While crafting our vision for 2024 we have been called back to the mental discipline of a United States Medal of Honor recipient.
Carrier Air Group Commander Jim Stockdale’s plane was crash landing over North Vietnam in 1965. He was 40 years old and knew his age and rank would be held against him and in the 30 seconds that he parachuted down from his aircraft and into the middle of an angry North Vietnamese village he estimated he would spend the next 5 years of his life as a prisoner. The torture Stockdale and his fellow captives endured was inhuman and led to the creation of the Stockdale paradox he penned upon being freed after 8 years.
Whilst sequestered in our home in April of 2020 we published an article about what we could all learn from the Stockdale paradox and the principles of endurance and persistence. Looking at the 4-year anniversary of that experience in the face we think it rings as true today as it did then. We wondered then and still wonder today if the pandemic is really a 5 to 7-year calamity.
All the major institutions like the federal reserves and the federal governments made decisions that while having certain short run impacts created medium term consequences. It has been a turbulent time for business owners and their employees. As we turn towards year 4 post covid the Stockdale paradox would advise us to not think about a terminus date like 2025 or 2027 but rather to be convinced of our ability to survive and make living at this time the defining moment in our careers and all the while stick to our daily basics.
What are the basics?
We wrote a book about the basics called “The Next Gen Almanac” in 2016 and will be highlighting the essentials in our 2024 editions of Branches & Roots. We created a quick diagnostic for the key areas of your life so you can easily handle what life throws at you and keep adapting and moving forward. Here are the categories.
Look for some fun announcements in this area in 2024 as the new AI tools continue to allow all of us to productize our offerings in new and hopefully impactful ways.
Thank you for your readership and friendship in this our 10th year as a company, let’s put the pedal to the floor together in 2024!
Drew & Sara
Three Antidotes (conversations) needed to counteract the potential poisons that come with having a Talented Team
The Tokyo Olympic Games were a treat to watch, the athletes commitment and energy was contagious as were the emotions pre and post competition.
We came out of the games with a question.
Why is it that the most talented team doesn't always win, and if you are in charge of a heavily favored or talented team how can you make sure you deliver on the premise of all that talent?
It appears that talented teams face their own special challenges and it's often because they don’t want to focus on the fundamentals, just outcomes. Other issues get in the way as well like style and ego.
The point of many games is to get the other team to yield or quit. This starts in their mind, moves to their face, and ends up quickly in their shoulders and feet. This makes many of these contests about not just talent but about effort and grit and persistence.
Adding to the challenge the talented team will face lower competition that will not be able to compete at the same level. The accompanying win creates a false sense of security that can lead to large let downs later in the season when other talented teams who have better practice habits show up. Suddenly and predictably your team's talent is not enough.
Some coaches use their force of personality and power to counteract the talent malaise. They seek to take charge. We have noticed some more subtle choices and outline the three conversations with three types of players that you may consider in your future leadership roles.
Your Effort Leaders
Who shows up early and stays late on your team? In his deep dive into the New Zealand All Blacks Rugby team author James Kerr identified that the leaders swept the sheds after every practice and game. These players are often not your high scorers, but they set a tone of action and pride that becomes contagious inside the locker room. This culture keeper can be a coach's best friend in out flanking the dreaded "lazy middle" that can exist early in the season when conditioning and pushing the boundaries of fitness matter so much. These effort leaders are some of your most courageous people, because they want to stand for something that may go unseen by the fans or outsiders. Make sure you take these players aside and praise them for their honor and effort, they often don't need a lot of public praise, but they will really want to know that you see it.
Your Communication Leader
It is so hard to not just talk about Draymond Green when writing about this type of player. However it is not just the loud communicators that you need to cultivate when working to hone in on your talented team's best efforts. Finding a player who has the courage and the capacity to effectively communicate and not over communicate is difficult, but as a coach you can nurture and grow people into this role if the right player isn't on your team. We have watched Steve Kerr work magic with Steph Curry and Klay Thompson and would lay odds that in certain rooms, they are communicating important messages to the team and Draymond is listening. Early in the season grab the players you are going to need to carry some of the communication duties and outline how and when you are looking for their help.
Your Performance Leader
Everyone knows who can ball, play, deal and close. This is part of the problem. The player knows it, can get drunk on it, and then not have the focus to perform at their highest level late in the season when other great performers are on the opposite team. Jimmy Chitwood hits the game winner at the end of the 1986 movie "Hoosiers", yet early in the season the coach let's him know that the ball is the only special thing on the team. How you surround your performance leaders from the very beginning of the season can define how far the team will go at the end of the year. You will be communicating with this player or players constantly as they will be running the plays you design, yet having a cadence of communication about their role beyond just impacting the game is also crucial.
