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Winning Team

Build a Winning Leadership Team

One of the most important things an Entrepreneur or CEO can do is build a strong leadership team.  Even in solo sports, such as professional mountain biking or golf, there are people who help with strategy, skill development, strength training, and the list goes on. No top athlete, Entrepreneur, or CEO can reach peak performance without a winning team.

Winning Team

5 Steps to Develop Your Team

Whether you are putting together your first leadership team or pushing an existing one to a higher level of performance, there are five aspects to get right. If you are going to have a team, ensure it is the BEST team possible.

  1. Decide how many will be on the team. Five plus or minus two is the magic number. Drop below, and you lose the benefit of collective intelligence. Go above, and you lose the ability to ask the really hard questions and really dive deep into strategy.
  2. Commit to a Team #1 mindset. This is hyper-critical for peak company performance. Team #1 means that, for whomever is on the team, the health and well being of the leadership team takes priority over the divisions or teams that the members support. Said another way, Team #1 must be committed to the Full Company Objectives and not just the objectives for their divisions.
  3. Create a Team #1 playbook. Hopefully your company has Core Values and a Core Purpose in place to drive healthy growth. Team #1 needs its own set of rules, agreements, and aspirational values to guide them through People, Strategy, and Execution discussions. Team #1 is still accountable for the full company Core Values, but to hit peak performance or reach a higher level, aspiration to achieve more is required.
  4. Behave your way to Trust. This starts with the CEO. The company leader must be vulnerable, admit to mistakes, and share fears so others can see vulnerability in action. Once the team learns to be vulnerable as well, their guards will come down and real work can get done. This accelerates the team’s ability to separate themselves from what is good for them personally versus what is best for the team and the company. A good rule of thumb is ensuring one quarter to one half of meeting agenda is committed to building team health.
  5. Set the cadence. Establish an annual calendar of Team #1 meetings. These are usually separate from Annual and Quarterly Planning sessions. Annual and Quarterly sessions are focused on Strategy and Execution while Team #1 meetings are focused on organizational health and full company alignment.

You have heard it before and you’ll hear it again. The best players don’t win, it’s the best team that wins. Leverage the power of the Team #1 concept and Crush the Competition!

Create Your Epic Win

What is your crystal clear vision of the future? What are you and your team building toward? What is your Epic Win™? Get this one question right, and you will have created a source of clarity and purpose for your business. As a huge bonus, Strategy becomes easier as you’ll have a mechanism to help determine growth ideas that you should and should not incorporate.

Epic Win

I have found that in business we really only have control over two things. The Epic Win description, which defines where we are going, and the next 90 days, which is the action plan to move in the direction of the Epic Win. Everything in between is really just a highly educated guess. When running a company from this perspective, getting everyone on the same page with a shared vision becomes critically important. Here are the steps to take to craft a powerful Epic Win.

Shaping Your Epic Win™

To begin the process of creating your Epic Win, start with easy snapshots of your ideal vision of what your company will look like moving forward. The ultimate goal is to create a short phrase that you and your team are emotionally connected with.

Step 1 – Select your time horizon. Anywhere between a 10 and 30-year time frame works. The most meaningful, and hardest to do, is the 10-year mark.

Step 2 – Let’s assume you selected to define your Epic Win at the 10-year mark. How much revenue will your company have? What geographic area will you cover? What kind of markets will you be in? Make sure what you select is bigger than something you can reverse-engineer into immediately. Your team needs to believe it is possible, but should not be able to figure out exactly how they would get there. It needs to be an Epic Win… not just a win.

Step 3 – Make a list of the things that your company is ‘best in the world at doing.’ What are the Core Competencies that have gotten you to where you are today? What separates you from the pack?

Step 4 – Create a list of what your company is the most passionate about. What is your Core Purpose? What is your company’s reason for being? What is your value to the world?

Step 5 – Develop a list of the things that drive your economic engine. How do you make money?

