Tag Archives: leadership teams

5 Keys For Developing An Amazing Team!

SPECIAL NOTE: For this post, I decided to invite a new friend of mine to share his wisdom wth you. Bob Spence was introduced to me by the Founder & CEO of 4X Holdings, Jim Walker. Bob’s wisdom runneth over. He shares some very practical thoughts that will help you build a powerful team. Let me know what you think. – Todd


By: Bob Spence, current Vistage Florida Chair & Founder and former CEO of  Creative-Leadership Consultants

Most businesses claim to have a management team, or perhaps they call it a leadership team. But, is it really an amazing team? What is an amazing team? How do you go about developing an amazing team? I have worked with leaders and teams for the past 35 plus years. From this experience, observation, and interviews, I believe there are 5 keys to developing and having an amazing team.

Before taking the first step, you must be a committed leader who not only wants an amazing team, but is willing to be vulnerable, communicative, and accountable. And, it is assumed that you have recruited, selected, hired, and nurtured the right people who are a fit and match for the company’s culture.

1 – A Driving Purpose

When I interview leaders I usually ask them, “what is your driving purpose?” I want to know their passion. I want to know why they believe they exist. I want to know if they are clear about their core beliefs and values. If the leader does not have clarity, the team will never reach consensus about their driving purpose. And it is the responsibility of the leader to help the team define the team’s driving purpose. You will never have a cohesive team without clarity about purpose, not only individually, but also as a group.

2 – Core Values

Over the past 35 years I have worked with many companies helping them to hire the right fit and match for their teams. In fact, I have completed over 300 retained searches. The first question I ask a potential client is, “may I have a copy of your company core values?” I can’t begin to tell you how many times I was told that they did not have any identified. In those cases, I declined the engagement. Core values lie at the very heart and identity of the team. They govern everything that the team says and does. If you are sincere about developing an amazing team, then you will take the time and effort to define your core values.

3 – Mission and Vision

If you want to develop an amazing team you will have your mission and vision statements in writing and shared with all. And if you genuinely want to attract candidates who share your values, you will share this with the public. Mission and Vision Statements are not novels. Keep them brief. The statements must be meaningful and reflect your core values and driving purpose.

4 – Operating Principles

This is all about our behaviors. Effective operating principles provide structure without bureaucracy. Well crafted operating principles spell out how the team will communicate, solve problems, make decisions, resolve conflict, relate to each other, conduct our meetings, set standards of performance, and how they, plan to name a few. Without these, you will never have an amazing team.

5 – Clear Roles, Responsibilities and Expectations

So, you want an amazing team? Then get clarity immediately as to roles, specific responsibilities and expectations. There are traditional titles in companies which designate the following roles: sales, marketing, finance, human resources, IT, customer service, and operations. Want an amazing team? Work with your people and spell out what each role really involves! Take the necessary tine to delineate the responsibilities and expectations for each role. From this you can work with each individual to develop clear performance metrics!

Years ago I learned an acronym for a high performing team while attending a training program at the Ken Blanchard Companies and I believe it connects well with my 5 Keys!

High performing teams are: (PERFORM)

  • P – Productive
  • E – Have Empathy for each other
  • R – Roles and Goals are clear
  • F – Flexibility
  • O – Open Communication
  • R – Recognition is shared
  • M – Morale is consistently high

Bob Spence completed his Bachelor’s and Master’s Degrees at Bowling Green State University in Ohio, and also has done Ph.D. work at BGSU. (ABD) At BGSU he received the Distinguished Service Award. Bob founded Creative-Leadership Consultants, a human resources company, in San Diego, California, and grew it to 15 professionals and 4 licensee offices. He has experience in construction, manufacturing, retail, services and high technology. Bob is based in Orlando, Florida, serves clients throughout the United States. He is also a Vistage Florida Chair and a Senior Resource for Vistage International. In 2016 he received the HR Lifetime Achievement Award from Columbus CEO Magazine. He can be reached at his email address: bobsp@me.com

What Can You Learn From Waggl’s Success?

SPECIAL NOTE: For this post, I decided to catch up with one of our very popular podcast guests. Not only can we learn from Michael Papay and his team about leading at the speed of growth, but his company, Waggl, offers us some insights into relevant and timely data about what is happening across the spectrum in other fast-growth companies. Enjoy and let me know what you think. – Todd


Interview with Michael Papay, Co-Founder & CEO of Waggl

Q1: What is Waggl doing now that has has captured the attention of so many business leaders?

I think what we’re doing really well is making feedback and insights come to life. Surveys are a bit of a commodity, there’s tons of different options, but how do you get feedback in a way that makes it actionable? That’s where the magic lies, and that’s what business leaders find valuable.

  • Crowdsourcing: Generates alignment
  • Transparency: Creates accountability and pressure for action
  • Visualization: Makes complex things simple

All those things are making feedback a lot more approachable and getting leaders excited about the leverage and power they can drive in their organization through listening.

Q2: How many total people do you have on the Waggl team right now?

