Team Success Depends on Everyone

Chef cooking over a fire. A good chef knows how to use each ingredient for the best dish. team success.WARNING! DON’T READ THIS WHILE YOU ARE HUNGRY! There are going to be a lot of food references here but they all have a point. It leads to what it can teach us about team success.

You ever watch any of the cooking competition shows on television, like Iron Chef America? In that particular show, chef contestants are given the same set of ingredients and asked to make a meal. Not just a dish – a meal. Oftentimes, the ingredients they are given to use will seem totally mismatched with one another. Yet they are required to use each and every ingredient. They can add but they can’t subtract. A judging panel evaluates them on taste and how they incorporate everything.

Sometimes the chefs find it challenging incorporating all the ingredients into the meal. They may barely use one item and overuse another. And when that happens, they are marked down for it in the final result. The winners are usually the ones who effectively utilize each ingredient for optimum taste and contrast.

The Leader As Chef

In much the same way, as leaders we know that our greatest team success comes when we utilize everyone on the team. If we are lucky, we had a say in who exactly is on our team. We were able to hand pick them and choose them for the special talents and skills they can lend to the effort. It’s a beautiful thing when that happens.

On the other hand, more often than not we are like the Iron Chefs. We are given the team members and told to make something out of it. We might be able to add but we can’t subtract. So we have to figure out how each team member can best contribute to team goals. Our success depends on finding the right combination.

And it’s important that your team members understand that as well. The more they understand the importance of inclusion and the value of each team member, the better they can appreciate what each person brings to the table.

Potatoes and People

potato with straw hat and glasses in a pile of golden french fries. Use uniqueness for team success.Here’s a cool exercise you can use with your team or with a group of leaders to help them understand inclusion.  I learned this with leader training we use for teaching Boy Scoutsto be effective leaders. Try this sometime as a lead-in to a meeting or as an exercise in a training session.

  1. You are going to buy a bag of potatoes (or gather rocks) and call your team or company together.
  2. Hand each of them a potato (make a very solemn occasion of it.  adds to the fun!)
  3. Send everyone off by themselves for a couple of minutes and tell them to get to know their potato. They want to examine their potato and notice all of its unique characteristics. Give it a name if they wish.
  4. When they gather back, you are going to ask each of them to introduce their potato to rest of the group.  They can have a lot of fun with this – that’s all part of it. But they need to describe their potato as completely as they can, including its uniqueness.
  5. After everyone has introduced their potato to the group, collect all the potatoes back in a bag and then randomly redistribute them.  Then challenge everyone to find their unique potato.
It will be a lot of fun, but they will also learn something about Inclusion.

Using Both Diversity and Inclusion

We hear a lot about Diversity and Inclusion these days but they don’t naturally go together in most organizations.

Leaders learn to use diversity and inclusion for team success.

Diversity is all about recognizing and celebrating the differences in each of us.  No two potatoes are exactly alike; they have different shapes, different sizes, different textures and skin colors, and even the placement of the eyes. Yet each one is still a potato and still useful.

Inclusion means I can bring two or more potatoes together and even though each is a different size and shape and color; when I put them together they make a tasty meal.  With inclusion in the workplace, we take the differences in each of us; the different skills sets and strengths, different backgrounds and attitudes, and we learn how we combine them together to be most productive for the team or the organization.
Many organizations practice diversity (mostly as a public relations mandate) but don’t practice inclusion.  That’s a waste.  It’s a waste of human resources, financial resources, and time.
Why spend the money hiring and training someone you aren’t going to make an integral part of the whole? When we practice both diversity AND inclusion, then we have produced a team that is productive, effective, and profitable.

four ways to create your inclusive and productive team

  1. CONNECT WITH YOUR TEAM MEMBERS – As a leader, it’s very important that you connect with each person and get to know them well enough to understand their goals and their dreams.  What do they see as their strengths? What do they like to do? What do they don’t like to do?  Where do they see themselves fitting into the whole?  Listen carefully! A lot of times they may very well be right. For this part, it is more important to listen than to talk.
  2. IDENTIFY STRENGTHS – Start with an assessment.  There are lots of great ones out there, free and fee-based.  If you’re not sure, give me a call and I’ll help.  The important thing is you want to identify those strengths because that’s what we are looking to use.  You don’t want to worry about weaknesses except in terms of how we can complement that.
  3. BUILD A STRENGTHS-BASED TEAM – Build your team based on the strengths of each person complementing the weaknesses of other team members. This is where the real Iron Chef leader comes out of you. You may find you need additional strengths you don’t have on your team. You may find you have too much of a particular strength. Still, you have to find a way to utilize all of it for optimum team success.
  4. FOSTER CONTINUOUS GROWTH – You want to build a mindset in your team for continuous growth and improvement of their strengths.  Continuous personal growth allows them to take the strengths that they have and making them stronger.  As a result, they will be more effective for the organization and happier. Your teams are going to be more cohesive, more productive, and you are going to see the results in your bottom-line.
Trying to get started as your own Iron Chef team builder? Are you frustrated with the challenges to being a leader? Looking to move you and your team up to the next level? Schedule a free Discovery Strategy Sessionwith me TODAY!

