(Part 4) Is Your Team Cleared for Takeoff? “Top 5″ on Your Pre-Flight Checklist…

Want your team to take off? Then make sure you understand and execute on the checklist…Below you’ll find a description of the fourth of five checkpoints identified in the course of my experience with a particularly high-performing team. In case you missed the previous ones, click on the link at the bottom of the post to see the others.061017-F-8558P-493

4. Sincere Appreciation for Sacrifice

Working until late in the evening, preparing material into the wee hours of the morning, long difficult team meetings…..yes, this team was no exception to the “grunt work” associated with most worthy causes.

However, what was remarkable was that leaders and members took time to recognize each other for worthy contributions. No trophies, certificates or cash prizes are needed, just sincere and relevant gratitude that recognizes the specific contributions and impact made by team members.

It’s not just the task that is important – but how it moved the “bigger picture forward” (impact) that gives context and real value to the appreciation. This can take many forms…it can be as basic as a sincere “thank you”, one-on-one time with the team leader, or as far-reaching as a team member having the privilege of presenting their content to a senior manager.

It doesn’t take much to get a big “thrust” out of this lever.

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(Part 3) Is Your Team Cleared for Takeoff? “Top 5″ on Your Pre-Flight Checklist…

Want your team to take off? Then make sure you understand and execute on the checklist…Below you’ll find a description of the third of five checkpoints identified in the course of my experience with a particularly high-performing team. In case you missed the previous ones, click on the link at the bottom of the post to see the others.imagesPLEZE9LB

3. Positive Leadership
Lee Iacocca once said: “the speed of the boss is
the speed of the team.” I can’t say enough about the impact of the leaders that directed this team. In the course of working with them, my admiration for them as people rose dramatically.

They weren’t project management geeks or highly skilled facilitators (that was my job); they didn’t use these levers as a ploy to whip up artificial enthusiasm…….rather they naturally embodied them. The leaders set the example in the constructive tone of their discussion and actions.

This included: making a point to appreciate and accommodate diverse viewpoints, even if it meant following the occasional rabbit trail; insisting on face-to-face team meetings to enhance interaction of the team, despite significant travel expense; hearing the excitement rise in their own voices as they discovered benchmarks, imagined how the company could advance and reminded the team of the expectations and commitment of senior management to support the teams deliverables.

In short, they set the tone by internalizing and “radiating” these “thrusters” to the team.

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(Part 2) Is Your Team Cleared for Takeoff? “Top 5″ on Your Pre-Flight Checklist…

Want your team to take off? Then make sure you understand and execute on the checklist…Below you’ll find a description of the third of five checkpoints identified in the course of my experience with a particularly high-performing team. In case you missed the previous ones, click on the link at the bottom of the post to see the others.

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2. Senior Level Commitment
“Grassroots” is fun and stimulating but if rain never comes from above even the most resilient grass seed will die. In this particular project, not only did the project come “from above”, it also had plenty of rain from that direction.

Although there were scheduled formal reviews, the unscheduled informal “drop-ins” of senior management and the accompanying insightful questions and suggestions were of equal, if not more value. It showed a real investment – not just of resources but “focus bandwidth.”

Showing this bandwidth, or “share of mind,” is one of the most powerful things managers can do to indicate their level of commitment to a team.

This can be done in very practical ways such as – drop-ins, occasionally participating in a team meeting, asking insightful questions based on presented material, being readily available to give direction when the team “gets stuck”. This is a lever where a little push can make a big difference in altitude.

Part 1: A Worthy & Inspiring Cause/Vision

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(Part 1) Is Your Team Cleared for Takeoff? “Top 5″ on Your Pre-Flight Checklist…

A few years ago I had the opportunity to facilitate an international team whose motivation and progress was particularly outstanding. As a member of the team, I even noticed a higher energy level and commitment in myself.This was remarkable, especially since I’ve spent years leading, facilitating and being a member of countless teams and observed my fair share of team dynamics (good, average…and bad).

As I sat in the airplane leaving the location of our last meeting, I remember feeling the thrust of the engine pushing us down the runway and thinking about what had pushed this team to be so extraordinarily energized and motivated.What made it stand apart from the many others I had worked with? Were there specific “thrusters” I could identify that would help other leaders get their teams to “take-off?”

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As I reflected on this experience five success-factors began to crystalize in my mind. I’d like to take the opportunity of the next few blog posts to share them with you:

1. A Worthy & Inspiring Cause/Vision

In this particular case the team was working on a subject that was difficult but had the potential to radically transform the company. As we became more familiar with the subject matter, imagined how it could make an impact and used benchmarks to visualize a possible result, the “energy thermometer” of the team members climbed….one could literally feel it in the room.

Admittedly, not all teams are asked to change the course of a company, but they should be inspired by the importance of the task at hand. Steve Jobs captured the spirit with his challenge with his famous statement: “Let’s make a dent in the universe.”

To this end, invest time to see the “universe” (vision), visualizing possible outcomes and “building desire” for the end result i.e. the “dent” you want to make. After all a team spends a significant portion of their time, and even lives, working on a subject – find ways to make sure it comes alive and is worth it to them!

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Exceptions are Your Friend. Their Role in Helping Your Company Change

I recently had the opportunity to have lunch with a top executive at a large company. As we were discussing the challenges of making “change happen” in large organizations, he made the following statement that immediately “stuck” in my mind:

The number of exceptions a company is willing to make to its policies is an indicator of its openness and willingness to change. If you’re primary concern is always how you’ll have to explain the exception to your entire workforce, you’ll never change.”

This is profound…In essence, this means that by “pushing the envelope” in one area (the exception) it gives the company the opportunity to experiment and pilot a change on a small scale before launching it to the masses.

Clearly, it’s a bad sign if policies are not enforced out of fear of “doing the right thing.” However, by the same token, it’s equally bad to let fear hold you back to make exceptions that could enable your organization to innovate, change, and thereby discover a “better thing.”

Exceptions as a way to innovate and make change happen in your organization…Your thoughts?

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