We have grown from just a few, and the growth has been really exciting. All told we have just under 50 people involved in building out this business and platform.

Q3: How many members of the Waggl team report directly to you? Can you break out their title and responsibilities for us?

Our true competitive advantage at Waggl is our focus on action, and our focus on creating a great culture. We have a modern day organizational structure designed to really reinforce our culture, and our values of being employee first. We don’t really have formal direct reports and managers, we’re building an organization that’s not hierarchical, but flat. With that said we have four key functional areas:

  • Marketing
  • Sales
  • Customer success
  • Product development
  • Cross functional support around product management, administration, operations, strategy, innovation

At the end of the day, teams hold other teams accountable, and individuals hold themselves accountable for producing the results we need to achieve their goals.

Q4: Since we last spoke with you in June 2015 on the “From Founder To CEO” podcast, Waggl has earned tremendous revenue growth. What have you learned about growing?

We are just trying to drink our own champagne of what we are offering organizations in more frequent feedback loops, more opportunities for conversation, and authentic dialogue. I underestimated the amount of time and energy those activities take. When you’re moving fast it’s really easy to get out of alignment, and that’s when inefficiencies and slow downs occur.

Q5: What have you found to be the most effective communication tools, techniques, and practices to keep your team focused?

One thing we do on a daily basis is an all-company daily meeting. It’s everyone’s opportunity to check in, and give a quick update. It’s an opportunity to ask for help if you need it. More important than the group accountability is the opportunity to reinforce the culture, share stories of success, and share challenges that allow us to build and reinforce our culture on a daily basis.

We then complement that with a monthly finance transparency jam, and a quarterly check in using Waggl in the areas of culture, strategy, and engagement.

All these things enable an increased dialogue around what we are focused on. These are the tools that enable more focused engagement and dialogue.

Q6: Can you share one team leadership mistake you have made in the past year? How has it shaped your leadership as the Founder & CEO?

I think the biggest mistake that we can make is rushing the hiring process. There’s big pressure to grow, and you need more talent to fuel growth. Sometimes it’s easy to cut corners and bring people in without having enough internal dialogue, and making sure that there is a strong values fit for the organization. We’ve had a couple instances of that where it created internal friction. Ultimately this costs more and slows things down than doing it right from the beginning.

Q7: Do you use Waggl for your team? What have you learned about Team Waggl that has surprised you in the past year?

We of course use it on a quarterly basis. We use it ad-hoc in certain areas, and then have a quarterly rhythm of checking in. What surprised us was one response that surfaced about being careful about talking over one another when you’re on a video hangout. People connecting remotely on video sometimes felt like they were being talked down. That comment got voted to the bottom of our process, but raised our collective consciousness and value system.

As a group we focused on that and began to make improvements so it didn’t happen anymore. So, many times people stop one another, and we are more mindful when talking. There’s a powerful shift there, rather than me owning the improvements.

The collective group is clear about our values and we collectively decide what we want to work on from the findings of Waggl.

Q8: The Waggl platform gives you and your team trending insights into team dynamics and organizational excellence in the marketplace. What trends are you seeing about effective team leadership right now?

Often times when you ask employees what they want more of, they want more visibility into strategic areas of the business. They want more visibility into the health of the business, and access to leadership. They want more communication throughout all those areas.

Organizations are changing quickly and to maintain that level of agility, employees need to remove the blinders and get more context into what is going on. That empowers them to make the right decisions and to make them faster.

It’s clear that employees want more transparency, visibility, and authenticity to become better partners in their business.

Q9: What does the future hold for Waggl? 

It’s really exciting. We’re coming off of a year where we grew our business by a factor of 6x. At some time it’s not possible to maintain that growth, but we are bullish on being able to do 2.5 or 3x this year.

We as a company have had a conversation about what we think we can do next year. The lens that we look through is what is a growth rate that is fast enough, and allows us to be the premier brand in employee listening while retaining our culture.

Ultimately we believe focusing this way will create a great organization, and a great brand.

The Dangers of Team Imbalance

SPECIAL NOTE: For this post, I am turning over my blog to the Co-Founder & CEO of Cloverleaf, a startup that is shaking things up in the team building technology space. He writes about something that I have seen time and again and something many guests on my podcast have discovered over the course of time. Let me know what you think . – Todd


By: Darrin Murriner, Co-Founder & CEO of Cloverleaf

The word “balance” is a tricky word – it implies that there are two opposing extremes. Expenses or revenue, assets or liabilities and offense or defense to name a few.

Let’s start with the sports example of offense and defense. Most recent examples of sports champions were teams that had strong offenses and defenses, not a high powered offense and a disastrous defense. Sure Tom Brady has orchestrated perhaps one of the best offenses the NFL has seen in decades, but without solid, if not top tier defenses during his five Super Bowl appearances, where would the New England Patriots be?

The same could be said for great teams in business. However, with business, balancing the team is much more complex than having both a solid defense and offense. Balancing teams in the workplace is a more elusive concept to grasp.

