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team work

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24 days . . . 5 open seats

SpaceEx on Unsplash.com

SpaceEx on Unsplash.com

"Please think about your legacy, because you're writing it every day." --Gary Vaynerchuck

"I have learned over the years that when one's mind is made up, this diminishes fear." --Rosa Parks

The Countdown

We’re 24 days away from our free on-line training and we fave 5 seats left open. The training is on Sunday, June 23rd from 3-4 pm. By the time we do the training we will be fresh from completing another (6 hour) training using our model with a governmental agency. We purposely piggy-backed our training at this time, after providing the training to yet another sector of the work force, a governmental agency, to continue to be able to inform and provide value to trainees who have a special interest, or opportunity, with in serving governmental teams.

Those that attend will learn . . .

  • How our decision to use a “bomb-defusing” game with a group of professionals (Head Start, Counseling, Family Support) unveiled the power of games to create a “low-risk” setting to deal with team dynamics and teach real skills.

  • That the game-training format tends to yield enthusiastic support for the learning process and avoids many of the typical defensiveness of more direct approaches (conflict resolution).

  • How the training format can prepare leaders to be ready to sustain and act to follow up on the training with actions that will promote improved team functioning and growth.

  • That providing training’s to organizations can be economically viable (not marketing opportunities or “giving back”) to allow professionals a “day away from the couch” and not lose their ability to pay their bills.

In the training we will give you an overview of the process we use, the slide presentation that includes instructions on the entire process, access to the various games we have found to be useful, and other resources.

How to Reserve Your Seat

Are you ready? Come and join us! It will cost you nothing and you may walk away inspired to use your skills and knowledge in a new, fun, and creative way.

There is a $20 reservation fee, refunded to those who attend, to prevent “no shows” and empty seats.

Want to know more?

Watch our You Tube trailer.

Email Bryan

Reserve your seat at Gumroad. A $20 fully refundable fee required —to prevent no shows.

The training doesn’t work for you but you still want to know more? Check out our website where you can Subscribe, become a part of our community, and get a free eBook in the process.

As always, thanks for recommending us, commenting, and subscribing!

"I am not a product of my circumstances. I am a product of my decisions." --Stephen Covey

"Courage is the greatest of all virtues, because if you haven't courage, you may not have an opportunity to use any of the others." --Samuel Johnson

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Failing the team . . . 0 for 6 . . . and learning about yourself.

Photo by  Max Winkler  on  Unsplash

Photo by Max Winkler on Unsplash

Failing the team . . . going zero for six! How I lost the game with our rivals . . . and learned valuable lessons about myself.

It was my Junior year. I wasn't, as yet, a starter on my high school's varsity basketball team, but I was the "sixth man," and expected to start playing "some minutes" during games. But I had not experienced anything like this . . . getting put into the game at a critical moment . . . with the game on the line . . . and it wasn't expected . . . not when all the starters were available and ready to play.

We were playing the "River Rats"--at least that's what we called our hated rivals--they called themselves the Bluejays. We were in their gym, "enemy territory," and the atmosphere between the two teams, and their fans, was electric. From the time we entered the gym for warm ups, we heard a lot of derisive comments and taunts from the home crowd. Our fans, having commuted the 30 miles in opposition, responded in-kind. Incidentally, our rivals insisted on calling us the "Ducks" while our mascot was properly called the "Dukes." I guess fair's fair. 

The game was a very close one through the first three-and-a-half quarters. The lead transferring, back and forth between the teams, while the player's effort, in line with the "energy" in the gym, was intense on both ends of the court. I sat, on the bench, absorbed in the action. I had been in the game but only briefly--to give one of the starters a "breather." 

The game was now coming to the critical final minutes. The score was still tight, our team was only a basket behind, but our starters, playing the entire game, seemed to be experiencing some "sag" in their intensity and, in our final time out,  the feeling that this game could easily "slip away" hung in the air.

"Miller, check in!" the coach barked. Caught off guard, but more than ready to join the "battle," I tore off my warmup and went toward the scorer's table as the horn sounded, and play resumed. The official at the scorer's table checked me in, and I sat on the bench at the scorer's table waiting for a "dead ball" when I would be buzzed into the game. Finally, the moment came, the scoreboard operator activated the buzzer,  the official on the floor waved me in, and I headed toward the court . . . then I heard coach calling, stopping me, and he waved me over . . . I changed direction and went to the coach . . . "It's your job to win this thing!" he said. "Now, go in there and do it!" he urged.

