Monthly Archives: January 2013

You’re in the Big Leagues Now

Professional sports teams kick off each season with a fan fest where loyal supporters mob a local hotel for a chance to shake hands or get an autograph from a hero. Optimism always reigns. Each new season is filled with hope and dreams of a playoff appearance. Behind the scenes, executives collaborate to put the best product on the field.

Those drafting the players, making the trades, and investing in talent development to better the team have seen every variety of success and failure. Some years, it is the unsung rookie who comes out of nowhere, wins a spot on the roster, and sets the world on fire with his skills. Other times, it’s the proven veteran who grew complacent and stopped evolving his gifts. The magic chemistry of the season is concocted from an accumulation of these stories.

Every campaign has surprises and disappointments. These results are not random. The rhyme and reason to professional sports team success is the same as it is in business. The teams that elevate their goals, exceed expectations, and reward shareholders have the following things in common:

Every single member of the organization buys into a culture of accountability to a particular way of doing things that reflects the team’s philosophy, mission, values, and vision on a daily basis.


The integrity of commitment is practiced and modeled without supervision. Teammates collaborate towards a common goal for the intrinsic reward and devotion to each other.


Continuous improvement arises from the courage to be creative and experiment with something new. It’s easy to do what you’ve always done when it brings satisfactory results. Stretching to the next level requires the willingness to assume risk. These are usually the team leaders regardless of rank or status.

Adapting to the natural cycles of wins and losses takes poise and flexibility. Staying cool under pressure allows teammates to stay in a zone of peak performance while opponents and competitors are misdirecting their energy. Rebooting solves many problems.

As the new seasons unfold, our roles will either add or subtract from the performance of each of the teams in our circles. What an opportune time to decide what your contribution will be.


Converting the Disengaged

Gallup’s 30/50/20 metric seems to hold true in any industry. You know the breakdown – in any given workplace, about 30% of the employees are engaged – they would run through a wall for the organization. About 50% of the employees are disengaged. They’re not really hurting the business with intent. They come to work, do their jobs, and collect their paychecks. These are not the folks, though, you’d ask to go the extra mile. And then, there’s the 20% of the work team that is actively disengaged. Not all of these employees are intentionally trying to harm the workplace. In most cases, they’ve simply decided to devote the bulk of their energy to perpetuating toxicity.

Most business cultures try to grow the engaged group, convert the disengaged, and somehow mitigate the actively disengaged. The engaged teammates are virtually self-sustaining. With a small amount of investment, their energy is fueled from within. The actively disengaged teammates, on the other hand, consume a considerable amount of leadership attention. Sadly, we end up devoting the majority of our resources to the minority of our people. Whether through action or attrition, shrinking the actively disengaged group is vital.

The conversion of the middle group is the greatest challenge and usually tips the culture. Perhaps wrongly identified as “disengaged,” it takes a compelling vision with tangible connections to reach this critical mass of talent. These teammates need to have a reason for coming to work that connects with their life purpose. They must experience the place where their role makes an impact in the world. It is with these employees where our investment as employers will best feed succession and sustainability. These are not the obvious high potential leaders. These are the hidden gems of talent who, with regular mentoring and nourishment, may thrive.

Take a walk through your organization’s roster. Which teammates are in the 30% engaged group? What should you be doing to propel their momentum? Who is actively disengaged and, either through omission or commission, hurting your workplace? Finally, what will be the irresistible, reachable vision that awakens the 50% of your teammates who would rather not be seen as disengaged?