founder of naked leader

Speaking at my son’s school

Naked Leader Week – 32 – 1 December 2003

Fresh from speaking at my son’s school, and gifting their library with a book in which I mis-spelt the school’s name as “Grammer” it was great to come back to all of your e-mails about “culture.” The two prominent themes were when organisations merge, and many stories from cultural mistakes around the world. Apparently Pepsi’s slogan in Taiwan, “come alive with Pepsi” was translated as “Pepsi will bring your ancestors back from the dead” and in China, Kentucky Fired Chicken’s “finger lickin’ good” became “eat your fingers off.” Some of you mentioned a book, “Brand Failures” by Matt Haig, which I have rush-read. It’s got both of these examples in, and many more, and it is now my recommended book of the week.

This week I have been working with teams. To me, unstoppable teams share three main characteristics:

  • The team has been formed on the basis of people’s strengths
  • Trust in, and respect for, each other
  • Total openness within the team, in private. Total collective responsibility outside

On this last point, one of the team members last week asked me if he should tell his team leader what he thought of her. “Absolutely” I replied, to which he did! Needless to say a shouting match broke out – was that healthy for the team? Most certainly – this chap had been bad mouthing his leader behind her back, to anyone who would listen, so it is surely better to get it out in this safe environment. Also, the exchange led to other outbreaks of emotion that had been suppressed for perhaps far too long, and all of these led to a greater understanding, respect and calm than they had experienced before.

Three ways to open up teams of 12 people, and under:

  1. Sit in a circle and simply ask “How’s it going?” and then say nothing. Wait expectantly during the pause that will seem to last a lifetime – it will be broken by someone.

And if you are feeling slightly braver…

  1. Ask each person to share their team dream i.e. what would they love to achieve with this team, and invite others to offer their help in ensuring this dream happens. If you find conflicting dreams are raised, then great, talk them through.

And if you are feeling very brave you can lead one of the most powerful sessions your team will ever experience

  1. Have everyone in the team list all the team members’ names on a piece of paper. Write next to each person’s name, including their own, the most amazing thing about that person. One by one, team members stand in front of the group, tell the group what is amazing/unstoppable/whatever about themselves, and then each team member in turn tells them what they have written about that person. Then move to the next person and so on.

It is powerful, and the results are amazing. How often do we say genuine, positive things to each other?

If you have bigger teams either break them down into smaller groups who work together most often, or speak with a larger group at an open forum, using the same principles above, or do it in a more informal way, perhaps when you are walking around the office.

And as you do this, be a member of the team, not their “manager.” To me, the most powerful team leaders play the role of facilitator. Do this and you will be respected, you will unlock more talent, and you will begin to realise that all of your personal indispensability lies within you, as the person that you already are.

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