"Yikes!" I thought, "He's counting on me to win this game!" 

I moved out onto the floor and took up my position. At the time, we were on defense. "Easy enough," I thought.  Just "dog" my assigned player and make sure he can't get the ball. Play resumed, and the point guard, attempted to set up their offense by coming my way, dribbled toward my position--attack the new guy, fresh off the bench. I "fronted" the forward, my assignment, and preventing the pass to start their offense, the guard reversed the play to the other side of the court . . . leading to an attempted basket away from my side of the court. Job well done. The team boxed out the other players, took the rebound, and took over the ball. Down the court we went toward our basket.

Our offense was designed to have a forward (I was one of two) start the "rotation" by taking the defensive player toward the basket, then popping out, to the wing, to take the first pass on the left or right side of the court. I dutifully took my player toward the baseline, popped out, and received the pass.  As the point guard cut to his left, setting up a screen for the other forward coming toward me at the free throw line, I faked a pass to the middle. The defender bit, hard, on the fake, and I drove, wide open, toward the basket.

As I reached the basket, and leapt to complete the lay-up, the center defender crashed down hard and smashed into me--raking my arm and sending me under the backboard toward the end-line. The referee blew the whistle and the blatant foul was assessed. I had missed the lay up but I was awarded a "one-and-one." Meaning, for those not familiar with basketball, that if you make the first free throw, you would get a second attempt.  Convert both and it is no different than making the initial lay up. I went to the free throw line. My coach's words still ringing in my head. I had missed the easy shot. But getting fouled was a nice consolation. I was good at free throws.  I missed. The attempted shot, powered by too much adrenaline, hit the back of the rim and bounced away. No second free throw and no points. I was 0 for 2.

The next time down the floor was almost a repeat of the earlier play. I popped, received the pass, only this time the defender was not so ready to "over-play" the pass to the forward coming across the lane, and did not bite hard on my fake. I began to drive anyway, quickly gave a head-fake, as if to pull up and shoot. He went for it. Off his feet, I easily continued my drive to the basket and my second lay up. This time the center was helped by the off-side forward. They converged and I felt my arms, once again, raked by hands trying to stop the "easy basket." Again, the whistle blew, and again, a one-and-one was awarded,  as I had once again missed the lay up. I was now 0 for 3. 

Cognizant of the last free throw, I attempted to give this shot a little more touch. The ball arched gracefully toward the basket, hit the front of the rim, hesitated, then dropped, outside the basket. It was short, and I was 0 for 4. The other team rebounded the ball and headed the other way.  Surprisingly, they were no better at capitalizing on our lack of execution, and soon we were back on offense, the game still within reach.

One more time, I dutifully popped out, and once more I received the ball. The defender, aware by this time, I think,  that he was not quick enough to tightly guard a highly motivated "I'm-going-to-win-this-game" fanatic, crouched a couple of steps away and eyed me warily. I faked the drive, then a pass to the middle, and drove with the ball, once again, toward the basket. The defender anticipated this, however, and moved quickly to try and get an angle where I would not have another opportunity at a lay up. Seeing him drop back toward the hoop, I stopped--the player was out of position and it opened up the opportunity for an easy 10-foot jump shot. I barely got it off. The player, in desperation, grabbed at me, causing the shot to go wild, and the referee's whistle to blow. This meant I was now 0 for 5 but giving me, what I thought was, an intentional foul and 2 free throws.

Inexplicably, the referee told me that it was going to be, yet again, a one-and-one. Surprised, and wondering if the player had tripped when he grabbed me, if the referee had just got it wrong, or this was some home court advantage--I took the ball, bounced it three times, relaxed, bent my knees, and shot the ball. I missed . . . again. I was 0 for 6 and far from winning the game I was a significant part of why we lost that game in the final minutes.

I'll spare you the agony of the failure, the critical self-review, as well as other people's attempts to heal my wounded ego. But I will share how this utter, degrading, humiliating failure made me a better player . . . a better leader . . . and perhaps a better person.

