What I Learned From ChildrenAn Excerpt from Kimberly Cordell’s ”What I Learned From Children”

Christopher Avery here. I’ve known Kimberly most of our lives. She married one of my best buds and we’ve all stayed buds, so I’ve watched their three girls — who appear in the photos on every page of this book — grow into happy and talented women.

Beginning a few years ago, at the end of a day of teaching or volunteering as a red-nosed smiley clown at the hospital to cheer children, Kimberly would post a new “What I Learned From Children” insight on Facebook. I found inspiring her perceptions and translations of what kids brought to her day. I’m so glad Kimberly gathered those posts into this book.

Here is an excerpt — fitting for this blog, about teamwork — from “What I Learned From Children.” (I suggest buying extra copies as gifts. I did.)

Be Good and help

Psalms 121: 2
My help cometh from the Lord, which made heaven and earth.
~
Many hands can make more work,
but teamwork gets the job done.

Kimberly Cordell

Kimberly Cordell

Kimberly Cordell is a retired elementary school teacher, dividing her time between Charleston, South Carolina, and Ashtabula, Ohio. Married to Stuart Cordell, they have three lovely daughters together from whom they still learn lessons every day.

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In one of my latest posts, I explained why you’d want to Select Team Members for Commitment, Not Skills.

This might feel counter-intuitive at first, but if your team comes together over commitment, skills will follow.

Another thing that might sound counter-intuitive: teammates don’t have to like each other.

You’ll achieve better cohesion when the group outcome is aligned — how the individual team members get along should come secondary.

Many teambuilders start their work by thinking. “I need to get the team members to like each other better so they’ll be a better team.”

Investing in team members’ attractiveness to each other is not my first strategy. A better strategy is to encourage affinity to a shared task (project, initiative, objective, etc.) instead of affinity to each other.

That has proven to be the fastest and surest way to create strong group cohesion. But how does this work in practice?

Instead of using techniques and exercises to promote friendship, work to get everyone to adopt a common focus so that each team member sees good reasons to work with others.

Free market economics teaches us to act in our own self-interest. Many team experts teach that individuals must subordinate their own interests for the sake of the group’s success. I see a few problems with this:

  1. It’s contradictory (and therefore unrealistic) to expect people working in competitive cultures to subordinate their self- interests to the group.
  2. And secondly, there’s no necessary or logical connection between subordination and successful, powerful teamwork.

A more effective practice is to use people’s self-interest to seed powerful teamwork.

For each individual, discover how she can win when the team wins. The easiest and best way to do this is to ask. When you align individual and collective outcomes in this way, you will have true collaboration.

Once that is done, see if team members don’t like each other better.

Get Started With This 5-Minute Practice Tip

Think of a teammate with whom you have often felt competitive and ask yourself this question: what could we pursue as partners that would increase the likelihood of each of us reaching our desired outcome?

And here is a challenge for the whole team: begin a group discussion with the question, “What is our team’s task?” Make sure people are clear about the task and that everyone is committed to achieving it.

In the future, when conflict or interpersonal tension arises, have everyone revisit this conversation to seek realignment.

Leaders and coaches: Get Christopher’s best team building and leadership strategies collected over two-plus decades of solving teamwork problems for smart people. Get this FREE Special Report while it lasts: The Five Flawless Steps to Building a Strong Executive Leadership Team.

Christopher Avery, PhD, is a recognized authority on how individual and shared responsibility works in the mind and an advisor to leaders worldwide.

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big world(Christopher here. We are grateful to Bevilledge.com for allowing us to re-publish this post for you.)

Getting Out of My Bubble…It’s a Big World Out There

It was 4 am on a Thursday, and I found myself driving to the airport. It is early in the morning like this when my brain is the least conditioned. Deep thought comes easy when the rest of the world is still quiet or asleep.

As I entered the airport expecting to see a ghost town, I was surprised to find a line of at least 25 people waiting to get to the same airline counter I was attempting to reach.

