Team Development

Elite Teams: Practice

We must hear this comment three to ten times a day: “We love your stuff. We need your help (with our Board, with Training, with Coaching). BUT WE DON’T HAVE ANY MONEY IN THE BUDGET.”

The following thoughts on Elite Teams will help you re-think the whole idea of training, budgets, team dynamics, priorities and more.

THE BIG IDEA:

  • What is the one common element inherent in every Elite Team?
  • What common thread creates Elite Teams in the military (Navy Seals, Delta Force), professional sports (LA Kings, Miami Heat, St. Louis Cardinals), professional musicians (symphony, orchestra), medical teams (surgical teams, trauma units), etc.?
  • What does every one of these elite teams … and the individuals involved with the team … DO better than everyone else in the world?
PRACTICE. PRACTICE. PRACTICE.

Think about it.

Military teams constantly practice, practice, practice in boot camp, training camps, simulations, etc. Up until 10 years ago, the idea was to practice … in the hope that you’d never have to play. The U.S. has now been engaged in the real stuff for over 10 years … which makes the whole idea of practice here in the States even more important.

Professional sports teams probably spend 3 to 10 times more of their time practicing than they do actually playing the game. Think spring training, training camps and exhibition seasons … training, practices and workouts during the season.

Same with professional musicians. Symphonies and orchestras spend tons of time in practice … as well as practicing individually on their respective instruments. (Same is true of all artists and actors in theaters, opera, movies, etc.)

In medicine, doctors and nurses spend a huge amount of time in practice, beginning with their medical schools and nursing schools through residency and internships, etc. Then, they practice and rehearse how to handle surgery or major trauma.

What is the ONE THING that we DO NOT DO in the not-for-profit/For Impact world?

That’s right. PRACTICE.

We don’t take any time to get together as a team. We hate role-playing. We ‘wing it’ every time we do go out and make visits (which is not very often).

Bottom Line: If you really want to have an Elite Team at your For Impact organization … you need to commit to PRACTICE! Call it training, continuing education, whatever.

I also firmly believe that this applies to your Blue Team (your IMPACT Team) as well as your Green Team (your INCOME Team).

I’ve been doing this kind of practice training with teams for over 30 years. I absolutely guarantee you that the ROI is a ridiculous 10 to 100 times! I can actually give you cases where it’s been a 1,000 times ROI within 24 to 48 hours!! (No kidding. Multiple cases!)

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Everything’s a Project

Here’s a very simple way to get stuff done: Make EVERYTHING A PROJECT!

This simple concept, guiding principle if you will, is for anybody who is trying to achieve a goal, make a quantum leap or change the world.

This idea has been developed over the last 15 to 20 years within our company and with our clients. It drives everything we do.

Here are the 8 steps of every PROJECT.

  • Team Leader
  • Project Team
  • Goals
  • Resources
  • Barriers/Constraints
  • Time Table
  • Measurement
  • Action Plan

 

Shorthand takeaways:

  • Team Leader: Obviously, critical decision. This pick needs to underscore the idea of ‘WHO’ not ‘HOW!’ The right Team Leader will do whatever it takes to reach the project’s goals. They will be collaborative coaches … but also be able to make decisions. Paraphrasing Bill Gates, the strategy for a given project must be in one person’s head.
  • Project Team: This is all about TALENT. Diverse. Eclectic. Focused on strengths. Clear roles. (Steve Elder, an incredible leader on our For Impact Team, says, “If your Project Team can’t fit in a mini-van, it’s too big.”)
  • Goals: Clear. Concise. Compelling. Must define ‘success.’ Believable. Achievable. Always better if big, hairy and audacious. (Goal should translate into a Self-Fulfilling Prophecy.)
  • Resources: People. Money. Tools. Support. Internal and External. Need vs. want.
  • Barriers/Constraints: Direct tie to resources. Scope. Budget. Size. Simplicity. ‘White Space.’ Rule of 3. ANYBODY can do just about ANYTHING with an UNLIMITED BUDGET and NO TIME LIMIT! Constraints are what makes this a project.
  • Time Table: Not just a CONSTRAINT, but a way to set benchmarks, control flow, create AFE’s (Action Forcing Events).
  • Measurement: Again, Benchmarks. Sub-Goals. Critical Path. Accountability. Evaluation. Opportunities. And more. (Ancient cliché, but still rings true: “You GET what you MEASURE.”)
  • Action Plan: Use these first 7 steps to create a simple, understandable, measurable ACTION PLAN that allows for constant FEEDBACK (adjustments, pivots, reallocation, etc.) and FEED FORWARD (Focus on the goals, etc.).

Some things we’ve learned:

