optimize our chances for success in a highly competitive world. So what is it that we can mirror and learn from the Seals?
We have noticed three key behaviors all tied back to their humble spirits. First, you will never hear them ever speak poorly of another member of their team. This may not seem like a big deal, but bagging on a teammate is a classic trait seen in teams that are average performers. They haven’t taken the leap to care enough about each other, and they just might be over their skis, or not have a clear picture of what winning looks like. When you witness this behavior, make a note of it, and then at a private moment share with the offending party how cancerous this is to the team’s health.
Another big leap the Seals take is being fully accountable to the team for the review of their performance. If the unit does not feel they did their best, then they did not do their best. The giving up of one’s personal performance review is a huge leap for most people, and as a leader it is hard to see where your team is on this metric. Yet this mindset is the beginning of a most powerful seed called trust, and as you see people grimace and squirm when they are reviewed by their peers, you are witnessing them “leak” physically as they mentally struggle with this issue. As the leader, make sure you keep your direct reports aware of how challenging this step can be for some people. Hammering an offender will not lead to trust, it takes curiosity and some tact to get most people to take this step.
The final trait tied to humility we have witnessed with the Seals is that they have found the deepest human energy reserve that is known to exist, a fanatical commitment to serving the team. When it comes to energy, we all have some interesting emotions to tap for our internal fuel. Hate and anger are powerful fuels, however they are akin to sugars that burn hot and fast. The challenge is that sugars do not sustain you and have toxic exhausts that make you hard to be around. Joy and happiness work extremely well for creating contagious energy, yet are too ephemeral to last and sustain, they are like pixie dust. The long term protein of internal fuels for humans is the service of others who you are committed to help. When a person is tapping the emotion of helping those they are committed to, they have fuel for days.
The Seals teams’ commitment level is life or death. For us, the stakes are often far less serious, yet getting everyone on the same page about the level of commitment to the team is important. Most groups of people you are involved with have different pictures of success. Many are defining their success individually, and have vastly different levels of commitment. As a teammate, team captain, or coach of the unit, you might consider the power of implementing some Navy Seal humility.
"Extreme Ownership" by Jocko Willink and Leif Babin
This book just came out and is already the number one ranked business book in the United States. The two authors walk you through the lessons they learned in combat in Iraq in 2006, and how it can correlate to our work environment. We found the book to be very current and aligned with other teachings about decentralizing decisions and building highly adaptive teams. It also comes with a stiff challenge, if you are a leader of a team and it is failing, it is your fault. Period. No excuses. You are to blame and you need to marshal all your personal resources to adapt and improve. Both Willink and Babin are Navy Seals and they share openly about their mistakes and the lessons learned while serving our country. Both men come across as competent, assertive, confident leaders, and yet each chapter addresses areas where they made mistakes. Extreme Ownership is a book that teaches the virtue of humility amidst the chaos and the fog of war.
The Year of the Humble Champions in Golf
2015 treated us to some of the best major championship competition we have seen in years, and the top performers all had one thing in common. They were humbled by their moment and gracious in their moments of triumph. Jordan Spieth’s body of work across all 4 events takes you back to Ben Hogan days, and if he had won all four events we bet they would have had a ticker tape parade for him in Dallas. His demeanor and competitive grit make him one of the easiest golfers to root for in the history of the game.
The British Open champion Zach Johnson was a self-described emotional mess. Whilst fighting back tears he was adamant in declaring he is the tip of the iceberg, meaning everyone sees him play the game but without his team he would be nowhere. He deserves a hearty golf clap for taking down a stacked field and a wind and rain swept timeless St. Andrews links.
Jason Day left a birdie putt short to join the playoff at the British Open, and in that moment of despair turned the corner to become the dominate player in the world for four months after, including the PGA Championship at Whistling Straits. His walk to victory saw him leaning on his caddy and lifelong mentor Colin Swatton on many occasions, and he fought back tears of emotion that come from representing his family in their joint quest. It was only in the weeks after his victory that he shared with the world the horrors of his upbringing, and again we are amazed by the humbleness of this athlete.
Looking ahead to 2016 we are curious how Rory MclIroy will perform, and also have an eye to the bright future of Patrick Rodgers and a young amateur by the name of Maverick McNealy. If they are taking notes on how to be the best, it would appear they might want to take note of these 2015 champions and make sure a dash of humility is part of their morning coffee.
