The Four Team Building Levers

There are four levers we can use to build a great team. Sometimes we need to hire new talent. Sometimes we need to fire because we have the wrong talent. Sometimes we need to coach people to awaken talent. And sometimes we need to change the entire structure of the team because the right people can’t apply their talents; they are in the wrong jobs or the jobs and environment have changed.

None of these levers is better than the other. But we usually default to just one when the team isn’t working well. The trick is to use all four and balance them.


In your corner,


PS: Let’s think of talent in the broadest definition here. It includes (ranked from most important to least) attitude, intra- and interpersonal strengths, experience, and technical skills.


Today’s photo credit: Grant Palmer Photography via photopin cc

I seek the holy grail

The Holy Grail of Getting It Done

The holy grail of getting it done–no matter what tools or approaches we use–is knowing that whatever we are working on now is the best possible, most compelling thing for us to be working on at the moment. C’est ça.

Without this knowing, our work is much slower, distracted, and ineffective. With this knowing, we engage confidently and things happen with so much more ease.

We may seek and attain this holy grail by following these habits and using these tools.


In your corner,


PS: Of course, the best possible, most compelling thing may be the thing that is due soon, a walk in the woods, starting an exciting new project, or just sitting quietly. Hint: the grail only works when you choose what is best possible, most compelling now.


Crafting Great Marketing Messages

The typical marketing message–website, brochure, ad, pitch, elevator speech–tells us all about the organization and how great it is. Or it lists the features, functions, and benefits of the organizations products or services. Then it asks us to buy.

A great marketing message proves that the organization understands a challenge (or opportunity) we face, honors us, and offers a solution. Then, at the very end, the great marketing message explains why the organization is so qualified to deliver such solutions and invites us explore whether this solution makes sense for us.

Both types of marketing message lead to sales. A great marketing message, being win-win, leads to sustained sales because we appreciate the care and the relationship.


In your corner,



Clear and Compelling

One important part of success is having a clear, compelling focus, mission, or goal. We as leaders unwittingly stumble here because it’s a far-from-trivial task. We frequently end up running without a focus or, if we have one, it’s not clear or it’s not compelling.

If we ask ten people, “What are we up to? Who are we and what is our mission?” and get ten quite different answers, then either we don’t have a focus or it’s not clear.

And how can we tell if it’s compelling? We’ll know it is when it feels great, we are excited, and more than one person notices that the magic is starting to happen.


In your corner,



Today’s photo credit: Escape_to_Christel via photopin cc


Fail Your Way to Success

Embracing failure is an oddly effective way to ultimately succeed. This does not mean just hoping everything goes well, winging it, ignoring it, or just bracing for impact.

Embracing failure means adopting a system where we can test our assumptions (and we blindly make huge assumptions at work all the time) in a series of small, non-bet-the-farm experiments. We craft a small, clearly incomplete guess at the product, process, service, or message. Next we put it out there to see what happens. Whatever happens, we will learn. Then we use that learning to adjust our offering and start the cycle again.

We can fail our way to success into any part of our work if we start small and think cycles.


In your corner,


PS: This approach can be tough because we are so used to thinking linearly. If you tend to think top-down, get it right straight away, try imagining this series of learning cycles as forming a line through time.

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jump the gun

Jumping the Gun

In leadership, influence, and sales, we can blunder by making our case too early. And we know we are making our case too early because we feel bad: rushed, frustrated, tense, or afraid.

Perhaps we feel that we need to explain the what, why, who, when, and how. Or maybe we think we want to impress the other person with our authority or knowledge. Or maybe we fear that they will say, “No,” so we try to preempt them with our words.

In any case, the solution is simple. Just follow these four steps, concentrating especially on steps 1 and 2: building a foundation of trust and exploring (mostly asking and listening) their story.


In your corner,



Today’s photo credit: morgen via photopin cc

low buzz people

Dealing With Those at Work Who’d Harm Us

On occasion at work, we run into with people who want to do us harm. Maybe they are trying to sully our reputation. Perhaps they are threatening a lawsuit. Or they could be claiming credit for our ideas, or bullying, or otherwise playing dirty.

With such people, we may be tempted to fight them, crush them, or at least prove them wrong.

Don’t. If we fight back, we are lowering our buzz to their level. They win and we lose. Instead of them moving out of our lives, fighting them keeps them close and extends the pain.

Take the high road: care for and yourself as you need to and forgive the other. You staying at a higher buzz is the fastest way to be rid of their low-buzz ways.


In your corner,



Today’s photo credit: Thomas Shahan via photopin cc


Whenever You Need It

Whenever you are feeling bad, tense, angry etc. about anything at work or home, remember these immortal words:

These are not the thoughts...







When we are feeling bad our only job is to catch it and find a way to feel better.


In your corner,


PS: You know, sometimes just celebrating our inner geekiness is a fine way to feel good.

PPS: Once we are feeling better, the rest will be, as they say, like shooting womp rats back on Tatooine.

You said what?

What To Do When, Yes, They Did Just Say That

Sometimes others say or do things that confound us. It is usually some assertion we think is wrong, hurtful, or ignorant. To be polite or because we just couldn’t think of anything to say in the moment, we remain quiet, change the topic, or pretend to ignore what just happened and keep going.

We then spend hours or days seething, worrying, or trying to figure out what to do in response.

Here’s a better way. First, we calm down and raise our buzz so we’re in the best head space. Then we go back and say, “I’ve been thinking about our conversation.” We next either ask a question to clarify or express a concern. Then we make a request like, “Would you be willing to…(some new behavior)?” or “Would you be willing to work with me to figure out a better way?”

We can pretty much always go back.


In your corner,


PS: Some examples. Note the win-win tone.

  • “When you said we should fire Tim, was that because you were thinking he had embarrassed the company and may do it again? Would you be willing to consider a less drastic solution?”
  • “I have a concern. You said that I should stop working on this project because other projects are suffering. I think this is a problem because our clients are already worried that we won’t finish this work on time. Would you be willing to work on a plan with me that addresses the clients’ expectations and pushes forward the other projects?”
  • “When you make bold, angry arguments, I feel frustrated because you appear unwilling to hear my side. Would you be willing to take turns listening and feeding back what we each heard before pressing our points?”


Today’s photo credit: jev55 via photopin cc