In this episode:
- How to get better performance from your team.
- How “the Law of Navigation” helps you lead the team to the destination and
- A little behind the scenes about how we produce the podcast for you.
Tom: If you want your team to be terrific, you’ve got to be specific. You’ve gotta teach team members every little thing about how they interact with other people. You can’t just assume they already know or that they will understand based on watching what you do. You gotta say it out loud. You might have to write it down. Teaching team members every little thing, that’s how you create consistent culture on your team.
Man: Becoming a Geek Leader – Season 3, Episode 6.
Sponsored by BrightHill Group’s Team Leadership Services
Tom: Dysfunctional teams are painful and cost you time and money. They also suck the life out of you and take the fun out of work. How about your team? Is it time for a tune-up? How prepared is your team for the challenges ahead? I can help create a simple development process for your team members, something easy for you to use, not another project for you to manage. Growth doesn’t happen by accident. Whether it’s through a leadership assessment or helping you plan a leadership retreat, give me a call to talk about how to set up an affordable program to improve your team’s teamwork and help your team members perform like a well-oiled machine. Check out brighthillgroup.com/geektraining, that’s brighthillgroup.com/geektraining, for quick videos on my team building and leadership retreats, then give me a call at 240-668-4799, that’s 240-668-4799.
Welcome to the Becoming a Geek Leader Podcast. My name is Tom Cooper. As a geek, I’m on a mission to figure out better ways to lead others at work and at home. Through the Becoming a Geek Leader Podcast, I’m sharing what I’m learning so I can help make you more effective at leading people too. Ready?
In today’s episode, I’m talking about how you can get the right kind of performance from team members. I’m also gonna talk about how my dog is teaching me to communicate more effectively and I’m gonna talk about how easy it is to think you’re on target and then, all of a sudden, find yourself behind schedule. Finally, in the John Maxwell Thought Leader Segment, we’re gonna explore why one Antarctic explorer’s team reached the South Pole successfully and why the other team didn’t understand the Law of Navigation. We’ve got a lot to cover today, so let’s get started.
Tom: If you are in a place where you need to get top-notch performance from other people on your team or even on other teams, you can use today’s mentoring segment when you’re at Level 2 of the four levels of thinking as a geek leader.
Man: Level 2. Team Member. Level 2 is where you work well with others and together you all succeed.
Tom: We’ve all been there. We are swamped and somebody offers to help or maybe we even ask for help and we are really hoping that they will deliver so we can check that thing off our list. The deadline approaches and we get the results back from that team member and it’s just not done. Maybe it’s done but not done to our standards. Ugh, rats. This is exactly why we believe the expression “If you want something done right, you have to do it yourself.” But that’s just not true. You don’t have to do it yourself but there is something you have to do. I recently came across a study that said 57% of employees don’t know what the boss wants from them, 57%. Now, I can’t speak to specifics but I have to tell you, I actually am surprised the number is that low. In my experience, most people don’t actually know for sure what the boss wants from them.
Now, unfortunately, I don’t have the time to go deep on all the reasons this is the case, but there is one idea I wanna share with you today. More and more, I’m convinced that you have to teach people every little thing. Everything you want them to do, you’ve gotta be intentional and careful and specific in your instructions to them. Even if they’ve been in the business for 20 years, even if they’re experts, you can teach them how to do it our way. Even something like a handshake, you might need to teach a team member that, “On our team, we make eye contact while we’re shaking hands. We firmly grip the right hand of the other person. We pump three times. That’s how we do our handshake.” If you expect people to shake hands a certain way, you gotta tell them that. And you have to be specific and you have to be clear. Now, you don’t wanna be insulting about it, but you can say, “Hey, I wanna show you something. Here’s how we do this on our team.”