What if I have a Michael Jordan on my hands?
Weaving these conversations together with the different players should allow you to create some bonds that can become quite strong. The ESPN documentary "The Last Dance" showed that in some cases, a lone figure will come along like Michael Jordan who may seek to take on all three roles, and yet players like Steve Kerr and Bill Cartwright were proven to be instrumental in building the culture that coach Phil Jackson sought to create and maintain.
Aren't These Just Captains?
These conversations, the antidotes might seem like obvious communication with what most people would call a captain. However we didn't want to give them the label of authority on our own, your labels and roles are what matter in your cultures. Sam Walker wrote a great book by the name of The Captain Class where he outlines that the key to the best teams is to have great captains. On the other hand, Jack Clark gives an excellent talk about building culture for the Cal Rugby Team and goes to great lengths to identify that authority and leadership in a group can be different. Clark articulates that authority is tied to process and protocol, but leadership is tied to values that are honored by all on the team. Every member of that tribe should be called to lead themselves to embody those values regardless of performance in the competition.
Whether you are running a fall team or are setting up a team for next year we are curious how your conversations will go with your team as you create another unique tapestry that is this season.
Please share with us your insights and perspectives and thank you for your readership and friendship.
Victim or Victor Checkpoint 3: What will you celebrate at the end of 2020 and how it may impact your 2021?
This is the 4th email and 3rd checkpoint in our 1/1/2022 Victim or Victor Series.
Staring at the final 45 days of 2020 and with a national election behind us we imagine you might have a few of your team members remarking how much they are looking forward to being done with 2020.
Sadly, as a leader you know all too well that Monday January 4th will present just as many challenges and opportunities as the previous Monday.
Setting your team’s sights further out appears to be prudent and we have compiled a few best practices for your ready reference.
Be wary of vaccine watching.
We hear lots of chatter about COVID vaccines and will rejoice when the right solution is presented at scale, but we don’t think you want your people to be the worldwide experts in that narrative as it can be tremendously distracting and demoralizing.
Admiral Stockdale whose 7 years as a POW in North Vietnam make him a good primary source on endurance commented that the people who suffered the most were those who set arbitrary dates on when they would be released.
When the interviewer asked who didn't make it out of Vietnam, Stockdale replied:
“Oh, that's easy, the optimists. Oh, they were the ones who said, 'We're going to be out by Christmas.' And Christmas would come, and Christmas would go. Then they'd say, 'We're going to be out by Easter.' And Easter would come, and Easter would go. And then Thanksgiving, and then it would be Christmas again. And they died of a broken heart.”
Stockdale then added: “This is a very important lesson. You must never confuse faith that you will prevail in the end—which you can never afford to lose—with the discipline to confront the most brutal facts of your current reality, whatever they might be.”
Keep the daily routines and the key actions in place
Amidst the consistent noise of rising COVID cases and the concern over pending government actions it may be wise to take a page from Earnest Shackleton’s book when he was stuck on the south pole in the middle of winter. Their multi-year struggle with the elements included strict daily routines and even time out for the men to kick a soccer ball around.
When you are asking your team to hang in there every week, it can get old, consider keeping the cadence of meetings at the appropriate level and focus on the key actions that matter. Thinking back to the soccer example, we find it amazing that after trying to use a hand saw to break ice away from a ship that they had the energy to do anything, but the men trusted Shackleton and he trusted the power of keeping a cadence of action.
Having the courage to celebrate.
This may seem crazy, but we think the curious leader will find a way to help the team have the courage to celebrate the year. Turning this scrooge of a virus on its head and leveraging that for the first time in a century we are all have a common foe reminds of the Who’s in Whoville singing around the beleaguered Christmas tree in “How the Grinch Stole Christmas” by Dr. Seuss.
Having the courage and curiosity to celebrate with your team could play a vital role in how the first quarter of 2021 goes for your team.
How you answer these questions could make the difference in having a team that resents everything it sees in the world or one that is buoyed by what they are overcoming and empowered by the resilient spirit that this period of their lives is helping them build. The Who’s gathered hand in hand and sang, and while we know we won’t be holding hands and probably not be singing, we sure hope you find a way to celebrate.
We celebrate the opportunity to share our insights with you and are thankful for your readership and friendship.
