6.1 GREAT TEAMS: CORE IDENTITY ESSENTIALS

 

Sculptor Jane DeDecker captured the essence of the message University of Michigan’s Cardiovascular Center has for all visitors. This larger-than-life-size statue captures a caregiver and patient caring for and trusting each other on the journey they are about to pursue together.

A Shared Core Identity

What is it that enables highly competent individuals to integrate into great teams and thrive naturally? It is only with the support of others that our competency can be utilized as a part of something bigger than ourselves. A set of individuals create a team that shares a Core Identity. We will share a few of the fundamental requirements for great teams to thrive.

In the simplest of terms, a great team has a Core Identity built upon two essential Guiding Principles: Deep Caring and Mutual Trust in service of others. Organizations may select the words that best represent how they like to be treated and like to treat others, but they must relate to and include these two principles. We have experienced working with organizations that failed to have one or both, and despite our efforts, they are no longer in existence.


 

“In organizations, real power and energy is generated through relationships. The patterns of relationships and the capacities to form them are more important than tasks, functions, roles, and positions.” – Margaret Wheatley


Guiding Principle Requirements: Caring and Trust

Deep Caring

Diversity People Huddle Teamwork Union ConceptLove may be the basis of this Guiding Principle, but may not be politically correct in your business world. Deep Caring surfaces our need to be cared about, to be respected, to give and receive compassion and empathy. The “deep caring” concept lives around a feeling of loving and being loved in context of what provides a secure and safe environment.

Stories of Deep Caring from our Clients

These are examples from clients of what their organization has looked like at its best when deep caring was exemplified. They touch our hearts, and we do not forget when we have witnessed the Guiding Principle of Deep Caring in action under pressure.

  • One of our team members was diagnosed with cancer last year. She chose to follow a non-traditional method. We have held fundraisers to help her pay for everything insurance didn’t cover.
  • (From a third-generation employee) My grandmother had a baby, and when Grandpa went to pay the bill, he found that the president of our company had already paid the bill.
  • Our owner took time for a customer who could barely come up with the deposit for a $10K purchase, while a much larger customer waited for him. All customers are important and that is how we treat everyone.
  • We sponsor Christmas for an underprivileged school. T-shirts, breakfast and lunch, gifts, and for some, family gifts; 40 team members participated. We end up feeling like the beneficiaries.
  • I was young and stupid and got into trouble, and the company helped me get through the tough times. I would be in real trouble if it were not for the company.

Mutual Trust 

TRUST process business concept diagram presentation backgroundOrganizations can select other words that defines their journey that promote flow in organizations and relationships. Once again, we are seeking the sense of safety and security that words like Integrity, Honesty, and Responsibility also describe.

In our work, we like the word ‘trust” because it is both the name for the concept and the action that results from building it. Trust must be continually earned, and can be lost anytime. This Guiding Principle, once compromised, questioned, or violated can become irreparable (e.g., scandals and disasters at Enron, AIG, BP, Exxon), or take generations to forget or forgive. As leaders, we need to understand the responsibility of continually earning trust through our actions.

Stories of Deep Trust from our Clients

These stories of Trust instill a feeling you are in a safe place where your back is covered, even when you do make a mistake.

  • Our customers trust us, they want us to succeed, they give us competitor pricing. They do not do this with our competitors.
  • The president’s open communication on what happened, and how we were going to overcome the challenges. It meant a great deal to many of us.
  • A service company delivered a truck with wallet left in the cab. We immediately returned the wallet to the rental company, who then returned it to the owner.
  • Our team started a trust-building meeting to communicate openly on the good, the bad, and the ugly among us. It is making us a stronger team.
  • We sold a customer a flawed design that failed. We stepped up and fixed it, and continue to support each other today. They could have left us with a massive bill for the failure, but did not, because we made it right.