Naturally, I went into Denial – how could so many people be aiming for the same goal I was so early in the morning on a Thursday? Continue reading

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Lessons in ResponsibilityGuest Post by Cathy Laffan

Christopher Avery here. With pleasure I welcome Cathy Laffan again to this blog. Cathy is an innovative executive with a global financial services firm. She shares a love for responsible leadership. Read more about Cathy at the end of her post. Enjoy.

Now that I am aware of The Responsibility Process™, I learn lessons in responsibility from all aspects of my life.

Two important women in my life regularly teach me lessons without even knowing it. Meet ‘Jane’ and ‘Lucy.’

These two women have many things in common, including; humble beginnings, upsets in life, devoted wives and mothers, religious beliefs, financial limitations, illness, and being big-hearted, caring, and genuine.

Despite these similarities, Jane and Lucy deal with life’s upsets very differently.

When Jane experiences one of life’s upsets, without fail, her first reaction is denial. She only moves out of denial when Continue reading

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power of focusIn a society with so many distractions from people to television, phones, music, and social media, focus can be extremely hard to tap into.

As I continue to study different leaders and leadership practices, the concept of focusing seems to come up everywhere.

After being booted from his own company and returning more than a decade later one great leader, Steve Jobs, said the key to being a leader, a CEO, a visionary, was focus. This became the leadership mantra for Steve Jobs as he brought Apple back to life. Continue reading

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commitment vs. skillsTrust me, if you come together over commitment, skills will follow. But if you select team members for skills, then needed commitment might never appear.

Conventional wisdom on teambuilding advises leaders to first attend to creating the “right” skill mix as they assemble teams. I disagree!

I have observed time and time again that skills are much less critical to responsible relationships and high performance on teams than is aligned motivation, energy, enthusiasm, and interest.

Don’t get me wrong, I demand the best fit in terms of skills for a job, but managing the skill fit is a project management concern, not a team leadership concern. It’s important to not confuse the two.

I have seen “teams” with all the right skills perform miserably. And I have seen teams without all the “right” skills but broad alignment and high enthusiasm perform at extraordinary levels.

Consider this example from sports: for many years during the 1980s and 1990s the New York Yankees baseball team had the greatest talent money could buy, yet they often got beat by teams with much less talent.

Why do you think that was the case? Why didn’t they win the World Series every year?

3 Reasons Why Commitment Trumps Skills

  1. Talent doesn’t created teamwork — shared commitment and desire does.
  2. Low motivation is more infectious in teams than high motivation. Even highly skilled freeloaders will rapidly bring down a team’s performance level.
  3. Skilled individuals act within their roles. Committed team members do what needs to be done for the team — they improvise.

The solution: if teamwork is important to you, choose team members for their motivation first and their skills second.

 

Get Started With This 5-Minute Practice Tip

Reflect on the experience you have accumulated while participating in the last few teams. How were your skills and commitment treated during the selection and start-up process?

Remember a negative team experience and imagine how things might have been different if commitment had been addressed first, before skills. Would the team have performed better?

Dare to make commitment the priority the next time you assemble your next team.

Team challenge; discuss with your team the implication of placing “commitment over skills.” How will this priority work to your advantage?

Leaders and coaches: Get Christopher’s best team building and leadership strategies collected over two-plus decades of solving teamwork problems for smart people. Get this FREE Special Report while it lasts: The Five Flawless Steps to Building a Strong Executive Leadership Team.

Christopher Avery, PhD, is a recognized authority on how individual and shared responsibility works in the mind and an advisor to leaders worldwide.

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Scotty and Christopher onstage

Scotty Bevill and Christopher Avery present The Chaos of Leadership (and The Leadership of Chaos)

Awareness. Intention. Integration. Confront. Contribution. These five words make up the foundation of my leadership study.

Earlier this year, Christopher and Scotty shared a stage for the first time and spent time talking about these words and the concepts behind them.