A Banyan Tree Strategies Communication
Not A Time For Quiet Historians
We are fourteen months out from electing our next President, and the United States along with the ever connected world we live in are processing significant challenges to the status-quo. Long standing issues that have been simmering on the back burner are forcing their way to the front page, and the images can leave us stuck with a dilemma. Let the image of a face down child on the beach sink in, or not. Imagine being on a train in France or a community college in Oregon and what you would do if fate put you in the line of fire, or not. Picture being shot or beheaded because of your religion, or not. Try to process what appears to be a 7th century problem that you can do little to solve, or skim over it and complete your daily tasks in the fast changing 21st century present. All of this leads us to believe that now is not a time for quiet historians. Our historians typically pick up their craft as the living die off. Historians exist in the background weaving the fabric or our past together into a coherent narrative in the hopes that we might learn from our mistakes and fail forward in the future. It is at times like this that I hope our story tellers will emerge and work with our leaders to craft solutions that spread our infectious positive American energy both near and far.
Back at the Banyan workshop we have been fortunate enough to come across three quick performance enablers for you and your teams. In this edition of Branches & Roots we will explore:
• If you are looking to hire a young president, your odds improved in 2015.
• When working with a medium to large group of entry level employees we came across what we call the L3 solution for getting the troops to perform their best.
• Finally we are happy to pass on some wisdom from Nick Saban on how you can control your future with two little words, AND or BUT.
• Book Review is here and we have a look at the book "Team of Teams" by Stanley McChrystal.
Hail to the Chief
Article ll of the U.S. Constitution states that in order to be President of the United States you must be 35 years old. The closest the country has ever come to having a President this young was Teddy Roosevelt when he assumed the office in 1901 at the age of 42, and John Kennedy was elected at the age of 43. The age of 35 sits in the back of people’s minds in the modern day work landscape. It stands to reason if you are old enough to be President of the United States, surely a true star performer of that age can lead your company, or a large division. With that thought arrives 2015 bringing with it the largest crop of men and women turning 35 since 1999. You guessed it - the oldest members of the millennial generation are turning 35, and turns out they are finally buying homes and cars in droves. However, this story isn’t about consumer demand or that having children typically turns even the most ardent non-conformist into a safety freak. We want to add one more statistic to the mix. The millennial generation now makes up 45% of the entire workforce, and if the rumors are true that only a millennial can talk to millennial, then you had better hire the oldest one you can find to lead the rest of their lot.
We have spent the last 3 years working and leading this generation and find the future to be bright, if not different. Institutions will be questioned and doubted, self service will be preferred to full service, and sharing a car or a house with a stranger will not just become markets, they already are. So strap on for a wild next 10 years while the Millennials are given more and more responsibility and if you are looking to pick up a new language, we suggest it's emoji.
Winning the Troops Over Without a Hammer
Keeping with the theme that 45% of our workforce is not into autocratic leadership, we came across a solution while working with a few clients for getting your lowest paid employees to help set your company culture on the correct path. We started by identifying everyone into three categories, the Leaders, the Followers, and those that were Adrift. We then coached the supervisors that when they had the opportunity to individually encourage a specific worker, they give them category appropriate coaching while suggesting they show a certain type of leadership trait. We believe that until the team isn’t saying what the coach is saying before he says it, you haven’t said it enough. Doing this with a smile on your face makes everyone realize that you care, and that it really is quite simple, which makes it safe for them to try it.
Here is what we learned. You stick to three types of leadership traits, Effort Leadership, Inspirational Leadership, and Performance Leadership. You typically encourage the Adrift employee to be a leader by their effort and to engage in the team by following the leaders on the team. You encourage the Followers to be a leader by learning how to inspire their fellow team mates with their communication in attitude and respectful communication. Finally you encourage your current Leaders to be performance leaders and to keep recruiting the Adrift teammates to engage in the team effort. This cycle of 3’s has really worked and helps the supervisors offer customized encouragement and coaching for the employees to self-direct.
How to Get the Roles Right on Your Team, From the Beginning
Nick Saban has won more football games in the last 10 years than any other coach in America and sits atop one of the most active volcanoes in the country, the alumni of the University of Alabama. He was recently interviewed by David Feherty on The Golf Channel and he delivered an insight that we can’t stop repeating in our meetings. He referenced his time in the NFL when they would look at potential players and the one page player information sheets would all look the same, everyone was big fast and strong. He remarked that the coaches ended up looking for two small words at the end of each page, AND, or BUT. Clearly this was where the scout was sharing the character traits of the player and as we all know character counts, even in the NFL.