 


“Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world; indeed, it’s the only thing that ever has.” – Margaret Mead


A Deeply Meaningful Purpose in Service of Others

These two Guiding Principles, when in service of a deeply meaningful Purpose that contributes to the benefit of others, attract the right team members, and produce sustainable success. As shared in Blog 4.1, the Purpose is not to be self-serving, rather focused on gaining the joy of being a part of a team that has made a difference. As Margaret Meade points out, it is a community’s shared commitment to a deeply meaningful purpose that makes significant accomplishments possible.

When you build your Foundation of Winning on that simple platform of a Deeply Meaningful Purpose for benefit others—with Guiding Principles of Deep Caring and Mutual Trust—you will be on your way to building a sustainably profitable organization.

Like all Guiding Principles, these two—Deep Caring and Mutual Trust—are how we like to be treated and how we like to treat others. They are not constituency-dependent: they must apply to all we connect with, all the time, especially when under pressure. It will be the stories of exemplification and violation that will more accurately define what is meant by the words. When under stress, team members will remember the stories of what we look like when at our best, not the words on the wall. In time, the words remind us of stories, and the stories become feelings that will guide actions for future decision making.

The Biological Impact of these Two Guiding Principles

Feelings we experience from being in an environment that is caring and where trust is felt have a biological base. The chemical serotonin is activated when we feel valued and proud, and when we look out for others. This trusting and caring environment inspires us to feel a responsibility to look out for each other, with no expectation of something in return. When we do this, others in turn look out for us, and it becomes a circular and reinforcing system that promotes a safe place to live and work.

Another hormone, oxytocin, is activated when we experience friendship, trust, and physical touch, and it reinforces positive relationships and trust. It can be activated through acts of kindness, including simple gestures that demonstrate deeper caring, with deep meaning.

An abundant mentality touches both Caring and Trust. A key component of the Foundation of Winning is a positive and abundant mentality. Oxytocin fosters the generosity found in those with abundant mindsets, and it can even be activated by witnessing acts of kindness. Think about your responsibility as a leader understanding the impact you have as others witness your actions. What acts are being witnessed by your team? Are they serotonin and/or oxytocin creating?

Studies have shown that serotonin can contribute to extending life. We live longer when we live and work in environments that feel safe, secure, and protected. As leaders, we need to own the responsibility for enhancing the lives of our team members, while creating an environment that attracts team members who desire to attain greatness for sustainably-profitable organizations.

 Leadership Questions

  1. What does it mean to you as a leader to have an impact on the life of your team members?
  2. How clearly is trust found and exemplified in your organization?
  3. How clearly is caring lived and exemplified in your organization?
  4. Do you share stories that exemplify trust and/or caring in your organization?

For those new to this series . . .

This blog is for leaders who desire to capitalize upon natural strengths to realize individual and organizational greatness. We share insights from an upcoming book on The Foundation of Winning (FOW), the template we have developed to help our clients achieve their personal and organizational potential.  

I have been privileged to spend 42 years in the Team Building business, including 21 years at University of Michigan Athletics. For the first 11 years of my tenure at U-M Athletics, I worked with Football Coach Bo Schembechler, one of our nation’s most exemplary leaders and team builders. My work has revealed there is much more to sustainable greatness than talent. Being a systems engineer, I was fascinated by the science behind what made sustainable greatness possible. There are many great leaders who possess the talents Bo embodied; because of my life experiences with Bo, he may be referenced more than others.

5.4 Closing the Performance Gap

For those new to this series . . .

This blog is for leaders who desire to capitalize upon natural strengths to realize individual and organizational peak performance.  We share insights from an upcoming book on The Foundation of Winning (FOW), the template we have developed to help our clients achieve their personal and organizational potential.  The FOW elements include Three Principles of Mankind and Four Disciplines of Leadershipthey are the pillars that enable natural alignment and meaningful success.