It was one of the most powerful presentations I’ve ever witnessed. Since being put online, I have re-watched it a dozen times, each time finding a new nugget of brilliance that I toss around my head for the next week. Continue reading

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Be Present To WinGuest Post by Cathy Laffan

Christopher Avery here. With pleasure I welcome Cathy Laffan again to this blog. Cathy is an innovative executive with a global financial services firm. She shares a love for responsible leadership. Read more about Cathy at the end of her post. Enjoy.

You Need to Be Present To Win

I work closely with a respected colleague and friend on a number of critical work items. Since we’re both busy and attend many meetings, we have scheduled a standing weekly meeting to catch up.

I recognize that my colleague is busy, so I dutifully keep a running list for the purpose of conducting an efficient meeting. Sounds reasonable, right?

Our last few meetings have been frustrating for me. I made my list, called into our meeting on schedule, and after the usual niceties, launched into my list.

Continue reading

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tit-for-tat Practice tit-for-tat to make collaborators aware of their responsibility for the relationship.

There are two rules to tit-for-tat:

  1. always cooperate on your first interaction with someone
  2. on each successive interaction, follow the other person’s lead.

Tit-for-tat is a workable, proven formula for increasing cooperation under competitive conditions.

Derived from game theory, computer science, and evolutionary psychology, tit-for-tat is

  • the simplest and most straightforward strategy for maximizing the potential of the relationship for each party
  • and for getting out of a relationship quickly if the actions of other party puts you at risk of losing.

If the other party follows the same strategy, both of you will make trusting opening moves when the relationship begins. Then each successive interaction will be one of trust, mutual support, and collaboration, and neither party will defect on the other.

If the other party does not cooperate with you (i.e. breaks an agreement or takes advantage of you), then your next move will be to refuse to cooperate with them.

Tit-for-tat can be an effective way of building a relationship in the following ways:

In a new relationship, always be willing to make a contribution to the team that will not leave you feeling at risk if not matched by others. Then do what you said you’d do and see if the other team members make similar contributions. If they do, then tit-for-tat rules suggest you keep making contributions to the team. If they don’t contribute, then tit-for-tat rules suggest you should reconsider your original contributions.

When you choose to remain “locked into” a relationship (like staying in a job that requires you to work with others), make sure the other parties understand that

  1. you will never defect on them
  2. they can be in charge of the quality of the relationship: if they support you, you will support them; if they defect on you, you will withdraw your support from them.

Make sure to follow through.

Do not tolerate defection — but don’t be overly punitive or self-righteous either. Getting even is not a move in tit-for-tat. When you match the other party’s defection, always do so with equal or lesser force. If you match the other person’s defection with greater force, the other party is likely to take your move as a signal to escalate.

What about compassion and second chances?

Advanced research on tit-for-tat says that the best strategy is to forgive a defection on occasion and chalk it up to unclear thinking. In this case, talk to the other party and tell them your intention to cooperate with them if they will cooperate with you too. Then make another contribution (even though they defected on you on the last move). This is often a turnaround strategy.

Get Started With This 5-Minute Practice Tip

Think of a relationship in which

  • defections sometimes occur and often turn into escalations
  • you are committed to increasing collaboration.

Then adopting compassionate tit-for-tat as your own strategy. As you think things through, consider what you need to change about your own behavior to make this strategy viable.

Leaders and coaches: Get Christopher’s best team building and leadership strategies collected over two-plus decades of solving teamwork problems for smart people. Get this FREE Special Report while it lasts: The Five Flawless Steps to Building a Strong Executive Leadership Team.

Christopher Avery, PhD, is a recognized authority on how individual and shared responsibility works in the mind and an advisor to leaders worldwide.

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responsibilityThere have been countless times over the past few years that I have wanted to give up and give in to the way that society functions – where accountability and responsibility are more of a great idea than something practiced.

It normally comes after watching someone who cheats and lies get to the top. It has even left me with the impression that in order to climb the corporate ladder, I must also partake in these questionable activities.

Continue reading

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