Drew and Sara
View the next post in the Series
View the previous post in the Series
There are many noble pursuits for a coach at the beginning of the season and we hardly ever bump into one who is volunteering their time in the hopes of causing a kid to quit the sport. However, if we were to vote on one of the hardest goals to obtain, we would put achieving collective excellence above going undefeated and winning the all-city title.
Our definition of collective excellence has its roots in the work of John Wooden and those who also seek to build a personal relationship with each player in the joint pursuit of the team’s goals. The ability of the coach to build trust with the player, to such an extent that the player can agree to the role the coach has constructed for that season is crucial. It's part sales pitch and part plea for support and trust.
Each season is as an opportunity for the coach to have a scouting report done on themselves, a book as it were. It answers the question, how do we beat this coach? Scouting reports are common on players: what is the book on that guy?
A coach should also want to know what “the book” is on them at this point in their career, and then work the next season to improve. So what is the book on you right now?
The coach who trusts his or her team enough to be vulnerable with them should be well on their way to existing in a state of consensual interdependence with the rest of the coaching staff and the players. We wrote about this in one of our Thought Leadership Series pieces shown here.
The pursuit of collective excellence begins with the coaching staff and then continues through to the players. If you can think of a team you were on that achieved this, please share with us as we continue to build out stories on this topic.
You may be interested in our post on Turning a Group Into A Team.
We first heard this term small societies from UNC women's soccer coach Anson Dorrance in a talk he gave at the What Drives Winning Conference in 2015.
It was a scant reference at the beginning of the talk (minute 1:15), but for geeks like us, it was cause for research. Dorrance is a coach in pursuit of collective excellence. He is building a cumulative chest of wisdom on the topic of human collaboration in the pursuit of putting a ball in a net and caring about each other in the process. His research led him to discover Cesar Luis Menotti of Argentina who had the high pressure job of being that country's national soccer team coach.
It was Menotti who started talking about the teams within the teams, calling them small societies when describing the relationships between the goalie and the fullbacks, the right midfielder with the center forward. It is similar to Metcalf’s law of networks and how intertwined our relationships can get.
Our current learning is this:
Consider looking at your team the same way you would look at this square. You know you are going to be asked, how many squares can you see? If a square is a small society that could exist on your team, how many can you see? Make a list of small societies for your team and then if you feel like it, share it with us. As the coach, you can’t advise and mentor what you can’t observe.
Somewhere between Salt Lake City and Grand Junction this January while climbing a scary mountain pass in a four wheel drive it came to us that a way to look at the CEO’s job is as follows:
To determine how much stress the balance sheet of the company and the people that work for it can handle at this time in the company's life.
You may have a different view of it, or a different way to say it that works for you and we would love to hear from you about how you see it, but humor us for a minute.
It appears at times that even at some pretty large companies that the only person who is really thinking about the future of the entire enterprise is the CEO. Everyone else is in their department looking for more resources, and hopefully in the words of Peter Drucker, focused on the next most important task.
What does this mean for you?
It means you need to be relentless in your pursuit of what is true from your direct reports because they may have an inherent bias to keep you on a consistent drip of flattery and fluff. It also means that having a board of directors that can help you think about the company from the outside is vital.
Questions a good board can help you wrestle with are:
• How much debt should we be working with now to grow the business?
• Where are your next threats coming from?
• What innovations are going to allow you to increase your margins?
• Where is your current leadership team in their own personal life cycles?
The rub is that building and maintaining a productive board of directors is a challenge. Too often it is such a hassle that you don’t even have one. CEO’s can often feel like the coach of a professional sports team. The players on the field are your employees, the fans in the stands are the customers, and up in the owner’s box sits the board of directors. Where does the coach stand? Sometimes they stand alone.
Ask yourself the following question: What is the company telling itself right now that we want to be true, that may not actually be true? Many department heads will be talking about growth because they know that is what everyone wants to hear. The challenge is that if the company doesn’t manage its balance sheet and time the growth correctly outside forces can end up owning the business. You may have a growth mandate, but try as we might most of us can’t make water go uphill, so back up your mandate with facts and processes you can trust and measure. This rigor and dialogue can save your business.
Consultants can bring diversity of thought to a company, they also bring new terminology that at first glance may not make sense. We use a customer acquisition framework (CAF) to describe how a business wants a potential customer to learn about, and then accept its offer. It might be called sales and marketing and in other places it’s called marketing and sales. Regardless, the biggest change we have noticed in this area are the options available to your company relative to just five years ago. That is why it is one of our themes for 2019. It might make sense for you to revisit your strategy.
In 1995 the phone and the fax machine were the money makers, and having a toll free number was a big deal. You might have had a marketing department, but you didn’t know what worked and what didn’t and the magazine ad salespeople were really happy about that.