The insight we would like to add is that if you find yourself putting in a lot of effort into a group, or a company, or even a hobby and you aren’t getting much help or having the success you seek, it could be that you have an extra BUT that is keeping you from making progress. Take a look at the role you are playing, how it fits your strengths and then see if you need to make a change or two to get the added benefit of a reputation AND in that situation. Most of the BUT’s in your life are not eternal and heck even the Snickers candy bar company has run TV ads showing people getting a little cranky and then being their normal self after a little chocolate refreshment. Nick’s advice to his players is sage perspective for all of us, and the good news is you can pivot quickly and keep improving.
Team of Teams: New Rules of Engagement For A Complex World by Stanley McChrystal
We began this newsletter with some sober thoughts around human safety and are greatly encouraged by the work that General Stanley McChrystal recently completed in Iraq. He weaves in the realities of our war with Al Qaeda and how they adapted their teams’ efforts to survive against an enemy that appeared to have no center. The correlation between the life and death consequences of our troops and our more sanguine business efforts is artfully composed and one main point rings through. To compete in the future, decisions must be pushed to the very edge of the structure and they must be trusted and be able to adapt with as little friction as possible. Without spoiling the ending, he even encourages us as leaders to think like a gardener…
A Banyan Tree Strategies Communication
Mind Your Q's!
Good morning and welcome to one of the swiftest and most productive 45 day periods of the year. We hope you were able to sneak away from the world this summer for a week or two, and were able to widen the aperture on your lens and appreciate the people and environment that exists in the margins of your life. Your ability to recreate outdoors with others during the long summer days really helps you re-create and re-set your values for the balance of the year. Late August now brings with it a fully engaged workforce for almost the first time since the middle of June. Projects and agenda’s that have been hampered by the summer vacation calendar will experience an immediate surge and we are curious if you might notice that as you refocus that you have picked up a bit of clarity.
In this edition of Branches & Roots we will explore:
• Why you should mind your Q’s as it relates to your performance.
• The benefits of putting your team through a “Creative Abrasion” process.
• How Coaches and Players can share values while having different roles and similar goals.
• What swimming across Lake Tahoe has in common with the final round of the British Open.
Why You Should Mind Your Q's
Recent sociological research has started to notice that our ability to perform well in a role as an individual or as a member of a team can be traced back to 3 quotients. The first relates to your IQ and speaks to your ability to cognitively handle the tasks required. Knowing your strengths and then training to improve on them is vital. There are very few roles in today’s economy for people performing out of their strength, be sure you can articulate your capabilities and the contribution you can make.
Your performance will be enhanced when you show the ability to understand how your contributions can blend with others for your joint benefit. Central to this concept is acquiring empathetic traits and building your emotional quotient, EQ. The force multiplier of working well with others sky rockets when the team sees the goal through everyone’s eyes and then seeks to achieve for their mutual benefit. Yet being smart and caring, doesn't appear to be enough these days. It turns out that your ability to be resilient and adaptable in the face of change, both as an individual and as a teammate are game changers.
Click on the links for Ted talks from Amanda Lee Duckworth at Penn and Carol Dweck at Stanford, who are both actively researching how to add some grit to your life to help you improve your resiliency quotient, RQ. So the next time you hear the phrase “Mind your P’s and Q’s” we hope you will not only remember to say please and thank you, but you will also think about combining your wit, your heart, and your gut to be the most complete contributor possible.
Speaking of Grit, can you pass me some sandpaper, I want to improve my team chemistry.....
The first time your teacher, coach or boss decided you and your cohort would benefit from a little conditioning or organized conflict did you say to yourself, “yes, this is going to make me better and I can’t wait to have my lungs hurt, or be in a room where things might get tense”? Probably not, as most of us have a strong pain avoidance bias and it takes real training to get used to handling conflict while maintaining your full field of vision. Yet veteran teachers, coaches, and leaders all seem to have their own way of grooming a group of people into a team of people and these processes often include a term called “Creative Abrasion”.
We learned of creative abrasion in Rich Karlgaard and Mike Malone’s new book Team Genius and further research points to a 1997 HBR article by Dorothy Leonard and Susan Straus. It turns out great teams can trust each other enough to bust on each other at the right time and in the right context. We are not saying that flamboyant conflict oriented people are the key to success, what we are noticing is that regardless of personality type, the best teams are relentless in the pursuit of improvement and that requires all parties bringing their creativity and best efforts to the group and trusting that the outcome will be better despite the apparent risks.