This Multitasking Leader Comes to a Screeching Halt

About few years ago, my son and I were driving home from a Boy Scout meeting.  We turned through an intersection and proceeded a few hundred yards forward when I looked down to change the radio station.  At the same time, the car in front of me decided suddenly that they wanted to turn right into a parking lot and hit their brakes.  Lots of noise later, they have a beat up rear-end and my car is totaled.  Thankfully, no one was hurt. 

A Do Everything World

woman trying to multitask with two phonesWe all do it.  Folding laundry and watching TV.  Driving and changing the radio station.  Texting on your smartphone while talking to an employee.  Sitting in a meeting and sending an email.  Trying to do more than one thing at the same time because we don’t think there are enough hours in the day.  It’s called Multitasking and it is the biggest time waster of all!

Wait“, you might say, “multitasking is a critical part of functioning in work and life today!  How can you say that it is a time waster?

Because it is. The evidence is mounting and irrefutable.

And you need to stop.

The Overwhelming Case Against Multitasking

A multitasking leader may argue that multitasking is essential. You think you need to be able to do multiple things at once to get everything done. Too many hours per day are already spent at work, so you may believe that if you don’t multitask that you will spend even more time and get few things done.

But numerous research studies suggest that actually the opposite is true. It is BECAUSE you are multitasking that you aren’t getting things done! Here are some of the more recent studies and the conclusions they have made about why multitasking is detrimental.

  • You are MORE EASILY DISTRACTED. (Stanford Study)
  • Your MEMORY GETS WORSE. (same as above)
  • You become more ANXIOUS AND DEPRESSED (Plos One)
  • It actually makes you LESS EFFICIENT AND LOWERS PRODUCTIVITY (JOEP Vol. 27 Issue 4)
  • Evidence shows more mistakes are made when multitasking instead of focused work.

Your Bad Multitasking Self

The idea is that if we are multitasking then we are working on multiple things at the same time, juggling everything and keeping things going.  

But that’s not what happens.  In most cases what happens is it simply means that you are doing multiple things badly.

It doesn’t help that multitasking is encouraged by many employers today.  First, many companies advertise jobs where they specifically state in the job requirements that they want someone who can effectively multitask.  I guess my question is, how exactly do they measure that?  

Secondly, with layoffs and streamlining, employers tell the survivors they must learn to do more with less, which unfortunately includes less staff.  But not less work.  While they don’t explicitly say it, they expect you to pick up all the slack and still do it within the same time frames.  So your choices at either to put in twice as much time or “multitask”.

You are not Multitasking

multitasking in WindowsFurther, understand that what you are doing is not actually multitasking.  

It is actually just task-switching.  

What it reminds me of is the Microsoft Windows operating system on computers.  Early versions of Windows offered a way to jump between tasks. You could still only run one thing at a time, but you could jump between applications.  That was called task-switching. It wasn’t until later versions where Windows would allow you to actually run multiple applications at the same time.  

What we do when we allegedly multitask is the first one – we are simply task-switching.  Problem is, we aren’t a computer with an operating system designed to do that, so we have a lot more trouble than Windows did jumping from one task to another.  And that’s saying something.

Proof that multitasking takes longer

We are actually designed to focus on one thing at a time.  Again, lots of research to support this.  Health Magazine cites a 2013 University of Utah study that found the better you thought you were at multitasking, the worse you actually were.

However, you may believe you are an excellent multitasking leader. As I have presented this information to groups in the past, there many in the crowd who, despite the overwhelming evidence, maintain that they are an excellent multitasker.

Let’s put that to the test

This test is derived from Dave Crenshaw, author of The Myth of Multitasking

Part 1

  1. multitasking leader test part 1Get out a sheet of paper and lay it down so it is wider than it is high (landscape style).
  2. Draw four lines across the paper. 
  3. Get someone to time you on this. On the first line write “multitasking is a thief“. On the second line write the numbers 1-21. Record the time it took you to do both tasks one after the other. It should be about 30 seconds or less.

