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All posts from January 2018

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51: Stocky teams

If your team was a stock, would you buy it?

Everyone can invest. And when we do, we evaluate whether or not an asset is likely to give us an ROI. To continue the metaphor, what makes a good investment?

  • Direction: A ‘good buy’ team has a purpose, a plan, and is executing that plan. No unclear, volatile behaviors or activities.
  • Earnings history: A ‘good buy’ team doesn’t sit on its hands, doesn’t burn resources, and delivers an increasingly valuable quality of service.
  • Sustainability: A ‘good buy’ team doesn’t play for run-and-gun short-term gains, but organizes itself into a strong, long-term play.

The areas that make this stock unreliable, volatile, or undesirable are things a team can fix, just as any publically traded company might.

So, would you buy? If not, why not? What can you do about it?

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50: A conductor’s role

When an orchestra begins to play, is the conductor nervous?

It’s not his/her job to be nervous: it’s every musician’s job to be nervous about their own performance.

So what’s the conductor’s job?

  • Lead: Negotiating a piece into a focused performance.
  • Listen: Keeping pace for everyone so the performance stays tight.
  • Conduit: Serving as a bridge between the audience’s eyes and ears.

That leaves the musicians with one job: to get the notes right.

After all, the conductor can’t un-play wrong notes or become a violinist mid-performance.

Are you a conductor on your team? Are you nervous? What will you do about it?

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49: All yours

If this piece of music doesn’t give you goosebumps, I don’t know what will.

We’ve talked about why the peg counts, and about strategies to get results, and faster. Today let’s talk about how it’s all yours.

Every musician in the video above has clearly played that piece before.

A lot. And not just on the clock. But…

  • In their time: because practicing getting the notes right happens between the rehearsals, not during rehearsals.
  • In their minds: because it’s important, they may still be practicing while washing the dishes or walking the dog.

If they hadn’t, they wouldn’t be there, in that room, playing like that. Indeed, no musician could. Every one of them has their own part to play. Each part belongs to someone.

We don’t get paid for–or make a difference for–getting the notes wrong, at the concert or during rehearsal. We get paid while–and make a difference while–getting our notes right, while our teammates do the same.

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48: A year in a month

What if we could condense a year of growth into a single month?

What would that empower you to do? I call this technique “YIAM Growth Challenge” – here’s how it works:

  1. Future: If your future self, one year from now, could send a message back to you today, what would the message be? What important lessons or techniques had you learned that had come to benefit you?
  2. Lesson: What’s the biggest lesson or teaching we can extract from that message so that we can focus in on it?
  3. Focus: How can we compress that lesson or teaching into a four-week growth challenge, condensing a year of unguided development into a month of focused growth?
  4. Steps: What steps would you need to take in that four-week period to ensure the growth took place?
  5. Partner: Who will keep you accountable to those steps?

How much advancement could you and your teammates create towards your important work, if you all committed to incorporating this discipline?

‘Team size’ x 12 = Total number of months condensed into one.

How about if you all did this every month for a full year?

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47: Doing so much

“Alone we can do so little; together we can do so much.” – Helen Keller

This quote gets misinterpreted a lot.

And passionate, talented teams are a big offender.

There’s a temptation to interpret “we can do so much” as “let’s try to do everything at once.” Trading the chisel for another hammer dilutes the precision and commitment to good work.

  • Say ‘yes’ to the work. This also means saying ‘no’ to alternatives.
  • Own the work. One person responsible for each work on the team.
  • Refine or redefine. If it’s working, refine it. If it’s not, redefine it. This avoids the trap of “but we’ve tried everything.”

Let’s use Helen’s quote as a call to the clinical, radical focusing of meaningful team work.

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46: Baton hand-offs

“The successful person is open-minded and tolerant on all subjects. If you close your mind, you will be shut off from the recognition of favorable opportunities and the friendly cooperation of others.” – Napoleon Hill

During a relay race, the trickiest part is always the baton hand-off. The better the hand-off, the easier the race.

How can we become better at hand-offs in our teams? We start, as Dr. Hill suggests, by being open-minded and tolerant on all subjects. Examples:

  • A copywriter learning terminal commands from a developer. Perhaps they could commit basic website text changes to a source code repository themselves, saving a developer from having to step in after every tweak.
  • A developer learning presentation skills from a relations manager. Perhaps they could better articulate the team’s engineering genius to stakeholders.
  • An administrator learning some basic image editing skills from a designer. Perhaps they could communicate more viscerally with everyone they meet.

Doing so may, in fact, help us recognize “favorable opportunities” from the “friendly cooperation” we initiate.

How could your team benefit from better baton hand-off?