The trick as the leader is when to introduce the concept, and how to implement and oversee the process. If you have a good story that proves or discredit’s our thesis, please share it here. If you are looking for more on how disagreement can help your team, we offer up Margaret Heffernan’s popular Ted Talk “Dare to Disagree”.
How to get the roles right on your team, from the beginning
In July we shared our “Coach Can I” video as part of our culture killer series which lead to a series of interesting discussions on the blurring of the roles between players and coaches. One such discussion occurred in early August when we ventured up to UOP for a check in with Glen Albaugh. We were working through the concept of creative abrasion and Glen pointed out that a wise coach or leader will take the time to help the players and coaches agree to their respective roles during the season before hitting the practice floor. When pressed to expand on this thought he further shared that the two groups need to articulate what they are responsible for and that each group gets to establish their own values, complete with both process and outcome goals for the season. Sharing these with each other establishes a relational bond that then allows them to start living out their values and driving towards their goals. What may seem as obvious to some was worth special mention to us, too often we see work teams where the roles of management and staff are blurred and chaos ensues. When setting up your next team at work consider laying out each groups roles and then allow both groups to define what they value and the acceptable attitudes and measurements they are willing to commit to as a team. If you want some expert help, email Glen.
Why Mike Tyson can't swim across Lake Tahoe or win the British Open
“Everyone has a plan til they get punched in the mouth” - Mike Tyson
Mike’s quote has two sides, one that challenges us to endure adversity and adapt, and a second more superficial message that appears to be telling us is that all you need to be able to do is land one good punch. In July was when we found the second point interesting while swimming in the Trans Tahoe Relays and watching Zach Johnson win the British Open at St. Andrews.
The Trans-Tahoe swim has been a staple for many people going back decades and for the avid swimmer it is a wonderful experience. The relay requires each of the 6 swimmers to swim for 30 minutes which gets the team into the second half of the race, and then the duration of each swim drops to 15 minutes. Swimmers will often remark how much easier the second swim is after toiling for 30 minutes. It was during this year’s 30 minute leg that the Mike Tyson quote came to mind.Overcast skies and high winds accompanied the start of this year’s race and made for true rough water conditions, smiles on the boat abated, and each stroke was a challenge. After 5 minutes of swimming in what felt like a washing machine on the “Ice” cycle, I really wanted to just punch the lake in the mouth and be done with it. Sadly, there is no punching Lake Tahoe in the mouth, its size and strength demand your attention and respect at all times. The only recourse a swimmer can have at that moment is the resolve to keep swimming and work with the water, not against it.
Which brings us to the British Open, which happens to always fall on the same weekend as the Trans Tahoe race. St. Andrew’s Old Course is considered by many to be too easy to host a modern Open and on a flat calm day that may be true, but find me 4 days in a row in its history where it has been calm. This year’s championship was another wonderful test of skill, flair, and resolve as player after player succumbed to the elements. Champion golfers with major championship titles to their credit were unable to keep their swings intact and their minds sharp for 4 days in a row. Several made it all the way to the final 7 holes before making the oddest mistakes and none of them could “punch St. Andrew’s in the mouth”. The champion Zach Johnson is known as a fighter, a grinder, and for the second time in his career he is a major championship winner. Something tells me, he figured out how to keep hitting quality shots and work with and not against the mighty winds of St. Andrew’s.
A Banyan Tree Strategies Communication
What's Your Team Type?
Independence of thought and action and freedom of will and mind are in the background this weekend as we participate in parades, attend barbecues, and build relationships with our friends and neighbors. The 4th of July is a time of new beginnings for many as the college graduates hopefully have new jobs and adventures to pursue. For others with more established careers it is often a time to take a pause at the half way post for the year and check your team's vital signs and widen the aperture on your lens to see if you need to make any adjustments for the future.
If you are fortunate enough to get a 5 minute pause over the next few weeks, we hope you will enjoy some of our findings below:
* The Banyan YouTube channel is up with our “Culture Killer” series currently being broadcast all over the country on www.coachesaid.com.