Part 2

  1. multitasking leader test part 2On the next two lines you will do the same thing, again being timed. 
  2. This time, you will write a letter on line 3 and then a number on line 4, then back to line 3 and another letter and then a number on line 4.
  3. Do this until done. Record your time.

You should find that A) it took you much longer, B) you likely made a mistake, and C) it was more stressful.

The Conclusion

In summary, you suck at multitasking.  

And so do I and so does everyone else.

So, if you were doing something else while you were reading this, stop.

Now leave your comments and thoughts.

Okay, now you’re done.  Go back to that other thing.


2018 Has to Be Better, Right?

Depending on how your 2017 went, you may be happy or sad to see it go. But go it must and we enter 2018 with new hope. To maximize that hope, we look back at 2017. It’s not to be nostalgic but rather to learn the leadership lessons that events have to teach us.

With that in mind, let’s look at some critical moments of 2017 that we can learn from. This is by no means an exhaustive list. In addition, it is by no means THE most critical moments. They are, however, vital for what we can learn from them.

Leadership Lessons from 2017

Solar Eclipse

leadership lessons from the solar eclipse of 2017On September 21, a solar eclipse occurred and swept across the United States. People from all over the world flocked to “ideal” locations for viewing the full eclipse. Many spent hundreds and thousands of dollars for this opportunity as they may never see it again.

Where is the leadership lesson in this? Know that most people live in the moment. Hundreds of thousands of people took off work for this event. Those who traveled invested money, some probably more than they actually had, to go to location in the path of the full eclipse. They did this to experience a moment that lasted all of 7.5 minutes.

Therefore, while part of a leaders role is to give hope it’s not just to look at the future. It is also to help make the present better. If your people are living in the now, you have to determine how you can improve the current situation.  Help your people live in the now as well as hope for the future.

And if you missed it, the next U.S. solar eclipse is April 8, 2024.

Harvey Weinstein

Harvey Weinsteins scandal teaches us valuable leadership lessons.The New York Times in October published an article detailing allegations of sexual harassment against Harvey Weinstein. He was a producer and his company was behind numerous movies, as well as television and radio programs. Many known actresses came forward and detailed the allegations of offense. All in all, over 30 years of alleged harassment.

Weinstein at first publicly acknowledged and apologized that he has caused a lot of pain. Yet he denied the harassment. His lawyer even threatened to sue the New York Times. And the allegations still to this day continue to mount up as more employees and actresses come forward.

There are indications that his exploits were known as far back as 1990 when he was with Miramax. Despite that, it appears that other than occasionally settling with someone who threatened to go public very little was done about it. What has happened since is that Weinstein has lost his company, his career, and any connection with the industry. He has a lifetime ban. His wife left him and his family has practically disowned him. Further, it’s still not over.

What is number two in our leadership lessons? Well, first I think the lesson for a leader is that when you mess up you gotta fess up. Would his early confession and apology have made things any easier? Who knows? However, it is likely that at least some relationships could have been saved. Helping people move towards healing faster.

For others involved, the lack of timely and appropriate intervention exacerbated the situation. Think of it, lack of response prompted 30 years of damaged lives. As leaders we cannot ever stick our head in the sand, no matter how awkward or unpleasant the circumstances. Courage is a necessary component of leadership.

The Oscars

The Oscars Best Picture mix up in 2017 revealed important leadership lessonsBack in February the highlight of the awards ceremony by the Academy of Motion Pictures Arts and Sciences (AMPAS) is the OSCAR for Best Picture. To present the award legendary actors Faye Dunaway and Warren Beatty come onstage. The nominees are presented, the envelope is opened and the OSCAR goes to…La La Land! Producers, directors, and actors flock to the stage to accept the award. And then, on live television it’s discovered that in fact the Best Picture OSCAR actually goes to Moonlight, not La La Land! Confusion and embarrassment wrack the stage for several minutes.

It turns out that somehow the wrong envelope was given to the presenters. It was actually discovered and corrected onstage by Jordan Horowitz, the producer of La La Land. PriceWaterhouseCooper (PwC) oversees the whole process of envelope management and someone simply made the mistake of pulling the envelope from the wrong pile.

So number 3 in our leadership lessons is a positive one. PwC owned up to their mistake – in fact took total ownership of it – and took steps to make sure it did not happen again. They didn’t focus on spin or making the best of it, they simply confessed, apologized, and worked to fix it.