Now, I’m talking about the things that are distinctive to your culture. You’re not gonna teach an accountant how to do debits and credits. Your team members need to know how to do their job but you probably do have to cover things like, “On what schedule do we give feedback to internal customers?” or, “Here’s a template or a specific format we use for reports.” And if you have those formats, you need to point people to where they can find them. If you’re not clear and you’re not specific, if you don’t have criteria that defines what success looks like, you’re just not gonna get what you want, and that’s gonna lead to frustration, your frustration and the frustration of members of the team. And that’s not gonna work for anybody.
Let’s say you have a problem where team members engage in an email war. Somebody gets upset, somebody ccs somebody else’s boss, and then the other person ccs their boss, and then you escalate to an all-out interdepartmental war. Now, I talk specifically about how you can handle this situation in Season 2, Episode 9, so I won’t go into all the details of that here, but suffice to say that you as a leader need to set expectations about what to do when there’s a miscommunication via email. You gotta teach people every little thing. They just don’t know. They can’t read your mind. You’ve gotta say it out loud. You might even need to say it in writing. If you want your team to be terrific, you’ve got to be specific. You’ve got to teach team members every little thing about how they interact with other people. You just can’t assume they already know or that they will understand based on watching what you do. You gotta say it out loud. You might have to write it down. Teaching team members every little thing, that’s how you create consistent culture on your team, and that’s today’s mentoring segment.
Behind the Scenes Segment.
Tom: It’s January as I’m recording this episode, and as I got ready for the end of the year, I felt pretty good about where I was. We had completed production on the episode that was released Christmas week. I’d written my weekly update and had already recorded the segments of the next podcast episode that was scheduled to launch the first of the year. When producing these episodes, what I do is I record the segments like this one and then I hand them off to my son Joel, who’s my producer. He handles all my audio editing. He combines all the segments I’ve recorded with all the music and commercials and headers and trailers and pulls a piece of the episode for the cold open and creates the MP3 file. And then we have to send the audio off to the transcription company so they can start…we can get ready to post the episode on the website with the transcript of the episode as well. And while all that’s going on, I work on my weekly email update so that you can know what to expect from the current episode, and I share some stories too on the email list about what the Coopers have been up to recently.
So, jumping back to the end of last year, I was pretty confident. I had it all in hand. I mean, I even took the time to create a special bonus episode to help with planning for Q1 2017, and if you haven’t got a really solid plan for 2017 Q1, I mean, we’re already halfway through January as I record this, you might wanna go back and check it out. It was Episode 4.5. It was a bonus episode around how you can make your Q1 a really great Q1. But I felt good enough about how we were doing on the schedule that I was able to put that bonus episode out as well. So, over the holidays, like many of you, we visited family and we drove back from visiting family on New Year’s Eve and we have a great time. We were looking forward to celebrating the New Year and getting ready for the upcoming rush of January.
But unfortunately, we had a visit from norovirus. Now, apparently, there are some folks out there who’ve never been visited by Norovirus. I won’t go into too much detail but it comes on like a steam roller and it leaves you feeling like you’re afraid you’re going to die and then you feel so terrible that you’re afraid you won’t die. Did I mention Norovirus is incredibly infectious, and once one of us gets it, it’s almost a certainty that we are all gonna come down with it? The only good thing about it is it leaves about as quickly as it attacks, but for those 36 hours that you’re dealing with it, it is a whole lot of no fun. I had to put off the final steps of posting the episode and wrapping up the weekly update until I’d got back from the trip, but unfortunately, within a few hours of arriving home, 7 out of the 10 of us, including all the adults in the house, got sick. And that’s why Episode 5 came out a week later than normal. After we finally started feeling better, I was able to get things back on track. Keeping a podcast going requires a lot of moving parts and keeping those moving parts actually moving and that’s today’s Behind the Scenes Segment.
Thought Leader Segment.
John: Hello, I’m John Maxwell, and as one of my founding partners, Tom has been trained by me and my team.
Tom: In our John Maxwell Thought Leader Segment, we’re talking about the Law of Navigation. That’s something you’ll use when you’re at Level 2 of the Four Levels of Thinking as a Geek Leader.
Man: Level 2. Team Member. Level 2 is where you work well with others, and together, you all succeeded.
