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Your Recipe For Team Success Is Missing 1 Ingredient: This Framework

Teams fail to deliver big results on a regular basis. Here's how to cure that.

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It's a truism undoubtedly hard to swallow . . . but teams fail to deliver big results on a regular basis. Craig Ross, CEO of Littleton, CO-based professional coaching company Verus Global, sought to uncover why.


Related: The How-To: Building (And Managing) A Team For Your Startup

Ross and his co-authors (Do Big Things: The Simple Steps Teams Can Take to Mobilize Hearts and Minds and Make an Epic Impact) spent years observing teams before they themselves came to a realization. As Ross phrased it: "Most teams have the ingredients they need to succeed, such as talent and a great plan. What's often missing, however, is their 'special recipe': a method to creating the thinking and actions the team needs to execute the plan."

In response, Ross and those co-authors, Angela Paccione and Victoria Roberts, developed a seven-step system:

  • Commit to the human imperative.

  • Embody success and leverage failure.

  • Choose to contribute, activate and connect across the business.

  • Exercise barrier-breaking authority.

  • Focus on what matters.

  • Energize around a shared reality.

  • Propel mobile hearts and minds forward.

Related: 4 Smart Strategies for Managing a Small Team

Business leaders are adopting this method of managing teams, Ross told me. As a result, those leaders have reported seeing their people do big things. Here's how to copy their success with three steps:

1. Build a culture everyone understands.

Leaders can equip their teams with all the resources they need, but if the culture is unclear, they will fail. To set up a great culture, make sure all levels of employees understand what defines the company.

Franck Leveiller, the vice president and head of R&D at Fort Worth-based eye care company Alcon, said that for culture-building, he emphasizes the importance of language. "We use common language to create how we look forward, versus backwards," he said via email. "As a leadership team, you need to drive the culture agenda very hard. Whenever you communicate, repeat what culture you want, to build and give examples of success."

Start a "culture club" of employees from all levels, who understand the company's values, mission and vision. Leaders should identify which employees are putting values into action and living the company culture, then share those people's stories with the whole team at culture rallies.

By recognizing those who live and breathe the company's culture, leadership reinforces why culture is valuable and shows how everyone can play their part in further developing it.

2. Share what's in it for employees.

Employees often lose sight of team projects and feel disconnected from the bigger picture. Matt Reid, the CEO and president of Turlock, Calif.-based flavor solutions provider SupHerb Farms, says individual employees need to see how their project's success is beneficial to them before the entire team can accomplish its goal.

"Leadership must continuously ensure alignment and priorities are clear and resources are properly allocated to those priorities," he told me by email. "Leaders must work relentlessly to identify and clear obstacles so people can deliver their best-ever performance against constantly changing demands."

Provide visibility by creating for employees a project road map that includes progress-tracking plus details about rewards that they can earn after the project is completed. Post that "road map" in your office's collaboration area so employees can monitor their team's progress and then stay motivated by the rewards they receive.

Give each team member a destination guide that describes how each of his or her tasks contributes to the end result. This way, every employee can see how each task leads to the final product -- a completed team project.

Also, create open communication channels for employees to report obstacles to leadership. For example, start a private Slack channel for them to directly reach out for help. When they hit a wall, they can say what the obstacle is, how it's holding them back, what solutions they think can help and how much time they need to complete the task at hand.

3. Follow through.

Long-term success for teams doesn't come about when employees don't trust leadership. John Kreider, the SVP of the Advanced Technologies division at Houston-based engineering services provider Oceaneering, has a simple rule for creating long-term success.

"Be prepared to follow through," he said via email. "If you're not prepared to talk about core values and live them -- don't start. Lots of companies have values and mission statements. They say "people matter,' but then they don't act that way. If you say people matter, then you take care of them. You listen to them."

As Kreider explained to me, culture isn't created overnight or by leaders acting alone. Ensure that all levels of your company live by shared values, and hold everyone accountable.

Start a feedback system so employees can share their input about how the culture is defined and what actions align with it. Appoint a "culture czar" to work closely with the culture club to share stories of employees who embody the company's values.

This leader can also organize culture-building exercises, where other team leaders and members collaborate in building processes and programs. For example, they can all agree on how promotions should be earned and set up a fun employee-recognition program.

Related: 10 Ways to Successfully Manage Virtual Teams

These exercises will ensure that all business processes align with your company's culture and foster an environment of collaboration and dedication.

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