I should say, I didn't learn all this that night. The walk to the locker room, the comments by other players, coaches, parents etc, the looooong bus ride home. It was not a night of inspiration or insight. It was a grueling ordeal to be endured. But returning to practice with my team, preparing for the games to follow, competing and once again being trusted to be on the floor during games, even when the outcome was uncertain, I began to learn from that failure.

Through this failure, I learned:

1. Confidence. Really? Yep! It took time but eventually, I realized that what had happened was not entirely a failure.  Before I had failed to perform, my Coach saw me as someone capable of playing both when the game was on the line and with the ability to take over and win a game. As we used to say, he recognized "He has game," meaning ability. My teammates were "sagging" and at least I had "good looks" at the basket. My shots were not necessarily forced or bad decisions. They were not executed successfully however. The following year, my senior season, the Coach implemented two plays for critical moments like the end of a game. Given my earlier failure, the two plays (see below) were counter intuitive, Never-the-less, Coach demonstrated, once again, his confidence in me as a player. 

2. Effort. Varsity players, even starters, could not stop me if I was determined. Only I could stop me. I frankly was surprised at how easy it was to get all 3 of my "open" shots on the basket. The defender simply could not prevent me from getting open. There was a problem however. When I went in for those first two layups and was pummeled by those senior players, I believed that I would not make those shots. After all, I was fouled! No one could be expected to make those baskets. I needed to learn some tenacity and how to complete a shot when I was fouled. I began to take pride in "going up hard" and making those baskets even if the defender "mugged me," making contact with my body, arm, or shooting hand, and seemingly making the lay up impossible.  My playing time increased along with my effort and soon I was playing "significant minutes" regularly and converting those lay ups . . . and the bones free throws if the foul was called.

3. Success is controlling myself. I didn't want to fail like that ever again!  I realized that my mistake was playing "out of control." I was trying to win the game. Me alone. Was my teammate open cutting across the lane? I don't know. I was planning my move to the basket. When the center crashed down on me, where was our center? Perhaps standing, open and unguarded, only a few feet from the basket? Probably. But I was going to make that lay up! I was going to win the game for the team, the coach, and--of course--myself. I played to win and my lack of playing with self-control hurt the team's chances.

4. Expectations are a two-edged sword. Trying too hard can be as bad as not trying . . . but I will never be okay with low expectations. It's a trap. How do I have "lower expectations" and still succeed?  The trick is, making sure the expectations you have are yours and they are reasonable. You control the effort you exert . . . but not the outcomes. Had I made all of my shots in that game would we have won?  Maybe. But I wasn't the only one playing that game. Taking on the projected expectations of others, or putting unrealistic expectations on yourself--the outcomes you hope for--is a recipe for failure.

5. Stay within Yourself. Don't listen to outside pressure.  I took Coach's words too seriously. I should have ignored them.  Afterwards, I realized that I accepted the premise, that it really was my job, and mine alone, to win that game. After all . . . that is the stuff of dreams isn't it? Hadn't I spent countless hours in my driveway, practicing for this exact scenario--taking the "winning shot"--and now I was asked to perform and I was ready to live the glory of winning the game. But the stress of accepting Coach's premise,  and my own expectations, failed me. I should have said to myself, "Right Coach, it's my job to win this game. Not the starters who played 90-95% of this game.  Not the team's job. It's mine." (Hear sarcastic tone of voice) Then, I could have ignored what he had said and just "played ball." I probably would have been more successful.

It was a painful experience but one that taught me a lot about myself and stood me in "good stead" for the future.  The next year, my Senior season, Coach had two standing plays for when the game was on the line. Called by our school colors, Blue and Gold, the plays were essentially the same play--mirror images of one another--one to the right side of the court and the other to the left. Both called for the team to get the ball to me, then the players would clear the floor--to one side or the other, and I would go, one-on-one against my defender. It was a role I learned to cherish.

 

Epilogue: Social scientists have noted that "finding positive attributes in bad experiences--even ones that are painful" is one indicator of resilience in children. I think the same is true of adults and of leaders. Too often, leaders faced with a failure spend their time trying hard to spin the failure into "non-events," finding someone to blame, defensively explaining their motives and avoiding responsibility or simply trying to hide from the repercussions of the experience altogether; rather than facing it, publicly, head on, and learning from it.

