Andy Stanley – Creating High Performing Teams

When I was at cataylyst I still have these voices ringing in my head from what was being said. There isn’t many times I can say that that has happened before. I think that when you are at the right spot at the right time you actually listen to whats being said and its like for the first time, you heard. That’s what happened to me or maybe I didn’t realize what happened to me.

On the second day of the conference Andy spoke to the masses about creating high performing teams. And it was one of those talks that I couldn’t write fast enough. I wanted to savor every tweetable moment – make sure that every blank was filled in and my notes are filled with scribbles of me trying to capture his every word. I think at this time I needed to hear the wisdom of someone who has done it before. You know someone who has a team of high performance players. And their secret sauce. I remember I just wanted to be a manager so bad that I think I forgot the opportunity of leadership that I was actually given.
I remember Jim Collin’s book from Good to Great – and he talks about not only getting the right people on the bus but getting them in the right seat. Andy kicks off with a similar concept and dug in deep. Something that I was trying doing not realizing it may or may not have been the best thing.
1. Select performance-oriented people and position them for maximum impact.
 — Recruit doers – not thinkers, “its much easier to educate a doer than to activate a thinker”.
This is great advice when seeking additional team members – Jim Collins mentions “Great vision without great people is irrelevant” . I have seen this within my own team the doers vs the thinkers. Andy talks about how you can hire the thinkers on a short term basis but you really need the doers in order to start to get the work done. And boy , do we have a lot of work to get done. I don’t need people who are going to just think about doing something, I need people who are just going to do it.
Put people where they can make their greatest contribution. Put your best people on your best opportunities. Andy goes on to say “Life’s not fair, isn’t that what we tell our children. Fair ended in the garden of eden.” I think sometimes I get so caught up in being fair that I miss an opportunity for someone to give their greatest impact because I was worried about the fairness of the situation – or the process behind it.  Andy also mentions you need people to wake up thinking about solving the problem. Someone so dedicated and focused on that problem that you don’t need remind, motivate or manage to get the work done. Boy would I dream for people who woke up thinking of the problems we were trying to solve versus thinking of it as an afterthought.
2. Clarify the what and the why 
 – Performance -oriented people like to win. Andy challenges the audience to think about what a “win” is and make sure that everyone knows it. I did this immediately with two teams I was leading. I thought to myself in the audience, Does my teams know when they are winning? Are we celebrating the wins? Are we celebrating the right wins? I wasn’t sure that we were celebrating the right wins because I don’t know if we ever laid out what our wins really are — So literally I had two team meetings and each meeting I talked about the concept of a win and what it means and why its important and had the teams write down what a “win” looks like for them. For the one group the each had the opportunity to really own up to the win and how they would make sure it would be a win. For my other team they listed out wins and then someone quickly started to say what does “failure” look like — and of course. I know what failure looks like, we all do. It was an interesting observation because it ended up being all of the opposites of the wins… funny how that works.
organize to the “what” – Andy asks “if you don’t know why its working whens its working, you won’t know how to fix it when its broke.” I stopped dead in my scribbling of that. Of course. That makes so much sense. Figure out what works and make sure that that everything revolves around that. Too much side ways energy (not focusing on the problem at hand) becomes a weakness to the organization.
3. Orchestrate and evaluate everything.
“This is how we do it here… until further notice.
I had trouble with this concept because people within my teams have the autonomy to do what they need to do to get their work done but I understand the concept. Make sure that if its working, we know what and how its working and then when its not we are evaluating ways to make it better.
create a feedback loop that keeps you close to critical events – I think I do this adequately now. I have surveys. I can check data and I hear stories. However I can always do better. Ive just come off a fantastic event. everything (well most everything went smooth). This is a great reminder to get reactions and feedback from the teams on how to make it better. Andy says, and I agree, Numbers don’t tell the whole story and information is often filtered as it makes its way up the org chart. This concept of evaluation is critical in making the problems we are trying to solve worth it because we know we are doing more than just solving the problem we are doing it better than before.
I think there is so much to unpack. And after almost 4 weeks of the conference rememeber and reflecting on what was so easy to do, act and try with my teams it seems as if there is still more to uncover about creating and leading high performing teams.
Do you lead teams? What was the best advice you’ve received when you were leading a team? Anything that you can share? I’d love to learn from you…