Step 6 – Take your time horizon from Step One, your company snapshot from Step Two, and combine it with the language you created during Steps Three through Five. You’ll typically see a pattern of key words that emerge in Steps Three through Five that your team gets excited about. You can really sense it.

Step 7 – Make sure your Epic Win is measurable. You have to know when you achieve it and you have to know how you’ll keep score along the way. This score is an excellent annual KPI/Metric to track the success of the business.

Epic Win™ Examples:

  • Starbucks – To be the number one global brand.
  • Insight CXO – Increase the value of 1,000 companies by 3X or more.
  • Big Sky Associates – Deliver 5 Billion in value to clients by 2025.
  • Training Concepts – Create 100,000 positive impacts on students.
  • EFI – Be the #1 brand in decorative glass and architectural interiors by 2035.

 

Start energizing your team by developing an Epic Win story that everyone can get behind. This process can take anywhere from one hour to six months. You’ll know when you get it right based on the energy you get back from the team.

 

(Image: Trey Mortensen / flickr)

Your Team Craves Accountability

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Accountability is a very interesting topic. When engaged by the CEO, one of the top wish list items for the company to accomplish is the issue of No Accountability. My response to this is, “I bet within one week, your team will be asking for Accountability and they will resort to their own measures.” I usually get a funny look as the CEO nods yes, but in reality they are saying inside their heads: “That is impossible”… “Not my team.” Why is there this disconnect regarding Accountability between the CEO and the rest of the company?

When launching a new client, one of the first things we do is what we call ‘Innerviews.’ We Innerview select employees from the senior team, key players in the company, and anyone in particular that the CEO would like included. These Innerviews allow for the company to be seen through the employees’ lens. We are not simply interviewing the employee, but rather engaging with them on a peer-to-peer level and asking a few simple, yet powerful, questions. These Innerview questions include:

  1. Why did you start working here? Why are you still here?
  2. What frustrates you the most? Drives you crazy? Repetitive things?
  3. How would you rate teamwork from 1 (bad) to 10 (awesome)?
  4. How would you rate the morale/spirit of the company 1 to 10?
  5. How would you rate communication from 1 to 10?
  6. How would you rate leadership from 1 to 10? This is really a self-rating.

NOTE: Whatever the rating is above, I always ask what it would take to get it closer to a 10. This is where the REAL content I’m looking for comes from. Rather than complaining about teamwork, what would actually improve it?

The BIG Innerview questions are:

  1. If you were CEO for 90 days, what three things would you do?
  2. What are the ‘undiscussables?’ What is below the waterline that everyone knows about, but is not safe to talk about?

Notice the one question I did not ask is about Accountability. Accountability is the ‘red thread’ that links everything together during the Innerview. What tends to frustrate team members the most is the lack of Accountability and follow through by other team members. They can’t do their job right because other people are not doing their job right or following through on commitments. Basically, your employees are as frustrated as you are.

How can the issue of Accountability be resolved? You can start by including your team during your strategic and execution planning. Let them help finalize company goals and priorities vs just assigning them out. Let them work through the steps and tasks to make them happen. Let them decide who is accountable for each step. Give your team a chance to volunteer to own the company Race Plan by determining goals, priorities, and tasks… They will.

(Image: Unsplash / Pixabay)

Why Growth Initiatives Fail – Energy, Time, and Money

light-bulb-503881_1280I have taken a few months off from blogging to work on a book that will be published early summer called The Breakaway Move, Entrepreneurs’ Playbook on Crushing the Competition. After 23 years of entrepreneurial experience, founding several companies, and most recently serving as a business growth coach with hundreds of strategy/execution planning sessions under my belt, I have finally figured out the three main reasons why growth initiatives fail – and what to do about it.

