The 4 Components of Real Teams

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Working with organisations trying to motivate and level-up their teams, I would often ask the all important question: “Are you a group or are you a team?” I’m often met with a question in return: “What do you mean?” or “What’s the difference?”

 

The difference could not be more profound. A group of talented individuals, who are not really a team, will never perform as well, in the long run, as less talented individuals functioning as a team. A good example of this would be national football teams. The logic in assembling national teams is often that if we pick the best players from all the clubs, and put them together, their collective skill will add up to something. Of course, this is often not the case. The players are unused to working together. In fact, they have been actively competing with one another at every other juncture in their careers; so, they don’t gel as a unit, they don’t cooperate, they don’t have rapport and that kind of near-telepathic connection that well-functioning football teams exhibit (where one player makes a pass and another player moves into an unusual space on the pitch to perfectly intercept the pass, almost as if reading the mind of the other).

 

Looking at an example of a good team, we need only turn to the Gospels. Whether you are religious or accept the spiritual dimension to these manuscripts, it remains evident from a historical perspective that the Apostles must have been an incredible team, and Christ an incredible leader. In fact, so incredible was Christ’s leadership, that he was able to be absent! He created a vision for what he wanted, he conveyed that vision and mission to his team of twelve, and then those twelve delivered – spreading the message of Christianity to the whole world, even converting the Roman Empire from paganism, which was difficult indeed! Christ, notably, had already ‘ascended’ by this point, and was no longer in the picture. He left the Apostles to their mission, and trusted them to deliver, using their own resourcefulness and creativity (and his teachings) to overcome any obstacles. Think about how this contrasts sharply with how most managers go about their team-leadership: micro-managing, constantly checking in for updates, stressing over the fine-details and the ‘hows’. It’s clear from this example that leaders need to trust their team, if they are to effectively deliver.

 

However, looking at examples is one thing, but we need to break down the mechanics of how teams (versus groups) actually work. In my book Mapping Motivation for Leadership, co-authored with Jane Thomas, we outline four key components of a real team, and how these can be used by leaders for effective team-building. The four components are as follows:

 

1) Have a clear mission or remit

We already have a good example of this in Christ. But if that is slightly too religious, we might look at the team behind the moon landing. John F. Kennedy said imperatively that they had to put a man on the moon, even though they “didn’t know how to do it yet”. The vision was absolutely crystal clear. This galvanised virtually an entire nation to solving the problem of successfully putting a human being on the moon.

 

The flipside to having a clear mission or remit is of course ‘No clear mission, but job titles’. When people have what they believe to be an individually determined ‘role’, such as the ‘team manager’, or ‘sales rep’, then it directs them to act as individuals in pursuit of their individual goals. I’m not saying, of course, that we shouldn’t have job titles, but rather job titles should be superseded by something more powerful: a vision and objective.

 

There is a famous story about when President John F. Kennedy came to visit NASA. He met a janitor, sweeping the floor. The President cordially introduced himself and asked the janitor what he was doing. The janitor said: “I’m helping to put a man on the moon.” The janitor had such a clear sense of purpose, was so connected to the mission, that he knew even sweeping the floors was incredibly important to helping the astronauts, data analysts, scientists, and engineers do their thing.

 

2) Develop interdependency

We mentioned earlier the way that good football players, working as a team, can almost predict each others’ behaviours and act accordingly. They operate as an entity with many limbs rather than a group of separate entities. Great strikers – who play up front – don’t hunt for glory, going out on their own, but know they are reliant on the positioning and tactics of their fellow team mates to get them the ball, and to create the openings, that will allow them to score.

 

Many people resist interdependency and it is easy to see why. There is nothing worse than a feeling of powerlessness arising from bureaucracy. For example, you cannot do x until y person or department has “approved” it. However, there is a difference between bureaucracy and “process” without purpose, and learning how to rely and work with those around you.

