Tuesday, February 14, 2017

3 lessons learned to “will” you and your team to a victory at work (and in life)

For those that witnessed the stunning comeback victory of the New England Patriots at Superbowl 51, it was definitely a game for the history books.

The final moments of the game was set by James White, Patriots running back when he scored the winning touchdown in overtime.

During an interview after the Superbowl game, James was asked about Tom Brady and his impact of defying the odds in the game.   
James stated,
“He [Tom Brady] is the greatest quarterback ever. He willed us to victory.

My (unfounded) theory is that I believe the moment when Tom Brady was “willing” himself and the team to victory was captured perfectly in this picture:

 What do you think? Because Tom went from that picture moments later to this

 And you can too.

Let’s compare this sports analogy to your own work environment. It feels good to be winning whether a win means that your team delivered software on time within scope, your practice just won business from a new client in an emerging industry, or your team was selected to win an industry award.

But what about when you are losing? What about when your team is floundering on a project, they are not answering the right questions during a client presentation, or your team’s application for an award isn’t quite good enough after 3 drafts.

 If Superbowl 51 didn’t teach us anything else, it illustrated how circumstances can change in an instant.
 Here are 3 lessons learned from the game that you can use to will you and your team to a victory:

Lesson #1:  Spend your 80% of your time creating habits of success for those critical moments that matter. In a previous article, I discussed the importance of habit creation. If you think about the sports world, people spend years training to compete for one moment. (Power of Full Engagement is a great book that discusses this topic at great lengths) Tom and his team trained for moments like this…you and your team can as well.
This should be no different in the business world. Your team should spend most of their time collectively conditioning as individuals and as a team in order to be ready for the critical moments that matter. There are only few key moments that makes or breaks your team’s trajectory.  

Let’s say that you want your team to improve the likelihood of winning new business with clients in technology software. Does the team know how to create and sustain authentic relationships without selling? Do they actively maintain those relationships in downtime? Do you design meetings where industry & latest technology information is expected to be shared? Are your teams expected to keep up their skills in the latest technology? Do you foster innovation and value creativity being displayed on your teams?

Identify the moments that matter. Take time to think about the simple habits you and your team need to create and focus on to win in those moments. Then repeatedly create a cadence and environment of excellent habit creation.

 Lesson #2: Develop situational leadership instincts to give your team the feedback they need to adjust and course correct in the moment. Situational leadership is a trait that successful leaders use to “adapt their leadership style to the performance readiness (ability and willingness) of the individual or group they are attempting to lead or influence”. Learn how to adapt your style and lead from a place of strength in the face of adversity and ambiguity. Excelling at situational leadership comes from investing time in getting to know how your team operates on an individual level and collectively as a team. Observe strengths and weaknesses. Observe dynamics, particularly seen and unseen behaviors. And the key is, observe without judgement. 

Accept your team for who they are, not what they are not.  Convey to your team that you trust them. The more you know about your team and accept their strengths and weaknesses, the easier it will be to position your people in environments that they can excel in.

Situational leadership is only ½ of the equation; you have to provide balanced, timely feedback. All of the time.

It is amazing to me how people are in key leadership positions, yet unwilling and/or afraid to give their teams the constructive feedback they need in order to change behavior! Not giving your team feedback is like taking a road trip from Boston, MA to Derry, New Hampshire, watching the driving team member take the exit on the highway towards Florida, yet remain silent knowing full well you are all headed in the wrong direction.   Feedback is a cumulative, iterative process; the more timely feedback you give to your teams, the more confidence you create on your teams that they build in themselves. 

What makes the Patriots so good at situational leadership and feedback is steeped in the fact that any of their players – at any time – could be the wild card no one expected to become the breakout star of a winning game. We saw that this year with James White and saw that before with Malcolm Butler in Superbowl 49.

The team is primed and conditioned to excel, regardless of rank, title, or tenure on the team. The team is primed to win.

Celebrate every winning moment to create momentum….but also, provide instant feedback in the moment. As a leader, do this regularly to condition your teams to replicate winning behaviors day in and day out.

 Lesson # 3: The game is not over until it is truly over. This is a grounding guiding principle in order to being able to will your way to victory. Even if your team may be currently losing in a particular situation, your circumstance can change in an instant.  

Remember your “why” and keep it front and center. 

It all comes down your mentality and the belief that you and your team can do this.  Prior to the actual moment that matters, remember to drill that into your team’s psyche. For example, start and finish every meeting reminding your team of why they are there. Keeping the end goal front and center keeps the team focused.

No matter how far behind you may think you are in your own game, you have to make the decision to will yourself and your team to a victory.

What are ways that you will your way to victory? Share some of your personal tips in the comments below!

Blog was originally posted on my LinkedIn.