Archives for May 2013

Building a High Performance Team? Who’s your Glue?

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Grade schoolers, at least in my Old School Days learned about the wonders of GLUE early on.

Elmer's glue

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Ahhh the wonders of the sticky stuff to hold things together, like paper mache.

glue in the classroom

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Glue is even more important on teams.  By definition, teams need to be “stuck together,” working towards a common goal, and having each other’s back.

The problem is, Sal from accounting wouldn’t appreciate a thin layer of Elmer’s being applied to his fore-arms and then pressed to his colleague across the hall.  Although the image is intriguing!

So what takes the place of the magical Elmer’s?

People.  Check that:

People with the right skill and desire that have the ability to replace the function of Glue.  I’m not talking about the social butterflies, (although this matters too), I’m talking about the players that can bring people together in a way that ADVANCES YOUR BUSINESS.  

This is not your garden variety role player on your team.

It takes a special kind of person that can pull a team together.

Critical Elements Needed For Your team Glue player
  • NOT the leader – By definition, the leader has position authority.  
    • You want your glue player to have peer to peer influence to extend the leader’s impact.  So scratch the chief off the list.  
  • Street Cred – The glue can only be so effective if they are not a solid performer.  Street Cred comes by achievement, real results.
    • Results = Respect for what matters in business.
  • Keeps CONFIDENCE – Nothing destroys team morale and effectiveness more than someone who does not exercise discretion and confidentiality.  Trust = Mandatory.  Question this, move on to next candidate.
    • The Glue needs to hear the “big picture goals and problems,” let them sink in, then go off on their own to help carry a message and lead by example.  But NOT betray the leaders or other team member’s confidence.
  • Understands human emotion – Let’s face it, if everyone was persuaded by A to Z logic, business would be easy.
    • The reality is that emotion under-cuts all behavior.  The Glue needs to understand this and be able to connect with diverse personalities.  Flexing of styles mandatory to apply adhesion.  Listening is directly tied in.  As is CARING.
  • Is intentional – Inertia is alive and well in business.  The GLUE needs to be a catalyst to break it.  So they need a flame that consistently burns, brings people together to work on problems, advance the cause and deal with key objectives.
    • There needs to be a strong element of HUSTLE that is core with the Glue.

All teams have respected individuals at the top of the food chain.  They are candidates to be your Glue.  But be careful.

Make sure they have the critical elements to break the log jam and bring the team together.  Remove other elements above and you have a skilled individual.  But you don’t have Glue.

Find the team player that can function as Glue, you probably have an impact player with great Leadership ability.  Stretch them.  Promote them.  Do what it takes to keep them engaged and motivated, although if they have the elements, they are easy to motivate.


Missing anything?  Drop your comments below, would love to hear from you.


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When Teams Watch Each Other’s Back

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In business, as in sports, there is simply nothing more powerful than a team of talented players working towards the same goal.


There is nothing more powerful than a team of talented players, working towards the same goal, THAT HAS EACH OTHER’s Back.

Forest Carrying Bubba From The Battlefield

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The Yankees are my team outside of business.  People often take shots at the Yankees because their payroll is always tops in the league, fueled by the biggest market and the overwhelming success of their own TV network (YES).  Their standard is always the highest in the land: Championship or Bust.

It is easy to be spoiled as a Yankee Fan.  They will never get out-spent.  Their history is deep, with some of the most iconic figures in sports history.  But any great team realizes that there are no guarantees, regardless of money, luck in the draft or good fortune of player health.

Games are won on the field, not on paper.  If the team does not play together and have each other’s back, the championship will not be won.  Period.  Every year, how a team “gels” is usually the hardest thing to predict.  Chemistry matters.  It is also hard to measure.

Chemistry may not be everything needed to make a good team great, but it is pretty darn close.

I still remember a night in May, over 15 years ago.

May 15, 1998.  One of the ugliest brawls in major league baseball history.  Yankees vs. Orioles in the house of that Ruth Built.

“You don’t throw at Tino Martinez; the Yankees have shown that before.”

Guess what, if you were an opposing pitcher, you would be a fool to throw at ANY Yankee on this team.

When I watched this video there were some faces that stand out.  Graham Loyd.  Joe Girardi.  Jeff Nelson.  Scott Brosious.  Daryl Strawberry.  Joe Torre.  Paul O’neill.  A couple were super stars, but most simply were role players.  Their anger is palpable.

One of their players went down, and they simply were not going to stand for that.

If you are a Yankee Fan, you knew the teams in the late ’90’s had a degree of heart and chemistry that was special, and some say it’s been missing ever since.

Great teamwork, and the chemistry that results is a difference maker in the pursuit of EXCELLENCE.  Hard to measure, hard to quantify.  Just like HEART.  CARING.  Being invested in a goal bigger than your OWN.