Gimme 3 Steps
“Sanders, can’t you just give me the quick 3 steps for me to take to get my team on point"? This is something we hear quite often from managers who don’t have time for long drawn out explanations and philosophy. Your world is impacted for time and it has to be simple for it to transfer through a human system. With that in mind, here are the 3 steps you and your team might consider this summer. We call it the “RE” exercise.
You start by reflecting, go back in your mind 18 months and take a look at what has transpired. The key action here is to “ponder.” Get to the side of your life river and look back up stream and ask yourself, “what did I learn, and what does it mean”?
The second step is to recreate by putting yourself in a fresh environment. Recreation is often associated with long trips away and those trips are very impactful, but watch what happens to you when you go to a different coffee shop, stop at a different park and sit on a bench for 20 minutes and observe your surroundings. Your new environment will take your brain off of auto pilot and it is at this very moment that we encourage you to “Dream.” Try to piece all the things you have been processing in your mind together and give yourself a moment to have a crazy thought. When your entire team is empowered to dream and then share what they thought about you will win in 2 areas. First you will get a major boost in employee engagement because freedom of choice and thought is a prime intrinsic motivator and second when you allow them to share their thoughts the diversity of ideas will inevitably help the team. Ideas of out “Left Field” don’t work at the time crunched Monday meeting, but having a process to share them over time should have a positive impact on your culture.
The third step is to redirect your focus and the key action word here is “Drive.” Now that you have looked back and dreamed about a better future, what are the key initiatives and correlating tasks? We have noticed people are much more inclined to hit their tasks with vigor when they have been given even 30 minutes to reflect and recreate. The half way point in the year is a great time give the “RE” exercise a try and for many of our clients we implement it every 45 days.
Does Your Team Have a "TYPE"?
Most of us have learned what our “DISC” profile is, self-analysis tools that have their roots in 1940’s research and have been marketed to companies for decades. Fraught with angst that somehow the test will reveal a hidden dark negative trait, job applicants have answered the formulaic questions and then the results are shared with the candidate. Then, if hired, a copy ends up in the HR file. Whether shown to you on a circle, triangle, or square the 4 quadrants always emerge and you learn how to share what the Greeks and philosophers like Plato coined “Know Thyself.” Yet all of us know that environment has a massive impact on our performance, regardless of type. This has led us to start quizzing you about the attributes of your best teams, the results of which we will compile in a future white paper. These results so far are leading us to hypothesize that teams can have “types,” and as professionals you will be wise to understand these types as you position yourself for future success.
What goes into a team type? We would like your thoughts to add to what we are considering. We think the length of time that the team is together has a big impact on how the individuals behave. A 5 hour swim on a relay is completely different team than a 16 week youth sport season. Similarly the tech start up with 18 months of capital is a different team than working for a utility like PG&E. We also have noticed that how teams describe themselves makes a difference. “We are a tight team” is an often heard phrase. Is this a warning, a boast, or a self-assurance that the team is worth the effort it takes to be “tight”? Sales teams often have a completely different style of communication than engineering or research teams, misjudging that can lead to all kinds of unintended consequences.
While some of this may appear self-evident to you, we are eager to tease out of the data the relevant points for the next generation of workers to help them enter and contribute to our workplace. The more efficiently we can accomplish this task, the better our economy will be as they build coffers of disposable income. Teams are fluid, evolving systems and we have noticed the average duration is shrinking. In dance terms they are moving from a waltz to a cha cha, please share with us your thoughts here.
The Next Gen Almanac
In line with our theme on integrating the Millennials in to the workforce we have released our 4th publication and first workbook called “The Next Gen Almanac.” The driving force behind this project is that recent college graduates are stumbling as they seek to integrate into corporate cultures. The rhythm of being a student and working for a company are vastly different. Sadly many well-meaning new workers lose critical style points by just not having the basics of life down and are cast aside for “not being an adult” yet.
Into this growing problem we have built a 6 week bound workbook that walks the reader through a way to take inventory of their life each week and also gives them key tips on how to turn their boss into their coach. The Next Gen Almanac will continue to grow in size as we build out more modules and if you are a frustrated employer of this demographic please share with us what you want them to learn.
What Do You Do With a High Value Team Member Who is a "Culture-Killer"?
We are excited to announce a recent partnership between Banyan and Coaches Aid where we have been asked to author a “Learn to Lead” Video series. Our YouTube channel has 8 short videos where we address the hard problems that leaders and coaches face. Leaders care about culture, yet know that the creation of culture comes from every member of the team. Getting the culture soup just right is a true quest and if you have something you would like us to add to this series please share here.