Reason Number One: Not having the right kind of energy within the team that’s responsible and accountable to generate the desired result. What do I mean by this? I’m talking about not having clearly defined Core Values, Core Purpose, and the overarching Epic Win (10-year goal), as well as making sure the growth initiative accelerates the achievement of these principals. Understanding why, other than money and profit, you’re in business goes a long way in getting the team behind a project. Having the team emotionally connect to the project will help them navigate the inevitable setbacks along the way. Choosing projects that excite the team is powerful. How do they benefit personally?

Reason Number Two: The team underestimates how much time it will take to generate results. This can be within the management team, in how long departments actually need to meet their goals, or how long it takes vendors and partners to follow through. And for most entrepreneurial companies, it can mean not getting outside help soon enough to accelerate the learning required to drive results. Plus, an unhealthy team that operates without real trust does not get stuff done as fast as a team that trusts each other. These are below-the-waterline, team-related issues (that nobody talks about), but slow down everything.

Reason Number Three: Anything that takes team energy and time must generate a profit or it’s not worth doing. Just driving revenue is not a good idea, given our current economic stage. The challenge is money/profit usually becomes the number one driver for a growth initiative, and energy and time are second thought. And this is why things fail. The CEO (plus maybe someone else) was behind an idea, but everyone else (secretly) was not connected to it and (secretly) hoped this would just be another failed attempt at change. Companies like GE that have a formalized process to take projects to the Board of Directors for clearance don’t really have to worry about energy so much. But entrepreneurial growth companies absolutely do.

Starting a growth initiative often means you have some tough decisions to make. Say you’re trying to decide between opening a new office in a new market vs. combining two current products into something innovative and new. Assuming both will generate about the same financial results with great execution, which one gets the team excited? Which one gets you closer to your company’s Epic Win? What would be a Crushing Move on your competitors? Which one would just be really cool if you could do it? Which one would your team learn and grow from the most on a personal level? Professional level? Get the point? You can feel the energy build around the right choice by the questions alone.

Set a weekly or monthly cadence with your team NOW and start working through what projects or ideas are worth pursuing and start separating yourself from the pack … create your Breakaway Move!

(Image: Comfreak / Pixabay)

Stop Reviewing Your Employees

employees-936804_1280Performance reviews suck for so many reasons. Entrepreneurs avoid them, because there are way too many other things to do. Managers rarely do them right, and if they do, they don’t prepare properly. Employees hate them because they usually are tied to negative things and money. They usually happen only once a year … if they happen.

Yet, if performed correctly, they are one of the most powerful things a company can do. I speak from experience, having won “Best Places to Work” awards more than 20 times at companies I have founded or coached.

What you need to do instead of a review:

Rather than a typical review, what’s really needed is a formal Alignment Meeting. The overarching purpose is for the manager and employee to walk away with complete clarity and actions that drive the job role: the accountabilities, the goal numbers, etc. Reviewing all the company’s Core Values is a powerful method to make sure the employee is doing the work the right way from a behavioral perspective. For example, do you have a sales superstar who drives your customer service team to tears? This is a great way to address the issue in a collaborative and non-threatening way.

Also missing from most reviews is spending some time discussing the Core Processes and Activities that drive the job function – the ones that have the most impact. Ask what is the most important thing to do and is it on the calendar weekly as a priority item? What processes support the core activities? And what things create busyness but do not really drive results? Simple process with powerful outcomes.

Here are 8 tips to pull off a powerful Alignment Meeting:

  1. Be prepared. Treat this as the number one thing you’ll do as a manager. This is your A-Race. Set an example of preparedness. This is how your employees will do their Alignment Meetings with their employees down the line.
  1. Create a great experience with your employee. This is not a beat-down session. It’s about getting alignment around what is important and agreement on what can be worked on in the next 90 days.
  1. Use the word Together. Work on action plans Together. You’ll be surprised at how many times you’ll walk away from leading an Alignment Meeting with stuff to work on and improve on as well.
  1. Create a safe environment for candor. Not making this a review tied to money is the trick to this.
  1. Tell them why this is important. I’ll say something like, “I care about you and your health and happiness, I care about our relationship and our willingness to work Together, and I care about doing the right things to move our company forward. This conversation is about these three things.”
  1. Pick 2-3 things to work on each 90 days. Look for themes or “red threads” throughout the conversation. Don’t nitpick each line item. Ask what can we work on that would drive the most improvement … create the biggest impact?
  1. Be vulnerable as the manager. This will help you get to the real issues your employee is dealing with at work. You can’t help fix what you don’t know about. Put your ego aside.
  1. Have fun! You both should walk out totally energized! Don’t be surprised if you get an unexpected hug, handshake or even some happy tears.

