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The 5 Powers of Successful Teams

In his paper “The 5 Dysfunctions of a Team“, Patrick Lencioni describes the absence of 5 basics characteristics of a team making it dysfunctional. 

I’d like to give it a more positive twist and look at it as 5 powers that are critical for a team to be cohesive and ultimately successful.

POWER #1: TRUST

The foundation layer for every team has got to be trust. That fragile emotional state that usually takes a long time to build and just seconds to vanish once and for all. Trust develops when we meet each other as vulnerable human beings and stop wearing a mask (not in the COVID-sense). Trust develops when we confess that we are not perfect, that we make mistakes, do stupid stuff, that we don’t always do what we said we would do and actually ask for help when we need it. Trust can’t be claimed, it needs to be earned and during the process of building it, it gets tested repeatedly, just to make sure it’s the right thing to do. Of course, honest and authentic communication is needed, but trust is being built by actions and behaviors and not through words. The other major ingredient of trust is empathy – that team members actually care about each other. Eventually trust takes away fear and allows us to open up.

POWER #2: CONFLICT

With the generations of Millennials, a new mantra seems to have emerged: “Conflict is bad and therefore needs to be avoided at all costs”. Maybe it comes from over-protective parents who wanted to shield their children from any kind of problems not realizing that problems are what makes us grow as individuals. The avoidance of conflict leads to artificial harmony while it is boiling under the hood so to speak. Our democratic society is built upon the foundation of debate as pre-requisite for decision making. That is the reason why we have a parliament and not just a legislative authority. We have the right of free speech, the right to be heard, the right to disagree. Teams who have a good level of trust will identify and discuss important topics and bring them to resolution. Team members actually listen to each other and appreciate the different points of views that are being expressed. In that process better, more profound decisions are being made and it is NOT about winning or losing but rather about making sure that all different aspects have been covered. Leaders need to leave enough room for a thorough debate but also drive the decision making. This can be a real balancing act and requires a lot of sensitivity, presence and rapport. Once a decision is made the team members need to accept it and we can take the issue off the table. Cohesive teams do this efficiently and do not waste time discussing the same issues over and over again. Making (good) decisions equals progress and progress makes the team feel good!

POWER #3: COMMITMENT

Ambiguity can drive even the most loyal employees crazy. It is amongst the top reasons why high performers leave. If there is trust amongst the team members and the issues at hand have gone through a healthy debate with a decision being taken, team members have the clarity and the transparency on why and how the decision was made. This is the basis for them to commit. I’d like to call it a “mobilized commitment” meaning not just “I’m OK with it and I’ll let others make it happen” but rather “I was part of making this decision and I will make an active contribution to it being implemented”. People naturally want to commit and engage but they withhold that power until they understand the strategy and feel that it is worthwhile going for it. Last but not least they need to understand what’s in it for them. Mobilized commitment is a state that needs to be constantly monitored and managed. The role of leaders is to demonstrate their own commitment, go first and keep on track even if the going gets tough!

POWER #4: ACCOUNTABILITY

When there is trust, transparency and mobilized commitment with a clear action plan, employees will allow the team to hold them accountable for keeping their commitments and delivering on their expected contributions. This means that team members will call their peers on actions and behaviors that may seem counterproductive to the good of the team. It is an unpleasant but necessary process to go through. Those who get called upon do not take it as a personal or political attack but rather as a helpful hint on how to contribute even more to the overall performance of the team. This links back to being vulnerable and the power of having a healthy debate.

POWER #5: RESULTS

This is about absolute joint focus on the outcome that the team committed to deliver. 

It is also about team members putting the needs of the team in front of their own needs. It is about the belief that if the team achieves the desired result, everyone will be looked after. Of course, this does not mean that everyone can and will always contribute equally. It is great to have star performers and recognize them accordingly. It is great to have some competition for the #1 position, but if you believe that your performance is constantly above the rest of your team then you are probably in the wrong team.

Lencioni delivers a set of powerful questions that can be used to check the status of a team:

  • Do team members openly and readily disclose their opinions? 
  • Are team meetings compelling and productive? 
  • Does the team come to decisions quickly and avoid getting bogged down by consensus? 
  • Do team members confront one another about their shortcomings? 
  • Do team members sacrifice their own interests for the good of the team? 