Coachesaid.com is an online broadcasting company that films youth to semi pro sports events all over the US. Here's a sample of one of the productions.
Book Review is Packed
Worthy Fights by Leon Panetta
No Higher Honor by Condoleezza Rice
Duty by Robert Gates
Any one of these three books will give you an insight into the dynamic times of running the United States before and after September 11, 2001. As our country went about healing from the loss of life, thousands of government employees focused on fast changing landscape of national and global security. None of these are easy reads, but all three left us with a feeling of gratitude towards their service to our country.
How Champions Think by Bob Rotella
The field of Sports Psychology is new relative to its companions and many of the original round-table participants are still with us writing and advising the future of the discipline. Bob Rotella has been a prolific contributor and as such his works are compulsory for the team at Banyan. The line of the book for us was when the author writes of an experience where he wants to tell an audience member who was challenging a statement that Jack Nicklaus had made that “Jack Nicklaus doesn’t need to know what you think, it should be the other way around.”
That line shares with us one of the true challenges of life, with all of the chatter on the airwaves, online, and in classrooms, what should you listen for, and who should you listen to? Having the right filter today matters and in this book Bob Rotella shares with you how to set up your own filter. We highly recommend you know how to build and maintain your filter.
Where did Jordan Spieth and Mariah Stackhouse get their “Third Eye”?
In the last 2 months two different world class golfers have putted with their eyes closed with a championship in the balance. We find this stunning. Can you imagine Stephen Curry closing his eyes on a free throw? For several years Jordan Spieth has on occasion closed his eyes on certain short putts and he did so in both his wins at this year’s Masters and U.S. Open. In addition, Mariah Stackhouse had a 15 foot putt to send the women’s NCAA golf championship to extra holes. If she missed Baylor would win the title, her birdie putt went in and one hole later she and Stanford were NCAA champs for the first time! In a great camera shot the Golf Channel caught her closing her eyes seconds before she took the putter back and then as the feeling of impacting the ball came into her body her natural sight returned and she followed the ball into the hole. It was a true “gamer” moment, the stuff of dreams. (This is now where Sara insisted on inserting "Go Stanford!")
So what is going on that two performers under the age of 22 are apparently removing one of the 5 senses at a most critical moment and how could it benefit you? Our thought for your consideration is that they have been building out a different equally powerful sense that we call the “mind’s eye”.
These young athletes spend the time in training to trust their performance and most of us don’t have the time so maybe we should keep our eyes open, yet the concept of training your mind to be out in front of you and not over the ball is something you can work on even when you have 30 minutes before you play.
We would like to suggest that you consider the action of breathing as your ally in this challenging exercise. Once you are physically warmed up enough to hit some full shots (10 minutes or so into your pregame) see if you can produce a few low release long breaths out through your mouth. 5 seconds should do the trick. Do this 3 times slowly and then stand behind your ball and go into your routine to come into the shot. As you picture the shot you want to hit, your breathing out will push your mind’s eye further out into the range where you want to hit the ball. In effect you’re blowing your mind’s eye out to the target. Give it a few try’s and you will start to realize how efficient your body is at executing without your sight eyes having to participate.
Taking it to the putting green, you will notice as well that once you have a nice balance to your set up, your mind’s eye will be able to keep the line you picked from behind the ball for up to 5 seconds with a diminishing amount of recall occurring the longer you take. We don’t anticipate you breathing so loudly that others will confuse you with a race horse coming down the stretch, just enough to keep mind’s eye engaged. If you want to close your eyes go ahead, and let us know how it works!
A Banyan Tree Strategies Communication
Does Your Year Have Swing?
The final 45 days of the first half of the year are here and as we gear up to sling our way into the second stanza of 2015 we wondered if your year had any “Swing” to it? Before you start down a dancing or golf path with the term, allow us to share that we are using the rowing meaning of the word. Swing in crew parlance means maximum synchronicity of effort among the boat members which turns into highly efficient movement for the boat. Getting a team to a “Swing” state in or out of the water is our focus today and we look forward to hearing your thoughts and recollections of your best teams.
We will be specifically diving into the team mystic, how to build and coach teams, and have a review of the very popular “Boys in the Boat” book by Daniel James Brown. We will finish with a confession that one of us is now a 15 handicap and what we are doing to improve and how it might help you as well.