Never do another review. Stop, please!!! Instead, start Alignment Meetings now!

(Image: Marlon Malabanan / Flickr)

Real Leaders Find A Way

Getting Core Values right in a business is the #1 way to build a strong and enduring Culture and is the foundation upon which an enterprise is built. Having a list of cool Core Values on a website – and really integrating them into the daily life of the organization based on intentional actions – are two different things.

EFI, an Insight CXO member with 80+ employees, finally nailed their Core Values and actions plans this week during their Q3 Quarterly Planning Session. We started the process in January, and I thought it would be helpful to share what a process can look like in reality. Month 5 is where this gets powerful.

Month 1 – Learn what a Core Value is and use sticky notes to generate a list of potential values.14485059353_8d009d4eb3_z

Month 2 – Review the list and test it against the following questions.

  • Are the Core Values alive in the company today?
  • Would you fire an offender for repeated violations?
  • Would you take an economic hit to defend them?

Some values are great attributes, but don’t make the Core Values cut.

Month 3 – Finalize the 3-5 final Core Values. We know the right values are identified, but the wording is not perfect.

Month 4 – Get the wording right for the Core Values, and get clarity on the specific behaviors and actions that support or violate each one. Begin thinking about how the values will be integrated into the company.

Month 5 – Roadblock!!! EFI’s planning team was supposed to start implementing the Core Values, but even though the values LOOKED right, they did not FEEL right to the team. The team was concerned the employees would not embrace the values and might even reject them. This is a common FEAR in rolling out Core Values that nobody talks about.

Here’s where EFI knocked it out of the park. Admittedly, the team was a bit discouraged, so they really dug and – with great focus – re-worded the values. They did not change the values, just the labels. Here’s what they came up with:

MAKE A DIFFERENCE – This is their overarching, one-phrase Core Value.

Respect every Individual

Lead with Humility

Focus on the Improvement Process

Assure Quality at the Source

Winning Attitude

To help everyone remember, they turned the first letter of the Core Values into this mnemonic: Real Leaders Find A Way.

Month 6 – Create a list and an action plan to integrate the Core Values into the company with real excitement. I will report back in a follow-up blog post on the cool and innovative ways they implement the Core Values.

EFI’s Core Purpose is To Inspire Through Innovation … I can’t wait to see what they do next!

My “One Word Close” at the end of our Q3 Quarterly meeting was GRATEFUL. I’m grateful to be EFI’s coach and get to witness a team who really cares about their employees and was unwilling to move forward with Core Values that did not 100% meet their standards.

Sometimes as a coach I learn more from my members than they learn from me. And I’m very grateful for that.

Image: Flickr

Stop Gambling On Hiring Decisions

Gambling

Hiring the right person can seem like one of the most risky things you do. On the most basic level, you’re looking for someone who has the skills for the job, but – especially in a growing company – that person must be motivated, share your Core Values and work well with the other members of your team.

When you hire someone, you’re making a financial, organizational and emotional investment in them and your business. And when you take the risk to invest in a person, you need the best possible likelihood of that investment paying off for your company.

Although building a team of A-players is one of the most important things you do for your business, the typical interview process isn’t the best way to determine whether the person who looks great on paper and shines in a face-to-face will pay off. This is why Behavioral Assessments are an important part of top Talent Management and Organizational Development programs.

