"Branches & Roots": A Look at Strategy and Competition Through the Lens of Business and Sport
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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