Tom: Today, we’re tackling a third law from John Maxwell’s book, “The 21 Irrefutable Laws of Leadership.” Today’s law is the Law of Navigation. It says that anyone can steer the ship but it takes a leader to chart the course. And in the book, John tells a story from 1911. The goal was to reach the South Pole, to be the first person to make it to the South Pole. And two different expeditions set out to reach the goal and each of them used different methods. Roald Amundsen originally planned to go to the North Pole, but when he was beaten by Peary, he decided to shift his goal because, after all, he wanted to be Number 1, not Number 2. Now, everything that Amundsen did was planned. To be ready to travel in that terrible cold, he invested time studying how Arctic travelers worked. He studied Eskimos to see how they were able to live in the extreme cold.
And as he prepared for this, he decided he was gonna use proven systems and proven tools. He was betting his team’s lives on dogs and dogsleds. He made up his team of expert dog handlers and skiers. He was meticulous as he thought about his schedule, about how much rest they were going to need, how far his teams could go in a day, and exactly what his team might be able to accomplish. As he prepared for this, he made sure that there were supplies available at predetermined locations. In that way, they wouldn’t have to carry everything every step along the way. Now, Amundsen’s planning and preparation really paid off. The worst problem his team encountered was that one man had an infected tooth that had to be extracted. Now, I’m not sure I want to have dental work in 1911 in the Arctic because I’m pretty sure they didn’t have a dentist chair or a dentist available. But compared to the things that could have gone wrong, that was really fairly minor. Overall, Amundsen’s trip was a fantastic success. Not bad for a bunch of guys travelling with gear that today seems positively primitive.
Now let’s turn our attention to the second team. The second team was led by Robert Falcon Scott. Scott took a different approach. He decided to use cutting-edge tools rather than proven technology. His plan relied on motorized sledges and ponies. Now, his problems started after 5 days, when the motors on the sledges stopped working and the ponies didn’t handle the cold very well either. In fact, when they got to the foot of the Transarctic Mountains, all the ponies had to be put down. Worse, Scott had not properly outfitted his team. Every man developed frostbite. Their goggles simply didn’t work and every team member became snowblind. The team was almost constantly low on food and water. Now, Scott had set up resupply depots but they were too far apart, they were too poorly marked to be able to be found, and they just didn’t have enough supplies for the men. In fact, in the last minute, Scott had decided to add a fifth man to the trip, even though they were only supplied for 4 men.
After covering 800 miles in 10 weeks–I can’t imagine 10 weeks in the Antarctic, brrr–Scott’s team did reach the South Pole but they found a Norwegian flag already flying there because Amundsen’s team had beaten Scott by more than a month. Now, Scott’s trip to the Antarctic gets even worse. On the return trip, Scott insisted they carry back geological samples, but his men were frozen. They were exhausted and they were weak from lack of food. Carrying that extra weight was just too much for them to manage. Sadly, eventually Scott and the rest of his entire expedition perished. It was a tragedy, and compared with Amundsen, it’s clear it wasn’t even necessary for men to die in that situation.
This is the idea of navigation, that leaders look for the ways that their teams will need help and they navigate their team through the difficulties. If you’re going to lead well, there are 5 key areas where you’re going to have to think about navigation. One, navigators see the ultimate goal. Where’s the team going? How are you going to know when you got there? Certainly, Amundsen wanted to be Number 1 and he knew exactly where he needed to go. He needed to go to the South Pole. Two, navigators rely on past experience. They rely on their own experiences and the experience of others. In this situation, Amundsen relied on the expertise of people who were very familiar with living and working and traveling in the cold. Three, navigators look at conditions before they make a commitment. Do you count the costs before you say yes? I mean, I know it’s hard to do but it is important.