How do your answers look like for your team?

/the social dilemma: Is apocalypse unavoidable?

“If you are not paying for the product, you are the product”. This is probably the most quoted statement from this documentary which provides incredible insights from former executives of the social media tech giants like Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Google, YouTube etc. but it is a bit more sophisticated: “The product is the gradual, slight, imperceptible change in our own behavior, and they are selling it online to the highest bidder”. It is a tiny change in what we do, what we think and eventually who we are.

With everything we do online we are leaving eternal footprints in the internet which the tech giants pick up and add to their infinite collection of data about us and monetize it. In the film they call it “surveillance capitalism”. 

The social media business is described as having three dials: Engagement, Growth and Advertising/Monetization and the companies built a highly sophisticated machine where AI-powered algorithms influence the user’s behavior towards those goals. The ability to make people addicted has been designed into the system. Interestingly enough there are only 2 industries that call their customers “users”: illegal drugs and software. Money is being made by selling the certainty that the ad will generate a certain number of leads which get pushed through a funnel and eventually will become customers buying the product that is being advertised. This certainty is grounded on the ability to make great predictions from the intelligence available about the user. It is like a stock market where “human futures” are being traded – predictions on human actions. The more data available the more precise the predictions become.

The 2016 US elections have shown major influence being taken by social media advertising and the Trump presidency has demonstrated how social media can be used to divide the population by using radical language and fake news. Fake news on Twitter spreads 6 times faster that real news. Funny enough Facebook argues that the way to fix the “fake news problem” is to come up with even more sophisticated AI algorithms. In a way the AI seems to be driving its own dynamics and you could ask yourself if anyone in the social media world still understands how they really work – scary! Maybe blockchain can be used to fight the fake news.

Two people even within the same country do not receive the same output on exactly the same google search request. There is no “shared reality”. The output is influenced by the intelligence about the individual user that is already available. Social media seem to know what we like and will present, prioritize and recommend to us more information just like it. They will connect us to more users that like what we like and lock us up in our own “virtual reality”. 

Social media has turned from a tool that allowed us to fulfill our natural desire to connect in new, easier, and expanded ways into a system that turns human beings into compute nodes. The analogy with the film Matrix comes to mind and apocalyptic scenarios are being discussed: social divide, civil war, the end of democracy …

So, what does it take to “wake up” from the Matrix and do we really want to? Maybe it is already too late? The documentary does not give a clear answer. It may be about financial pressure, regulation, enforcing social responsibility. For sure it is a call to action for true leaders!

What Leaders can learn from Football

With the European Football Championship coming to a close on Sunday, I was again and again reminded of what we can learn in leadership by watching football games.

STATE IS EVERYTHING
If we define state as our physiology, what we are focused on, what meaning we are giving to things and what we are saying to ourselves,  you come to the conclusion pretty quickly that state is fundamental to success. It comes down to the equations: A great state = A great game, A bad state = A bad game.
You can read the state of a team when they show them during the playing of the national anthems. Can you feel passion? The absolute desire to win and the commitment to pull through? – no matter what. And yes, it starts with believing that you can win even if the odds are against you. Clearly the German team did not think anymore they could win after England scored their second goal.

Another area where state is fundamental is when it comes to a penalty shootout. The epic 1:1 fight with ultimate pressure on the shooter, less so on the goal keeper. Often enough you can see the fear in the shooter’s face.

IT IS A TEAM SPORT
Switzerland has proven that to the extreme by turning a 3:1 lead by France into finally a win after penalties. Even more drama in the game against Spain where Switzerland started with an own goal and had to play for over 45 minutes with 10 against 11. They still made it to the penalty shootout which this time did not work in their favor unfortunately. In both games the other team had by far more talented players but the Swiss made it up by an incredible team spirit. Last but not least Portugal needed to realize that you were “finding Ronaldo“ was no longer a viable strategy to win.

IT IS NOT OVER UNTIL IT’S OVER
We saw the French victory dance after taking a 3:1 lead against Switzerland. They clearly thought it was over. And as a fan of Bayern Munich, the 1999 loss against Manchester United in the Champions League Final is still a trauma reminding us how a 1:0 lead can be turned into a 2:1 loss within the last 2 minutes of a game.