In business, Leadership is about developing, listening and inspiring those around you to play like a team.  And it starts with each team member watching over each other’s back.

When the team collectively agrees that they won’t stand for “Throwing at Tino,” sleep well.  Great results always follow.
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The Leadership Choice-Attitude: Debbie Downer or Larry the Cable Guy?

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A classic Old School Principle has to do with one’s ATTITUDE.

Attitude, like HUSTLE is one of the critical CHOICES in life.

Notice I used the word CHOICE.

Optimism vs. Pessimism is certainly an aspect of attitude.  Viewing the world through a glass half full lens vs. half empty certainly matters, but it extends beyond this.

There tends to be a very DISTINCT WORK STYLE people bring to the party, with attitude under-cutting that style.

Let’s deal with the two extremes:

Meet Debbie Downer (DD).

Debbie Downer- Negative Attitude Kills productivity

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In the business world, we all know DD.  At her worst, Debbie can suck the life out of room.  She can take a joyous celebration and find tragedy in it.  But usually, the Saturday Night Live character is NOT that blatant in real life.  But the impact is the same.  Signs you may be dealing with Debbie…

  • Risk tolerance, or willingness to change always seems to be minimal.  You could be dealing with massive challenges, yet you find yourself always having to “sell a case” to DD why you need to change course.  
  • Their lack of change willingness may be rooted in experience, something like trying to teach the old dog new tricks.
    • “Industry norms, been there done that.  Can’t work.  Not by the book.”  Having bad results?  DD will almost always go back   to the past for solutions vs. plowing new land in the present and future.  Works great in stability.  In hyper-competitive low margin, low share businesses, this approach can be deadly.
  • More energy is spent telling you why something can’t work, vs. rolling up the sleeves to figure out a new and unique way.
  • Always seems to be a victim of circumstances vs. someone that will identify and solve problems.
Meet Larry The Cable Guy.  Known for his Mantra:  “Git-R- Done!”

Larry The Cable Guy - Get it Done!  Bias For Action wins in business

Image Credit:  Ticket Master

Larry’s are more rare in the business world, but they exist.  When you deal with Larry….

  • Git-R-Done!- The mantra is optimistic by nature.  We can do this!
  • Their default position is ACTION.  They don’t get distracted by noise and are biased to throw energy at solving a problem vs. complaining
  • Because of the bias for action, they are less likely to get sucked into negative water cooler chatter, dare I say gossip?
  • They are not master delegators; they get DIRT UNDER THEIR NAILS.

Larry and Debbie are the 2 ends of the spectrum with Attitude.  Again, you have the choice to associate with 1, both or neither.

Why does it matter?

  • Guilt by association is real.  Keep good company, company that accelerates your results, not slows you down
  • Attitude tends to be contagious.
    • Ever engage in a bitch session that lasts 30 minutes longer than “healthy venting.”  Then you agree, attitudes, positive and negative can rub off easily.

Action:  Try This

1)  Find the best representation of Larry in your office.  Offer to take him/her out for a cup of coffee or drink at your local tavern.  Ask them a few questions that matter.

2)  Do the same with Debbie Downer.  It pains me to tell you to do the same (invest time and some pocket change).

3)  Compare the differences between the 2 encounters.  Write down a summary of each meeting.  Use a tool from the Old School (Flashcard) to keep it simple.

Most importantly, ask yourself:

If you doubled your time in the trenches with Larry The Cable Guy, and eliminated your time with Debbie Downer, wouldn’t your life change dramatically?

So what are you waiting for?

Attitude Reflects Leadership, Remember The Titans

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The “Snap Back” Moments of Memorial Day

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This past week I had the opportunity to hear Coach Mike Krzyzewski “Coach K” speak in Chicago.

His talk focused on one of my favorite topics:   Team Leadership.  

Coach K centered the speech mostly on his role as Team USA’s head coach.  The part that struck me was his talk about the US military and his background with the US Military Academy.  He summed it up well.

Our US Military is so good….they ensure that THEIR “games” are always played away, and not home.

How many countries can claim that?

Coach K Team USA Head Coach, Leadership

After coming home from a week on the road, I caught myself playing “woe is me!”  First, I have this week off, and for a person that makes his living building and executing plans, I have NO vacation plans!  That started getting me down, albeit briefly.  Second, I started noticing all the talk on TV and Social Media about Memorial Day being the “unofficial start of summer.”  Summer always conjures up great images and smiles that accompany them.

  • Vacation
  • BBQ’s with friends & family
  • Fireworks
  • Fairs & Festivals
  • Ice Cream.  Hot Dogs & Hamburgers.
  • The Ocean.  The Lake.  Splashing around.  Laughing.
  • The Beach.  Making Sandcastles with your kids.  The Boardwalk.
  • If you’re a Jersey boy like I am, YES, the Jersey Shore where you will see all of the above.

