Entries in teams (3)

Team-Bonding needs to come before Team-building




"Team-Bonding needs to come before Team-Building."

(C) Todd Cherches

"We need to connect to each other...if we want to work better with each other." 

(C) Todd Cherches

Team-BONDING Needs to Come Before Team-BUILDING

Many corporate team building off-sites start out with good intentions, but end up being less than a Grand Slam event.

When you only have one chance to make it a success, how can you increase your odds of getting "a hole in one" -- on every hole?

I was recently asked in an interview, along with a number of other industry experts, "How do YOU create a team building event that is both fun AND effective?"

And this was my response:

"There is so much to say on the subject, as my company BigBlueGumball specializes in facilitating teambuilding workshops and off-sites for all types of organizations (boards, senior leadership teams, departments, project teams, etc.). And I teach a graduate course at NYU entitled, “Leadership & Team Building” as well.

Our company’s motto and approach is summed up and exemplified in the three words “Educate, Engage, and Excite” by making every team building experience high-energy, fast-paced, interactive, impactful, memorable, and fun – with the ultimate objective of setting a team up for success.

My philosophy is that “Team BONDING needs to come before Team BUILDING.”TM In brief, this means that before focusing on the work, we need to focus on the people.

Or, in other words, “We need to connect TO each other, if we want to work better WITH each other.

That includes doing engaging, interactive, fun – but not cheesy or clichéd! – team-based activities that help colleagues connect through getting to know one another just a little bit better.

We have a variety of different innovative exercises we draw upon to achieve this objective, and we customize every activity to each specific group based on a range of variables. We try to be innovative and do the unexpected, so no old-fashioned “catch-your-teammate-while-blindfolded” exercises for us. And if you’re looking forward to walking on hot coals, then you’ve come to the wrong place.

We use a variety of creative, professional methods and techniques – time-tested, research-based, and grounded in science – to help teams collectively come up with their own Guiding Principles, Team Charter, and/or Road Map that will immediately get them working together, defining roles and responsibilities, and starting to build trust and mutual accountability, while practicing the principle that (as Dale Carnegie put it), “People support a world they help create.”

In addition, when appropriate, we have a variety of simple assessments and exercises that help participants identify their own and one another’s preferred behavioral styles and personal preferences, for example, our Passion/Skill Matrix model, which supports the powerful notion (by management guru F.W. Taylor) that “People do best…what they like best to do.”

Other classic concepts and exercises we often incorporate into our team building workshops include Tuckman’s “Four Stages of Team Development” (forming, storming, norming, performing); Katzenbach’s “Six Team Basics”; Lencioni’s “Five Dysfunctions of a Team,” and more.

But, while based in the best of Harvard Business School-style models and methods, there is no “lecturing” in our teambuilding events: everything we do is experiential as we strongly believe, as the research shows, that people learn best by “doing.” And this has been proven to maximize the impact and effectiveness of the teambuilding experience so that when the event is over, and the teams eventually go back to work, they find that they will, going forward, work better together.

To sum up, the bottom line is that when a teambuilding event is done successfully, the outcome is – not just that they had a good time – but that they discover the truth in the classic maxim:

“As a T-E-A-M…Together Everyone Achieves More.”


"Linsane" Leadership: 11 Leadership Lessons Learned from Jeremy Lin

*written by Todd Cherches…with an “assist” from my good friend out in L.A., Marc Levine – fellow leadership coach…and sports enthusiast extraordinaire.

As we enter the second half of the 2012 NBA season, few would disagree that the biggest story thus far has been the emergence from nowhere of New York Knicks’ point guard, Jeremy Lin.  In fact we can say that’s he’s gone “from "No-where" to "Now-here” practically overnight.

While much (too much?) has already been written on all the “Linsanity” (have they run out of puns yet?), only a few pieces have touched on the Jeremy Lin story from a management and leadership perspective. As I teach an HR graduate course at NYU entitled, “Transformational Leadership & Teambuilding,”  that’s the paradigm through which I’d like to further explore this fascinating and inspirational phenomenon.

Speaking of paradigms, there are a lot of different definitions of leadership out there, but one that I really like is by Joel Barker, the innovation thought leader and author of one of my all-time favorite books (and dvd), “Paradigms: The Business of Discovering the Future”:

“A leader is a person you will follow to a place you wouldn’t go by yourself.”

That simple-yet-powerful definition is as good a description of Jeremy Lin’s leadership impact as any. Before he came along, the Knicks were an absolute mess, a chaotic mix of superstars and nobodies playing without any chemistry, mired in the basement, and headed nowhere fast. Now the Knicks are following Jeremy Lin “to a place they (most likely) would not have gone without him” – full steam ahead towards a possible spot in the Eastern Conference playoffs.