 

3) Believe in the efficacy of teamwork

Belief is important in anything we do. But, when creating a team, every member of that team has to believe in the purpose and effectiveness of the team. If secretly one member of the team is harbouring doubts, thinking: “Well, I don’t want to be with these people, I’m better at x or y than them” this can create serious problems down the line. One need only turn again to the example of the Apostles and Jesus for a case-in-point. Judas harboured doubts about Jesus and his team-mates for all kinds of reasons.

 

One of the most notable examples of Judas expressing this doubt is during the Last Supper. Jesus is about to be lathered with perfume. Judas accosts Jesus saying: “Why wasn't this perfume sold and the money given to the poor? It was worth a year's wages” (John 12:5). He calls into question Jesus’ morality. If Jesus is prepared to have rich and expensive perfume lathered on him, is he really the person they thought he is? The important thing to bear in mind in relation to our topic is that it only takes one dissolute team-member to undermine the entire operation. Every person must wholly believe in the purpose and power of the team.

 

4) Practise accountability

Accountability is often something that managers ask for from their employees. We should note that this should not turn into a blame culture. Too often managers want their employees to “be more accountable” so that they themselves can relinquish responsibility. All must practise accountability equally and fairly.

 

True teams support their members. If a striker misses a goal-shot, they should be able to accept that they have squandered an opportunity, but equally, should not be blamed by their team-mates for doing so. Their own sense of responsibility is, most likely, punishing enough! Great teams help each other learn from these mistakes, of course, and develop new strategies to overcome obstacles and challenges.

 

If you want to take this further, I’d like to offer you a 30% discount on my book Mapping Motivation For Leadership, co-authored with Jane Thomas, so you can get the full experience! Simply use this code: ADS19 at check out to get your 30% off! You can purchase the book from the Routledge website here.

 

As always, thank you for reading. Stay motivated!

 


THE FIVE ELEMENTS MODEL ALL LEADERS NEED

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There has been something of a leadership take-over on the Motivational Memos site, but this is no bad thing, as leadership is intrinsically linked with motivation! We have looked at the four types of leader, the three critical mistakes leaders can make, the five key aspects of leadership from a motivational perspective, and how Maps advocates a different kind of leadership to the popular models today.

Today, I want to look at planning, and I want to give you some useful tools for planning and visioning. In my article the five key aspects of leadership from a motivational perspective, I identified “vision for those you lead” as one of those key aspects. Therefore, a vital role for a leader is to have a vision for their company and teams, and a plan of how to get there. All vision and no practical plan makes for simply ‘dreaming’ without action. Of course, dreaming, or to use a more business-like term ‘envisioning’, is important too – nothing can happen without first seeing it in the ‘mind’s eye’, to quote Hamlet. But for real change to occur, there has to be a plan of how to make this happen.

 

It is fitting that I have just referenced Hamlet, because in fact this was the eponymous character’s very problem. He saw in his mind’s eye what he needed to do: avenge his father by killing his uncle, but he had no real plan for doing it. And, when he did create a plan, it was so complex as to be entirely ineffective. Therefore, his story ends in tragedy and universal calamity, rather than victory. If only Hamlet had used Motivational Maps!

 

However, it must be said that if creating a practical plan to achieve our visions were easy, we’d all be doing it, and we wouldn’t see quite so many examples of organisations floundering because of directionless leadership. On a micro-level, we all set goals that we don’t have good plans for achieving. We want to lose weight so we decide to go to the gym every day, not realising that this is completely impractical from all kinds of stand-points (financial, time, competing demands, etc!).