CHAMPIONS HAVE GREAT LEADERS
There is leadership on the field as well as alongside the field which is crucial to success. And yes, there can absolutely be more than one leader as long as they understand how to support each other and when to get out of the way in order to not block one another.

Great leaders also demonstrate flexibility. Almost like in a chess game it is about predicting the next move and being proactive as well as reactive. Bringing in new players just a couple of minutes before the end is a high risk gamble.

YOU HAVE GOT TO HAVE A SYSTEM AND A STRATEGY THAT WORKS FOR THE PLAYERS
The formation is key and it can change during the game, but there got to be a system. The Germans seemed to have selected a system and tried to have the team practice how to cope with it. That lead to players in positions that they did not like to play in. Another approach would be to look at the capabilities of the different players and find a system which lets them perform at their best.

DOMINANCE IS NOT GUARANTEED VICTORY
In the game against Italy, Spain was the dominant team. And while the simple rule “if you have the ball, the other team cannot score“ still holds true, the Italians got various opportunities for counter attacks and used one to make it a draw.

THE WINNER TAKES IT ALL
In football or in sales, what counts is who in the end wins the game. There are no extra points for winning beautifully or losing gracefully.

Ten Powers of an Extraordinary Leader

All of us have experienced leadership at various levels throughout our life starting directly with our parents, our teachers, our bosses and indirectly with politicians, influencers and other public figures. If we define leadership as a way to influence the thoughts, feelings and actions of others, it gives rise to the question: What actually makes up a great leader?

In this article I would like to share Ten Powers of an Extraordinary Leader

  1. Vision
  2. Clarity & Transparency
  3. Certainty, Confidence & Gratitude
  4. Candor
  5. Authenticity & Vulnerability
  6. Set Unreasonable Expectations
  7. Communication
  8. Drive Actions
  9. Care, Coach, Trust & Give Space
  10. Strategic Innovation

1. Vision

I have a dream … A great leader needs the power to articulate a compelling future that others feel drawn towards. 

What keeps us going even in very tough times is the belief that something better is out there and the first step to get there is to describe it in broad terms and then refine it until it becomes really compelling to ourselves and others. A powerful vision creates alignment across the organization. It calls forth people and organizations to become more of what they truly are. People follow other people because they like and share their vision and they are inspired and excited when they visualize how things will change for the better, once the vision becomes a reality (or close enough). The bigger the impact that a vision describes the more powerful it is. For a company the so-called mission statement then describes how the vision can be accomplished.

2. Clarity and Transparency

Who are we and why do we do what we do? Those 2 questions are some of the most profound ones we can ask ourselves.

For individuals as well as organizations, knowing their “WHY“ is the fuel that is needed to propel progress. Once you know your “WHY“, the “HOW“ actually becomes much easier as you discover resources that you previously did not see because you were focused on other things. Clarity is liberating. In his TED Talk Simon Sinek, British-American author and inspirational speaker, states that customers prefer to buy from companies that clearly articulate why they do what they do. On top of this transparency is also essential, as clarity cannot exist if there is a hidden agenda. So, does that mean you should always tell the truth? Yes – simply because the chances are pretty high that they will find out the truth anyway. Furthermore, your first lie is usually just the entrance into a fictious story that you need to sustain. On the other hand, it does not mean that you have to tell everybody about everything that’s going on. People will respect when you tell them that at a certain point in time you can’t talk about a particular topic. Clarity and transparency create a strong bond between a company and its customers or between a leader and his/her team. Team members need to understand the vision and mission of the company as well as the rationale of decisions that are being taken. You need them on board rowing rather than watching as a passenger.

Simon Sinek, Ted Talk: Start with why – how great leaders inspire action.

3. Certainty, Confidence and Gratitude

Extraordinary leaders are confident that they can turn the vision into reality and give people certainty even in very uncertain times.

This is not about lying to or misleading people. Certainty and confidence come from a belief that “We can make this better“ and “We’ll figure out a way“. A belief that even the worst times will eventually pass. You can also call that faith or the connectedness to your higher self. Many extraordinary leaders feel guided. This is a big part of what we call charisma. For most people certainty is amongst their top needs. Giving them certainty makes them feel save and let go of fears and eventually limiting beliefs (i.e., “I am not good enough”, “this will never work”, “nobody cares” …). Extraordinary leaders do not allow their fear to overcome their purpose.

