Building High Performing Teams

Over the years I have built several high performing teams. How do I define a high performing team? In the simplest terms, a high performing team is one that accomplishes its goals while remaining true to the cultural aspects I have put in place. To succeed and reach the goal, but done so at the cost of destroying the culture is not success, nor is it high performing in my book. Thus, establishing a high performing team includes both a personal view of the leader of that team, combined with core competencies that typically appear in most teams that consistently meet or exceed their objectives.

I have 10 focus points when recruiting new candidates to build my team, or deepen my bench strength:

  1. Chemistry. Do they fit? What’s the first vibe I get when interacting with this person? Are they engaging? Stimulating? Are they able to operate and respond to circumstances, or scenarios, when under fire? How do they react? What are the observed behaviors noted when they are interacting with others?
  2. Curiosity. Do they possess a healthy curiosity about things? Forget whether they’re asking questions and instead focus on the question itself. Is it thoughtful? Are they asking questions that demonstrate an ability to assimilate new information and inquire beyond that point? Or did they show up with the standard pre-packaged set of questions?
  3. Ability to see the negative space. Can the candidate spot things that haven’t been discussed? Do they possess a level of intuition that identifies areas to probe? Can they engage me on what I haven’t said, as much as what I have said?
  4. Challenging. Does the candidate seem to go along for the ride? Do they fully agree with everything I’m saying? Often times I will ask a question that goes completely against what I believe, just to see how he/she reacts. This exercise gives me insight into their intellect and ability to pivot quickly.
  5. Active listening. How well does the person listen? I give high marks to note-takers. Taking notes is a sign of an active listener. Notes are a good indicator of detail. Using those notes to ask follow-up questions demonstrates the ability to grasp complex concepts and expand on a topic or conversation.
  6. Think in 3’s. How well does the individual tell the story? How quickly do they get to the point? Do they talk in circles when asked a question with lots of words really saying nothing? Or do they demonstrate structured thinking by responding in 3’s? “I believe there are 3 reasons for…”
  7. Problem solving skills. How well can he/she frame the problem? To solve a problem you must first understand exactly what you’re solving for. I will provide a scenario and gauge the candidates response to gain insight into their thinking and how they go about solving problems. Do they simply react to the obvious, surface-level, problem? Or do they take their time and begin to peel it back one layer at a time by asking more and more questions?
  8. Continuous learning. I’ve asked this question for the better part of the last 20 years of team building – “Tell me the name of the last book you read, and what was it about?” It still amazes me how many people don’t read. Or, you get the typical response, “I read the WSJ”. I am looking for responses that offer a mix of reading material beyond business. My ears get happy when I hear Dean Koontz, Patricia Cornwell, Stuart Woods, Jeffrey Deaver, James Patterson, Dan Brown, Michael Connelly, or Michael Crichton. I also look for autobiographies of past leaders or influential members of society. Reading, followed by doing, is the most powerful accelerator of progress.
  9. Crucible moment. A crucible moment is a turning point in someone’s life. Ask, what was your crucible moment, or at least provide one? I myself have had several throughout my life. Look for substance. Not the standard, “When I met my wife”, or “When we had our son”. Only if those moments are backed up with something completely out of the ordinary, it’s not a crucible moment in by book. I’m looking for adversity, failures, fear. How willing is this person to open up and be vulnerable?
  10. Finally, last but not least, I look for empathy. How does this person relate to others? When faced with specific stressful scenario, how do they react? How do they treat others? What happens to their voice, and tone, when they are talking and responding? Empathy is likely the single biggest competency that defines success. The ability to relate to others is critical when working with others on a team. It feeds directly into chemistry as its most powerful ingredient.

Whether you’re building a new team from scratch, adding a few new players, or re-tooling the existing team, having a clear culture – rules to live by – is critical. As the leader it’s imperative that you state clearly what you expect of others. Establishing the right expectations and further executing upon them most certainly increases the probability of your success and that of your team.

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The Essence of Good Decision Making

Making decisions is a part of life. I have found that good decision making boils down to two things:

  1. Clearly identifying the problem you are trying to solve
  2. Listing and understanding as many possible outcomes as possible given different decision paths
  • The only effective way to solve a problem is to have clarity on what exactly you’re trying to solve. If you want to drive from NYC to LA, how do you choose your route? Start by defining the problem. Do you want to get to LA in the fastest time possible? The most scenic drive? The drive with the least tolls? The answer to those questions will help guide your decision making.
  • That’s a rather simplistic example so let’s try another…
  • You own a business and are in need of a new provider for a critical path function. Critical path functions are those things that if fail, can bring a business to its knees. For most companies, who they buy their office supplies from is not a critical path function. However, providers that offer secure data storage may be a critical path item if your business deals with gathering and storing large amounts of customer data.
  • Attached is a recent blog I published for i2c, where I am the EVP of Global Sales and Marketing. While specific to the payments space, the decision criteria can be applied under any circumstances if thought about more broadly.
  • As always, I look forward to your thoughts and reactions.
  • https://www.i2cinc.com/blog/5-critical-considerations-evaluating-payments-processor/
  • The beauty of becoming

    I recently heard someone describe Spring as a “beautiful time of becoming”. It’s the time when all things are born and new. A time of rapid growth and development.