Summer is all of these things, and Memorial Day marks the start of many of them.

While breezing through some powerful images on Twitter, I had another one of those “snap back” moments.

USA Hero

Snap Back

Memorial Day is about being grateful for those heroes who have died in the line of fire for our country’s freedom.  It’s about being thankful that there are self-less people who serve our country and defend our freedom.  Recognizing that our fighting force is the greatest on the planet.

And yes, it is about recognizing that vacation plans, vacations themselves only exist because we had people come before us, making the ultimate sacrifice.  And there are people away from home this very moment, defending our freedom.  Life’s greatest heroes.
Memorial Day Matters.


Not because it’s the start of summer, or the start of vacation.

Memorial Day matters because our great American Heroes have made both of them possible.


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Smart Marketing or a Loss of Humanity @ Abercrombie?

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A business insider story, which ironically reported news that is over 5 years old caught the world by storm last week.  The CEO of Abercrombie & Fitch clothing retailer had some controversial statements about who they market too, and more importantly, who they do NOT want to associate with.

Abercrombie & Fitch CEO

‘In every school there are the cool and popular kids, and then there are the not-so-cool kids. Candidly, we go after the cool kids. We go after the attractive all-American kid with a great attitude and a lot of friends.  A lot of people don’t belong [in our clothes], and they can’t belong. Are we exclusionary? Absolutely. Those companies that are in trouble are trying to target everybody: young, old, fat, skinny. But then you become totally vanilla. You don’t alienate anybody, but you don’t excite anybody, either.’”

I will assume this quote is 100% accurate and NOT taken out of a broader context.  After spending over an hour trying to find something to the contrary, I found nothing on-line, on the company’s Facebook page, or official releases to prove otherwise.

Marketers everywhere need to take a hard look at public examples like this.  They provide great learning opportunities of what can work well, and not so much.

First, what can I agree with on this quote?[Continue Reading…]

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Want To Accelerate You’re Development? Get To Headquarters!

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I wrote about 2 Critical experiences for a successful CPG Marketing and/or Sales career early in 2013.  Those thoughts still ring true, but focused on role experience vs. environment.

After a spat on the Yahoo work from home ban I’ve been thinking about the classic “Old School Meets New School” debate:  What’s better, working from home or working from the “office?”

You will get arguments on both sides of the debate.  The work from home crowd will swear by the fact that 0 commute and 0 “pop in’s” all means better productivity.  The office staff believes that the water cooler is the SOURCE of the best thinking, when people come together spontaneously.  There is no right or wrong answer as to which environment generates better results.

One thing is non-debatable:

If you want exposure, access and learning opportunities early in your career, or want to become a significantly better leader….set a goal to GET TO HEADQUARTERS. (HQ)

Kraft Foods Corporate Headquarters Northbrook IL

Image Credit:  Wikimedia, Kraft Headquarters Northfield, IL

Companies across the USA have regional and home offices everywhere.  Learning & Development is not location dependent.

But you simply won’t match the HQ experience.  Why?  

Because HQ….

  • Is where the C-Suite sits.  Leadership teams usually set the tone…
  • USUALLY offices the C-Suite’s immediate staff.
  • Is home to key management results & planning meetings.  Decisions, priority setting, and “organizational pulse checks”  happens frequently at these sessions
  • Tends to be the “HOT BOX” where the total company results come together (or not).
    • In sales and marketing, most people have results, but the HQ’s is where they come together for more than a small geography, but the total enterprise.
    • Hot Boxes are usually more visible than cool boxes
  • In summary, HQ is more often than not “mission control center” of the entire business

One of the best training programs I have witnessed took place at both Kraft and Sara Lee.  The concept was simple.

  • Identify top performing “high potential” sales people working in the field.  Ones with great results, a fire in the belly, and a significant runway ahead of them.
  • Bring them into HQ, put them in a cross-functional role that utilizes their experience, but also requires significant new learning to test their business acumen.  Usually this meant a sales planning, trade marketing or category management-type assignment.
  • Watch closely:  Can they learn quickly and adapt?  Will their field experience be a strength or an albatross?  Can they connect the dots on how things are done in HQ with the field challenges?
  • If candidate is an impact player after 18 months, you have a leadership candidate.  Put them back in field in a leadership role, or promote within HQ.

You have 2 major shocks to the system with the above program:

  1. Environment – Field vs. HQ, MAJOR differences
  2. Role – Not just same job, different place, but a role that requires significant cross-functional interaction that does not exist in the field

When the right candidate goes through a HQ assignment, survives, and THRIVES, you have a leader with a “2X” experience:  Their development is accelerated at twice the rate of someone who stayed on the field track in one function.