Today marketing executives can show up to a meeting with real data that tracks and predicts future behavior by your target customers.
What does this mean for you?
It means you have more leverage with your marketing dollars and your sales team. Just ten years ago you were still guessing with your marketing dollars and the sales reps could hold you hostage with the relationships they initiated.
In the House Tour image below think through how far you could have a potential customer get without the help of a sales person? As an owner you have an incentive to get them as far through the house as you can. Get this right and your cost of sales will plummet and your profitability will rise.
Email continues to be the killer app for developing and maintaining a respected position with your clients, customers and prospects. Recent data shows that enterprise and individual customers spend the vast majority of their time reading and communicating inside of an email application.
What does this mean for you?
It means that unless you have a business which really wants to attract a customer that it doesn’t know and offer them a commodity (think owning a McDonalds franchise) you don’t really need to spend a ton of money on social media. Your best course of action is to have a well-developed email communication plan that integrates with your website and sales team.
The frequency of your email communication should depend on the type of service or product you are delivering. It can range from a travel service emailing you multiple times a week, to an estate planning law firm that shares its findings once a quarter. If you want our advice on what your cadence should be, click here.
Hopefully you kissed some of the joy of summer as it flew by, put the memories in a jar, and blessed them with gratitude. Being able to do this, regardless of how full your jar is can be vital as you shift your focus to the fall. Here are a few helpful nuggets in three areas of work:
IF YOU HAVE A BOSS: Put yourself in their shoes and think through how they are looking at the next 18 months of their life. Understanding begins with observation, and if you are looking for a primer to help you in this area consider using our mapping your boss template.
IF YOU ACQUIRE CUSTOMERS: If you acquire customers for your company and have an annual sales number this time of year can be fantastic or frightful. Careful pipeline and funnel management will help you decide where to allocate your most precious asset: your time. Here are a few questions for you to review:
Pitching in to support your children in their endeavors has a name. It’s called parenting. It’s a noble role and duty that changes with the decades. Currently from the ages of 4 to 14 there are many different roles a parent can fulfill in the area of youth sports. The roles have different levels of authority and requirements. Head Coach, assistant coach, team manager, culture keeper, league treasurer, league president, end of season of pizza party planner, are all roles parents fill.
Both Sara and I have enjoyed participating and working with the kids and others parents these past ten years. What caught our eye this year is that after moving towns, we went from a head coach, league president, large authority role to that of an assistant coach.
The opportunity to not have to coordinate and orate to 15 players on a team and to 200 players in the league and 30 to 400 parents left a void that allowed an observation framework to appear. This year we had room to see players individually be afraid of failure and to encourage them. Our interest in building framework for others to use also led us to come up....
Working with companies, non-profits, and sports teams affords us a wonderful window into the world of effort and outcome. Goals are set, causes are cared for, and games are played. A haunting question lurks in many of the minds, what do I do if I try my hardest and fail?
Seldom do we hear it verbalized, but we notice that much effort is made to sabotage the effort piece of the equation to allow the players a margin to recover their pride when the outcome is below the standard. It's much safer to reserve some effort and hope for success, if it gives you a nice mental pillow to rest your ego on..."well I didn't go all out so next time...."
Our question for leaders is, what is this mindset and handicap doing to the productivity of your team? If you could minimize it and get your team to deal with success and failure with the same attitude, what would that look like? Under pressure we don't rise to the occasion, we fall to the level of our training.
Achieving this outcome is no easy feat. One of the steps in getting there is done by providing a safe area to communicate what trying your hardest looks like, and having a recovery element to reward the effort. If people will risk their best in front of others, then when their limit is met, consider celebrating and providing them sanctuary to recoup and reflect.
The power questions for leading a team to risk more, think more, and do more are: what did we learn, and what does it mean? As the leader facilitates the questions and honors the responses watch the trust on your team soar. We think other things will soon rise as well.
On this topic read our post What's Your Q Rating with more info on Mindset
Five years ago we started Banyan with an eye for helping companies improve their performance, and we have sat in on numerous goal-setting sessions. Goals can make people be sick to their stomachs, and goals can be used as a weapon, but isn’t that kind of missing the whole point?
Today, we offer you a new way to look at goals and hope you might consider giving it a try in one area of your life. It starts with a mindset that focuses on goal attainment and uses the concept of school grades to dole out the rewards. If you reach 90% of the goal you get an A, 80% you get a B and so forth. C’s get degrees in school and historically is considered the average.
