Insights for Leaders

Strength in Differences

“Strength lies in differences, not in similarities.” — Stephen Covey

Dee Hock, Founder and previous CEO of Visa International recommends: “Never hire or promote in your own image.  It is foolish to replicate your strength. It is idiotic to replicate your weakness.  It is essential to employ, trust, and reward those whose perspective, ability, and judgment are radically different from yours.  It is also rare, for it requires uncommon humility, tolerance, and wisdom.”

Ancient Chinese military general and philosopher, Sun Tzu, observed: “There are not more than five musical notes, yet the combinations of these five give rise to more melodies than can ever be heard.”

The Bottom Line: Leaders do not hire people in their own image — they value and pursue teammates who are aligned; but, contribute different skills and temperaments.

Trust and Teamwork

“Trust is like the air we breathe.  When it’s present, nobody really notices. But when it’s absent, everybody notices.” – Warren Buffet

Patrick Lencioni writes in best-seller, The Five Dysfunctions of a Team: “In the context of building a team, trust is the confidence among team members that their peers’ intentions are good, and that there is no reason to be protective or careful around the group.  In essence, teammates must get comfortable being vulnerablewith one another.”

Duke Basketball Coach Mike Krzyzewski (named 2011 Sportsman of the Year by SI), observes: “In leadership, there are no words more important than trust.  In any organization, trust must be developed among every member of the team if success is going to be achieved.”

The Bottom Line: Leaders cultivate relationships of trust within teams knowing trust is as vital to the team’s success as air is to life. 

Accountability 101

“Great companies have high cultures of accountability.” – Steve Ballmer

Best-selling author/consultant Patrick Lencioni writes, “In the context of teamwork, accountability refers specifically to the willingness of team members to call their peers on performance or behaviors that might hurt the team.  The essence of this dysfunction is the unwillingness of team members to tolerate the interpersonal discomfort that accompanies calling a peer on his or her behavior and the more general tendency to avoid difficult conversations.”

The Bottom Line: Leaders model the hard work of holding people accountable, accepting the interpersonal discomfort and difficult conversations that come with the territory.

Outgrowing Individual Performance

“Michael, if you can’t pass you can’t play.” – Coach Dean Smith to Michael Jordan in his freshmen year at UNC

Jim Collins observes, “The best leaders we’ve studied had a peculiar genius for seeing themselves as not all that important, recognizing the need to build an executive team and to craft a culture based on core values that do not depend on a single heroic leader.”

Head Coach Joe Paterno believes, “When a team outgrows individual performance and learns team confidence, excellence becomes a reality.”

The Bottom Line: Leaders recognize their individual limitations and their need to be an effective member of a team to accomplish truly great results.

Constructive Conflict

“The whole business starts with ideas, and we’re convinced ideas come out of an environment of supportive conflict, which is synonymous with appropriate friction.” — Michael Eisner, former CEO, Walt Disney Co.

Research suggests 30-40% of a manager’s daily activities are devoted to dealing with some form of conflict; and, in more than half of instances in which conflict appears, it is glossed over and avoided. According to Richard Pascale of Oxford University, “Only one time in five (20%) is conflict surfaced, debated and authentically resolved.”

Conflict itself is neither inherently good nor bad; the outcome is determined by how you manage it — if managed appropriately, conflict can have a positive and even transforming effect.

The Bottom Line: Leaders engage in constructive conflict, knowing it can be the doorway to creativity and consensus.

Roped Together

“Teamwork is the ability to work together toward a common vision….It is the fuel that allows common people to attain uncommon results.” — Andrew Carnegie

Erik Weihenmayer is the only blind man in history to reach the summit of Mount Everest. Reflecting on that experience Erik writes, “In an environment riddled with pitfalls, roping up with good people is the best chance we have….You know if you fall, someone will stop you. If someone else falls, you stop them; it’s just automatic. People might have different responsibilities, different goals, even motives, but you link together behind one vision. The scope and power of that kind of team is unstoppable.”

The Bottom Line: Leaders build teams that are “roped together” and working toward a common vision to attain uncommon results.

Think ‘Team’

“The people who are doing the work are the moving force behind the Macintosh.” — Steve Jobs

According to Jack Welch, “Leaders establish trust by giving credit where credit is due. They never score off their own people by stealing an idea and claiming it as their own.”

Peter Drucker writes, “The leaders who work most effectively never say ‘I.’ And that’s not because they have trained themselves not to say ‘I.’ They don’t think ‘I.’ They think ‘we’; they think ‘team.’ They understand their job to be to make the team function. They accept responsibility and don’t sidestep it, but ‘we’ gets the credit. This is what creates trust, what enables you to get the task done.”

The Bottom Line: Leaders give credit to their team, knowing that will build trust and motivate their people to even greater accomplishments.

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.

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.

Growing Others

“Before you become a leader success is all about growing yourself.  Once you become a leader success is all about growing others.”  — Jack Welch

Two American business icons agree on the importance of growing others.  Ray Kroc said, “The more I help others to succeed, the more I succeed.”  Sam Walton: “Outstanding leaders go out of their way to boost the self-esteem of their personnel.  If people believe in themselves, it’s amazing what they can accomplish.”

Robert Woodruff, the primary builder of the Coca-Cola global soft drink empire for six decades in the 20th century was know for a plaque on his desk that read, “There is no limit to what a man can do or where he can go if he doesn’t mind who gets the credit.”

The Bottom Line: Leaders intentionally grow their people and readily share credit for success with others.