Why is getting to a "Swing" state so hard and why do we long for it?
Quick, think of the best team you were ever on? Now think about the next group of teams that you were on that were also amazing? Take those two groups, add them together and now divide them into the total number of teams you have been on since you were 5. Chances are your percentage of great teams is less than 10%. Now don’t feel bad about it, this doesn’t make you not a “team player”, rather it speaks to just how frequently we are on teams and how hard it is to get into a “Swing” state.
It turns out that getting into a Swing state with others is not only rare, it is also valuable because time and again history points out to us that hard fought victories on battlefields, cures to vicious diseases, and yes even youth sports championships are the result of teams working in seamless synchronicity. The millions of pages devoted to the accomplishments of these teams litter our libraries with their praise. Yet who amongst us has the true recipe that will work every time, and why have so many of our team experiences been lessons of patience and resiliency?
One enemy to Swing that we have identified is a differing level of time commitment to the team, another is the communication challenges that exist within teams based upon personality traits and now with globalization, culture clashes. We also believe that the length of time the team is together will also have a great impact on its ability to gel. We have personally been on a relay team that was crossing the Maui Channel that was supposed to take only 4 hours. Being a team was supposed to be easy, but things changed in a hurry when a 15 foot Tiger Shark was spotted less than a 1000 yards from our boat!
A solution we think you might consider is addressed by Reid Hoffman and Ben Casnocha in their book “The Alliance”. They have a simple approach to building your organization in the midst of these team headwinds that we think is relevant for today’s ever mobile workforce.
What do I do if I have a team member who is killing our "Swing"?
A recently published book “The Weekly Coaching Conversation” by Brian Souza touched on this very issue. Business Schools such as Harvard have shown a real focus in the area of career development and the term “coach” is evolving within corporations. Souza recommends a regular check in session with your direct report to asses not only their performance, but also check in on softer metrics as well. We would like to add to this article with some of our own findings and offer a few tools for you to use with your team. We would love your feedback on how to improve any of these tools after you have worked with them.
Whether your check in meeting is quarterly, monthly, or weekly, having a template to work with as you are getting started can be a big in facilitating dialog. It will also allow the direct report to speak more than the boss which is of particular importance if the boss is an extrovert and the direct report is not.
Our experiences have shown that a regular check in on areas such as your team members Soul, Fuel, Work, Fun, and Community Service will quickly identify the area that is distracting them. A simple listening exercise along with a specific question on what steps they will take to remedy the concern can go a long way. We have been amazed at how well these templates work when it comes to getting what is in a person’s head out in the open, proving once again that “your head is a horrible place for a discussion”. Here is one of our new templates to try and let us know how it goes.
Book Review is Back!
In short this story is “Chariots of Fire in a boat” and we could leave it at that, but having never read Chariots of Fire and since no one has yet made a movie out of “Boys in the Boat” we encourage you to pick up a copy and dive into the hard scrabble times of the pacific northwest in the depression and look through the eyes of protagonist Joe Rantz.
Rantz is abandoned by his own father and step mother at the age of 15 and left to fend for himself. They couldn’t afford to feed him, his mother was dead and with a new mom who had children of her own to feed he was left behind when they moved. Many may have already read this book, yet we share it to inspire those of you who are leading teams to dive into the nuances that rowing in the early 20th century has to teach us about working with your people to get their “Minds in the Boat”.
How did a pair of scratch golfers end up with a 15 handicap?
Luckily neither Sara nor I are shooting in the high 80’s these days, but we did stumble across a mental acuity application that currently has us ranked as pretty much a pair of bogey golfers. This has led us to share the phrase, “Maybe your brain is the weakest club in your bag”.
Well even if it is, we now have a way to work on it with Tim Suzor’s “ThinQ Golf” application for your computer or mobile device. We have been working with it for the last 2 months and it has taken us 8 minutes a day. Think of it as Lumosity for your athletic mind. Each day we work through 5 tests that challenge us greatly and it has had an impact. So rather than tell you the secret to how Jordan Speith makes everything he looks at (we have no idea by the way) we thought we would pass along to you a very cool piece of technology that should help your focus on the course. Give it a try and let us know what you think.
Survey: Your Best Team
Now that you have had a few minutes to think about some of your great team experiences, help us as we compile data on building and studying successful teams. We would love to hear a few nuggets about what made your memories and got your team into 'Swing'. Click HERE to share with us your story!
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