I have been privileged to spend 20 years in the consulting business and 21 years at University of Michigan Athletics, including 11 years with Football Coach Bo Schembechler, one of our nation’s most exemplary leaders. My work has revealed there is much more to long-term peak performance than talent. Being a systems engineer, I was fascinated by the science behind what made enduring peak performance possible.  There are many great leaders who possess what Bo embodied, but he may be referenced more than others due to my life experiences.

blog-5-4-1-footballCoaches of sports teams have the Performance Gap in mind at all times: the most obvious metric is the difference between wins and losses! There is a Performance Gap for each team member, too — it is the difference between the level they are performing at, and what the team needs to achieve peak performance. Orchestra conductors and film directors have similar metrics for tracking success, including tickets sales, critical response, and awards won. In any of these fields, the leader must foster and elicit the best performance possible, and seek the greatest improvement possible from each group or team member; this is what builds their reputations as great leaders, not what they themselves achieve.

Like their counterparts in sports and the performing arts, business leaders must mentor their direct reports towards the goal of reaching Peak Performance. Fostering and facilitating closing the Performance Gap between Peak Performance for the job versus the individual’s current performance is a critical leadership responsibility. 

The Performance Gap in Business

blog-5-4-2-singersThe peak productivity capacity of each organization — what we call 100% Performance Capacity — is, of course, subject to market variables an organization’s leader cannot control. Leaders can, however, continually improve team member performance to achieve 100% Production Capacity for a given market environment.  Leaders can close the Performance Gap between what team members are currently producing and the best they could produce on a sustainable basis.

The fast pace of change in today’s business environment makes this particularly difficult. It highlights the need for organizations to recruit and retain individuals who are flexible enough to adapt and change, and to have leaders who can invest in each team member on their personal journey to peak performance.

Assessing the Performance Gap

blog-5-4-3-chart

How much attention do you pay to the Performance Gap for your team members?

 

blog-5-4-4-scorecardOrganizational Peak Performance is possible only when each team member achieves Job Peak Performance. Each team member is measured on a Peak Performance Scorecard, which compares the Peak Performance Standard for the job to the member’s Current Performance to yield the Performance Gap; regular and accurate assessments of this differential are essential.

 The Importance of Buy-In from the Team Member

Closing the Performance Gap is a contract between the team member and the leader; it identifies the components that are most important to the team member to address.  These identified Performance Gap Components are selected from the three areas of the Peak Performance Scorecard.  We will discuss techniques for closing gaps in these areas in the upcoming Foundations of Winning book.  For now, we can provide links to blog posts about each area:

blog-5-4-5-bikeWhy focus on what the team member, rather than the leader, feels needs addressing most?  We find that some Performance Gaps, once understood by the team member, touch them personally. This resonance energizes them to address the issues more naturally, with less stress. Building on this initial success, the team member can more easily move on to closing the remaining Performance Gaps. A caveat: if the team member does not recognize the obvious, non-negotiable performance gaps, they may be a poor fit for the job, or for the organization.

blog-5-4-b-humancap

Leadership Challenge Questions

  1. Do you currently measure and review performance for each of your reports?
  2. Is this a continual and on-going disciplined process?
  3. Have you asked your direct report what would mean most to them to improve?
  4. Do you participate in the growth journey of your direct report?
  5. Do you regularly review the performance improvement initiatives your direct report is working on?
  6. What is the importance of growing each team member to peak performance?

5.1 The Paramount Importance of Cultural Fit

For those new to this series . . .

This blog is for leaders who desire to capitalize upon natural strengths to realize individual and organizational peak performance.  We share insights from an upcoming book on The Foundation of Winning (FOW), the template we have developed to help us and our clients achieve their personal and organizational potential.  The FOW elements include Three Principles of Mankind and Four Disciplines of Leadershipthey are the pillars that enable natural alignment and meaningful success.

I was privileged to spend 21 years at University of Michigan Athletics, including 11 years with Football Coach Bo Schembechler, one of our nation’s most exemplary leaders. Working with Bo revealed there is much more to long-term peak performance than talent. Being a systems engineer, I was fascinated by the science behind what made enduring peak performance possible.  There are many great leaders who possess what Bo embodied, but he may be referenced more than others due to his mentorship.