Failure is most often a complex situation. Rarely, is it as simple as "someone failed." It's a core belief in our work with leaders that failure often is an opportunity for a leader to learn and to grow  As Mohammad Ali put it, "You don't lose if you get knocked down, you lose if you stay down" and "Real success comes when we rise after we fall."

 

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My Coach, and teammate respond . . . after 38 years!

My Coach and Teammate Respond . . . after 38 years!

An archaeological dig found . . .  these yearbooks from the "glory years."

An archaeological dig found . . .  these yearbooks from the "glory years."

 

I wrote a blog post prompted by my College Basketball Coach being named the Coach of the Year in 2017. The post was mostly about and experience that taught me a lot about what makes good and bad teams.

Well, as it turns out . . .  if you "shoot your mouth off" things happen. Even 38 yeas later.  And, if you are foolish enough to spout off publicly . . . I find it is a good thing to have good memory and a strong grasp of details. "I find" I say, not because I have a good memory and a mind for details . . . no!  I simply can imagine that it would be a good thing. As it is, the are a few additions and a record to correct. Yes, literally, a record.

I hesitated before writing the first blog, for this very reason, because my memory is often mostly about what I experienced and what it "felt like" not necessarily "the cold, hard facts."  So, of course, I did not remember some of the details--mostly after the events I related--and got one data point wrong in the earlier post (it was the record of the senior team. It has been corrected). I know this because I remembered . . . right after my old teammate, let's call him Sam, told me mind you, that the bad team won 5 games not just 3 and that they did beat the 3rd ranked team in the state--which illustrated their potential."

But, this a follow up to share more of the story and tell you about the Coach and Sam.

What I didn't say in the first post is that Coach was tough.  He told it the way he saw it. He was decisive and direct. i remember being in the locker room as a freshman and I was messing around with some equipment, Coach looked up from where he was sitting in his office, stood up, and started coming out where we were. Well, "My Momma didn't raise no dummies!" I knew he was coming to tell me to stop.  So, I stopped . . . and moved away. Not good enough for Coach. He continued coming. He walked up, barked "Miller, come here!." I came. He went on,"If you wouldn't have walked away and acted like you weren't messing with the equipment, I would have just told you to stop. Now, you can come and see me after school."

After school, I spent time doing "Burpies" in his office. It was a good lesson--be authentic. But since I was just convinced that I was penalized for being intuitive (smart) and being able to accurately predict what he was about to do, I really didn't learn the wisdom or that lesson until many years later.

Despite these kind of interactions, Coach's toughness was balanced. Coach also happened to be my Driver's Ed teacher. I took the class during the summer and I have fond memories of driving . . . to go golfing, fishing, and, one time, getting out of the boat to retrieve a treasured lure . . . for which I was rewarded by having my supper bought for me by the Coach. He was tough but fair.

But I digress. this is supposed to be a follow up and about Coach and Sam.

So, my Coach responded. I won't share what he told me but I will say that although I didn't know, or remember, all the details, his story reinforced what I already knew. I also heard from one of my former teammates . . .

So, Sam, an old teammate contacted me after reading the post about Coach. He told me about a moment when Coach influenced his life. He told me he had heard a sermon recently at his church and it prompted him to act--he was, at that very time, writing a letter to Coach to thank him for the influence he had on his life!  This teammate, one of the "good guys" of the older cohort, also missed on on the last two years of Coach in his high school career. But, he told me about an incident that change his view of things . . . He told me that one day he was hanging his head. Coach, asked him "What's wrong?" Sam said, "Coach, I keep messing up and you keep yelling at me." The Coach thought a moment, then said, "Do you see me yelling at "player x" or player y?" Citing two of the players low down on the list of talent on the team. "No." replied the player. "That's because you have potential," he said, "they don't."

Coach did see potential in my teammate. One day, my Dad was waiting for me after a scrimmage between our High School  team and the College team where Neal now was the head coach..  "You see anybody out there you are interested in?" my father queried.  I figured my Dad was "fishing" to find out if Coach had an interest in recruiting me.  "Yep. said Coach," fully aware, I am sure, of what my Dad was driving at, "Sammy," he replied.

 

 

 

HSC is a consulting firm focusing on organizational behavior. HSC publishes materials to help organizational leaders succeed. Check out our products (at Gumroad) or subscribe to our emails and get a free eBook like Engaging Your Team.

 

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A Team . . . of Teams: How's that work?