Behavioral Assessments allow us to look deeper into what criteria will make a role successful, and which candidates have the highest likelihood of filling that role well. The assessments look at three key areas of a person:

  • their behavior,
  • their motivators and
  • the core skills/competencies they can bring to the job.

Add Power To Your HR Program

Here’s how this can add power to your human resources program. In a typical job interview, you get just one or two hours to get to know someone. By adding Behavioral Assessments, you get an inside view of the whole person. It may also make that 1-2 hour interview even more meaningful, because you can ask questions that will better help determine whether the person is the right fit, particularly whether his or her personality and internal drive is the right fit for the role and your organization.

Behavioral Assessments are also a valuable tool to help current employees thrive in your company. They can help show where a person has opportunity for growth within the position, as well as whether changes can be made to better adapt to their behavioral style and make them better performers.

The information we can gather from Behavioral Assessments can be used in many ways, including increasing personal awareness, determining fit in a role, building development/coaching plans, defining what is needed for a particular role, and identifying the right candidate – someone who will fit the needs of the role and be happy in it over the long term.

Benefits of Behavioral Assessments

Some of the ways Behavioral Assessments can change how you look at hiring and performance planning include:

  • You will be more equipped to make informed decisions that will be best for the company and the candidate.
  • You’ll be able to more easily weed out ineffective candidates.
  • You’ll be better able to find the right person who can hit the road running and be more effective faster.
  • You’ll help your employees understand what is expected of them and enable them to perform at a higher level.
  • You’ll be able to target performance incentives on the things that most motivate individual members of your team.

Behavioral Assessments are an extremely valuable part of your overall Talent Management and Organizational Development strategy. Whether you’re looking at hiring or staff development, consider whether adding Behavioral Assessments might be a Breakaway Move that makes your staff happier, more effective and more valuable to your business.

Winning Culture With Core Values

Well-defined and leveraged Core Values are one of the most powerful mechanisms to grow a company, especially as it passes 50 employees and gains complexity.

Core Values define the character of your firm and create the foundation and frame upon which the organization is built. A company’s Core Values can exist by default or be developed and supported by design. “By default” is a dangerous way to run a business because employees won’t have a clear should/shouldn’t framework in which to make decisions. Well-designed Core Values are a simple set of rules that define the kinds of behaviors you want to see inside the business. They also eliminate the need for countless, more complicated rules and operating procedures that can destroy a company’s culture anshopping-list-707760_1920d chase off the A-players on your team.

The number one mistake I see with Core Values is they are rarely mentioned, and most employees don’t know what they are, let alone the key behaviors tied to each Core Value. Yet, getting Core Values right – and integrating them into every aspect of the business – generates huge leverage and saves a tremendous amount of time and trouble.

How To Leverage Core Values

1. Use Core Values as a baseline and a test for developing strategy. Does a growth strategy idea work within the Core Values? Or does it violate any of them? This is an effective method to screen out ideas that could pull the organization in the wrong direction.

2. Use Core Values to evaluate talent as part of the recruiting process. Drill deep into the behaviors that define each Core Value for your business. For example, the word “teamwork” may have different meanings to different companies and different people. You must have clarity on the specific behaviors that reflect each Core Value. You can teach Core Values to employees, but you’re better off hiring people who already share your organization’s Core Values. Most companies hire for skill and fire for fit. Getting clear on the Core Values and integrating them into the recruiting process can reduce the chance of poor hires due to wrong fit.

3. Use Core Values as an easy method to manage employees. Clearly defining Core Values and the behaviors that support them makes it easier and more productive to have difficult conversations. Employee problems are almost always due to a fit issue or some type of behavior that is getting in the way of production. Often, problem employees have the right skills, but the people dynamics get in the way of things. Well-defined Core Values are an easy way to help managers address problems early, get someone back on track or even make a more difficult decision clearer, faster. And the employee receiving the feedback is less likely to be personally offended or upset if you tie the behavior back to the Core Values.