I bet you have a great “elevator pitch” to describe your job, or your organization.  But what about the culture of your organization? How would you encapsulate that? And when you are making a hiring decision, are you taking into consideration how well the applicant will fit with your organization’s culture? In the upcoming Foundation of Winning book, we will take a much deeper dive into Cultural Fit, but for now, l would like to get you thinking about what Cultural Fit looks like in your organization.

In the last post, we introduced the Performance Evaluation Equation:

Blog-5-1-Image-PeakPerfCulturalFit 

Long-term success starts with Cultural Fit built on these concepts, which we have shared in previous blog posts:

  • a shared Purpose that is intrinsically motivating to us,
  • a Vision for the difference in the world we hope to make over time, and
  • a set of Guiding Principles that honor who we are at our collective best as we serve our Purpose and Vision.

What does this look like in a real organization? Here is a great example of a leader who understood the importance of Cultural Fit.

Setting the Stage for Cultural Fit

Bo Schembechler and the 1969 University of Michigan Football Team

In the spring of 1969, when I was a freshman, the U-M Football Team had about 75 returnees from the 1968 team and another 75 walk-ons, including me, trying out.  As was tradition at Michigan, any male U-M student could try out for the team in the spring, but first they had to go through Football Team Winter Conditioning to earn a spot.

Bo told us his plan to reduce this unprecedented turnout to a manageable number:

Blog-5-1-Image-Bo&Quote

It was the first time he exhorted the team with this rallying cry, and “Those who stay will be champions!” is still a legendary part of the U-M Football Team ethos. Bo was also defining the culture of the U-M Football for us:

  • focus on team (rather than star players);
  • highly competitive;
  • intensely demanding, both mentally and physically; and
  • incredibly rewarding.

Bo’s concept of “the team – the team – the team” (he describes it in this one-minute 1983 video) was formed that spring.  It was the players against the world: we were going to show the coaches we would not be broken, that we had each other’s backs. To some degree, it was the players against the clock, the weights, the weather, and, at times, the coaches.  We were convinced there was no group of men in the world in better shape, willingly making more mental and physical sacrifice than us.  The seeds of the 1969 Big Ten Championship were sown that spring as the team’s ranks thinned from 150 to fewer than 80; we even lost some starters from the 1968 team along the way. During his 21 years as head coach, Bo stayed true to his promise, and any team member who was at U-M for four years and played under Bo left U-M with at least one Big Ten championship ring.Blog-5-1-TheTeamTheTeamTheTeam

“The Team Comes First” remains a mainstay component of many of the most successful organizations.  For example, to identify the organizations on its “100 Best Companies to Work For” list, Fortune conducts a survey that includes a Trust Index and a Culture Audit. Focusing on Cultural Fit provides the most important filter for proper selection of the people who will enable peak performance on your organization’s team.

 

Leadership Challenge Question

As a leader, ask yourself:

  • What does flourishing look like in your organization’s culture?
  • Who are the exemplary Organizational Culture Fit team members? Which of their attributes could you seek and nurture in others to make the organization better?
  • Do we understand the difference between Cultural Fit and Job Competency?
  • Do we understand the difference between Cultural Fit and appropriate Job Behavior?

 

Upcoming Blog Posts:

5.2 Performance Component #2 – Job Competency Fit

5.3 Performance Component #3 – Job Behavioral Fit

5.4 Summary – Right People/Organization Fit

5.0 Fit for Peak Performance

For those new to this series . . .

This blog is for leaders who desire to capitalize upon natural strengths to realize individual and organizational peak performance.  We share insights from an upcoming book on The Foundation of Winning (FOW), the template we have developed to help us and our clients achieve their personal and organizational potential.  The FOW elements include Three Principles of Mankind and Four Disciplines of Leadershipthey are the pillars that enable natural alignment and meaningful success.

I was privileged to spend 21 years at University of Michigan Athletics, including 11 years with Football Coach Bo Schembechler, one of our nation’s most exemplary leaders. Working with Bo revealed there is much more to to long-term peak performance than talent. Being a systems engineer, I was fascinated by the science behind what made enduring peak performance possible.  There are many great leaders who possess what Bo possessed, but Bo may be referenced more than others as he was the one I witnessed executing the disciplines most.