Yes, we can hear you thinking, that may be good for school, but this is the real world. If you don’t hit your goal, you might get fired!
Here is why you might want to take a closer look at this mindset if you are a leader. When you give your team a goal, you have 'goaled' them. This rhymes with scold. We think you should keep.....
Building off the great reaction we received from our post on productive solitude we started to notice that in our work conversations we were asking leaders how they were organizing their thinking and in what format. Were they using a computer, a phone, a note pad, or a bound notebook? When did they collect themselves and organize? Who did they share it with, and how did they share it?
The answers were all over the board, and many didn’t really have a system in place. They offered up that they are bouncing around trying whatever the newest form of technology has to offer. We also noticed that many leaders thought that the idea of sharing what their tasks was a big enabler for productivity. However, that wasn’t really playing out as they thought. It was leading to more emails and more confirmations on non-mission critical tasks. Does this sound familiar?
Enter in the concept of a template as a way to create boxes waiting to be filled with answers that challenge you to prioritize your thinking. An individual benefits by working with a task allocation template like the one above. The act of not just writing down your tasks, but prioritizing them, and then...
One of the major headwinds to a great summer is if you are only 50% of the way to your annual goal by now, you are actually behind the number. This is because you will lose ground in Q3, and may not have the time to catch up in Q4. Being below goal is not a happy place, and could even be considered mediocre. If you are the leader it is easy to blame your people, but in a recent article by Joseph Grenny he articulates why it might be the leader's fault, and he shares a couple of ways to bring the big middle of your team up a few notches. Grenny is the co-author of one of our favorite books “Crucial Conversations, tools for talking when the stakes are high”. In this article he wrote for the Harvard Business Review he shares several ways to help the team visualize what their indifference could cause.
We think this hits the spot when it comes to larger group activities. The big middle is too....
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
Several years ago our work led us to draw the Tree of Performance 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....
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......
The Golden State Warriors haven’t just taken the NBA by surprise, they’ve knocked it completely on its side. From our vantage point it is another example of highly adaptable Bay Area executive talent deploying a winning strategy, and we would like to share one element that you can use with your team. The NBA’s history of success had been Jordan as the star with a Pippen on the side, or Larry Bird as the star with DJ or McHale on the side, or LeBron with a strong second in Wade even won a title. Yet, coming out of San Antonio over the past ten years is a different model. It is less about the one star and more about a fully functioning team of 9 to 10 players getting meaningful minutes throughout the entire season.
There may not be a “Money Ball” book out yet on the this strategy, but the ownership of the Warriors brought Steve Kerr in to run a system similar to the Spurs, and it works on many levels. The correlation to your business that we would like to highlight is that you should be taking more people out on sales and service calls. Nothing is more painful than watching a loyal bench warmer thrust out on the court and struggle at crunch time because they haven’t seen the light of day for months. The ball is moving differently than in practice. The heat of the moment melts them on the spot. Have you not seen this on your work teams? The back office person left stammering because the prime time player is out on vacation or is sick.
We view this as a mistake by leadership to not develop all members of the team to be able to “leave the building” and go see a client or customer. It doesn't have to be an everyday occurrence, but having a system in place to keep all team members on the court will do wonders for your company. We hope the Warriors go all the way this year. Just remember, get the ball in as many people’s hands as you can during the regular season so they won’t drop it in the playoffs!
Try out our blog post next titled "Designing Your Team From Scratch"
Susan Fowler has a book, “Why Motivating People Doesn't Work…and What Does” in which she smartly addresses the challenges with using extrinsic motivational systems within groups. We shared a bit about this with our “Tree of Performance” (photo below) and believe all leaders should be well versed in the six levers they can pull to guide a team in this area. Publicly many leaders joke that they expect all members of their team to be “self-motivated”, but privately they understand how to create a culture where people's need for Autonomy, Relatedness, and Competency are being met.
A client assignment had us diving further into this topic and how the topics of “Productivity” and “Engagement” can come into play. Engagement is something that does not....
This section will not be visible in live published website. Below are your current settings:
Current Number Of Columns are = 1
Expand Posts Area =
Gap/Space Between Posts = 10px
Blog Post Style = card
Use of custom card colors instead of default colors = 1
Blog Post Card Background Color = current color
Blog Post Card Shadow Color = current color
Blog Post Card Border Color = current color
Publish the website and visit your blog page to see the results
Drew Sanders Blog
Some of our awesome posts are from our newsletter Branches & Roots, an 8x a year publication. For full annual volumes see our buttons below! Even better sign up for the newsletter so you don't miss out.