You cannot feel grateful and fearful at the same time and there is always something that you can be grateful for. You could make it a regular part of your “evening routine” to think about what you felt grateful for today. Gratefulness is the perfect antidote against fear. You can even visualize what you are going to be grateful for in the future and thereby inviting this future to become your reality.

4. Candor

Being open and frank in a conversation makes our point clear and can help others to better understand what we are after. Don’t tolerate elephants in your room.

Oftentimes we shy away from being candid with others, specifically when we value the relationship with them. Candor exposes us to a certain degree and we are afraid of being criticized or even going into an unwanted debate. Instead, we communicate in a way that might make others feel good – for the moment. Ultimately, we watch things going down the tube because we missed the point to lay things on the table. As an extraordinary leader you do not have the right to withhold candor! People feel relief when the elephant in the room is being dealt with and pay respect to the person who allowed that to happen. Candor is also fundamental to how we give each other feedback. The corrective feedback can be “sandwiched” between two layers of praise in order to make it easier to consume as long as we stay specific and sincere. And yes, candor may lead to a debate or confrontation specifically when emotions come into play. I believe that great teams need to have a culture to debate. Conflict can set free enormous powers if practiced with respect and it eventually gets resolved. It is not about winning or losing but rather about creating the best solution. Unfortunately, many people have been raised now by over-protective parents with the belief that conflict is bad and needs to be avoided. 

5. Authenticity and Vulnerability 

People want to get to know their leader. Being open and vulnerable as a leader makes you human and people can connect to you.

Whether you like it or not, people can and will “read“ you. Authenticity is about acting in accordance with who you really are and interestingly enough other people will notice if that happens. It is when your mind and your heart are “on the same frequency” and the true you is allowed to show itself. People with low self-esteem may be reluctant to show their true self and maybe expose weaknesses. People with high self-esteem are usually more than happy to show themselves but since it is more about themselves than others it ruins the show. A finetuned level of self-esteem and self-awareness works best. Many leaders see vulnerability as a weakness and by hiding it at any cost refuse themselves the gift of bonding with others through empathy. The truth always sets us free. 

6. Set Unreasonable Expectations

This can create unimaginable momentum as unreasonable expectations scare us and excite as at the same time. 

All of us remember what J.F. Kennedy’s challenge in 1961 to conquer the moon before the end of the decade set free in terms of creativity, ambition and persistence. Extraordinary leaders have a feel for the right level of challenge too. This is not about becoming a dictator! Putting a stake into the ground is the first step. The management team needs to demonstrate that this challenge is an absolute priority for them and give it the necessary attention and resources. As a leader you need to track progress and if needed step in and even refine expectations. A close connection to your team is essential as well as open and frank communications. Make sure your people understand what is in it for them!

A negative example of setting unreasonable expectation is Volkswagen’s Diesel Gate where management dictated that the clean Diesel had to happen no matter what, while the technical team did not see a way to get it done. Management did not want to listen, so they faked it and caused the biggest disaster ever in the automotive industry.

Bottom line: setting unreasonable expectations is high risk and high rewards. Extraordinary leaders take accountability and support their team no matter what happens. They create a team culture based on trust and mutual support which allows everyone on the team to excel beyond expectations.

7. Communications

Of course, communication is everything. It shows people that we care, and they open up so we keep in contact with what is really going on.

You almost can’t over-communicate. This does not mean repeating the same old story all over again but providing different insights and updates for an important issue. This plays along with clarity and transparency. While verbal communication can be misleading and create confusion it makes sense to capture important statements in writing. Make sure you are in a peak state when communicating as your state can have a dramatic impact on how the message is being received by others. Even if the news might be unpleasant, isn’t it better they hear it from you than through a rumor that usually distorts the facts? Everyone in a team needs to clearly understand his/her role and responsibility. Effective Communication reduces the chances of conflicts and fights among team members.

Great communicators also acknowledged people’s contributions and celebrate their successes.

8. Drive Actions

Ultimately all plans, strategies and good will go to waste unless we put them into action – action that happens at every level of the organization.

