Category Archives: Creating Teams That Click

Food for thought from ZingTrain on Gen X, Y and Purpose Driven Business

purposeThis morning Dean Tucker spoke at ZingTrain as part of the 2014 Speaker Series on the topic of Gen X & Y. The biggest take-away for me:

Creating rock star teams and high-performing businesses isn’t about HR figuring out how to cater to the whims of each generation – fundamentally, it’s about building a purpose driven business. It just so happens that Millennials are more driven by purpose than traditional command and control structures. Leaders that build purpose driven teams (vs. profit driven) are Level 5 leaders who naturally embody the qualities that appeal to millennials – and plenty of other employees. It will be a great legacy of the millennial generation if their disenchantment with command and control gets businesses to think differently about how they operate, and to begin shifting focus in business from profit to purpose. I for one, hope they succeed.

Creating rock star teams and high-performing businesses isn’t about HR figuring out how to cater to the whims of each generation – fundamentally, it’s about building a purpose driven business.

This mornings lesson got me thinking about the practical “how to” aspects of becoming a purpose driven business, as I know plenty of business owners seeking to move in that direction.

So lets pretend you’re one of those entrepreneurs who wants to shift to being a more purpose-driven business. Where to start?

If you want more context first:

  • For research on the success of purpose in business read Dean’s book, “Using the Power of Purpose“
  • For a great intro to both sides of the equation – time and vision – read Ari’s “A Lapsed Anarchist’s Approach to Managing Ourselves” (or any of the books in his series)
  • Prefer to learn through experience? Attend a ZingTrain seminar such as Creating a Vision of Greatness or Leading with Zing!, or
  • Attend an Inc. Small Giants event to meet the very people who are in so many of the case studies on purpose

If the vision stuff still sounds to touchy-feely (or you’re definitely not an anarchist):

  • Start with Gino’s “Traction” or “Get a Grip”. The focus in his books is all business, even though the fundamentals are the same: purpose, values & vision.

If you’re ready to start NOW:

  • Download the Entrepreneurial Operating System (EOS) “Vision/Traction Organizer” (or similar one page business plan) and start filling it out.
  • Then meet an EOS implementer for an in-person intro, and get to work!

Good luck!

Challenged by a lack of connection? This meeting trap may be to blame.

trap_doorEver find yourself frustrated that employees aren’t connecting with clients the way you would like them to?

Lets turn that upside down and ask – how often are you connecting with your employees in the way you would like them to interact with clients? Put another way – are you consistently modeling the behavior you value?

I’ll bet there’s room for improvement. As business owners, we tend to fall into the same traps. (Sorry if that’s news. The longer I’m in business, the more I realize our trials and tribulations aren’t as unique as they once seemed!)

If you’re not a natural relator, and you happen to be a Type A “let’s get things done – now” kind of person, I’ll bet your meetings follow a typical model where the focus is on “getting down to business”. Like so many other managers, you hop into the “meat” of meetings with few pleasantries – after all, you all know each other already, you’re there to get something done, and on top of that, everybody is too busy for formalities. How do I know? Been there, fell in to that trap. ;-)

[box type=”download”] See this recent blog post by EOS founder Gino Wickman for some specific ideas for meeting starters such as a personal and professional best. [/box]

If you’re not making personal connections with your team when you meet, is it surprising that they’re equally as efficient when they get on the phone with a customer and jump straight into business? Of course not – and you didn’t need me to explain that. You already knew – it’s just hard to find the time to think it through with so many balls in the air.

Now that you’ve identified this issue, start each meeting by connecting with purpose. Chances are, it will be catchy – and you’ll be happy with the results.


Crucial Conversations – A Lesson in Improving Business Communication


Editors note: Welcome to our Guest Blogger, Dave Haviland of Phimation!

I made a comment to several company leaders last week that gave us a good laugh – and a good insight.

My wife and I got into a fight a few weeks ago over …[wait for it]… whether or not we have effective communication.  (Yes, that brought huge laughs…)  As is often the case, we were both right, and there’s a lesson in our argument for business owners.

My wife thinks we have effective communication because 90-95% of the time it works.  She’s right, and we should feel good that we’ve created that.

I think we don’t have effective communication yet because the 5-10% of the time that it doesn’t work are the most important and challenging issues.  We cover the basics well, but the really hard stuff is where a lot of the value is.

