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The Key to Success in a Disruptive Marketplace? A Powerhouse Team

Adam Kreek is an expert in high performance. An Olympic gold-medal winning rower who was named Athlete Leader of the Year in 2010, Adam seeks to help organizations build stronger teams, create and manage success while overcoming failure, and develop the necessary capacity to effectively deal with change. His warm and energetic presentations combine impactful stories drawn from his 13 years as an elite athlete with opportunities for authentic audience participation.  The result is memorable learning and a renewed passion for personal growth and team betterment. Below, Adam looks at the keys to success in business:

Kreek Pic

With the NBA season ready to kick into gear, I thought that I would post a quote from one of the sport’s most successful coaches.

It’s no surprise that Phil Jackson delivered the above quote on teamwork. By ensuring a culture of engagement, Phil found regular and repeated success as a player, coach and executive. In his book Eleven Rings, Jackson said,“What I’ve learned over the years is that the most effective approach is to delegate authority as much as possible and to nurture everyone else’s leadership skills as well. When I’m able to do that, it not only builds team unity and allows others to grow but also, paradoxically, strengthens my role as leader… The key to sustained success is to keep growing as a team.”

In a world where companies like Uber, Tesla and AirBnB are disrupting current business models, we need to build resilient organizations. We need to sustain our success. The #1 contributor to resilience? Strong teams and effective teamwork. By focusing on team engagement and building effective team culture we build organizations that sustain the inevitable and changing challenges of a crowded and competitive marketplace.

5 Ways to Grow a Powerhouse Team

Not innovation. Not finance. Not strategy. In a disruptive marketplace, it’s teamwork that will give you and your organization the advantage. Why? Because excellent teamwork is incredibly rare. In a world of disruptive technologies and business models, excellent teamwork sets your team apart from competitors by empowering both ambition and engagement. Envy, mistrust, sabotage and rivalry no longer impede your group’s synergy and potential. Proper teamwork contributes to your organization’s culture of engagement. Time and energy can instead be spent on tasks that effectively drive results.

Here are five ways that I have found to build and support a resilient team:

  1. Do it, then say it.

Our five year old, Jefferson, was rolling around on the couch after dinner. “I want to watch something” he moaned, eyeing the computer sitting on the coffee table and yearning for Netflix. My wife and I were busily cleaning up after dinner. “We need to finish our work before we relax,” I said. “Look at Mommy and I; are we sitting down? Or are we working hard to clean the kitchen?” Jefferson watched us both for a moment, considering my question, then walked to the table and began to clear the final dishes.

You’d like a great team and committed individuals? Start with you. Are you showcasing the behaviors you’d like displayed throughout your team?  Are you consistently improving your work?  Lead by example. If you’re demanding excellence from your team, demand it from yourself first. Others will take notice. Be the change you wish to see in your team.

What action will you take today that exemplifies your ideal team member?

  1. Take Time for Trust

Recently, International Olympic Committee (IOC) President, Thomas Bach, addressed the issue of broken trust within the Olympic Movement at a luncheon in Montreal. Doping, match fixing, manipulation, bribery and corruption have tainted the faith that we hold in the Olympics and the values that the Games promote. A German Lawyer and former fencer, President Bach recognized early in his tenure that this broken trust needed fixing. He took the time to rebuild trust in the Olympic movement. He spent his first 18 months in office leading a consultation that enlisted the input of athletes, sports leaders, political opponents and over 40,000 online submissions. He is now communicating the resulting new direction of the IOC. “We will step up our efforts to protect young athletes and to promote clean athletes. We want to ensure that we are living up to our good word on good governance and ethical behaviour.” Because of the work Bach did to uncover root problems and address them directly, we all left the luncheon inspired to promote the global cause of sport across our local communities. A renewed trust in the Olympic movement was born.

When trust is broken in your team, slow down. Take the time to rebuild trust.

How can you mend or bolster trust within your team? When will you schedule time to do so?

  1. Build Slow. Test Soon. Cut Quick.

Our daughter took her first steps at 18 months. One week later, she was sprinting around the house, and I’m convinced at 2 that she’ll soon outpace me. A couple tumbles and she quickly learned which foot movements were most efficient and which movements she needed to cut from her repertoire. When she was ready, she was ready – and she took off running.  Albeit, her preparation was lengthy, and no amount of encouragement or teaching on our part sped up her process or readiness.

This is a great metaphor for team building. First, whenever possible make the right hire – that is, ensure the new hire is walking.  Too often we hire or promote someone prematurely in hopes that ‘soon’ they’ll be up ready for the position.  If they aren’t walking, don’t hire them.

Next, build the best team by employing the most ancient technology on this planet: patience. Too often we want too much too quickly. Allow your new team members the adequate support to find their balance and and succeed from day one. Once they’re stable, then quicken the pace.

Finally, test new team members with  with a project that matters early on. Your job? Support them fully – and coach them up, or coach them out. John Milton from Paradise Lost said it best: “Virtue is not virtue until it is tested”. If your team member passes the test, let both them and the team know. If they fail and you feel they will fail continually, do what’s necessary to cut them from the team. It’s not personal; you need the best fit for any given position. Not everyone is the right fit for the job. Forget about the stress of training a new hire, or the time sink of paperwork. It will cost more time and money in the long run to have the wrong person on the team.

What team member needs to be coached up? What team member needs to be coached out?

  1. Employ  Diversity

On my Olympic eight-man rowing team, diversity gave us a strength that was unbeatable. Jake was obsessed with results. His mantra? “It doesn’t matter how you do it, just get there first!”.  Kyle on the other hand was methodical and process oriented.  His mantra? “Follow the process and you will get there first.” The irony? Jake and Kyle became the two fastest rowers in the country.  We needed both of them in the eight. In the end, our team benefited from both Kyle’s consistency and Jake’s urgency. Kyle’s consistency prevented the lows, and Jake’s urgency pushed our highs even higher. The result of this and other diversity within our boat?  Olympic Gold.

We all come from different geographical, familial, religious, socio-economic, racial and educational backgrounds. These backgrounds combine to give each person a unique perspective to contribute to a team. Diversity delivers productive feedback and highlights new perspectives that your team will need to stay resilient in a changing world. While some surround themselves with mirror images of themselves, this strategy serves little results.

How can you embrace and expand diversity on your team?

  1. Find Small Wins Together

While less trumpeted than Olympic size victories, small wins are powerful because they can be sought out and replicated routinely. The result?  A snowball effect. Small wins form the basis of a consistent pattern of success and are the necessary building blocks of big wins.  Facilitate these small gold medals by setting routine goals, acknowledge their achievement and most importantly, celebrating everyone who contributes. When a team experiences a pattern of consistent and celebrated small wins, it can’t help but strive for big wins.

Karl Weick says it well, “Once a small win has been accomplished, forces are set in motion that favor another small win. When a solution is put in place, the next solvable problem often becomes more visible. This occurs because new allies bring new solutions with them and old opponents change their habits. Additional resources also flow toward winners, which means that slightly larger wins can be attempted.”

What small win can you create and celebrate with your team today? Which of these 5 team building points can you apply, today?

Adam Kreek/October, 2015