 “11 Leadership Lessons Learned From Jeremy Lin”

 [1] Biases, Assumptions, Preconceptions, & Awareness: Why did no college offer him a basketball scholarship (including his dream school, Stanford – which was practically right across the street) despite his leading his Palo Alto high school team to a state championship? Why did not a single NBA team draft him after he broke all kinds of all-time records at Harvard and made the All-Ivy League First Team? Was everyone simply group-thinking that “there’s no way a 6’3” Asian-American from Harvard can make it in the NBA”? Why were they unable to see the potential that was right before their very eyes? From a “diversity and inclusion” perspective, did he not fit the prototype of what they look for in an NBA player? Did his ethnicity have anything to do with it? His Ivy League pedigree? His relatively short height? All of the above? Most recruiters and scouts assess a player’s talent at a glance based on how big and strong and fast he is, but when asked why he was overlooked, Lin replied that, “I just think in order for someone to understand my game, they have to watch me more than once, because I’m not going to do anything that’s extra flashy or freakishly athletic.” Even as recently as a month ago, prior to his recent “discovery,” Lin was just days away from being cut by the Knicks who didn’t know what they had sitting right there on the end of their bench. Pondering the Linsanity that’s happened since, it’s near impossible to believe now that that could have happened! Kobe Bryant was quoted as saying, “A talent like Jeremy Lin doesn’t just fall out of the sky. He’s been around the whole time; we just didn’t pay attention.”

>So…what untapped talent might you have sitting there on your bench?

[2] Time Management: One of my favorite quotes by management guru, Peter Drucker, is: “Time is the scarcest resource; if it is not managed, nothing else can be.” For someone so young and relatively inexperienced, Jeremy Lin has demonstrated an uncanny ability to effectively manage the clock. The best example of this (among many) was the end of the Toronto game in which he ran down the final seconds before hitting a thrilling, game-winning 3-pointer with less than 1 second remaining. To have that degree of awareness, poise, and confidence under pressure in only the fifth start of his career was truly amazing. Another time-related factor is that Lin has been racking up more minutes on the court than almost anyone else in professional basketball. Can he sustain that pace without burning himself out?

>So…how well do you feel you are managing your time; and how can you do a better job of producing results when under pressure?

[3] The Three Types of Confidence: We say that there are three types of confidence –  your own self-confidence; your ability to make others feel confident in you; and your ability to make others feel confident in themselves. With Jeremy Lin we see all three. In addition to the confidence to take the last shot with the game on the line, we see examples of his confidence in terms of his ability to communicate with his teammates despite his junior status, take charge on the floor in his role as point guard, and how composed he is when being interviewed (even under the stifling scrutiny of the NY, national and global media). As they said on MSG: “the brighter the lights the more he shines” – and there certainly are no brighter lights than those neon lights on Broadway – and in the most famous basketball arena on earth, Madison Square Garden. Additionally, he has won the confidence of his coach, Mike D’Antoni, as well as that of his teammates. In that Toronto game, rather than calling a time out to set up a play, D’Antoni had enough confidence in his new point guard to let him play it out himself...with winning results. And Lin’s presence on the court has elevated the confidence of everyone else around him in terms of their own capacity to perform – and to win. Among the many examples of that (e.g., the elevated play of Landry Fields, Jared Jeffries, Tyson Chandler, and others), one of the most profound has been that of Steve Novak, whose outside shooting contributions have soared since Lin has come along.

>So…what can you do to elevate your confidence, as well as that of others around you?

[4] Teamwork: A favorite teambuilding acronym of ours is, “As a T.E.A.M., Together Everyone Achieves More!” And that has definitely been the case with the New York Knicks over the past month since Jeremy Lin came along (Actually, twenty days, to be exact.) As a Knicks fan, it’s hard to picture what life was like pre-Linsanity. But to refresh our memory, the Knicks had a record of 8-15, having lost 11 of their previous 13 games. Since then, they’ve gone 9-3…including a 7-game winning streak that turned their entire season around. What has Lin’s greatest contribution been? While his scoring has far exceeded any reasonable expectations (a mindboggling 38 points against Kobe and the Lakers!?), the fact that the Knicks now have a point guard is what has most positively and powerfully impacted this team. The primary role of the point guard is to “create” – i.e., to control the ball, the clock and the tempo; to call plays, like the pick-and-roll; and to generate scoring opportunities for othersand Lin has filled that gaping void with flying colors. Lin has been racking up Assists by the bucketful (7, 8, 10, 7, 8, 11, 13, 5, 14, 9, 9, 3) for an average of 8.1 per game. And, in addition to “assist”-ing everyone by getting them the ball, Lin has contributed to helping his teammates maximize their performance, productivity, and potential in every facet of the game. When you hear him interviewed after every game it’s always ALL about the team – the team, the team, the team, naming players by name and deflecting the attention away from himself. The greatest test of a team player, and the ultimate question of a leader, is: Does this person make the people around them better? Jeremy Lin most certainly does. 