    As you think about your own “becoming”, what are you doing to grow and develop? What are you doing to plant the seeds in your life to improve and expand?

    The beauty of becoming resides within all of us. All you need to do is act.

    How effective is your Go-To-Market Strategy?

    Developing a winning Go-To-Market strategy includes having deep insights into your markets, accounts, and buyers.  It requires a compelling brand message, and the right sales coverage.  Two very important components to assess the effectiveness of a GTM strategy include knowing what’s important – KPIs, and how your strategy is tracking against those KPIs.

    Check out my blog on 7 KPIs to Evaluate Go-To-Market Effectiveness.  

    Understanding Your Purpose

    Many confuse focus with purpose. Living, or working, with focus means zeroing in on the one or two things that are important to you at that moment in time. Living with purpose is to understand what’s truly important to you and then doing the things necessary to fulfill your purpose.

    Today I need to focus on an upcoming meeting with a CEO. However that meeting is not my purpose. My purpose is to be a difference maker for those whose lives I come in contact with…to make a difference, solve a problem, bring joy, reduce pain. In business that requires having a strong focus on continuous learning, active listening, and structured thinking. I must always be learning new things in order to build a mental database of ideas to recommend. I have to listen deeply to the person,, or people with whom I am working to truly understand and empathize. Finally I have to be able to process what I’ve heard – and felt – with what I know – the knowledge I’ve acquired through learning and experience. When I do these things well I fulfill my purpose.

    Have you identified your purpose? It’s not enough to say you want to be the best sales person, marketer, father, brother, friend, runner, or swimmer. You’ve got to go deeper. What makes you want to be the best? Is it money? Fame? Recognition? Personal pride? Personal demons?

    To find your purpose answer these questions:

    1. What am I doing when I am happiest?

    2. Who am I with when I am happiest?

    3. What emotions – physical and mental – am I experiencing when I am happiest?

    4. What challenges you, that while difficult and unpleasant, secretly get you excited?

    5. And finally, what do you fear most?

    Often times the answer to the 5th and final question provides valuable insight into your purpose. Understanding what you fear can help you create the best path forward to live your purpose. Remember your life’s purpose can only be defined by you, not others. In the end, only you can answer the question, “did I live my life as the best version of myself?”.

    Be purposeful in all you do. We all have a limited amount of sand in our hourglass. Make every one of them count.

    Win/Loss analysis is the key to growth

    I have spent more than 20 years studying buyers in various industries.  What motivates buyers to take action – for or against your product or service?  How are you truly perceived within the marketplace?  How do you blend what to say, with what to do, in order to demonstrate your credibility in the market as a problem solver?

    As a Principal with Sales Benchmark Index, I have the privilege of working with companies across a variety of industries to help them make their number.  Read my latest blog here to learn why Marketing should own Win/Loss analysis and the benefits that come along with this critical work.

    Culture is Much More Than a Free Lunch

    Hoagie

    Culture is a popular topic.  By itself, Google shows more than 1.6 billion results for the word culture.  Narrow your search to include the word “company” with culture and you’ll find 84M results.  Yes, culture is all the rage.  Read any corporate website, literature, or social posts and you’ll quickly see what I’m talking about.  Every company claims to have the best culture.  A culture of winning.  A culture that rewards performance.  A culture that resembles a family.  A culture that encourages innovation.  Are any of these really culture?

    Companies that claim their culture is all about family might actually be telling the truth.  But whose family are they comparing their culture to?  The Brady Bunch?  The Partridge Family?  The Adaams Family?  The Simpsons? The Bundy’s?  You see, it’s important to understand what family the culture is most emulating.  A family culture in a vacuum may in fact not be the family you’re most comfortable with.

    What about companies that say they have a culture of innovation?  Few companies operate like Apple where they publicly say they “inspire innovation” and actually deliver it.  Most use innovation as a platitude…sounds goods, makes an impression.  Yet innovation by itself isn’t what makes the culture innovative.  A deep level of curiousity that permeates the company coupled with the passion and desire to learn and fail is the culture.  Innovation is simply an output of a culture that inspires ideas, dreams, and invention.  A culture that is built upon a foundational trust between its employees and management is a company that will grow through reinvention because the trust exists to take risks, learn, fail, adjust and succeed.  There can’t be success without failure.

    So why do so many companies promote their culture, and who cares?  Should you?

    Forget about free lunches, ping-pong tables, fitness centers, and bring-your-dog-to-work programs.  That’s not culture.  Those items are simply perks, benefits, lures to help attract talent.  Dig deeper to understand the culture.  What’s the turnover rate – voluntary and involuntary?  How much training and development is provided annually to each employee – time and dollars spent?  How visible is the leadership team in the trenches?  Not how many lunches do the leaders provide, or how many town halls they give, but how often are they involved in the day-to-day running of the business and interacting with customers?

    Culture is deep.  It’s how a company is wired and ultimately its employees.  Nothing is given for free.  The folks I’ve talked to who work for Google, Apple, or HubSpot love working there, yet when you ask them why you’ll never hear because of the great hoagies or the free teeth whitening.  No.  Instead you’ll hear things like “I love working with really smart people”, or “I thrive in a hyper-competitive organization”. Dig deep when exploring culture.  Don’t settle for what’s sold on the surface…the freebies…because in life there are no free lunches.