Who, in most organizations, is the one person who really understands what it means to operate as a "team of teams?"  Who is responsible for the health of the teams and the organization?  I know who I expect it to be . . . the senior leader of the organization.  The Executive Director, President CEO, Owner . . . they are the visionaries that we often expect to have the magic touch to make an organization function dynamically and smoothly.

If you are fortunate enough to have someone who really excels at this, having a vision of how the organization can operate, the next challenge is how well are they able to communicate that vision to others.  Often I have worked with leaders who, I think, have a clear vision. But often, as I interview their staff, I find problems that interfere with the communication and operations of carrying out that vision.

Understood or not, the "team of teams' construct is one of the new fashions in leadership and organizational design circles. (In fact, this has been identified as a trend for 2016. Here's a good and recent article on this trend from Deloitte University Press

When a team of teams, or one might call it a human system of subsystems, works . . . it is a thing of beauty--like an professional orchestra--the violin section and percussion-- playing with effortless harmony and beauty. Employees are engaged (see our infographic on engagementi), they give of their discretionary time and effort to help the organization succeed, everyone pulls together and conflict is minimal. But when it doesn't work, the resulting discordant din of struggle rises and falls, filling the air with a tension that leaves it's audience, those working in the organization, contemplating the closest and most acceptable escape route.

Notice the "Skull and Crossbones" flag?  First time I've seen that one!

Notice the "Skull and Crossbones" flag?  First time I've seen that one!

 

Maybe I'm in the minority when I think that most organizations have only a superficial understanding of their human systems.  I know that most are aware of the impact of their human "element."  I hear senior manager's concerns about the impact of the business on their employees. But most see these elements in a simple "cause and effect" lens that leads, often, to assessing blame and limiting the options to address the problem.

Trained at the height of the systemic age of human sciences (I even had a course on cybernetics of cybernetics or the science of systems of systems!) theorists and researchers found that the "easiest way out leads back in" when you are talking about a system (mechanical or human). In other words, a simple approach to a systemic problem invariably does not change the system itself and thus the problem will persist. (When I was young people talked about putting saw dust in a transmission to "fix" a problem. It did not stop the transmission from failing!)

I often wonder, when I am beginning work with a new organization,  just how well prepared are the managers to understand the systemic dynamics of the people they are responsible for overseeing?  Often senior managers are tasked with casting a vision and creating policies and procedures (or culture) to avoid (or if necessary to "fix") any problems.  

But where do leaders develop their vision for leading a team of teams? My experience tells me their training will not have addressed it in depth and most of their practical models come from the success stories and personal contacts the leader or manager is exposed to in their professional contacts--or from the latest article or book on leadership.  Others recognize a need for a support system to guide them and adopt the trend of hiring an organizational behavioral consultant or executive coach.

Thus leaders chase the elusive "right mix" that will unleash the potential of their human systems and drive the success they envision. Yet, often it is largely the context itself--the industry, economy, or point-in-time--external factors, of those organizations, that determines if the team approach is working well or not. (Can you create another Pixar when one already exists?

Others may founder, not because of a lack of understanding their own organizational system, but because of the context in which their organization exists.  Leaders and organizations who enjoy a rich medium of growing markets, fat profit margins, and new research and development opportunities often have teams and a team of teams that are robust and "healthy" in their functions. Many of those same organizations however "get exposed" when adversity hits--with leaders "bailing," employee morale sinking, and public opinion declining. A system in a growth mode needs different things than one in a maintenance or declining industry.

Leaders need to understand the external context and then focus on the needs of their unique system; maximizing the contribution of the system through removing barriers, providing support, or challenging them to live up to the best vision of themselves and the organization. This often yields better results.

So, who is tasked with creating a "team of teams" in your organization?  Do you have a clear vision?  Is the communication of that vision being adopted by others?  Do you constantly have to encourage others to act inline with the organizations values?  Are teams really focused on what is best for the whole organization? If this is the model you are interested in trying to create or if it is one you have adopted but with limited success, then ask yourself, "Within our context, who has the experience, knowledge, vision and time to help us focus on operating as a true "team . . . of teams?" 

Available eBooks:

Private Practice through Contracting: Decreasing dependence on insurance.

Engaging Your Team: A framework for managing difficult people.

Family Legacy: Protecting family in family business.

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