I am an Idea Machine – Ideation is my number one StrengthsFinder® talent. While I was watching TV on Monday, I saw a marvelous GE commercial on how the corporate world responds to people who generate ideas. It absolutely knocked me off my feet. The Idea is represented by a creature that looks like an offspring between Big Bird and a peacock. It is repeatedly kicked to the curb, locked out of the building, and trashed as being undesirable until, morose and deflated, it walks through the doors of GE.
The Idea experiences its own Wizard of Oz moment, like when Dorothy’s world suddenly shifts from black and white to Technicolor. The Idea blossoms when embraced and nourished by GE! The professional pinnacle of being valued for being valuable is achieved! Click here to watch the one minute video.
The opening chapter of my book, Destination Unstoppable: The Journey of No Teammate Left Behind, is entitled Valued for Being Valuable. I had just received my last performance review which was conducted over the phone with my London-based manager. I’ll summarize it in one phrase: I was not feeling valued for being valuable. This is not a slam against my manager. It’s a slam against the typical large company system that repeatedly undermines the goal of a performance review (to improve performance, yes?) I was deflated and discouraged. I was feeling just like the rejected Idea in the GE commercial.
I have felt this way dozens of times in my corporate career. Did you know that Ideation is less common in the top five StrengthsFinder profiles of women? The greatest source of my value to the universe was seen as a weakness, not a strength. I was doubly cursed.
Two days after this unfortunate incident, I received the phone call that would change my life forever. Would I be willing to take my strengths-based program, globally successful in the corporate world, and bring it to a talented but dysfunctional sports team?
My initial reaction was, “Of course.” I love sports – it is the perfect strengths-based team environment because sports teams take individual talent and hone it. They put people in roles where they can be most successful. I had just one question: Why was the team dysfunctional? Was the leader the problem? The players? Both?
To gain more insight, I spoke with Andrew Weidenbach, head coach of the Cranbrook Varsity Boys Hockey Team. I wanted to say, “Are you the problem, Coach?” (Many of you are aware of my low Harmony strength.) But I’d had just enough time to sprinkle my question with a little diplomacy. “What do you think is the problem, Coach?”
What he said next told me everything I needed to know. “I’m the Maestro. If the orchestra doesn’t play the music, it’s the Maestro’s fault.” Coach Weidenbach was a true leader, accepting responsibility for the performance of the team. I will go to the ends of the earth to help great leaders and their teams reach their full potential.
Coach went on to explain that the group was winning, but not playing like a team. They weren’t respectful to the leadership. They bickered and postured for position. They were selfish.
Gee, I’ve never seen that kind of behavior in the corporate world! Athletes are hungry. So are many executives. So are sales teams. I’d already proven my value in those environments. I knew I could help the hockey team.
I briefly explained how I invest in the human system to solve team dysfunction in three areas: 1. The team lacks a common view of success; 2. There is untapped, misunderstood, and undervalued talent on the team; 3. The team lacks strong connections between their strengths, success, and one another. I spoke about my process for removing those roadblocks.
Then, I made him a promise. “Coach, the team that walks into the room will not be the same team that leaves the room.”
Coach Weidenbach liked what he heard. Cranbrook had a short runway because the playoffs were only a few weeks away. I laid out a plan that would get the team up to speed on success and evaluate their strengths within ten days. The impact on team chemistry would be immediate. We agreed to move forward.
On page 27 of Destination Unstoppable, I described the change in my mood:
I hung up the phone, giddy with excitement. I did not have all the facts…but from what I knew so far, it looked like a clear-cut case of a train that was barreling full speed ahead on the wrong set of tracks. Maybe it was time to pause, redefine the destination, and fire up the team strengths engine.
My mind was deeply embroiled in the art of the possible when another thought entered the mix. If The Company didn’t think I was all that valuable, maybe a boy’s hockey team would.
This is a first in a series of blogs about my team success story documented in Destination Unstoppable. Next I will blog about what it was like to meet Coach Weidenbach and the players, to walk through the doors of a new place and be welcomed – just like the Idea in the GE commercial.
Ideas Welcome. I’ve got a smile on my face just thinking about it.