>So…what can you do to help your people “achieve more” and to function as a more high performing team?

[5] Teamwork – Part II: Jeremy Lin’s success did not occur in a vacuum. In a team game, you don’t win seven in a row, or nine out of twelve – or even a single game all by yourself. You typically don’t score a basket all on your own; and you can’t get an “assist” unless you pass the ball to someone who scores. It’s about open, honest communication and listening; unselfishness in sharing the ball, and sharing the glory; mutual accountability; and creating a win-win situation for all. Just as Lin sets his teammates up for success, so did they do so for him. They embraced him, supported him, encouraged him, guided him, coached him…and “couched” him. (*Lin famously slept on the couch of teammate, Landry Fields the night before the February 4th New Jersey game.) At halftime of that game, teammate, Carmelo Anthony, went to coach D’Antoni and suggested that he give Lin more playing time in the second half. D’Antoni agreed. The rest is history. It’s so important for those with seniority, the superstars, the “A” players (and everyone else, as well) to leave their egos at the door, welcome new teammates, and do what it takes to help turn a collection of individuals into a cohesive team, united around a common purpose and a common goal: winning.

>So…what are you doing to contribute to creating a team environment that sets others up for success and allows them to shine?

[6] Management, Leadership, & Coaching 101: We’d be remiss if we didn’t give credit to Knicks head coach, Mike D’Antoni. He has admitted that he put Lin in because he was “desperate” (if you recall, the Knicks’ were losing game after game, there was no chemistry, their bench was decimated by injuries, and many fans and NY media were calling for his head). If it were not for the “luck” of injuries and the absence of any other guards, Lin most likely would have been cut from the team the following week. So D’Antoni played the hand he was dealt, and won big-time. He’s shown faith in Lin, giving him playing time (among the most playing time of any player in the NBA), allowing him to spread his wings and fly. It is his system, and his philosophy that Lin is playing within and learning one day at a time. D’Antoni saw the seeds of talent within Lin, noting early on that he “has a point guard mentality, and a rhyme-and-reason for what he is doing out there.” D’Antoni has empowered Lin to take the lead and call the shots on the floor, creating an environment that has allowed Lin to step up to leadership and flourish. He has also allowed him, on occasion, to fail. (More on that next.)

>So…how well are you managing, leading, and coaching your people – and what can you be doing better?

[7] Learning From Mistakes: Einstein said that “Anyone who has never made a mistake has never tried anything new.” Smart managers and leaders know that, and accept that making mistakes is part of the learning curve. Neither innovation nor growth happens without risks and failures. And knowledge and experience come only with time. Jeremy Lin has been averaging over 5 turnovers a game, and has had as many as 8 or 9 turnovers in four of his starts – a ridiculously high number. But when you are on the floor for 35-45 minutes a game and handling the ball as much as he does, trying to create offense, that is going to happen. Mike D’Antoni knows that, his team and the fans accept that..and everyone expects that the turnovers will decline over time. We need to be patient, and keep reminding ourselves that Lin’s career as a starting point guard is less than a month old.

>So…do you punish mistakes, or do you create an environment that encourages people to try, to fail, to innovate, and to grow?

[8] Live & Learn…and Make Adjustments: Long story, short…the Knicks got absolutely burnt by the Miami Heat the other night. It was like watching the old “Showtime” L.A. Lakers in action. It was like the Harlem Globetrotters toying with their opponents (only without the fake water bucket of confetti). Jeremy Lin was so overmatched by the speed and power of the James-Wade-Bosh triumvirate, and the Heat put so much double- and triple-team pressure on him, that he looked, at times, like a high schooler trying to compete against pros. Lin made only 1 of 11 shots (a horrible .091 shooting pct.), had just 3 assists, and turned the ball over 8 times. It was a night to forget. And, at the same time, a night to not be forgotten as it provided an important learning experience.  Now that he is on other team’s scouting reports for the first time, Lin will need to learn to make adjustments to counter their strategies. And that only comes with hard work, dedication, intelligence, and confidence – all traits that he possesses. He is a work in progress who will only continue to get better as he gains more and more experience.