The reality is that those are 2 very different types of communication.  For the basics, the point is to handle things quickly and efficiently – “minimize the administrative overhead,” which is why standard processes and tools are helpful, and why my wife and I can do this well after 20 years together.  For the hard stuff, the point is to take the time to build a mutual understanding of the situation, create several possible solutions, clarify what’s important, and have a deliberate decision process – which is why having 20-year patterns in our marriage can work against us when new issues inevitably show up, and why it is helpful to keep trying new things and listening to experts when we take on new issues.

The lesson for business leaders is this:  most of the time, it just takes some effort to make your business perform.  If you put in place some relatively simple management tools and processes, you’ll take care of 90-95% of what’s happening.  That’s good.

But 5-10% of the time, it’s going to be hard and complicated.  If you just focus on the 90-95% that’s being handled well, you’ll feel good on the surface, but you’ll be limiting yourself and hurting your business in the long run.  Because there’s a lot of long-term value in those few items that are complicated.

The key is to make most of your business simple, so that you then have the time, money, and energy to deal with the hard issues.

Handling the simple stuff with simplicity, and the complicated stuff with sophistication, is how you get great performance from your business.  (…and satisfaction in your marriage…)

If you’d like to improve communication in your business, check out the book Crucial Conversations.

The Magic of Scorecards and Great Teams


What makes a great team? Results.

How do you get great results? Measure.

Earlier this week I read “So You Want to Be Part of a Great Team” by Dan Mulhern, where he explored the “why” behind people wanting to be part of great teams. Beyond the “why”, he also looked at the common success factors in great teams. As he put it, great teams:

1) Generate results, and
2) Have a relentless focus on performance.

Makes sense. So the next questions is “how” to create these results and focus on performance.

The good news is, it’s pretty simple. As business sage Peter Drucker once said, “what gets measured gets done.” (And what gets measured tends to improve too, when all eyes are on it!) However, I recognize that this phrase gets tossed around so often, and sounds so simple, that it’s easy to be skeptical of its effectiveness. How could doing something so simple make such a difference? And with a million and one things to do to keep the wheels on the bus, who has time to start tracking more things?

On the other hand, if all you had to do to make something better was to keep an eye on it, could you afford not to do it?

The principle is simple. Pick a handful of metrics that will move your business forward. Yes, it’s important to pick the right metrics, but don’t sweat this too much. Chances are you’ve already got your eye on a few things, and instinctively you’ve got a couple others in mind. You’ll wind up tweaking what you watch over time anyway, so STARTING is more important than perfecting the list of what’s on your scorecard.

Then look at these same metrics every week, with the same team members. Make someone accountable for each number.

And then enjoy the magic.

What’s your experience with scorecards?


Additional Resources:

Sample scorecard from the Entrepreneurial Operating System tools page.

Free Inc. Leadership Event Comes to Detroit

Inc. Magazine Logo

The journey to leadership is often an accidental one. An entrepreneur, doing what they love, hires a few people to help… And wakes up one day surrounded by a team. A team that needs leadership to head in the same direction and deliver the same sort of amazing service and consistent results that drew in their first customers.

Some entrepreneurs are born with the ability to switch gears and perform this new function. The rest of us need a little help making the transition. ;-) The good news is, as with nearly all of the operational challenges you’ll face, a roadmap already exists for what makes a great team “click”. Among the first things you’ll find on that list: leadership and a shared vision. And that’s what this event is all about!

I’ve traveled across the country to see Bo and Paul speak (two of the three presenters), so if you’re within driving distance on December 4th, you’re in for a treat! Sign up today, as the event is free but is capped at a limited number of local business leaders. Enjoy!

Sign up is available on the Inc. site.


Additional Resources:

  • The Small Giants Community An international group committed to business workplace cultures of excellence
  • Small Giants by Bo Burlingham.
  • Why is Everyone Smiling? A leadership book by Paul Spiegelman.

Growing a Business with Mojo the Small Giants Way


This summary of key points to growing a great business comes from Bo Burlingham’s presentation at the Small Giants International Summit earlier this month. After Bo put together the book Small Giants, a growing group of like-minded businesses have been gathering to explore what makes the Small Giants model different, and how it can be shared more broadly within the business community. Small Giants board member, Marisa Smith of The Whole Brain Group put together the above info graphic as well as this summary of the 6 Steps to Growing a Great Business with Mojo.

If you’re interested in joining one of the upcoming Gatherings of Small Giants, a formal schedule doesn’t yet exist, so I’ve noted a few places they typically meet.

Download your own copy of the full size PDF version of 6-Steps-to-Growing-a-Great-Business from the Whole Brain Group.