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?”


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!


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?



Keep “the What” over “the How”….always

Do you ever get “how-to” overload? You know what I mean – 3 simple steps to achieve A, 7 pillars to support strategy B, 10 levers to enable C, 24 characteristics of successful D’s, 5 timeless principles necessary for E….and on and on and on and on. It gets overwhelming and confusing but, more importantly, often distracting.

Although breaking something down into its parts or components is necessary, it’s easy to become so fixated on the “how” and completely lose site of the “why” and “what.” This happens to people and organizations all the time.


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What the World Needs…

“Don’t ask what the world needs. Ask what makes you come alive, and go do it. Because what the world needs is people who have come alive.” (Dr. Howard Thurman)

life_Dr.-Howard-ThurmanConcepts to Ponder:

  • How well do you know yourself (strengths, weaknesses, etc.)?
  • Have you ever really taken time to find out for yourself (ask others, observe your behaviours, write it down)?
  • Are you trying to “come alive” playing someone else’s game, or using what you’ve been given to make a difference?


Don’t Waste the Opportunity of “Back to ______” to Form New Habits

I often write on practical frameworks and concepts that can be applied to multiple areas of life or management. In this post I make the “rubber meet the road” by focusing these elements on a unique opportunity that occurs during this time of year. Read on…

For many of us, summers are legendary. Not necessarily because they’re less busy (ours wasn’t) but there’s definitely a change of pace and routine. Now that it’s “back to school, end of summer, or back to work” (…or whatever fits for you), it’s time for “the routine” to set back in.

But wait! What’s a routine anyway? It’s nothing more, and nothing less than a “string of habits that constitute a schedule.” That means that we have an amazing opportunity to re-evaluate and define the habits we want, versus the ones we’ve inherited. Don’t waste this chance. No need to wait for New Year’s resolutions. The iron’s hot…it’s time to lead now. Here are some practical steps to take control:


1. Goals

Clarify your goals. I’ve written a lot on this topic in other posts but, at minimum, think of what you want your life to look like over the next 3-6 months in the following areas – personal, family, professional. Try to be as specific as possible. If you’re thinking on a longer time horizon, try to bring it back to a shorter time period to be sure it’s tangible. Don’t get paralyzed on this step, but remember that without goals you’ll be turning in circles on the next steps.

2. Evaluate

Take an inventory of all the things that belong to your regular schedule and make a list. Then take time to put each item in one of the following four categories: 1) what things are non-negotiable i.e. already decided for you (ex. kids school schedule, job mandates, etc.; sometimes these can actually be a relief, as they can be considered “given”), 2) what do you want to stay the same, 3) what do you want to add, 4) what do you want to stop. Always answer these questions in light of your goals.

3. Plan

Now try to make all the puzzle pieces fit. How do you add new things? How do you discontinue others? Add it up from a money perspective…does it work inside your budget? Add it up from a time perspective…does it work inside your schedule? What changes will you have to make (ex. if you want to start working out in the morning before work, you may have to go to bed earlier to get up earlier). It’s like an algebra problem. Keep iterating until you can find a way to “solve the problem” within the constraints you have. You’ll have to make tough choices, and it will likely force you to clarify or re-evaluate your goals. But remember, if it doesn’t work out on paper, you have no chance for it to work in practice.

4. Resource

This step is about creating conditions for success by creating support structures to increase chances for success. Do you need to join a group to get the guidance you need (ex. gym, running-buddy, community group, car-pool, etc.)? Do you need to track your progress to make sure you’re moving forward (ex. get a log book, create a spreadsheet, download an app, buy an alarm clock)? Do you need to create a separate financial category to track your progress (ex. separate savings account)? In essence, it’s putting in place the enabling elements and “secondary support habits” that are needed to realize the primary habit/routine we want to activate.

5. Accountability

This step is often overlooked but is one of the most powerful predictors of success. First, tell someone about the new habit you want to form (or even the ones you want to stop) and give them permission to ask you the “hard questions” concerning your follow-through. If possible, identify people that are part of your “resource group” i.e. those that are already “doing it” or have committed to “do it” with you. They understand the challenge and know what it takes.

Second, be accountable to your plan (after, all you didn’t spend all that time planning for nothing). Go back to it regularly and compare how you’re doing versus where you wanted to be. Re-calibrate, re-group, revise (if needed), and resolve to make the adjustments to realize it.

It’s back to school or work…or whatever. Don’t let that mean “back to old habits.” Seize the opportunity to make it mean: “back to progressing to the next level.”