Monthly Archives: November 2013

Holiday Matching Game

Let’s kick off the holiday season with a game. Below are five team challenges observed in 2013. Following the challenges are five outcomes. Can you match the challenge with the outcome?

1. Corporate leadership is not sure whether the division president has what it takes to lead innovation.
2. Team roles and work processes have not kept pace with the complexity of the industry.
3. Traditional succession planning efforts are complicated by competing generational values.
4. Two members of a fifteen person team are actively disengaged and poisoning the workplace culture.
5. A sales team wishes to raise performance to the next level following a record breaking year.

A. The team leader sponsored a 2013 “accountability initiative” in which any words or behavior not aligned with organizational values was brought to the larger team for resolution. Within six months, natural attrition resulted in a new composition of talent.
B. A weekly planning session was instituted to research, design, and implement best practices for co-worker, customer, and community engagement.
C. Ten percent of the team’s work week was allocated as “protected innovation time” where teammates were encouraged to brainstorm and collaborate in creating new approaches, process improvements, and efficiencies.
D. The team leader deferred credit for the product development group’s success despite having contributed the ideas that won the most industry praise.
E. A task force stocked with representatives from every workplace demographic was charged with defining the core competencies, goals, culture, and work-life balance expectations for the chief executive of the future.

Submit your entries via email to The first five correct responses will enjoy the delivery of a signed copy of Team Clock: A Guide to Breakthrough Teams.

Happy Thanksgiving!


The 4 Teams Everyone Experiences

Take a look back through your work history and evaluate the various teams you’ve joined. Everyone has experienced at least one of the following situations:

“We just knocked it out of the park! How do we elevate our team to the next level?”
“Wow! Everything is changing! Can we slow down for a while and get our bearings?”
“We really under-performed this year but it’s hard to know what to fix to make this better.”
“This is the most dysfunctional group I’ve ever seen. This is toxic!”

Team Profile #1: We just knocked it out of the park! How do we elevate our team to the next level?

Some teams are energized by continuous improvement. They see their life together as an evolution where the investment in the mission, the degree of trust and accountability, the itch to innovate, and the thrill of transformation continuously deepens. Teams like this are always hungry for the next challenge and they’re willing to experience whatever discomfort is necessary to keep growing.

Team Profile #2: Wow! Everything is changing! Can we slow down for a while and get our bearings?

The natural reaction to change is resistance. The science of humanness is to seek and protect sameness and stability. It’s more comfortable – even when staying the same isn’t healthy. Constant change can be energizing and depleting at the same time. The trick is to use the lulls and plateaus as rest stops. The functional value of exhaustion is the creation of an opportunity to recuperate and deliver new energy to the next challenge.

Team Profile #3: We really under-performed this year but it’s hard to know what to fix to make this better.

Everything is clear in hindsight. Until the diagnosis is made, however, clarity is on hold. Often, it takes someone from the outside to serve up the objectivity to see the things that are right under our noses. Find the themes and patterns. Follow the pain from the symptom to the cause. Leverage strengths. Convert vulnerabilities to opportunities.

Team Profile #4: This is the most dysfunctional group I’ve ever seen. This is toxic!

There are so many variations of this dynamic. The workplace bully is the most common. More subtle examples include the culture that punishes excellence and the sanctioning of mediocrity. Not everyone has the rank and authority to call foul when a teammate says or does something that hurts the team. Strong workplaces empower everyone with that authority. The result is mutual accountability for organizational health. Depending on how high up in the organization the poison lives, this job is either simple or arduous.

Now What?

The common theme of each of these is the need for action. Whether taking it to the next level, navigating a significant change, diagnosing an obstacle, or eradicating a toxin, every team has key decisions to make about their next steps. On which team do you participate? Why is your team experiencing these challenges? What actions should you be engaging today?

The Boardroom and the Bedroom

When Team Clock was published in 2009, we offered up a simple model for creating and sustaining effective teams. As I shared the Team Clock concept with business leaders, time and again people asked me how these principles applied to interpersonal relationships. Could the conflict resolution and team building strategies applied in the boardroom also work in the bedroom? Does the cycle of investment, trust, innovation, and distancing play out between friends and management teams alike?

The recipe is the same. What enables teams to soar is no different than what makes interpersonal relationships thrive. In the micro-colony of a team’s infrastructure lives a matrix of partnerships where variations of two people engage in the peculiar dance of connection. Some move with closeness while others raise their guards to prevent being known or vulnerable. Some follow the reasonable rules of engagement while others violate them. Some fuel and lift their partners while others drain their teammate’s energy dry.

Like the investment phase of the Team Clock, connection begins with the challenge of creation. The thrill of discovery unfolds when we are forging something new. As the relationship transitions to the trust phase, we are introduced to the challenge of intimacy. Closeness is a tricky promise when individual histories have had mixed results. If the relationship moves forward, the foundation for growth is laid as partners leverage their trust to invite adventure. The challenges of growth now define each day’s interactions. All of this generates fundamental change in the essence of the connection. Partners distance from their previous understanding of the relationship and use that space to refuel and adapt to the new circumstances they have created. Once replenished and clear, the relationship comes back together to tackle a new cycle of discovery.

So whether you are wearing your freshly dry-cleaned suit or your favorite pajamas, the rules of engagement are the same.

1. Invest and discover possibilities.
2. Earn trust and dare intimacy to unfold.
3. Innovate and create an adventure.
4. Harness the recuperative magic of distance and space to adapt and embrace the next chapter.