“We all leave a legacy. The only question is what kind of legacy will we leave — positive or negative?” —Wes Friesen
Leading a team can be very challenging, but it can also be very rewarding to you, the team and the stakeholders your team is serving. Bill George, former CEO of Medtronic and leadership expert, inspires us by saying: “No individual achievement can equal the pleasure of leading a group of people to achieve a worthy goal. When you cross the finish line together, there’s a deep satisfaction that it was your leadership that made the difference. There’s simply nothing that can compare with that.”
I aspire to leave a legacy as a person who helped my teams excel and soar — and I know you do too. I am constantly looking for practical advice from others to help me, and my teams, be more successful. Over the years, I have had the privilege of sharing what I have learned on the pages of this and other trade journals, at conferences, in the university classroom and elsewhere. I decided to summarize my key learnings in a book.
Reference Book: Your Team Can Soar!
I titled the book Your Team Can Soar! with the subtitle of: Valuable Lessons to Help You Lead and Develop High Performing Teams. Included are 42 lessons organized around three key components of our success: Leadership, Management and Personal Foundations. Each lesson can be used as a "stand alone," and the book is intended to serve as a reference that can be referred to over and over.
To help us — and our teams — achieve our full potential we must "sharpen our saws." The principle of sharpening our saws is the climatic seventh habit from Stephen Covey's 7 Habits of Highly Effective People. Abraham Lincoln illustrated the concept by saying, "If I only had two hours to chop down a tree, I would spend the first hour sharpening my ax."
The key for us is to embrace the twin concepts of continuous learning and continuous improvement. The first step is to continuously be striving to learn. The second step is to put our learning into practice. Jim Rohn encouraged us by saying, "Don't let your learning lead to knowledge. Let your learning lead to action."
Learning and improving should not stop once we reach a certain age. Henry Ford warned that, "Anyone who stops learning is old, whether at twenty or eighty. Anyone who keeps learning stays young." I am inspired by the example of Pablo Casals, nicknamed "Mr. Cellist." A young reporter once asked, "Mr. Casals, you are the greatest cellist who ever lived. Why do you still practice six hours a day?"
Pablo smiled and replied, "Because I think I'm making progress!"
Your Team Can Soar! was written to be a learning source for you to aid in your personal development and sharpening of the saw. But it was also written to be a tool for you to use with your team and help in their development.
Importance of Cohesiveness in High-Performance Teams
A characteristic commonly seen in high-performance teams is cohesiveness, which is the extent to which team members stick together and remain united in the pursuit of a common goal. Highly cohesive teams are more committed to the goals and the work, are happy when the team succeeds, and feel part of something significant, all of which increases self-esteem, which in turn increases performance.
Highly cohesive and performing teams possess high levels of team Emotional Intelligence. Emotional Intelligence is defined as encompassing the awareness and understanding of emotions. It incorporates the application of this understanding to decision making, regulation, and self-management: these three are all important aspects of teamwork. Studies have shown that Emotional Intelligence has a positive impact on teamwork by making the team more cohesive and higher performing.
How can we strive to build out team's Emotional Intelligence? Research from organizational experts Vanessa Druskat and Stephen Wolff suggest three key practices:
1) Make time for team members to appreciate each other's skills.
Provide opportunities for people to get to know each other better, so they can learn and appreciate each member's skills and personality. Pursue team building activities and mutual learning, like studying personality styles such as the Big 5, DISC, and/or Myers Briggs.
2) Raise and manage emotional concerns that can help or encumber the team's progress.
It is important to develop comfortable, team-endorsed ways to express and resolve the anger, tension, and frustration that sometimes arises in team efforts. Both humor and playfulness can be helpful tools. For example, at IDEO team members can toss soft toys over work station walls when feelings run high (sounds like fun!). This serves to lighten the mood, and is a reminder that the group has established norms for expressing difficult emotions, thereby making them feel less threatening to the individuals and to the group.
3) Celebrate success.
Part of building the Emotional Intelligence of a team includes the expression of positive emotions such as gratitude and appreciation when exceeding expectations. Recognizing accomplishments strengthens a team's identity and spotlights its effectiveness and collective passion for excellence. There are many ways to celebrate successes — such as team lunches, playing games such as Bunko together, or having an article in the company newsletter.
Your Team Can Soar! has many other ideas that you can use to help develop your team even further, and could be used with your team to study selected lessons together. Leonardo da Vinci challenged us by saying, "I have been impressed with the urgency of doing. Knowing is not enough; we must apply. Being willing is not enough; we must do." My best to you as you apply what you learn, then watch yourself and your team soar to new heights of performance!