4. Use Core Values in dealing with clients. Try to attract clients who share your view of the world and how you do things. And when a client becomes difficult or antagonistic with employees, use your Core Values as a framework to have a difficult conversation. Using a Core Value as a talking point takes the sting out of the dysfunction and makes the conflict less personal.

5. Try to use Core Values for marketing leverage. Look at Whole Foods. Shoppers are willing to pay a premium based on what Whole Foods believes… who they are… their Core Values. They will not buy certain species of fish to resell because of overfishing in certain parts of the world. They are willing to risk an economic hit to retain a Core Value. And look at how well the market responds to decisions like that.

6. Tie public praise for great work or deeds back to a company Core Value. If this can be done weekly, it can really imprint the Core Values into the mind and behaviors of everyone in the organization.

You can’t over-communicate Core Values. All employees should be able to name them, describe the key behaviors for each and tell a story about someone in the company living a Core Value in the past 90 days.

During facilitated planning sessions, we always open the meeting by asking about Core Value activity in the past 90 days. It’s a great warm-up exercise and a way to reinforce the concepts. One of the best early warning radars for anticipating trouble in a company is when no employee can tell a Core Value story from the past 90 days. Core Values are one of the best lead indicators of organization health. And healthy teams are winning teams.

 

Shipwreck

Could Your “Sales Star” Be Silently Shipwrecking Your Company?

Shipwreck

In today’s marketplace, it’s all about results, right? As long as you are hitting your quarterly top line and bottom line numbers, your Board is nodding with enthusiastic affirmation, and your market share is growing, all is well. Or is it? Could there be trouble lurking below the surface? How can you know before trouble strikes?

It’s tough to argue with financial performance metrics. However, I’ve witnessed some pretty devastating collateral damage within companies that had once been cruising along quite nicely. Had there been more proactive probes, more effective challenges to the status quo, or a thoughtful expansion of what defined the “measures of success”, disaster may have been averted. Chances are, you have witnessed similar failures as well.

Sales performance is more than the top and bottom line. What is your immediate reaction to the names, Jeffrey Skilling and Kenneth Lay of Enron? What about Bernie Ebbers of WorldCom? How about another infamous “Bernie” – Bernie Madoff? Anyone with even a marginal sense of right and wrong has a visceral reaction of repulsion to any or all of those names – especially to the name “Madoff”.

However, you would have likely given a different answer if you knew anything about him before “Madoff” became synonymous with “Ponzi” in 2008 and 2009. Prior to that, you were considered to be among an elite group if you were “fortunate enough” to invest with him. Bernie Madoff had incredible sales performance for almost 50 years! He once was the rock star of Wall Street. The guy was slick. He was polished. He had credentials. He “made” a lot of people money along the way – until the music suddenly stopped playing. At the end of the day, he was proven to be a huckster of gargantuan proportions who trashed the lives of many to the tune of approximately $50 billion.

Under the mirage he skillfully “sold” of deep and rewarding financial waters, massive and dangerous rocks of truth were lurking – underwater boulders capable of shipwrecking his loyal crew and unsuspecting passengers who had entrusted their livelihoods to this once-respected man. Once the financial tide went out, the rocks which were always there – hiding just below the shallow surface – suddenly appeared. In an instant, the bow of Bernie’s opulent, “safe investment yacht” was savagely ripped to shreds by perverted peaks of Ponzi.

The power to influence is not limited to the CEO. Ultimately, those occupying the highest seats of power in your organization can have the most profound effect (both for good and for evil) on your company. However, ANYONE who represents your company – especially front-line sales and customer service people – can wield tremendous power in forming your brand’s perception and reputation simply by the way they conduct themselves day in and day out. After all, we are ALL ambassadors of the companies and brands we represent by how we speak and act toward others. Yet, how often do we measure these behaviors?