  • Think like Hollywood Talent Agencies. They hire for the role and the project. Every movie is a project. You bring together the most talented people you can, without regard to the department or org chart. Everyone comes together, does what they’re best at, and takes the project from concept to finished film. Then they disband and start again.
  • ‘The Ticket Is Printed.’ One of my favorite Disney ideas. When they put together a project and project team for a new ride/experience … the project team is given a date (deadline)… and then told that “The ticket is printed!” In other words, there’s going to be a line of kids (and their parents) waiting on that given day to get on the ride. (Therefore, it better be done.)
  • Scope of a PROJECT. Can range from a $300 Million Campaign to a 1-Night Signature Event … and everything in between.
    • Every level of the Today | Tomorrow | Forever Model is a project.
      (Leadership Societies, President Circles, Project Initiatives, Legacy Goals, etc.)
    • The 3 Circles/3 Buckets are PROJECTS, as well as the Programs and Priorities within each.
    • Every one of our TOP INVESTORS is a PROJECT … demanding a strategy, action plan, etc.
  • No Team ‘Meetings.’
    • Rather, gather team together whenever needed for brainstorming, mind mapping, engagement, whatever.
    • Disseminate information before the gathering.
    • Quick review of goals and status.
    • Make everything actionable. (“We can actually do something when we leave.”)
    • Always consider/challenge WHO attends the gathering and WHY.
    • As James Carville says, “Winners do. Losers meet.” (He goes on to say, “Absent a major peace negotiation, a complicated merger or a complex legal settlement, there is no reason on earth to have a meeting last more than 30 minutes.”)
  • Every team is made up of ‘I’ndividuals. The saying, “There is no ‘I’ in TEAM” is an absolute crock. Every team is made up of ‘I’ndividuals; and the SUCCESS of the team is a function of how well these ‘I’ndividuals mesh and perform.
  • 3 Parts to a Project.
    Here’s a great thought from Steven Pressfield’s terrific e-book, Do the Work. He says that “Every project can be divided into 3 parts: beginning, middle, end.”
    Then he simply says, “Decide what comprises the beginning, the middle and the end … and then fill in the gaps!
    He also says to constantly ask this question, “What is this damn thing (PROJECT) about? (What’s the goal? What’s the theme? What does success look like?)”
  • 3 P’s – Practice … Process … Performance. Each one needed for each individual and the team as a whole.
  • CELEBRATE … early and often. CELEBRATE small wins, benchmarks achieved, sub-goals reached … and, of course, every FAILURE! (If you’re not FAILING somewhere within your project … you’re not pushing hard enough.)
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Act or Ask

Make this a big part of your TEAM CULTURE. A BIG, BIG part of the culture.

Everyone on the team needs to either ACT or ASK!

If they know what to do, DO IT.

If they think they know what to do, DO IT.

If they aren’t clear, then ASK … and then DO IT.

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No More Meetings

I’m sick of ‘meetings.’ And I’m at an age where I can ‘just SAY no.’

Political pundit James Carville says,

“LOSERS MEET. WINNERS DO.”

He goes on to say that, “Absent a major peace negotiation, complicated merger or complex legal settlement, there’s no reason on earth to have a meeting last more 30 MINUTES.”

After 35 years in the ‘business world,’ I never want to attend another meeting in my life. I believe this is also true of every other meeting ‘attendee’ (excluding the ‘meeting planner’ or ‘boss’ who is holding the meeting.)

I wish I had a magic alternative. I’d love to see more ‘GATHERINGS’ of the right people at the right time on the right subject… to brainstorm or reevaluate or correct the course. (Imagine what life would be like without ‘meetings,’ but where you ‘GATHERED’ together in a fun, productive session with real results.)

A meeting, by the way, is not a place to INFORM! If you want to share information, write it down and get it out in a one-pager.

If you’re going to ‘gather’ for actionable results, then people need to be engaged and involved in the session … not listening to one person ramble with no purpose. ocument I’d love to see more opportunities for ‘CELEBRATIONS’ of accomplishments and success (rather than just ‘talking’ about what we’re going to do).

P.S. If you really, really want a PRODUCTIVE session, either STAND or go for a WALK!

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Do/Delegate/Dump

One simple way to gain FOCUS is to look at EVERYTHING you’re doing and decide:

  • What you’re going to continue to DO (relative to the ).
  • What you’re going to DELEGATE. (Somebody has to do it. Just not you.)
  • What you’re going to DUMP. (Not do. Nobody’s going to do it.)

Think about it.

DO

Stop trying to ‘do’ everything! (“I can’t let go.” “I micro-manage.” “Easier to do it myself.”)

The goal is to ONLY DO WHAT ONLY YOU CAN DO.

For the best example of this concept in action, read Michael Gelb’s INNOVATE LIKE EDISON. (Wonderful book — one of my favorite authors.), In essence, Edison believed his ‘job’ was to THINK and CREATE. He brought on hundreds of super-talented people to help EXECUTE. This book also reinforces that EVERYTHING’S A PROJECT! And, every project has a TEAM, LEADER, etc.

DELEGATE

Sounds simple, but always hard to figure out WHAT (to delegate) and to WHOM. What could you DELEGATE immediately that would free you up to ONLY DO WHAT ONLY YOU CAN DO.

I cut this quote out of Success Magazine on July 19, 2012. I think it captures the big idea. It’s from Richard Branson. Chief Virgin.(???) 300 companies. 34 countries. $2.1B in revenue.

“One of the best bits of advice I can give other leaders is to try to put yourself out of business. Try to find people to take over 99% of what you do, which will then free you up to THINK about the bigger picture.”

DELEGATE… 99% of what you do!

Jim Collins uses this same mindset, hiring a bunch of the ‘best and brightest’ to help him research and analyze his concepts.

Small example: 2013 marks the 30th Anniversary of The Suddes Group. In all those years, I can probably count the number of checks I’ve written on one hand. I hate accounting, accounts payable, accounts receivable. I’m no good with money. (It just doesn’t mean that much to me.) So… there’s always been somebody to take care of this.

My company role is to to think and make rain … to generate revenue through IMPACT and VALUE.

DUMP

I know. Again, way easier said than done.

Stephen Covey created his brilliant ‘Quadrants’ and made Quadrant IV (“Not Important. Not Urgent.”) all about DUMP.

Here’s another way to look at ‘DUMP’:

Create 3 lists:

  • Things I WANT to do.
  • Things I HAVE to do.
  • Things I neither WANT to do nor HAVE to do.

Dump the third list. Throw it away.

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