 

So, let me introduce you to a five-step model, called the Five Elements, which can get you from dreaming and envisioning to completing your goal. The easiest way to look at the Five Elements model is through an example. I’m going to share the example used in Mapping Motivation for Leadership, my book co-authored with Jane Thomas, which is to deploy the Five Elements for planning a holiday, using five questions:

 

1. Where do I want to go, or what is my ideal destination?

 

2. How will I get there, or what’s my preferred mode of transport?

 

3. How much can I spend, or what will it cost?

 

4. What can I do when I get there, or what do I want to do?

 

5. Where did I go last year? Plus, how good was my holiday last year?

 

Now, you may already be able to see some business application to these questions, but for now let’s continue with the example and look at hypothetical answers to these questions:

 

1. My ideal destination is Sydney, Australia (and I am based in the UK)

 

2. By train; I hate flying

 

3. My bank account is currently £2K overdrawn and I have no savings

 

4. I love seeing Renaissance art and visiting Gothic churches

 

5. Bognor Regis – terrible; it rained so much that most of the time I stayed in

 

Now, amusing as this hodgepodge is – you will be looking for a long time to find Gothic churches in Sydney! – it sadly reflects the reality of how most organisations plan. They answer questions without reconciling the context of the other questions, and therefore create a vision that is unworkable. This can be due to people at the top not listening to more experienced or practically-minded people on the ground. Or perhaps simply over-ambition on the part of everyone in the organisation. Of course, in this example, it is obvious that we cannot realistically get to Sydney via train. However, if we view this in more business terms, it might not be quite as obvious that we cannot sell ten-thousand units through brick-and-mortar stores (perhaps due to supplier limitations).

 

There is an element of risk in pretty much all business, with perhaps one or two exceptions such as publicly funded organisations. Certainly I fully advocate experimenting, taking the initiative, seizing chances, and so forth. Many technological companies founded their success on taking bold innovative leaps. But equally, many technology companies also go bust taking bold innovative leaps. So, a balance is necessary here. We want to be ambitious, to tread new ground, but we must also have a firm plan of how to do it.

 

So, let’s go a little deeper into the Five Elements.

 

1. VISIONING

Where do we want to be?

This is the ‘dreaming’ stage. What is our aim? Where do we want to take the company, our team; what do we want to achieve?

 

2. PLANNING

How will we get there?

Given what we want to achieve, how can we get there? What is a realistic pathway? We might consult relative contemporary or historical examples to give us some clues here. In other words, X company did it this way, so how could I learn from this?

 

3. FACILITATING

What resources are necessary?

We have to be honest about the resources it will take. And I say honest because most of the time we grossly under-estimate costs. I recently read that the majority of musicians only ‘break even’ on their tours! The cost of travelling, looking after the lighting, sound, and tech crew, staying at hotels, eating out, to say nothing of the time invested, often outweighs ticket sales. This is tragic. Live music is a great gift, but if we are viewing it from a business perspective, it seems for most artists, this is becoming pointless activity – other than to generate hype and interest.

 

4. DOING

What actions happen?

What can we do when we get there? This is another way to view this question. What will we be doing to get to our vision-destination, and what can we do when we get there?

 

5. CHECKING

What results have we achieved, and so, where are we now?

What have we achieved in the past? How might that inform our vision? If we previously failed to sell 500 units last year, is it wise to aim to sell 2,000,000 this year? Again, it may seem obvious, but organisation tend to be swept up in the narrative of ‘growth’ that they do not consider mundane realities. This also applies to checking in on our progress towards out vision. What have we achieved so far? Are we on track? How can we course-correct?

 

This model connects to our motivations, learning style, past/present/future orientation, risk and change, and more in ways too abundant to document here. I hope, however, this has given you an interesting starting point for planning in your business or team!

 

If you want to take this further, I’d like to offer you a 30% discount on my book Mapping Motivation For Leadership, co-authored with Jane Thomas, so you can get the full experience! Simply use this code: ADS19 at check out to get your 30% off! You can purchase the book from the Routledge website here.

 

As always, thank you for reading. Stay motivated!

 

 

 


Beyond the Politics: Getting to Real Leadership

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Leadership in the UK, and indeed in many other parts of the world, is in crisis. Whatever your political allegiances, it is clear to all sides that no one really seems to know what they are doing, or how to do it. Most of us are eagerly awaiting a figurehead to rise out of the chaos; but sadly, that is often how dictatorships are born.

