Are you making or faking your team?

SOURCE: This is a copy of my recent LinkedIn post.

I have been in teams that were such a joy to work with. Every day I wake up energised, and excited to be with them. We debate and innovate in amazing ways, and everyone involved is supportive of and motivational towards one another. In fact, people outside of the team love what we do, and what we stand for, to the extent that some want to become part of our team!

This said, I have also been in teams that truly drain the energy out of me. I feel physically and emotionally empty, and everybody seems to acting individually, with no sense of a team. We all are forced to keep asking ourselves, “How do we change this around?” “What is going wrong here?”

Why is it that some teams work and others don’t?

I’m a firm believer in the idea that many of life’s greatest achievements are not borne as a result of solely individual action, but instead are the result of a team effort and an obsession to achieve a given goal.

People often think that marathon running is an individual sport, and on one level they may be right. On race day, the runner is on his/her own in the eyes of the spectators. If, however, you were to ask any runner about his/her story, you would find that the story extends and there is a team behind the success story.

Recently, I experienced this firsthand when I finally ran the Canberra Marathon in April this year. I have repeatedly tried to run a full marathon for a number of years, albeit to no success. The biggest difference between failed and successful attempts was my ability to utilise a team to achieve the goal. This year’s attempt was possible with the support of a great team, including my physiotherapist, podiatrist, running coach, and of course my family. Only because of their help and working together as a team, was I able to complete the race. While I was the one who received the hi-fives that day, deep down I owed a great deal of thanks to my support team for all of the help they gave me, without whom it would not have been possible.

People often associate Edmund Hillary as the hero who concurred mount Everest. Could Edmond have achieved what he did without the help of his sherpa, Tensing Norge? So was it individual success or a team achievement?

I recently saw the TED talk by Bill Gross (the founder of Idealabs) where he goes on to discuss why some businesses succeed while others fail? He discussed his recent findings on the 5 influencing factors for successful start-ups. Getting the team right, is the second most important factor behind the timing of the idea itself. It is interesting to see that getting the team right is even more critical than the idea itself.

  1. Timing of the idea
  2. Getting the right team
  3. The idea itself
  4. The business model
  5. Funding

This is an area of great passion for me, and as a result I have decided to write a book on the topic. The book is called Motivating Mavericks; The Secret to High Performing Teams, and draws on my experiences over the years in involvement as both a part of, and a key constructor of teams.

The book’s focus will be on the foundation, and continuous maintenance of, teams with the capacity to innovate and grow. At the heart of this book will be 3 habits and 5 strategies, whose meaning can be applied to any team situation. In addition to my personal experiences, I will draw on insights from CxOs, business leaders, and project teams.

3 Habits to build the right foundation. Motivation is what will get you started, but you need habits to maintain and keep going.

  • ATTITUDE – Making each day better than yesterday. Without the right, positive attitude nothing is possible in life.
  • CONFIDENCE – Be a paddling duck! Keep calm, the team and your customers need you to be a safe pair of hands.
  • RECOGNITION – You are not the hero! Make your team and the customers the hero.

5 Strategies to get your act together. Strategies without effective execution is just a dream.

1. Put a man on the moon (VISION)

Define the end goal. Have a clear vision with purpose & clarity. Does your team know where they are heading and why?

2. Lead with your heart (HEART)

Build a high energy, trusted and open culture. Make it fun for people to be in your team. Use your right brain (intuitive, thoughtful and subjective thinking). Does your team believe you actually care about them and do you?

3. Stay hungry (GROWTH)

Create a diverse environment with a growth hacking culture, rewards and recognition. Is this an environment where innovation and growth is a key part of your team culture?

4. Delight your raving fans (CUSTOMERS).

Listen to and serve your customers with a sense of urgency. Does your team really believe in a customer centric culture?

5. Stop wasting time (EXECUTION)

Actions speak louder than words. Don’t procrastinate as the leader and don’t let people go dark either. Use your left brain (logical, analytical and objective thinking). Are you the type of leader that gets things done or do you keep pontificating?

Knowing is not enough; we must apply.  Willing is not enough; we must do. Johann Wolfgang von Goethe


I plan to release the book by the end of this year. I would love to hear your views on any of the topics I have discussed here or any stories you would like to share with others.

You can visit my blog & also register to get updates on the topic as I plan for the launch in December.

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