It doesn’t require committing fraud to severely damage your brand. Have you known sales “top guns” who consistently shot the lights out of the numbers but eventually, their actions revealed that they were all about themselves? Ultimately, they proved to be more about what YOU could do for THEM than vice versa?

Chances are, all the financial metrics on their performance dashboard were on target. Yet, it eventually became obvious in other behaviors that something was off kilter.

I referenced Bernie Madoff as an extreme example simply to make a point: We should be measuring and evaluating MORE than short-term sales performance if we want to build a company of integrity, lasting value, and long-term relationships with our customers, colleagues, and vendors. If those things don’t matter to you or your company, then full steam ahead with whatever you are doing. Good luck with that.

Are your performance metrics incomplete? Believe me, I value and understand the importance of solid financial performance. Whether we are in sales, management, administrative support, etc., we have to provide a positive return on the investment that our employers, partners, or investors have made. Without profitability, eventually there is no ongoing viability. However, I think we all know there has to be more. Perhaps you are even measuring qualities of your salespeople that go beyond financial performance in attributes such as:

  1. “Trustworthiness” and/or “seeking win-win solutions” as deemed by your customers.
  2. “Collaboration and teamwork” as deemed by fellow employees.
  3. “Exhibits company core values” as deemed by both employees and customers.

If you are measuring things like this, congratulations! Your company likely values more than simple financial metrics. However, in the case of Bernie, he may have still scored highly on all of those. We need to measure those things that can be measured and be on the look-out for other indicators.

At the heart of the matter, it’s the motivation of the heart. I think it is very difficult and even dangerous to try to discern the motivation of someone’s heart beyond our own heart. We can misinterpret others’ motivations and easily be deceived by our own. Even so, I believe it is worth starting with an examination of our own motivations first before we take on judging the motivations of others.

A few questions that we can ask ourselves if we are willing to evaluate our own motivations include:

  1. Am I being driven by my needs and desires (short-term sales targets, quotas, notoriety, affirmation, rewards, etc.) or am I genuinely seeking to put the needs of someone else ahead of my needs?
  2. Am I willing to “do the right thing” even if I must pay a hefty price to do so?
  3. Can my values be bought at a certain threshold? If so, “conviction” is really a “preference” with a price.

Look for the fruit. While discerning the motives of another’s heart is really up to God and not us, examining “fruit” of their actions is less difficult to spot. Jesus himself said, “Every good tree bears good fruit, but a bad tree bears bad fruit.” That doesn’t mean that any of us will walk perfectly. We all screw up.

However, I believe that “fruit” means “evidence”, actions, or even patterns of behavior. Fruit is substance that goes beyond words. Talk is cheap but actions are revealing. While I’m no authority on this by any means, some simple evidences of “fruit” that I look for in myself, salespeople, and anyone who may represent my team, brand, or company include:

  1. How does this person treat those who likely couldn’t benefit them in any way? For example, how do they treat the janitor, the lowest paid guy on the plant floor, the teller, the waitress, or the taxi driver? Do they treat those who can benefit them one way and everyone else another?
  2. How does this person treat their spouse?
  3. If they make a mistake, are they quick to blame others or are they willing to raise their hand quickly and accept responsibility?
  4. Do they expect others to “carry their bags” or do they demonstrate “servant leadership” like opening doors for others, helping clean up messes they didn’t cause, tipping generously when no one is looking, saying “thank you” for even little things, etc.?
  5. Can you trust them to honor their verbal commitments?

A broader definition for success is needed and should be measured. I don’t believe that sales performance must ignore financial results. Without financial performance, a company eventually ceases to exist. However, I believe we can all be well served to raise our eyes and take a broader view of what we are evaluating when we define and measure “success”.

While it is important to give financial performance a respected seat at the table, our companies can increase our chances of creating healthy, sustainable, win-win-win relationships with our customers, companies, and colleagues. How? By evaluating and expanding our performance measurement criteria to align with our stated values.