 

On the 4th September, Motivational Maps hosted its book launch for Mapping Motivation For Leadership, the fourth instalment in the Mapping Motivation series, co-written by James Sale and Jane Thomas.

 

It is no small irony that a launch about leadership was hosted at One Great George Street, not a stone’s throw from 10 Downing Street and Westminster. And to further the irony, just one-hundred meters down the road, there was a protest going on, specifically against the Prime Minister.

 

One Great George Street is the home of the Institute of Civil Engineers, and it was one of their key security personnel who opened proceedings. He made the profound observation that: “Most people I meet say that ‘your building is your key asset’…” – and one can see why, it is a magnificent structure, particularly the Great Hall – “…but I tell them, they’re wrong. My people are the key asset.” He has been using Motivational Maps to invest in his people. Without them, the building is irrelevant, for all its grandeur.

 

Now we live in a time where uncertainties require even greater leadership capabilities than we have had heretofore. A time when we are crying out for effective, dynamic leadership; as, undoubtedly, we are in a period of psychological, political, and economic crisis, and now, more than ever, is the time when we need to develop the skills to nurture and motivate others.

 

James and Jane established themselves as leading experts in leadership through their talks and a later Q&A session, led by Mark Terrell, himself an exponent of leadership with his podcast The Reluctant Leader. Both James and Jane have worked in teams and with them. Both are running businesses that are not only reliant on extraordinary personnel, but also working with others on improving their motivation. Motivation, according to Jane and James, is one of the oft-overlooked aspects of a leader’s role.

 

There were many great questions from the floor, but one thing that came up time and time again in James and Jane’s answers was that the Maps differ from many other tools out there in that they are part of the process, not the whole process. Many psychometrics, surveys, and ‘tests’ offer data without action or deeper insight. The Maps are a way in to a conversation with a coach or trainer. They are a starting point, a way of creating a shared language, that then can become therapeutic. In our modern age, we tend to look for a complete solution. There is also a tendency in our modern era for digitisation of virtually every process (there’s even an app for menstrual cycles). Therapy is now being delivered by chatbots and AI apps in some UK mental-health institutions. Many organisations also like the idea of tackling problems of motivation or engagement via technological methods, because they seem metrical (how we love numbers); they allegedly remove human ambiguity; and they mitigate the onus on speaking to employees individually, which to give large organisations credit, is time-consuming. But Motivational Maps is going against the trend. Less technology, more human face-to-face interaction, and more “negative capability” – sitting with and embracing the ambiguity of human emotions. The Maps are just that: maps. You then need someone to sit down and show you how to navigate.

 

Isn’t that what leaders are for?

 

To listen to Mark Terrell’s podcast interview with James Sale, click here. To listen to his interview with Jane Thomas, click here.

To purchase a copy of Mapping Motivation for Leadership, click here.

 

 

 


The 5 Key Aspects of Leadership from a Motivational Perspective

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After working in education for 15 years and reaching the level of deputy head teacher, in my 40s I wanted to control my own future and do things 'my way', as did my wife. So, we established a business together which eventually lead to over 500 consultants, trainers, and coaches whom we licensed with our products. The ability to self-determine my own destiny is what attracted me to this kind of role. Over the years, I have been asked many times about leadership: what is a leader, following that what constitutes a good leader, and how can we improve our leadership skills. This has led to me authoring an entire book on the subject with my colleague Jane Thomas. The question of leadership pervades. So, here are what I believe to be the 5 key aspects of leadership from a motivational perspective.

 

1. Holding to account

 

Over the last 13 years of running Motivational Maps Ltd, we have had extensive experience of holding people to account, including employing one manager whom we had to let go for failing to perform. The essence of our approach is motivational. In the first instance, clarity of expectation is essential: our licensing contracts have been drawn up using commercial solicitors, and whilst 'fair' to both parties, define what constitutes unacceptable behaviours from our perspective.

 

Second, when we need to enforce or hold accountable, we have relentlessly pursued a deliberate policy of never 'blaming' or 'shaming' any individual. Instead, we always tentatively seek clarification on a specific issue and then ask the licensee to comment on their interpretation of the event.

