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4 Steps To Building Authentic, Sustainable And Winning Teams Every Time

Written by: Lawrence (Larry) Dodd, Executive Contributor

Executive Contributors at Brainz Magazine are handpicked and invited to contribute because of their knowledge and valuable insight within their area of expertise.


If you lead people or aspire to lead people, the most important person that you must know is the person who looks back at you in the mirror. Success starts and ends there. But not for the reasons that you might think.

Know yourself thoroughly

In order to build and lead any team through change, you have to know yourself thoroughly. It is impossible to see the strengths of team members if you haven’t taken the time to understand 4 critical facts that great leaders embody:

  1. What you have to offer

  2. Where that will be needed

  3. What type of team members will strengthen the team

  4. What you can offer your team to inspire them to excellence

Simple equation, extremely hard to execute.

The hard truth about change

You might say that your organization and/or team is not going through change now. My response would be for you to look for another job soon. The simple fact is, and always has been, that if you are not changing to stay ahead of the market that you serve, you are setting yourself up for failure. Change happens faster than ever before, and the teams that don’t proactively drive change are walking backward because someone else is. In healthy organizations, change is happening all the time, and the only question is are you going forward or backward. There is no standing still.

1. Understand what you have to offer

Most of us think that we know what we want, at least on the surface. Things like more money, a better title, great company, company perks, prestige, and on and on. But these are very often only shiny rocks meant to draw our attention to the short term, to something much more temporary. As the old saying goes, when we focus on the temporary, we build our homes on sand. In and of themselves, these shiny rocks do not provide long-lasting, sustainable fulfillment but are only a gateway to the next bigger shiny rock. Looking for something outside of us (shiny rocks) to drive something inside of us (authenticity) sets us up to fail as authentic leaders.

Look inwards

The path to understanding what you have to offer is inward. By performing a fearless inventory of your experiences as defined by your stories, your one true currency as a leader, you can begin to hear the whispers of the true talents and strengths that you have to offer. When you clearly understand what you have to offer by examining your experience and stories, you can then begin to appreciate what others have to offer.

2. Understanding where what you have to offer will be needed

No road will get you there if you don’t know where you are going. Think about the shiny rocks noted above. If that is your driver, then your question becomes, “Can I Do What I Need to in Order to Get My Shiny Rock (money, title, great company, company perks, prestige, you pick).” Next, you build a story of accomplishments that you can use in the interview process to look like the shiny rock that the organization is looking for. If successful, you then begin with great enthusiasm, but soon the shiny rock is not as shiny. The answer, look for a new, better shiny rock; the process begins anew. Before you know it, your whole career is built on sand.

As a leader, your job is to inspire others to effectively multiply your contributions in an exponential manner. To bring out the best in your team and drive them to the best performance possible. You cannot do that in a sustainable manner if you are motivated by shiny rocks. It just will not work. People watch their leaders all the time to see if their actions match their words. If they do not, the leader loses credibility and, at best, gets average performance from a group of mercenaries. The reasons are that leaders often attract people with like values and those people do what they see modeled by the leader. They are chasing their own shiny rocks and have crafted their own stories to drive their own “individual short game.”

Put yourself in positions that value what you authentically have to offer

Leaders who know who they are, what they have to offer, and the specific situation that they are challenged by attract like-minded team members who are committed to a great cause for the right reasons. As leaders, we attract what we are, not what we say we are. Simply put, if, as a leader, you want to attract the best people, you must be the best leader. You must have a compelling answer to the question of how the best team members are going to become better as a result of having worked for you. Their growth and accomplishments, for you and others, as their career progresses, are the wake that you leave behind as the leader. They are your testament; why great people should continue to work for you. As a leader, you cannot fake it; this has to be earned by always challenging yourself to grow as a leader. Like attracts like.

3. Understand what will strengthen the team

There is a great temptation in organizations today to view team members based only on what they have done. Leaders too often seek new team members that have done the exact initiative before. When we look for people who have done the exact initiative before, we are effectively asking that person to stand still in the same place. To do more of the same. To work their magic again. That alone will not help to build a foundation on rock. Think about it. In this approach, we are task-focused based on our assessment of what our current team members have done and assuming that they cannot do anymore. Ever. Effectively, we are adopting a “plug and play” approach to people. If our job as a leader is to exponentially multiply our contribution through our team, we are setting ourselves up for failure.

Build teams based on diversity

The work that you do in Step One to know that person who looks back at you from the mirror is critical here more than ever. You cannot build an effective team if you don’t know what attitudes, talents, strengths, and blind spots that you, as the leader, have first. Too often, leaders build teams that are a clone of themselves. If one is good, then more must be better. Without doing the homework in step one, it is effectively the blind leading the blind. But when you have done that work and know that person who looks back in the mirror, you can build a team based on diversity in every respect.

Building a culture of productive conflict is next. Conflict is neither good nor bad; it is what we do with the conflict that makes good or bad. The leader sets the tone for this by selecting the right team with varying strengths, perspectives, and attitudes that put the success of the team first. No shiny rocks here.

To exponentially multiply their contributions, leaders must find out what team members can do and then inspire them to reach their potential. Do this, and you will build teams comprised of the right type of team members committed to a common goal.

4. Understand how to inspire your team

The enemy to successful team development and change initiatives can be summarized in one word: fear. Team members naturally wonder how they fit into the new world that is barreling their way. Often, they have no idea of what it looks like, what it takes to be successful, or if there can be a place for them in that future. Leaders who have not done the 3 steps above have intentionally or unintentionally led them straight to the enemy, fear. To make matters worse, the leader is often afraid themselves. That fear, combined with the previously mentioned “plug and play” mentality, closes people off. Closed-off team members drive more fear within; more fear within drives more closed-off team members and on and on and on. It is no wonder that 70% of change initiatives fail the first time. 70%! Think about that for a minute!

Invest in your team by sharing your stories

The most effective tools that any leader has are their stories, how they got where they are. Their successes. Their failures. What they learned. What they would do differently. That humility will build bridges to people that defeat fear and replaces it with faith in the team, the process, and the leaders. The cohesiveness leads to authentic, lasting success. Next, paint a clear, vivid picture of what the team and/or initiative will look like “a year from now” and then challenge your team to exceed it; make it better.

The path of choice

At the end of the day, it always comes back to choice. That choice starts with really knowing the person who looks back in the mirror at you every day. Your choice. Then another choice, and another, and another. Choose purposefully and wisely, and you will attract the best team members that have a genuine desire to get better. The reason. Simple. They will see you living it and will only have to look at your wake of success stories to see how working for you will move their career forward exponentially. A team of the best is getting better all the time!

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Lawrence (Larry) Dodd, Executive Contributor Brainz Magazine

OpenPlaybook™ was formed in 2011 by Larry Dodd to provide leaders and those who aspire to lead with a better way to build more effective teams, develop people and drive positive change initiatives to success. When combined with the right inward-facing tools and the will to use them, organizations change quicker, smarter, and with more confidence the first time.

The results are motivated teams of people who know what to do, how to do it, and who drive organizations to the next level.

For over 35 years, Lawrence (Larry) Dodd has served as a successful corporate change-maker by making change through people, not over them. Larry has served in leadership positions in Major League Baseball, Public and Private Home Building, and in the Not-For-Profit arenas, as well as logging over 17,000 consulting hours of driving successful change initiatives.

Larry is a Gallup-Certified Strengths Coach, employing strengths-based leadership in everything that OpenPlaybook™ does. As a National Speakers Association NorCal Affiliate Speaker, Larry brings an inspiring, meaningful, and impactful experience to his audiences.



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