Then what? Once we have taken the time to define and measure relevant performance metrics that INCLUDE but GO BEYOND simple financial performance, I believe that we need to consistently hire, train, and reward our front-line sales and service colleagues based on these expanded criteria. We also need to pay close attention to the “fruit” exhibited by those who are members of our crew. When the fruit is present, the measurable performance is likely to show up as well.

And what about when our “sales star” who puts up great numbers fails in the other important measures? I believe we must attempt to coach them to success – if they are coachable. However, if they can’t be coached to perform beyond the one trick of financial performance, we need to find the courage to promptly ship them out of the organization. In doing so, we just might save our customers, colleagues, brands, companies, and even ourselves from some serious trouble that may be silently lurking beneath the surface.

The Winning Team

For a sports team to win the big game and stand atop the podium with the big trophy, it not only needs the best players at each position, but also all of the individual athletes working well together toward their ultimate goal: winning. To be the champ, an athletic team can’t just have the best players on the field, coaches on the sidelines or front-office staff to manage the day-to-day business. It also needs everyone who influences its success – vendors, sponsors, ticket buyers, consultants and the league office – to buy into what it’s selling.

The same things are true in business, and, just like in sports, a poorly functioning team will prevent you from achieving your version of the Ultimate Podium Finish™, the goals you’ve set that will determine whether you’ve beaten the competition and won the game of business in your field.

Just like in sports, your team isn’t just the people who work at your organization, but also your entire universe of customers, vendors, contractors, advisors, coaches, consultants, etc. You want to attract and retain A-players – the people who are onboard with your Core Values and achieving (or beating) performance goals – and weed out the players who drag your business down.

Build A Team Of A-Players

We’ve all heard stories about locker-room issues that prevent a sports team from winning games. This also happens in business. To build a team full of A-players you must address the things that repel A-players from your business. Often, this is management not taking any action to fix problems with B or C players, bad processes or customers who are more trouble than they’re worth to the bottom line.

A-players maintain your Core Values – the rules and behaviors that define your culture and personality – and are repelled by co-workers whose bad or inappropriate behaviors cause workplace tension or reflect poorly on your business.

First, make sure that everyone on your current team knows your Core Values and has a fair chance to show whether they can live by them.

Next, you need to identify your A-players and deal with the B- and C-players. Place everyone on an ABC matrix.

  • B-players: weak job performers, but their behavior reflects your Core Values
  • B/C-players: strong performers, but they have behavior problems
  • C-players: poor performance and poor behavior

Now you need to deal with what you’ve learned. Let’s tackle this in reverse order:

  • C-players: eliminate them, either by terminating them or finding a new role that will give them an opportunity to become A-players.
  • B/C-players: clarify behavioral expectations and give them an opportunity to change the attitudes or actions that are keeping them out of the A quadrant.
  • B-players: offer job training to help improve their job performance. (Consider Laurie Bassi’s exhaustive research, which showed that training and development produced a 672% ROI, more than any other investment a business owner could make.)
  • A-players: take actions to keep the A-players happy and engaged. (Dealing with the B- and C- players should help.)

Get Your A-Players Working Together

Building a team of A-players isn’t enough for small and midmarket companies to achieve the Ultimate Podium Finish™. Those A-players must work together, driving as a team toward your goals. The technique to breaking down those silos is creating cross-functional responsibilities. During your quarterly planning, identify quarterly Rocks, and the Tasks needed to achieve them, that involve multiple departments. Although one person is accountable for each Rock, he or she must work with people across the business to achieve it.

This strategy encourages leaders to work together, and it also exposes any interpersonal issues or other below-the-surface things that are preventing your people from being a team. As those issues surface, they must be quickly addressed with team-building exercises or other interventions to get healthy.

Why It’s Important

Just like in sports, your team can make or break your ability to achieve your Ultimate Podium Finish™. Take steps now to ensure that your team is full of A-players – high-performers who reflect your company’s Core Values and are committed to the business’ success.