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!

Core Values Build the Team

Building a successful and productive team or organization takes time. You build it one block at a time. You want team members to know their roles and understand the expectations for behavior and performance. Yet that’s the goal not the beginning. Start off with that and you are building a house of cards.
If a new building is to be structurally sound, the first thing they do is establish the foundation. The higher the building, the deeper the foundation. Skimp on the foundation and everything else is weak and at-risk. Disasters results.
So, too, does building an organization require a strong, solid foundation. Skip establishing the foundation and eventually everything collapses; either because of a lack of guidance or because of behaviors that tear down trust. You must have a strong foundation. You lay that foundation with core values.

What Are Core Values?

Core Values are the foundation for everythingCore Values are the characteristics and qualities an organization, a team, or an individual defines as being at the heart of what they are about and how they will conduct themselves. They are the principles that determine who you are and what you are about above all else. It is the soul of the organization. Your core values are unshakable – no matter what you will always reflect these values in everything you do.
Yet core values can also outline behaviors you expect with the members of an organization. For years, one of Google’s core values was “don’t be evil”. Infusionsoft, a popular sales and marketing software company, lists one of their core values as “We do the right thing”. For many other organizations, they are simply one or two word statements such as Integrity, Honesty, Communication, Employee focused.
[tweetthis]Your core values are unshakable – reflect them in everything you do.[/tweetthis]

Why Are Core Values So Critical?

Establish Non-Negotiables

Determining your core values make it clear to employees, to customers, and to yourself what you will never compromise. When you establish a core value of integrity you are saying that no matter what else happens you are trustworthy, dependable, have strong morals, and people can count on you to do what you say you will do. Core values say you would rather the company go under than violate them. If you are not willing to die for it, then it’s not a core value.

Foundation for Mission and Methods

Interestingly enough, I have found that when core values are in place first then writing those dreaded mission statements become easier. Determining the methods by which the team accomplishes its mission and goals becomes clearer. One leads to the other.

Outlines Expected Behaviors

As a result, when your values are set in stone and your mission and methods are established from that, it ends up describing the behaviors you expect everyone to exhibit. If honesty is expected and modeled, you tend to get honesty. If employee-focused is expected and modeled from the top it floods down to every department, every manager, and every team.

A Must-Have for Empowerment

For that reason, you cannot have real empowerment with having values in place. Or, more accurately, you cannot expect consistent performance in empowered employees without core values. If make a profit is emphasized but core values of honesty and integrity are not established, then the empowered employee feels free to do whatever they feel is necessary to make a profit, including cheating customers. Values create the guidelines within which empowered employees operate.

Attract the People You Want

In my mentor John C. Maxwell’s book The 21 Irrefutable Laws of Leadership he talks about The Law of Magnetism.  This law states that who you attract is not based on what you want, it’s based on what you are.  Who you are is who you attract. By developing your core values, you proclaim for everyone who you are, what you stand for, and what is really important to you. As a result, you will attract people who share those values.

Start with the Core

Therefore, like a bodybuilder starts by developing their core to strengthen their whole body, you start with core values to strengthen the organization. You define qualities that are necessary for consistent and strong performance. You make clear the standards that are non-negotiable in everything the organization does.
In fact, they should be in front of everyone’s faces, displayed for the whole world to see. It holds employees accountable, it holds you accountable, and it sets expectations for customers.

Three Steps to Establish Core Values

  1. Brainstorm a list of values, qualities, and character traits you would want your organization to reflect at all times.  Write them all down. Don’t evaluate them, just write them down. If you already have a team in place, do this together. You may come up with a huge list and that’s okay.
  2. Now that you have the list, we can evaluate. Look at each item and first ask yourself, “Am I willing for the organization to die rather than violate this?” If the answer is no, it is not a core value. Strike it off. If you are honest with yourself on each one you should find your list pared down significantly when you are done.
  3. Next to each one, on a scale of one to 10 rate your organization on how well it is displaying those values. Rate yourself and ask each team member to rate themselves as well. That accomplishes one of two things: it helps identify areas that need work or it causes you to question how important that value really is to you.

Can you identify the core values of your organization easily? How well are they followed? How do you make sure you attract the right people now? Drop me a line at

If you are finding it difficult to establish your core values, contact me and let me help.