The Power of “We” in Building High Performing Teams

 

Bosses versus Leaders

 

Many years ago, I got the opportunity to sit through a lecture given by an executive of a large company in Atlanta.  He had come to talk about his experiences in business and some of his key lessons learned.  I meticulously logged and wrote down his words that night, more than ten years back, and have kept them close ever since.

One particular jewel he provided which has alway stuck with me was “Seek Results Not Credit”.  Now that one little statement seems innocuous enough but I believe it is full of life changing wisdom, particularly for entrepreneurs, if it’s root meaning can be truly grasped and applied for good.

Too often in business, individuals and teams get very caught up in the “credit” side of their endeavors and they often fail to appreciate the much more important “results” side.  If we look at some of the most successful enterprises of modern day, particularly in the software / SaaS arenas, you will see highly motivated, often organizationally flat teams that rallied together, sacrificed and bled together, and in the end triumphed.  The triumph was not the act of a single contributor but the act of the team, the WE.

Unfortunately, often times the WE gets overlooked and organizations fall into what my wife and I like to call the “pronoun game”.  (Writer’s Note:  Since writing this article I’ve been informed that the pronoun game actually has a meaning in LGB communities too…who’d a thunk it). 

In our house, a common yellow-card foul is when one of us invokes a particular “I” oriented phraseology to indicate arduous or more than a fair-share of the work.  For instance, “well was busy with that fantastic microwave dinner, while YOU were searching for your latest “Art of Zen” Adult Coloring Book”  so I have no idea who used permanent marker on our new bed sheets”.   Our kids like to jump in on the pronoun game occasionally too.  “Mom & Dad, did all the work and They didn’t help.”   You get the picture.

In our home, the pronoun game is a fun little policing mechanism that we all use to help us paint boundaries around the culture of our household that we choose to have.  However, in corporate scenarios, the pronoun game is not a joking matter.  Environments that are plagued by “I” mentalities if left unchecked can wreak absolute havoc to business productivity, achievement and morale.  These “I” environments, as I’ll call them, generally are allowed to exist by the culture of the founders, entrepreneurs or executives and are not easily changed.

At it’s root, business is a team sport.  Great businesses…aspirational businesses are built through a loose amalgamation of great people banding together and agreeing to not only help one another but focus on a higher good, the customer, the idea, the next-great breakthrough.  In these environments there is no room for “I”, there is only room for the “We”.

As I sat through that night and listened to this great Atlanta executive opine and summarize his many decades of experiences in succinct and hard-hitting verses I was mesmerized.   That one statement has meant a great deal to me over the years and I think can be a catalyst for great change in your enterprise if you are currently playing the pronoun game.

Lessons in Entrepreneurship via the Lemonade Stand

This past weekend I got the awesome pleasure of working for less than minimum wage in the hot Georgia sun!  What you say?  I got to be a  barista of a different order, instead of being a fine purveyor of wonderfully roasted coffee beans and scrumptious delights, I was pushing a fine yellow powder kissed with just the right amount of water and with a tinge of sweetness.  Really confused? I hope not. Simply put, I had the awesome pleasure to help my daughter in her very own lemonade stand.

The “big event” had been some weeks in the making and finally our big break occurred.  The neighborhood was hosting a garage sale.  What goes better with other people’s dusty junk and the Georgia heat and humidity?  If you answered Ice Cold Lemonade from a pretty, blond-headed five year old you would be right on the money.  Although my daughter probably was more focused on drinking some of the fruits of her entrepreneurial efforts I had a slightly more educational approach in mind.  I had the pleasure of reading a post some months ago on Sebastian Marshall’s blog regarding entrepreneurship and what it really means to be an entrepreneur.  Its a great article linked here:  “What Skills Do You Need to be an Entrepreneur, Only Two”.   In the article Sebastian mentioned showing his future kids the path of an entrepreneur at an early age, showing them specifically how to (1) add value to the things they touch & (2) get some share of the value they create.  This is a wonderfully simple idea and kudos to Sebastian for boiling down an idea that graduate business school professors (no offense to my special professor buddy at a great school) spend months trying to teach.