One of the major problems with businesses today is the “same page” challenge:  Getting the goals, priorities and execution of the entire organization spread throughout every employee.

When the key field players have lived in the Hot Box & played a role or two outside the field role, speed and effectiveness increases significantly.

And one’s personal growth and satisfaction follows suit…

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Guest Post #1: Business Purgatory

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Let me paint a scene for a start:

You are sitting in your office, a small plain colored 6×6 office with no window, a logoed calendar on your wall to cover the plain-ness and a desk that is as uncomfortable to work on as your chair is to sit on.  Your boss walks in, gives you a load of papers, along with his “motivational” speech for the day (motivational enough that you see a therapist to cope with your enthusiasm), leaves and shuts the door.  Then, you look at your clock, it is 8:15am.  Your day has just started and you feel as if your day would have been better if you just would have stayed at home.  Do you know where you are yet? You are in a business and the corporate world.  The sign on the door to your hallway says “Welcome!  This is the Business Inferno!”

Most of us deal with this feeling every day, trapped and enslaved by “coporatocracy”.  We all work in an office that is too small to our standards (as is everything), with temperatures that are too cold or hot and people that we can’t stand to even smell.  Yes, there are people who actually smell.  They’ve told me it’s a medical condition but…well I will leave that there.  With all the negativity that 90% of the working people face, you have to ask, ‘What am I doing and how is this making things better?’

I have the key to your success.  Do you want it?  It’s a great secret but it will cost you to know it.  I accept cash only, papers are messy.

It’s pretty simple, but before I start we should go back to our picture.

You are sitting in your office, crushed by your boss’s awesome life lesson of a speech you just got.  To explain in Dante’s world, you would think you are inferno, and most people think so.  You feel all the levels of emotions that gets you to Inferno; anger, violence, greed, lust and then finally limbo.  You come out of your depression and sit in limbo for the rest of the day.  Nothing is accomplished and you leave the Inferno just to go home to a place that it stews all night.  Get up, repeat, eat, sleep.  While you lay in your bed, stressed and depressed you imagine the other side, Paradise.  You think how nice it must be!  Do you want to know how to get there? Because I know how.

But not yet.

You need a few more days of limbo.

The next day you start the same routine, 8:15am and you are on track for another Inferno day.

But wait!  Let’s try this, let’s move to purgatory.

Yeah your office is too small but you know what, put up some pictures at least.  If you don’t like to be in your office, no one else probably does either.

Make your office your “home away from home.”

You do spend a ton of time there.  If you can at least cover up the walls to make it not so ugly.  Next, put something special right by you, within arm’s reach.  Now, by this time you are asking, what in the world is this going to do for me? 

Well here is part one of the secret:

Environment determines a portion of your attitude and behavior.

Don’t believe me?  Is a lion more crankier in a hot savannah during the dry season, ready to eat ANYTHING it sees? Or is it more cranky when it knows that the temperatures are better and not scorching his fur?   I think we all know the answer to that….

The same applies for people; light a candle, put some pictures up and make your office environment a better place to sit in.

So, back to our story:  you put up some pictures and take my advice, go through your day.  Congratulations!  You are not in Inferno anymore.  You are in Purgatory.  Why?  Because you have made your first change in your life, to change it.  You sleep that night, still questioning if this is going to work. I understand your doubt, everyone does at the beginning.

The next day, you arrive five minutes early in preparation for your motivation speech soon to come.  You listened.  You have some pictures up, more things around you that make you feel good and you make your office smell…better.  Not great but better than it did.

Your boss comes in, and he takes his breath.  You are bracing yourself for what is about to come.  He looks around and instead of lecturing about how you are falling behind, he stops and says; “Hey, something is different.”  He looks some more; “Hey! Are those your kids?  How old?  I had no idea!”

You engage in a conversation you have never had before.  See I told you it would work.  You didn’t get your chewing for the day and your boss now has connected with you on a level that was not there.

Do you feel better?  You should.
This brings me to part two of the secret…

Establish the relationships.  Nothing was ever achieved alone.  No one climbed Mt. Everest alone.  You MUST have a team that supports you.  You must have people who you can build with, create with, and have a connection with. It’s proven, by my statistical findings, people do MORE for you, when they have an interest in you and you have an even bigger interest in them.

So now, you have two parts of a secret.  One has taken you out of the inferno and into purgatory.  How you get to paradise though, is more than 750 words can get you.

I am approved for one post, so the rest would be request.  Go home from business purgatory today and try to sleep.  Eventually, when you are able you leap tall buildings, you will get to paradise.

Or unless I post again.


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