Insights for Leaders

High Performance Teams

“Talent wins games, but teamwork and intelligence wins championships.” — Michael Jordan

Casey Stengel, the only person to manage a baseball team to five consecutive World Series championships explained, “It’s easy to get good players. Getting them to play together, that’s the hard part.”

Team building gurus Jon Katzenbach and Douglas Smith have identified the critical factor in the team formation process: “Within teams, there is nothing more important than each team member’s commitment to a common purpose and set of related performance goals for which the group holds itself jointly accountable.”

The Bottom Line: Leaders achieve extraordinary results by strategically building high performance teams.

Passion and Performance

“When I started out, I’d drive 100 miles to do my act for free.” — Jim Carrey

On his founding of Ebay, Pierre Omidyar comments, “I was just pursuing what I enjoyed doing. I mean, I was pursuing my passion. If you’re passionate about something and you work hard, then I think you will be successful.”

Good to Great author, Jim Collins writes, “The kind of commitment I find among the best performers across virtually every field is a single-minded passion for what they do, an unwavering desire for excellence in the way they think and the way they work.”

The Bottom Line: Leaders pursue their passion and combine it with hard work to become top performers.

Shared Goals

“We’re all working together; that’s the secret.” — Sam Walton

Research shows a strong correlation between a company’s financial performance and an effective goal setting process. Companies that more closely align their goals across the organization enjoy much higher levels of financial success.

Duke basketball’s “Coach K” (12-time National Coach of the Year) writes, “Goals are important in leadership. They should be realistic, they should be attainable, and they should be shared among all members of the team. Some people use the term “common” goals. But I prefer the word “shared” because it’s uncommon to have shared goals.”

The Bottom Line: Leaders use effective, shared goal setting practices to propel forward their team and organization.

Trust and Prosperity

“Transcendent values like trust and integrity literally translate into revenue, profits and prosperity.” — Patricia Aburdene, Megatrends 2010

Columbia Business School Professor John Whitney claims, “Mistrust doubles the cost of doing business.” On the other hand, when trust increases, everything moves faster thus saving time and money.

The value of building trust exceeds the financial benefits. Business authors Jim Kouzes and Barry Posner conclude, “Trust is the most significant predictor of individuals’ satisfaction within their organization.”

The Bottom Line: Leaders place a high value on building trust and reap the financial and relational benefits.

99% Perspiration

“If people knew how hard I worked to get my mastery, it wouldn’t seem so wonderful after all.” — Michaelangelo

It’s been said, the only place where success comes before work is in the dictionary. Inventor and businessman, Thomas Edison, who frequently worked more than forty hours straight wrote, “Genius is one percent inspiration and ninety-nine percent perspiration.”

Tiger Woods, on track to become the greatest golfer of all time commented, “I’ve busted my butt on the range for hours on end and made changes to get to this point where I’m able to compete at the highest level in major championships.”

The Bottom Line: Leaders combine their talents with old-fashioned hard work to excel in their profession.

Constant Improvement

“To improve is to change; to be perfect is to change often.”  — Winston Churchill

According to Tom Peters in his #1 best seller, In Search of Excellence, “Excellent firms don’t believe in excellence — only in constant improvement and constant change.”

Even when change is in our best interest our inclination is to resist. The reality of change is that we must reform our habits, reshape our values, alter our relationships, or adopt new responsibilities. For most people, that is too much work — for those in search of excellence, it is a requirement.

The Bottom Line: Leaders challenge the status quo and embrace change with the goal of constant improvement and excellence.


“Success seems to be connected with action.  Successful people keep moving.  They make mistakes, but they don’t quit.”  –  Conrad Hilton, Hilton Hotels

Atari founder Nolan Bushnell said, “Everyone who’s ever taken a shower has an idea. It’s the person who gets out of the shower, dries off and does something about it who makes a difference.”

Andrew Carnegie was this type of man — he was known for building one of the most powerful corporations in history, and then later in life, giving away most of his riches to others.  Reflecting on life, Mr. Carnegie wrote: “As I grow older, I pay less attention to what men say.  I just watch what they do.

The Bottom Line: Leaders are action oriented, knowing that ideas and talk without action are meaningless.


“Get a good idea and stay with it.  Dog it, and work it until it’s done and done right.”  –  Walt Disney

A Yale management professor returned Fred Smith’s paper in which he proposed a reliable overnight delivery system commenting, “The concept is interesting and well-informed, but in order to earn better than a ‘C’, the idea must be feasible.”  Despite this discouraging feedback, Fred doggedly pursued his business concept – today known as FedEx.

People are surprised to hear Albert Einstein’s confession: “It’s not that I’m so smart, it’s just that I stay with problems longer.”  Even geniuses have to persevere.

The Bottom Line: Leaders find good ideas and persevere in their labor to overcome obstacles and realize their vision.

Goals vs Wishes

“The discipline of writing something down is the first step toward making it happen.” – Lee Iacocca

A Harvard study done years ago among the most extraordinarily successful found they shared one simple practice: they wrote their goals down on paper

Goals that are not written down are just wishes.  When goals are written down, the goal setter establishes commitment and a framework for measurement, accountability and learning.  Master sales trainer Zig Ziglar writes, “A goal properly set is halfway reached.”

The Bottom LineLeaders commit their goals in writing and frequently refer to them to help propel them toward their vision.

Falling Forward

“Failure is success if we learn from it.”  — Malcolm Forbes

People excel by trying, failing, learning, trying again and succeeding.  Leaders create a culture of active learning where risk is a part of the training regiment.  Thomas Watson, the founder of IBM, was such a leader saying, “If you want to succeed, double your failure rate.”  Jack Welch writes, “I’ve learned that mistakes can often be as good a teacher as success.”

Duke University’s remarkably successful basketball coach Mike Krzyzewski (“Coach K”)  writes, “Not every failure or loss is devastating.  It is part of the building process.  Sometimes a loss can be a win.”

The Bottom Line:  Leaders are not threatened by temporary losses but see them as future gains.