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.
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.
We have often been asked to help with this question: How does a company build a winning culture? In pursuing the answer to this question, we have noticed the stark cultural differences between a group and a team. If culture eats strategy for breakfast than a team eats a group’s lunch. What is a group, and what is a team? For definition purposes here are some of the fully researched differences between a group and a team:
Companies hire people from different walks of life, with different strengths and different personalities. These differences can be obvious and group dynamics can take over if the leadership doesn’t take an active role in helping people understand how they are aligned and the things they have in common. A great way to do this is the admiration exercise which takes about 60 minutes for a group of 15.
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:
Don't worry, we have not picked up a new bad habit, a recent trip to the library had me opening up a new book, and the combination of the adhesives and paper gave off a smell that made me smile. If you can imagine that smell right now, then you might really enjoy this edition.
When it comes to reading, word of mouth seems important. We just don’t want to make a book purchase and end up with a dud. With that in mind we suggested for the past summer 12 book ideas for the 12 weeks of summer. We hope you find one of our selections interesting and that you find the time to read (or like many of us listen to the book).
We have divided up the recommendations into five categories:
Most of these books are not new but they all were worth the investment of time, money and enrichment a good book can bring. CLICK HERE TO SEE OUR SELECTIONS
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....
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...
Most will know the Beach Boys song from 1963 as “Be True to Your School,” yet research done by Adam Grant on Facebook has started to show that pride in your company can have a large impact on the amount of work the average employee will produce in a day. It can graphically be represented on an axis of belonging and autonomy.
People love to have choice, and they also love to belong. When they feel their company's purpose aligns with their own values they take more initiative. The new haunting question for leaders may become: are you proud of our team? What a powerful yet challenging question for many work environments. I can just see several of my earlier bosses falling out of their chairs in laughter. Does this mean we need plenty of circle time and not challenge each other? Is the chain of command completely broken and the inmates are running the asylum? Not necessarily. Optimism and pride in your company are part of the fascinating discussion in this article from the May edition of Fast Company.
Consider now reading Is Your Culture a Wow or a Whatever?
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...
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.
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 “it is more about 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 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.” 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.
Take your great attitude and read about mentoring in our Allowing Wisdom to Rise post.
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 twice, 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.....
Sanders, can’t you just give me the three quick steps 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 three steps you and your team might consider. 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...
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"
Everywhere you look companies and teams are looking for speed: foot speed, communication speed, and speed of delivery of goods and services. We started to notice a correlation between teamwork challenges and the duration of the team itself. In youth sports the average season is 16 weeks long, an eternity for the player, but a blip on the screen for an adult. In work environments temporary workers are the standard for most Global 1000 companies and they even have different color badges for all to see. The need for speed has created an environment where leaders can fill the room with people, but one layer down all parties are looking around the room to gauge the commitment to the group, and the duration and type of contract.
Regardless of your position on one of these new “iTeams”, factoring in the length of the time the team is to be together should help you work well with all parties. If you are the leader, missing this key dynamic can be costly to your performance especially with the lowest power participants. Often times the lower power groups will never communicate their frustration, rather they will find a way to hit a personal “release” valve that subtly kills the team culture. It can show up in their engagement level. They are present, but not clicked into the team's goal. Often times they vote with their feet, by not showing up at all. Dr. Suess’s “Yertle the Turtle" comes to mind here.
As you build your teams, keep a special eye out for your different groups. Don’t overlook the short duration participants. They often have long duration commitments elsewhere (spouses and children), that if tended to correctly can make a big impact on how they perform on your team. If you don’t, one named “Mack" may burp and like Yertle your team may end up flat on its back.
Erin Meyer released “The Culture Map” in 2014 and it sat in my stack of books for a few months or I would have written about it sooner, for anyone working with an international team this book has the keys to team-building heaven. It turns out that in the midst of the United States trying to make amends for past sins in the “you and I are different” category, the rest of the world has known all along that a French Chef beats a British one, and that Indian executives are much less worried about timeliness than the Germans.
Meyer has created a global relative scale for culture differences in eight different categories ranging from timeliness to persuasion to performance review evaluation styles. The results are
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