Moneyball Moment #1: I’m Not A Failure
Recently I worked with a product engineering team. Like most engineering teams, this group was comprised almost entirely of men. There was one young woman on the team, and it looked to me like she had her guard up. They experienced the full Destination Unstoppable workshop, evaluating talent, looking at the challenges of the team and determining how we could leverage all that talent to remove roadblocks to success. It was fun and fast paced.
I kept my eye on her to make sure she was included and well-accepted (I am also an engineer, and I was often the only female on the team. Acceptance was not guaranteed.) Her engagement with others indicated that she was not isolated. However, she seemed wary of focusing on what’s right about us rather than staring at our weaknesses until our eyeballs are dry. That’s okay. Sometimes the engineering/medical/technology folks simply need more proof that the theory works.
Later in the afternoon, I saw more smiles from her than I had early on which I thought was a good sign. Afterwards, she approached me, shook my hand, and quietly shared that she had enjoyed the experience.
I always distribute feedback forms in my Destination Unstoppable workshops. She wrote:
This workshop helped me understand that my “failures” aren’t failures. I will never be that. I should work on my strengths.
When we try to be something that we are not, we set ourselves up for frustration and disappointment. Is it possible that we need to get a little bit better at a weakness? Sure. We don’t want our weaknesses to undermine our success. But our best future, our full potential, lies in developing our strengths. How many years has this smart and talented woman focused on reforming her weaknesses in an honest, well-meaning attempt to achieve excellence? Each time she “failed”, she felt worse, not better. Now, she had a new success strategy – one that would serve her well.
Opportunity: Know and be more of who you are. That is challenge enough.
Moneyball Moment #2: Can You Hear Me Now?
I’ve had the pleasure of working with wonderful women’s sports teams this season. Every team is different, and as such, each has a unique set of challenges to overcome. I worked with one team that sought to overcome the challenge of full inclusion.
The first thing to remember is that all teams struggle. In this case, the team struggled due to differences in social status, physical ability, and athletic skill. Plus, and I can measure this, female athletes tend to be more sensitive, have a stronger need for connection with others, and are more likely to hold a grudge if they are “wronged” in any way. (Side note: this is true in the corporate world as well.) The question is not if these issues are right or wrong. The question is, how do we overcome them to help the team reach its full potential?
One way improve inclusion is to improve communication. If others feel left out or feel less valued for being valuable for any of the reasons noted above, communication diminishes. People shut down and shut up. In our workshop, I focused on ensuring that every player had the opportunity to be heard. The coaching staff was superb and engaged, fully investing in the girls’ experience.
The workshop was a blast, fueled by the talent of the young women and their strong desire to play as a team. The energy was high, there was a lot of laughter and I heard, “This is so true about me!” more than once. We definitely made progress toward understanding and accepting one another and in building a team definition of success.
One particular girl, who was wired with multiple navigating talents, observed, “This helped us see each other individually. We would never have actually sat down with each other and talked about this stuff, yet a team isn’t a team without communication. This was a great experience.”
With all the strife in the world today, having a group of high school girls realize that each person was different, and figure out how to communicate and collaborate so that the team performs well, is a game changer. It is a gift of a lifetime, because isn’t that what we must do in college and in the corporate world? How about marriage? How about raising kids? These life experiences will be influenced by what they learn when they are young.
Opportunity: What barriers exists on your team? Can adopting a strengths-based communication and collaboration plan help?
Moneyball Moment #3: Confidence
Without going into the complete backstory (that’s a blog for another day!) I have had the blessing of collaborating with a hockey team comprised of ten-year-old boys. We did what we always do – identify talent and align it with success. This time, we also included their parents! The boys took the StrengthsExplorer (for kids and early teens), and the parents took the StrengthsFinder.
Naturally, I created a team profile of the individual and group makeup. Like most male hockey teams, these boys were intense. That’s good news. However, we don’t want the intensity talent of some to dominate the human glue or thinking talents of others. We need to harness all the talent on the team so that, individually and collectively, they reach their full potential.
Occasionally I would speak to the boys after the game. On this day, when I walked in to the locker room, one of them saw me and shouted, “It’s Maureeeeennnn!” I felt like a lost puppy that had been joyfully reunited with its owner.
