By: Jim Roddy, VP of Marketing & VAR/ISV Business Advisor at the RSPA
Have you ever received a message from a New York Times bestselling author/award-winning executive coach/former Sports Illustrated editor saying, “Let’s catch up!”? Me neither – until last month. Don Yaeger replied to my LinkedIn message, leading to a 20-minute video chat about the intersection of business and sports.
Yaeger and I have a mutual connection in Brandon Landry, the co-founder and CEO of Walk-On’s Sports Bistreaux, a restaurant chain quickly expanding beyond the southeast U.S. Yaeger interviewed Landry for an episode of the Corporate Competitor Podcast while I featured him in my not-quite-a-New-York-Times-bestseller The Walk-On Method To Career & Business Success.
My encounter with Yaeger has provided me the opportunity to share with you insights from one of his books I first read in 2019: Great Teams: 16 Things High Performing Organizations Do Differently. I’m not going to spill the tea on Yaeger’s complete list (authors don’t do that to each other – or at least they shouldn’t), but I will share a few impactful quotes and excerpts from the book:
- Trendy offenses, tricky defenses, or hot products often get the credit for success, but the truly amazing organizations don’t stay at the top of their marketplaces without building a team-first culture.
- Four essential pillars for a Great Team: Targeting purpose, Effective management, Activating efficiency, Mutual direction.
- Coach Chris Peterson made Boise State relevant by recruiting what he called “OKGs,” or “our kind of guys.” Peterson said, “We want to tell the recruit what we are all about and find out what they are all about. I tell them that our place is much harder than other places and our standards and expectations are different than a lot of programs.”
- The leader has a responsibility to come up above the trees periodically and refresh the vision and make sure they’ve looked at the landscape as if they’ve never seen it before.
- Camaraderie doesn’t happen by accident; developing a strong sense of trust, accountability, and togetherness around team goals requires intentional effort.
- “Colaperation”: The practice of intentionally developing a collective direction and camaraderie in a team; cooperation and collaboration together.
- The most successful and high-performing teams strategically embed professional guidance within their cultures to inspire teaching and learning at every opportunity.
- Jeff Van Gundy Two Knucklehead Theory: You can have one knucklehead on your team, but you can’t have two. Two knuckleheads will battle one another or, worse, combine forces and create a bigger problem for the team.
- Be visibly passionate about the vision; keep frustrations private.
- Frequently remind the organization that it is being asked to act differently in order to achieve different results.
- Apple lists a DRI (Directly Responsible Individual) beside all items on a meeting agenda in order to clearly determine who does what task.
- “It doesn’t matter if us coaches have good ideas; the players have to be able to utilize them. If you’re too unclear, they have unclear thoughts.” Pete Carroll, Seattle Seahawks head coach
- Great Teams reject the sense of entitlement that comes after an epic win or championship. To win continuously, the team has to challenge the false belief that what I accomplished will naturally happen again.
RSPA Recommended Read Rating: 9.25/10
I originally scored Great Teams a robust 9.0/10 but then kicked in an extra quarter point because Yaeger called out the Jeff Van Gundy Two Knucklehead Theory. I’ve experienced that as both a youth sports coach and as a business leader, and never has a hypothesis been proven more accurate. Some employees can be dynamite – high-energy, independent standalone producers of exceptional results. But paired with the wrong person, they become another form of dynamite – combustible, explosive, and ultimately damaging to your organization.
Because Great Teams stresses fundamentals, it’s an excellent resource for those early in their leadership journey. One RSPA member I’ve connected with several times during our Niche & Startup ISV Community meetings and through one-on-one RSPA Advisory Services engagements is currently up to his eyebrows programming and selling. He has to start building out a staff soon, and the Great Teams principles would point him in the right direction.
Another of the book’s principles worth highlighting is: “Leadership must intentionally create emotional moments that connect team members to their greater purpose.” I detailed that concept in a prior blog post (RSPA Recommended Read: The Power of Moments) and enjoyed the anecdote Yaeger shared about the University of Florida softball team. Coach Tim Walton told his players “the only way we would win another championship was for us to develop the ability to be a lunch-pail team,” and then he promptly installed a time clock in the practice facility and presented each player with an old-fashioned metal lunch pail. During my days as a basketball player/benchwarmer at Gannon (Pa.) University, our color scheme was maroon and gold, but coach Tom Chapman added blue collars to the team’s warm up jackets to represent the need for a “blue-collar” attitude. That was over 30 years ago but that image – and accompanying lesson – still guides me.
Take steps today towards crafting your own high performing team – and you don’t have to do it alone. Register to attend the Executive Education track at RetailNOW 2021, July 25-27 in Nashville. Also, RSPA members can receive one-on-one coaching and schedule team workshops at no charge through the association’s VAR/ISV Advisory Services offering. Or members can access on-demand RSPA Academy seminars such as “Hiring To Win” and “Develop Your Team for Success.” And be sure to purchase your copy of Great Teams here.