 

Phenomenally beautiful and picturesque garden for walks and supervision over flowers and treesCreating a flourishing garden requires matching a set of complementary plants to optimal soil, light, water, and climate conditions. Organizations are the same: in order to thrive and flourish, the organization’s culture must nourish each team member, supporting them in service of something bigger than themselves.

 

 

The Peak Performance Evaluation Equation

In the next few blog posts, we will share the three components of fit for an individual in an organization and their job; Cultural Fit in the organization has the heaviest weight based upon our findings.  Don McMillan and several other veteran executive coaches we collaborate with at FSA developed this Peak Performance Evaluation Equation:

Blog-5-0-Equation

Warren Buffett’s philosophy on hiring the right people illustrates this same concept:

Blog-5-0-Buffet“In looking for someone to hire, you look for three qualities: integrity (culture fit), intelligence (competency fit) and energy (behavioral fit),” said Buffet. “But the most important is integrity, because if they don’t have that, the other two qualities, intelligence and energy, are going to kill you.”

 

Why Cultural Fit?

Organizations thrive when each individual has the opportunity for peak performance.  Like plants, they need the right environment and nurturing to thrive.  The study of athletic teams made it clear that teams with the most five-star players do not necessarily win.  There is a shared purpose, a respect and trBlog-5-0-CompValuesust in each other, that is more important than the innate talent of the individual players.  Michigan State University’s current head football coach, Mark Dantonio, exemplifies this concept well: he recruits many good—but not five-star—players who form a cohesive team and win at unprecedented levels. Clearly, they are seeking something more subjective than talent in those they desire to be a part of their team. He is the first football coach in Big Ten Conference history to win at least 11 games in a season 5 out of 6 years. Blog 5.1 will take the discussion of Cultural fit further.

The Importance of Competency Fit

While we have emphasized the importance of Cultural Fit a great deal, we do so because most leaders value Competency Fit as the most important—and often the only—criterion in hiring.  That said, Competency does matter, and it has three components:Blog-5-0-potters

  1. Talent: Natural and innate; a raw material we can develop
  2. Skill: Abilities gained or learned on our growth journey
  3. Knowledge: The continually growing base that informs our decision making

Where and how an individual developed their talent, skills, and knowledge will also affect their level of competency: excelling at a challenging school, earning the interest of an exceptional mentor, and seeing through a difficult project are examples of experiences that augment competency, and past performance in other jobs will also shed light on their competency.  We will dig deeper into Competency Fit Assessment in Blog 5.2.

The Role of Behavioral Fit

Have you ever dreaded working with someone, even though they were talented and highly competent? Whatever the quality of their work, dealing with their inappropriate behavior was too high a price to pay.  There are many behavior assessment tools that can aid in gaging how an individual’s behavior patterns fit with the behavior required for the job. Individual behaviors are generally assessed for peak performance in these categories:

  • PrimBlog-5-0-HandUpary categories: risk taking, sociability, calmness, and detail orientation.
  • Additional categories: positivity, energy, and a passion for the organization’s purpose

Hiring “right people” – the ones who fit with their jobs in terms of competency and behavior and with
the culture of the organization, enables individuals to achieve peak performance.  And individual peak performance in service of the organization brings the organization closer to its peak performance, our ultimate goal. We will share more on this in Blog 5.3. 

Leadership Challenge Questions

As a leader, ask yourself:

  • In our organization, are we giving too much weight to Competency Fit and too little to Organizational Culture Fit? What consideration do we give to Behavioral Fit?
  • What metrics do we use to assess Cultural Fit?
  • What steps can we take to create a standard for peak performance for each of the three Performance Components, so as to benefit team members in their growing?

Upcoming Blog Posts:

  • 5.1 Performance Component #1 – Culture Fit
  • 5.2 Performance Component #2 – Job Competency Fit
  • 5.3 Performance Component #3 – Job Behavioral Fit
  • 5.4 Summary – Right People/Organization Fit