My goal in this endeavour was simple, help Mackenzie understand the concept of entrepreneurship and particularly the concept of investing and most importantly “PROFIT”.   All in all it was a tremendous success and something that I will continue to repeat in different forms and fashions with both Mackenzie and my other daughter Carrigan.  The formula for us that worked so well was pretty simple:

  1. I let Mackenzie use her “investment” envelope to buy the supplies.  She counted out the money, she knew how much she was investing & I let her decide what she wanted to purchase (with a bit of guidance).  Her total investment was $6.50 – including bottled water, ice, lemonade mix, fresh lemons, etc. (NOTE: We use the Dave Ramsey school of thought with our daughter.  Each week she gets a small allowance that she allocates (her choice) to four different envelopes (a) spend (b) save (c) invest (d) donate.)
  2. I let her carry her money, pay the cashier, etc.  (seems small but the concept of money, profit, revenue, etc. is an elusive one when your 5)
  3. We discussed our marketing, how would we get people to purchase her lemonade.  The concept of competition, marketing, sales tactics … you get the idea – some great concepts here.   This was particularly funny part of our endeavour in that Mackenzie decided one of the best tactics for drawing in customers was dancing around, smiling big and waving while shouting “Ice Cold Lemonade”.
  4. During our selling I encouraged her with some ways she could interact with her customers (selling) and attracting the crowds (marketing). This also resulted in a funny outcome.  One particular patron who was perusing earlier said “dusty junk” was not in the mood for lemonade.  However, after four very convincing sales pitches from the 5 year old she folded like proverbial cheap suit.
  5. I encouraged her to manage her money and the transactions. Giving people change, managing the supplies, making more product… it was her business and I helped her keep track of the moving pieces.
  6. As we wrapped up the day’s activities we had a lengthy sit-down where she counted her sales for that day.  We talked a bit about the concept of sales, etc and what that means.
  7. We then payed her investment envelope back (the whopping $6.50) and were left with her profit.   We talked a bit about profit and the idea that in those 4 hours she made $15 in profit.  Normally her allowance is $5 per week.  The point she got very quickly was in a few hours of work she made “ALOT” (her words) more than what she normally does.  …This was the best realization – she labored, she applied her ingenuity and her talents (ADDED VALUE) and then got to pocket the profit (GETTING A SHARE OF THE VALUE SHE CREATED).
All in all – the lemonade stand was a total success and a really exciting time for me too.  To see entrepreneurship and these sometimes difficult concepts come into clarity for my five year old daughter was truly awesome!  For me to get back to my love of entrepreneurship and see it through the early lens of my daughter was equally awesome!

Posted via email from douglasingram’s posterous

Feel Good Movie…for you

Happy New Year everyone! So one of my new year’s resolutions was pretty simple – live life superbly. In 2009 and 2010 we have seen some pretty gruesome times. Lost jobs, lost riches, lost homes…and on and on. Pretty bleak… or maybe not. I had many of these issues affect me personally from a business standpoint in 2009 and 2010 and as best as I can figure I’m still here and fighting the good fight. When you sum it all up, I think we are pretty fortunate no matter how down the cards may be. Pretty fortunate because we live in an awesome country where we can get up each day and change whatever reality may have affected us from the last. No country rewards persistence, vision and stick-to-it-ness like the US. So in keeping with one of my resolutions I thought I might share a clip of many hundreds of people living life superbly. Caveat is this is filmed in Heathrow .. but our UK friends need love to.

So enjoy and I hope in 2011 you can live life superbly and always find time to be in the moment.

Rocket Shoots & Little Ponies

So yesterday, my oldest and I headed out to our formal rocket launching site…similar to Johnson Space Center but without the high overheads and government bureaucracy. In attendance for the formal launching of our awesome space craft courtesy of Estes Rocket Building Kitwere none other than the esteemed Princess Cinderella, Sleeping Beauty and My Little Pony (Ms. Sparkles…?). Also on hand was another VIP guest named Ms. Chloe, although my daughter pronounces it Ms. Glowey. In the video footage you hear my daughter saying…”Now Ms. Glowey you need to be very brave.” With firm words of encouragement that would make even Gene Kranz proud we did a final adjustement for wind direction, speed and began our countdown.

The video is only a little over 1 minute in duration but pretty cool and was a neat way to spend a couple hours on a Sunday!

Rocket Shooting…

Had a great Father’s Day yesterday with the family. We had our 2nd attempt for launching the rocket, dubbed APOLLO, we built the previous weekend. Our 1st attempt at the park in seemingly 100 degree weather ended in a verifiable melt-down. CNN wasn’t on hand to view the aborted attempt but rest assured it was filled with all kinds of drama that only four year olds can manifest. Our entire mission control team was on hand, the 4 year old played the role of Gene Kranz (see her in pink in pictures included), I played Gene Kranz dutiful assistant. My wife did an awesome job of representing the press, my father did a great job playing the role of Walter Kronkite, my mom and our youngest, Carrigan, played the role of gawking space nerds minus the telescopes. On a minor note, my Dad got slightly out of character when the rocket took off, you hear him in the background going “Holy Crap!” LOL (check out movie).All-in-all a neat experience that brought me back to my childhood days in scouting and being in love with flight, rockets, and things that emit lots of fire and smoke. For my oldest daughter, it was a great way for her to see her creation come to life. From cutting the balsa wood, to sanding down the fins and assembling the parachute, she did a wonderful job and is already asking me when we can build the next “bigger” rocket.

Posted via email from douglasingram’s posterous