Sure, if you manage a team of accountants it’s easy to focus on whether the accountants  have CPA certifications or whether members of the Sales team have grown territories in previous roles and by how much. The problem with this focus though, is that it ignores many other aspects that are critical when it comes to team success. For example, what about the strengths individuals bring that lie outside the CPA certification or sales track records?

Allow me to go back to the NFL example. Each year during the NFL combine, I am amazed at how teams put top draft picks through an incredible battery of tests – many of which seem to measure things that would likely have little to do with on-field success. Even with these well documented, often bizarre assessment approaches, they often overlook some of the most critical factors when it comes to success. Team Fit.

I have seen incredible talent year after year go wasted by trying to force players into an offensive or defensive system that doesn’t fit their style as a quarterback, linebacker, etc. Don’t get me wrong, managers often talk of fit when putting a new project team together or hiring for an open position, but ask that manager how they quantify fit and it usually comes back to superficial measures that are very subjective at best.

I am the President and cofounder of Cloverleaf, a team assessment platform that has hundreds of teams profiled. I have yet to find one that strikes balance.

In Cloverleaf, one of the ways that we measure balance is by defining team roles, not functional roles. We use Meredith Belbin’s research on team dynamics that defines eight distinct roles that need to be performed on a team in order to experience success. While this is one way to think about balance on a team there are many other approaches to evaluating balance; strengths, skills, personality and experience to name a few.

So how can you tell if you lack balance on your team? Sure, you could use the Cloverleaf platform. But in the absence of a framework like Cloverleaf to think about balance, there are some clear signs of imbalance that could be a harbinger of underperformance on the teams you lead.

Clear Gaps in Performance

If you or other team members have ever said, “we are just not good at [fill in the blank]” then it is likely caused by the lack of a necessary skill. This is typical of teams that lack a skill set.

During the early days of Cloverleaf we struggled with communicating exactly what we did in the form of an elevator pitch. We were defining a new category that was partly HR technology and partly project technology so there was no clear example that people could frame our solution within. As a result, we would often find ourselves leaving a conversation saying “we have to get better at communicating what we do”. It was a clear indicator that we needed a brand strategist and we added a co-founder that could help us clarify our messaging.

Unhealthy Competition

While there are many possible causes of unhealthy competition, the most common cause is a lack of balance on the team. Whether you know it or not, there could be multiple people on the team trying to play the same role. The lack of awareness regarding this could be causing friction with others that also perceive their strengths and experiences as being best utilized in that role.

This redundancy can show up as competition. You may have just felt like you were taking the initiative by setting up that brainstorming meeting, but others that also bring ideas to the team could feel as though they are losing their place on the team. That fear could drive them to exhibit competitive responses.

Lack of Diversity

This one can be dangerous on many levels and one of the most dangerous is that it can masquerade as high performance. Because everyone acts and thinks the same, there can be a high level of team agreement and cohesion.

But looks can be deceiving and what you may not see is that because you lack different perspectives you are actually missing opportunities. You are also easily able to develop groupthink and mistake the team cohesion as high performance, when in actuality the outside perspective is quite different.

These environments can shut out others with different experiences or backgrounds. Talent could self select out or worse, there may be one isolated person that feels alone and disengaged.

The recent marketing campaign by Pepsi that was labeled “tone deaf” was the likely the result of such a team – you can read more about that ad and the team that made it here.

No Clear Signs of Growth

Possibly the most telling sign of an imbalanced team is one that lacks clear signs of long-term growth. This includes individual growth of its team members and overall lack of long-term influence to impact its mission.

Teams that are technically strong can often seem like they are performing well because they are so technically competent. However, they may lack a clear long-term vision and can become stale or lack influence organizationally. This lack of vision and influence will ultimately erode performance – often as a result of high performers moving on for other opportunities or because morale starts to sag.

If you see any of these clear signs of team imbalance it might be time to rethink the key team elements needed for success. It could be time to look beyond skill and experience and starting thinking about the team makeup in new and different ways.

Darrin Murriner is the cofounder of Cloverleaf, a team building technology platform. Darrin has over 15 years of corporate experience leading teams and growing businesses. He is also the author of Corporate Bravery, a book about building great corporate cultures. Darrin has helped create multiple successful startups in the childcare, software and media industries. A through line of these experiences is great teams and formed the basis of his current work at Cloverleaf.me.

080 — Brian Wong


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Podcast Summary:

Brian Wong was one of the youngest company leaders to ever receive funding from a venture capital firm. While that in and of itself is quite the achievement, he has also done the even more difficult task of growing and scaling the company to almost 90 people and $10-12 million in annual revenue. He shares his insights about:

  • Where he got the idea for Kiip.
  • Why he enjoys management.
  • How he uses his youth to his advantage as a young CEO.
  • His favorite “management moments.”
  • What he thinks the job of Founding CEO actually is.
  • Why he thinks it’s so important to finish what you started.
  • What he learned about building an executive team.

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