I took the pulse of the group by asking the boys to rate themselves, using a scale of 1 – 5, on how the team was doing with our three pillars of success (I will share what those are another time). The boys enthusiastically offered their self-evaluations, which were very interesting (and entertaining). Their assessment was largely supported by the coaching staff. Then, it was time to get specific.
I turned to Timmy, one of the defenseman, because he’d done something that I wanted to explore in front of the others. “Timmy, do you remember when you spoke to John (the goalie) after they scored on him?”
“What did you say?”
Timmy thought for a moment, and said, “I told him that it was okay, that we had lots of time to get it back, and not to worry.”
I looked at John. “How did that make you feel, John?”
Without skipping a beat, John replied, “Confident.”
It is profoundly effective when a teammate provides what another teammate needs so that they overcome a setback. It is even more impressive when it happens with ten-year-old boys. John is the only player on the team with two human glue talents. He gives connection AND he needs it.
Timmy invested in his relationship with John by providing encouragement. Timmy has a mix of thinking, working hard, and relating talents. John’s confidence was likely undermined by the goal scored on him, and it’s possible that Timmy sensed that. Timmy took action and his choice made an impact. Do we perform better with less confidence or more? Playing scared is a sure-fired way to underperform. Playing scared is not fun. Playing confident is fun.
Opportunity: Is there anyone on your team that could use your support? Can you use YOUR talents to invest in THEIR talents to drive confidence and performance?
Moneyball Moment #4: Productive Conflict
Lest we think that building a winning team is all sunshine and roses, I want to share one of my favorite Moneyball Moments. This incident occurred in the fall of 2016, when I was working with my Cranbrook Boys Varsity Hockey Team. It’s a great example of acknowledging a strengths violation. The messaging might be a bit harsh, but these are high school boys and it’s a hockey team. Not a lot of “hinting” about stuff. The male athletes engage in direct conversation, which is quite different from the female athletes.
In the middle of one of my Destination Unstoppable exercises, a player who was, shall we say, “socially and verbally gifted” (he had the strength of Woo), was sitting next to a young man who is a “heads down, get ‘er done” kind of person (he had the strength of Focus). Mr. Sociability was sharing his talents freely, commenting on something to another player across the room. Our exercise involved discussion, so Mr. Sociability was well within his rights. However, he was violating the strengths of the fellow sitting right next to him, who was focused on completing the exercise. Eventually, Mr. Get ‘ Er Done’s frustration got the best of him.
In a rather impressive outburst, Mr. Get ‘er Done shouted at Mr. Sociability, “My Focus hates your Woo!”
It is entirely possible that they’d been annoying each other for some time. Now, they knew why. There was friction – strengths friction – between them. Mr. Sociability, not at all offended by the remark, took his Woo strength to the other side of the room and spoke directly to the other person. Mr. Get ‘er Done’s Focus strength was relieved of the distraction and he accomplished his task. Problem solved.
When our strengths are violated, it’s very frustrating. Therefore, leaders must create an environment where all strengths can flourish. I’ve since reminded both young men of that day – it’s good to communicate what we need and to acknowledge when our needs are unmet. We might work on the messaging a little bit, but understanding the problem is the first step!
Opportunity: Help teammates understand each other by evaluating and sharing their strengths as a team. A well-facilitated team experience exponentially increases the benefits of the information. I have Destination Unstoppable workshop feedback from hundreds of people and dozens of teams. A full 98% say they better understand their teammates and 94% believe the experience will drive improved performance and team chemistry. A big part of that success is a reduction of unproductive conflict resulting from misunderstanding the talents of the people around us.
At the individual level, know your strengths, develop your strengths, and align them with success in your role. Fix your weaknesses (or partner with someone) so that they don’t undermine your greatness.
At the team level, the benefits of harnessing untapped talent and aligning it with success offers exponential returns. It is so much more difficult to get a team to reach its full potential than a solo performer. Investing in the “human system” of success (if you want a road map, you can find it in my book, “Destination Unstoppable”) offers a distinct competitive advantage in the locker room and the board room.
It is simple but not easy. However, if you have the gumption to pursue this path, you’ll create your own Moneyball Moments.
Until next time, Be Unstoppable –
All content and images copyright 2018 Maureen Monte Consulting