Fourth, navigators listen to what other people have to say. Let me ask you, who are you listening to? Strong navigators listen to members on the leadership team. They also talk to people in their organization and outside their organization. They rely on the whole team. They don’t just rely on their own counsel. Finally, navigators make sure their conclusions represent both fact and faith. I am naturally very optimistic, and sometimes, I’m not realistic enough and that’s the job that leaders have to do. They’ve got to be able to balance optimism with realism. In the book “Good to Great,” Jim Collin says you must retain faith that you will prevail in the end and you must also confront the brutal facts of your current reality. So those are the five areas that you have to tackle if you’re going to be good at navigation. Amundsen looked internally and externally at how to be successful and he accomplished something that had never been done before. Amundsen mastered the Law of Navigation, and that’s today’s John Maxwell Thought Leader Segment.
Tom: In today’s Family Segment, I’m gonna talk about how my dog has taught me to do a better job of listening to others. The skills here are useful at Level 1 of the Four Levels of Thinking as a Geek Leader.
Man: Level 1, Individual. At Level 1, you may even be a superstar technical resource. Level 1 focuses you on improving your technical skills.
Tom: About a year ago, we added a new resident to the Cooper household. We rescued a mutt we named Shiloh. She has been a great addition. She loves each of us uniquely and it is a blast to see how she relates to each person differently and each of our kids has a special relationship with her. Now, some of my younger kids also watch a television show called “Martha Speaks,” where a dog learns how to talk, and unlike the cartoon Martha, Shiloh doesn’t speak. But if you look closely, you can get a clear message from her nonverbals. Now, Shiloh sleeps most of the day but she has brief periods of time where she is really energetic. When Shiloh wants to play, she can give us lots of messages. Perhaps she’ll bring a toy over and nudge us with it, or if we’re offering to take her out to relieve herself, rather than going to the back door, where we’re standing with the leash, she might run playfully over to the front door, telling us she’d really rather go for a run.
Back in Season 1, Episode 2, I reported on an interview I heard with Mark Goulston, who had written about how to improve our listening skills. One of Goulston’s tips was that we should work on becoming what he called a first-class noticer. That we should make every effort to notice what’s happening around us and then intentionally respond to the things we notice. Applying Goulston’s idea to Shiloh, by noticing her behaviors, some subtle behaviors and some not so subtle, we can determine what she really wants even though she can’t talk. Now, the same is true for you and me as we work with others. Now, I wanna be clear. I am not saying your coworkers are dogs, even the ones that frustrate you. What I am saying is that, by paying attention to the things they say and the things they don’t say, watching their body language, are they leaning in or are they sitting back? Are they making eye contact or are they looking away with folded arms? And when we notice that disconnection, we notice that disengagement, it’s an opportunity for us to respond to what we’ve noticed. Maybe we can say something like, “Hey looks like maybe I’ve wandered off course. Am I not answering your question or is there something I’m forgetting about? This is just one way to help get things back on track. Becoming a first-class noticer, keeping an eye on those nonverbals, it’s a great way to improve team communication. And that’s today’s Family Segment.
In today’s episode, we talked about how teaching team members every little thing about cultural norms is a requirement if you wanna get the right kind of performance from your team members. We also talked about how my dog Shiloh is helping me how to process nonverbals better and I could become a better noticer of the things that are going on. In the John Maxwell Thought Leader Segment, we talked about why Amundsen’s team reached the South Pole well and why Scott’s didn’t, because they didn’t understand the Law of Navigation. So let’s talk for just a minute about the Law of Navigation. In today’s Episode Hack, I want you to think about where your team is going. If you’re gonna help your team get there in the next several months, what are you gonna have to be optimistic about? Maybe you tend to be more pessimistic. What’s something you’re gonna have to think more intentionally optimistically about? And for people like me, who tend to be pretty optimistic, what do you have to be more realistic about? And once you’ve decided those things, how can you be more intentional about communicating that to your team? Answering these questions is a way to apply the Law of Navigation to help your team get to the destination. And that’s today’s Episode Hack.
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This is Tom Cooper. Thanks for listening. Be sure to join me next time for another episode of Becoming a Geek Leader. Join me in my mission of discovering better ways to lead others at work and at home.