Travis Kalanick and UBER

I talked about this story back in June and a lot happened since then.

Ok. On the surface this seems to be the same leadership lessons as before. However, there is more to be seen and learned. Like being a celebrity, being a leader means you sacrifice certain things. You no longer have the luxury of angry tirades. Your behavior is seen and evaluated every day. Being dismissive is no longer an option. Consistency in your character and behavior are crucial to successful leadership. It creates safety.

United Airlines

Where to start with this! It was not a good year for United Airlines.

First, in April United Express flight #3411 out of Chicago was allegedly overbooked (United later denied this). I talked about that story here.

This was two weeks after an incident where United made two teenage girls go change clothes before they could board a flight. Apparently they were on employee family passes and as such were representing United Airlines. United considered leggings as inappropriate clothing. Those incidents were followed by the death of a giant prize rabbit and a family dog in the hands of United. A couple heading to their wedding in Costa Rica are removed from a United flight due to conflict over their seats.

It’s all about culture here in number five of our leadership lessons. When culture places a greater importance on the bottom line over employees and over customers, it’s a recipe for disaster every time. Focus on treating employees well, equip and empower them to do the right thing, and everyone wins. Don’t believe it? Look at Southwest Airlines. Do they always get it right? No, but apparently they do more often than others. That says something.


I also wrote about Google’s biggest faux paus last year. Of course, added to that is the revelation that despite the intent to create a safe workplace they apparently consistently pay female employees less than male counterparts.

As a result, number six of our leadership lessons stays the same as before. Leaders must consider how actions to manage behaviors and attitudes factors into first creating a safe workplace and second supporting or suppressing opposing viewpoints. In their attempts to create a safe workplace, Google ended up quieting someone who opposed some company policies and stances. The result was to create an unsafe workplace for those with opposing views.

Do you agree with the lessons here? Disagree? Are there lessons here I missed? What is your favorite leadership lessons of 2017.

Share your thoughts here or email me at psimkins(at)

Leading with Love

Tis the Season

Christmas is love. Dog Jack Russell Terrier in a house decorated with a Christmas tree and gifts wishes happy Holiday and Christmas EveLove at Christmas. Even people who aren’t particularly faithful will celebrate Christmas.  We give gifts, we buy gifts for others, we receive gifts from others, we spend a lot of time with family.  And we celebrate Christmas because of the importance of the event and what it means to us; even people who don’t follow it very strongly really understand what Christmas is all about.
At the core, what Christmas is really all about is LOVE!  It’s about how we love others!
And this is the opportunity that it presents to us:  the opportunity to love others.  To put the focus on other people for at least a little bit of time so we can care for them and add value to them.

The Every Day Season

That same attitude we employ during this season is what drives our relationships the rest of the year. To Boldly Lead people follows an essential process.
  1. We CARE for people
  2. So can then CONNECT with them
  3. In order to INFLUENCE them
  4. Setting us up to LEAD them
So it starts with caring. Yet here’s the catch.
You cannot care for anyone you don’t love.

Love in Business – that’s Weird!

Now it may seem odd using that word in the context of leadership and business. Yet it depends greatly on how you define it. If you only think of love in romantic terms then this seems really….weird. And perhaps a little disturbing. And in light of recent events and public revelations of inappropriate behavior it may even seem career killing.
But there is more than one way to love others. In fact, in an article in Psychology Today, author Dr. Neel Burton outlines seven types of love.
  1. Eros – Romantic
  2. Philia – Friendship
  3. Storge – Familial
  4. Agape – universal or charitable
  5. Ludus – playful or uncommitted (think flirting)
  6. Pragma – practical love, born of reason or duty
  7. Philautia – Self-love, i.e., your self-esteem and confidence

Try a Business Related Love

In his book Love is the Killer App, Tim Sanders defines a workplace related love. He calls it BizLove. It would most closely related to Pragma but also Philautia plays a part.
BizLove means that you engage in the sensible sharing of intangibles to promote other people’s growth. In other words, the growth and development of your people is your primary concern.
In order to do that, you must have a good enough self-esteem and confidence that you don’t feel threatened by the growth of others. And it means that you regard caring for others important enough to make it a priority and a daily event.
Look at it this way, Everyone on your team has improved their ability to contribute and applied that to team goals or organizational goals. How does that improve your team? Your organization? How does it increase YOUR value?
[tweetthis]Love creates the circumstances by which we excel, particularly by helping others excel.[/tweetthis]

Love Applied

So here’s a few things that I want you to do during this holiday season to really celebrate what Christmas is all about and share that love. This will set the stage for practicing your BizLove as well.
  1. Do something for someone else who can never pay you back.  Focus on that, look to do that daily; something for someone who can never pay you back.  That’s what love really means; when you don’t expect a reward or a payback, what can you do for others.
  2. Take time out from the gift giving to appreciate the gift of everyone you encounter.  What’s special about the people you spend your time and relationships with?  Tell them.  Tell them what they mean to you and that will make a world of difference to them!
  3. Look around you and appreciate the LOVE that the creator has shown you by surrounding you with blessings!  Even when you don’t necessarily see them.