 

Finally, we consistently stress that in resolving any issue we want a 'fair' solution or a win-win for both of us. In this way, many troublesome people have had issues resolved with us without the need for litigation. Indeed, we attempt to allow even people we regard as 'wrong-doers' to save face and walk away from transacting with us with dignity.

 

2. Vision for those you lead

 

My vision for all the individuals I lead is for them to be successful in business and for them to realise their full potential as individuals. To this end we have communicated via coaching, mentoring, training, in the first instance; via conferences and events in the second; via email, Skype/Zoom and social media in the third; and more latterly, via the creation of a series of management books published by Routledge: The Mapping Motivation series.

 

3. Lead by example

 

I try to lead by example. Firstly, since the people we lead are mainly trainers and coaches, it is by being outstanding in these disciplines, which more latterly appears in personal presentations and talks. The essence of this is to be so practised in the art that when one presents, on any subject, it seems to be natural or spontaneous. In other words, the greatest art is when there appears to be none. That is highly compelling to followers. And aspirational too.

 

 

4. Tackle weaknesses with collaboration

 

Leaders need to create systems and processes which automate 'everything' as much as possible; such systems can become a powerful source of leveraging the monetisation of product/services. I am, to be frank, less good at this. We brought somebody into our business in 2010 whom we thought could do this for us, but eventually she left. This issue still needs resolving, and one way we are now considering addressing it is consulting more closely with our more senior associates.

 

Motivational Maps Ltd, though about the more difficult to define human-to-human relationships and our relationships with our selves, is also data-focused and we need to process great swathes of information. This too is an area where we need to improve as we are such a data-rich organisation. Some 60,000 Motivational Maps have now been completed by various individuals at all levels of organisational life, and we have barely scratched the surface of analysing this 'big data'. Further, we are always being asked by someone in our system for a case study on this or that, and although we have dozens, we never seem to have enough. So, what we have here is an 'emergent strategy'! It is not a priority, but on the other hand it is not going to go away, so we are on the alert for ways we might improve this area of our business.

 

5. Be ready for surprises & embrace ambiguity

 

What surprises me, although it shouldn't, since I experienced it as a deputy head teacher for 7 years, is just how needful people are for direction and leadership: the pressure of followers on one is like a stone chip in a shoe - wearing away all the time. It appears that highly intelligent people can't make a simple decision; that highly qualified people don't know what to do; that people 'experts' don't understand the first thing about people; that common sense is not so common, and that you have to make decisions for people most of the time. And what this all means is that leadership is not mostly about logic, but about managing emotions: your own, first and foremost, but helping others make sense of their own. Underlying this problem is the fact that people are in a state of fear: they wish to avoid making mistakes, they hate to be blamed, and despite evidence to the contrary they lack faith in themselves. Everybody, everywhere, is secretly crying out to be led, for the leader in any situation is the one who relieves the existential angst and uncertainty that is life. And that is why the role of the true leader is so revered. People, on the whole, prefer to be dogs working together in a pack than wild cats!

 

Thus, the key advice I would give anyone taking on a leadership role is to understand, embrace, and saturate your whole being with the idea of ambiguity: to live with ambiguity, or what the poet John Keats called 'negative capability', is the essence of leadership, and of greatness too. Negative capability, which Keats claimed great poets had, is the ability to live with uncertainty without that irritable reaching after facts. Which means, to go from great things to less, that it is the avoidance of the tick-box mindset where we think we have solved a problem because we have ticked the box.

 

What this does is allow the 'no-thing' space to live within the subconscious and so produce a really creative result instead. Of course, what I am saying is not incompatible with a leader being decisive: the difference is that in the traditional view of leaders as 'strong' and decisive, this strength and decisiveness tends to be ego-derived and self-aggrandising; what I am advocating is a decisiveness that comes from a deeper layer of being, and recognises that 'being' itself is inherently paradoxical. So there can be no surprise because there is no certainty.