Applied knowledge is power, not just knowledge by itself. Everything remains a theory until you try it out. It is about inspiring people to make stuff happen. It is about getting a mobilized commitment: “Yes I am all in and I will take action and contribute to the greater good!“. Getting a mobilized commitment is again about clarity and transparency. People need to understand why this needs to be done and what the final contribution will be. The purpose needs to be stronger than just to make their boss look good. They also need to know that it is ok to struggle and if they ask for help, they’ll get support. Extraordinary leaders find a way to engage everyone and not have 20% of the people do 80% of the work. Taking action is progress and progress creates fulfillment. This is also about challenging people and thereby giving them the opportunity to grow and shine. Every action needs to have an outcome, a purpose (why we need to do this), an owner(s) and a timeline that needs to be adhered to. There must be a clear understanding about focus and priorityotherwise people get overwhelmed and lost. There also need to be clear consequences when results are not being delivered on time or do not meet quality standards. Last, but not least acknowledge what people have done.

9. Care, Coach, Trust and Give Space

When you show your people that you care for them, support their growth and trust them, they will eventually work for you because they want to, not just because they have to. They will work for you because of what you have done for the organization and for them and ultimately because of who you are and what you represent.

John Maxwell: The 5 levels of leadership

The ultimate task of an extraordinary leader is to help create more extraordinary leaders. This is also a chance to multiply you influence in the organization. When people feel freedom and trust they will excel and show their gratitude for ever! It is time to put your ego aside and think about the contributions you can make to the individuals and the organization. People sense when you challenge them for their own good and not your personal interests. Coaching or mentoring is amongst the quickest ways for your employees to grow and move up in the organization and you become their natural role model. Afterall, if you want to get promoted you need to make sure that you have a successor(s) who can do your job. When you invest in the growth of your employees, they will pay you back with mobilized commitment and gratitude and word will spread across the organization. Sooner than later people will fight to become part of your team.

10. Strategic Innovation

Innovation is the force that keeps you in business for the long term. It is about anticipating changes in markets, technologies, regulatory requirements etc.

“We are successful, therefore we are doing the right thing“. I have heard that statement too often in my professional life and most of the time it was far away from the truth. People were just spoiled by their success. Technologies like digitization have redefined almost every market in today’s economy. It is about making innovation a habit, allowing to question what has been true so far and exploring technologies and services that might shape our future. It is about anticipating the future. That does not mean you have to be a pioneer and push yourself out there to the “bleeding edge”. Pioneers rarely can dominate a market long term. Instead, you need to understand the new development and enter the market at “the right point in time”. In some cases that might require you to even cannibalize your current offering but isn’t it better you do it instead of your competition. New technologies and services can also be acquired. The list of companies who failed to innovate and as a result had serious trouble or even went out of business is long (i.e., Blockbuster, Kodak, Sears, Borders, Toys R Us).

Thank you for your interest in this topic. Please let me know if this summary has provided value to you and any other comments or ideas you might have. Of course, this is my list and yours might be quite different. Which new power have you discovered? Are you eager to try it out? Which one(s) have I missed? Please feel free to share it in the comments.

5 Lessons for Life

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  1. Go after the things you want. You can do it your way. You can break the rules. You just can’t get in the way of someone else getting what they want.
  2. Take accountability for your actions. Sometimes you’re the problem.
  3. Take care of each other. Accept help when it is offered. Ask for help if you know that you can’t do it.
  4. Learn to be the last to speak. First understand from where others are speaking.
  5. As you gain fame, fortune, seniority etc. – none of the perks are for you. It’s for the position you’re holding.

Simon Sinek on Millennials in the Workplace

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Interesting insights into the world of the millennials who supposedly are hard to manage.

Coaching – A Testimonial By Eric Schmidt

Nice testimonial from Eric Schmidt (Google) about the benefits of coaching:

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Outstanding talks on leadership

The following 2 talks by Simon Sinek on human interaction and leadership are well worth watching:

Start with why

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Why Leaders Eat Last

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Welcome

Hello and welcome to my blog.
I am grateful to Darshana Borges darshana-fotografie.de who took the pictures and Philipp Kieckbusch diehingucker.de who helped me in creating this website. They have really done an outstanding job!
At Meeet Frank Spandl and his team have put a lot of passion in creating a unique eco-system for coaches consisting of co-working spaces, opportunities for networking and events. A great place to share experience and get inspired!