I hope you have a VERY MERRY CHRISTMAS!

Want to help spread the message of love in your organization? Book me to speak at your next gathering. Contact me at psimkins(at) for more details.

Expectations on the Leader

A leader has to face more than just the task at hand. Often they also have to face perception. I was reminded of a book I read called The Work of Leaders.  It was written by a team of four authors at Wiley Press. I heard one of the authors, Julie Straw, present a briefing on their research.  One thing item got my attention at the time and I thought of it again. I shared these thoughts once before but time also deepens our perspective.

Employee Expectations

Misguided expectations put pressure on a leader. Businessman supporting stone under pressureStraw mentioned a survey on employees asking about the shortcomings on their leaders.  After distilling it down they came up with three primary issues that people have with their leaders.  They are, in order,

  1. Employees want leaders to be more active about finding new opportunities for the team
  2. They also want them to focus more on improving process and making things easier for people
  3. Finally, they want them to spend more time motivating and encouraging their followers

Interestingly, what struck me about this was the comments themselves.  Certainly number three is a quality that leaders should embrace.  In fact, a leader should spend the vast majority of their time encouraging people, equipping people, and motivating them to become better than they are.  But the other two items, #1 and #2, are not really leadership issues; they are management issues.

Manager or Leader

One of the things this tells us is that many people put management and leadership in the same bundle.  When people say that the leader should be more active about finding new opportunities for the team and focus more on improving process, they are really saying that these are behaviors they would like to see in their managers that obviously they aren’t seeing.

Remember the simple formula:


Therefore seeking new opportunities and improving process, making life easier for employees; those are the job of the manager.  Equipping, empowering, encouraging, motivating, and growing are the roles of the leader.

That said, to be a truly effective manager you must also be an effective leader.  In fact, perhaps what the results of the survey really tell us is what people would like to see. They would like to see managers be more proactive in their management roles but also  better leaders than they are now.

A Leader is Grown Not Born

Above all leaders have a responsibility to grow their followers. It’s an enormous responsibility. However for a leader to grow others, they must first grow themselves.  You cannot give what you don’t have.  I think leaders are recognizing this more and more.  Another survey cited in the book The Work of Leaders is about what people think they need the most in order to be better equipped for the jobs.

What was number one?

Leadership Training

Leaders Sail the Waters Daily

A Leader, like a sailor, must learn to navigate well.When sitting in a boat you are surrounded by the tools you need to sail. However, you may not have any knowledge about sailing. Therefore to use those tools effectively you must spend time developing and applying sailing skills. You develop the skill to gauge the wind, navigate the water, trim the sails, and plot the course.

You then bring all these elements together to move in the desired direction on the water.  Sometimes it pays to be mentored by a more experienced sailor.  There is learning from your mistakes and the mistakes of others. And you must do all of this day in and day out to become the sailor you desire to be.

Leaders Develop Intentionally

If you are not developing your leadership skills on a regular basis you simply will NOT grow to become an excellent leader. At best it will be inconsistent or very slow.  Books and newspapers are full of stories of leaders who are only willing to grow so far. They aren’t willing to make it a deliberate part of their life. As a result, they only realize so little of their potential.

Leadership growth occurs best when it is

  • DAILY –  you must do something every day to develop your skills
  • INTENTIONAL – you must have a plan for the skills you need to develop and how you will develop them
  • SCHEDULED – you must set aside time on your calendar for it; otherwise any excuse will help you avoid it
  • GUIDED – Someone needs to help you see and navigate the process; like a coach or mentor
  • PROGRESSIVE – build on a skill one by one; don’t attempt to master anything in a day

Spend time on developing yourself and your people than do on management or process problems.  When you do, you will be surprised to find how many management problems seem to take care of themselves.

How much intentional is your growth as a leader? What is your biggest challenge making it more intentional? Comment below or send me a note at psimkins(at)

Are you not sure how to start on the road to intentional leadership? Schedule your free Discovery Strategy Session today.