>So…what are some of the adjustments you need to make in order to improve your performance?

[9] Leadership Qualities: We defined a leader earlier as “a person you will follow to a place you wouldn’t go by yourself.” And we just mentioned Jeremy Lin’s traits of “hard work, dedication, intelligence, and confidence.” But what other characteristics does Lin possess that exemplify leadership? While watching a half-hour MSG interview with him from last week, I jotted down the following words as they came to mind (as demonstrated by his words and actions): humble, thankful, appreciative, genuine, authentic, transparent, honest, sincere, generous, proud, polite, respectful, confident, positive, grounded, mature, articulate, smart, driven, dedicated, determined, willpower, vision, emotional, passionate, self-aware, self-deprecating, emotionally intelligent, underdog, sense of humor, fun, funny, kind, socially conscious, empathetic, gratitude, heart, motivated, motivating, inspirational. When asked what he personally thought of this whole “Linsanity” craze, he simply replied that he was lucky to have been given this opportunity and that, “I hope that my story can inspire others to make their own story.” Who wouldn’t want to work with or for, or be led by, someone who demonstrated the above characteristics…?

>So…which of these (or other) leadership qualities do you possess and demonstrate…or would like to develop?

[10] Inspiration: Who isn’t inspired by the fairy tale of Jeremy Lin? Who doesn’t love an underdog-to-superstar story? From bench player to All-Star? From sleeping on a couch one night to starring on center stage the next? Skyrocketing, almost magically, from rags to riches, and from unknown to world famous. Isn’t that why shows like “American Idol” and other reality shows are so popular? We love a hero, live vicariously through others’ dramas, and rejoice in their successes. This fantasy is universal. And why storytelling is so powerful. And when it happens to a talented, likable, humble, and appreciative person like Jeremy Lin – on the big stage – it’s like a Broadway story with a Hollywood ending. So what does it mean to “in-spire?” The word’s origins come from “breathing air or life” into something or someone. And isn’t that, in many ways, what Linsanity has done? I took a walk the other day to the park in my neighborhood. I counted twelve school-age kids playing on the basketball court; eight of them were wearing “Lin #17” Knicks jerseys. I then walked over to the other court were I saw three middle-aged Asian-American guys shooting the ball around. One of them wore a “Linsanity” t-shirt. Even though I hadn’t even touched a basketball in about two years, I felt possessed to walk over and ask if I could take a couple of shots with them. Smiling, they happily welcomed me to join them. I took three shots, missing the first two badly and then, with their encouragement to try again, proudly hit the third. Swish. It would have hit “nothing but net” – if this NYC basketball rim had been lucky enough to still have a net on it.  Thanking them, I decided to quit while I was ahead. Walking home I wondered how many other people in New York City, in the U.S., in the world, have been inspired by Jeremy Lin to pick up a basketball again and, for the first time in years, fantasize about hitting that game-winning shot at the buzzer.

>So…what or who inspires you…and how will you inspire others?

[11] The Power of Luck: Seriously, how lucky is Jeremy Lin? He’s 23 years old, and the toast of the town in the greatest city on earth. He has achieved world fame and superstar status overnight, and has become one of the most valuable, marketable, and well-liked athletes on the planet. All you have to do is walk into any Modell’s Sporting Goods store and you’ll see all the New York Giants Super Bowl shirts, and New York Yankees and Mets merchandise pushed aside to make room for all the “Linsanity” products taking up most of the store. No one, including Jeremy Lin, ever could have predicted this. There have been famous and popular athletes before, but I truly don’t know if there’s ever been anything to compare to this phenomenon. Lastly, I say that Lin is “lucky” but I am only kidding around. His “luck” has been 100% earned. His success is a result of proactivity, practice, and persistence. Along with resilience. As the saying goes, “LUCK is what happens when PREPARATION and OPPORTUNITY meet.” And that’s what has happened here to Jeremy Lin, in New York City, in February of 2012.

>So…Can he sustain it? Can he live up to the astronomically high expectations? Only time will tell. But I, along with a lot of other people, will be rooting for him with fingers crossed that he can lead the Knicks to a world championship for the first time since 1973(!)… sometime before we all get committed to a “Linsane Asylum.”

*Note: Right after writing the above piece, I spotted this excellent NYT article, "The Evolution of a Point Guard," that rightfully describes how Lin's "overnight" rise to success is less a result of his having been "overlooked and underestimated" and more about how he has dramatically transformed himself and enhanced his abilities over the past two years through good, old-fashioned "perseverance, hard work, and self-belief." 

*Primary source for background information: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Jeremy_Lin