Having read many books on competitive strategy, I’ve often seen references to Michael’s Porter’s seminal book, Competitive Advantage, written in 1998.
I’ve always thought it would be a helpful read. And although I expected it to be dry and academic, I decided to give it a chance.
Michael Porter is a highly respected Harvard Business School researcher, advisor, speaker, author and teacher.
Competitive Advantage outlines the three categories of competitive strategy that Porter and his team discovered among successful companies.
They include: Cost Advantage, Differentiation, and either of these applied to a Focused Market rather than the whole market.
The book covers how to identify and strengthen the inter-related activities in a company that allow for each type of competitive advantage, as well as how to leverage technology in that effort.
It goes into detail on segmenting markets, evaluating competitors, introducing complimentary products and using offensive and defensive strategies.
It’s a massive read: over five hundred pages of rather technical writing with only the occasional real-world example.
I was right. While brilliant and insightful, it’s not for the faint of heart.
Book: 535 pages, 21 hour and 23 minute audio book.
How can you improve your competitive advantage?
To find out what you can improve in your competitive strategy to grow more easily, quickly and profitability, AND enjoy the ride, try our complimentary Agile Growth Checklist. This self-service questionnaire takes 5 to 10 minutes to complete. You'll receive the checklist with your responses immediately. Within 24 hours, you'll receive a compiled report highlighting areas to improve. Complete sections 3 and 6 to check your competitive strategy. Or complete all 7 sections to find out how your company is doing in each of the areas needed to produce more rapid, profitable and sustainable growth. This report is complementary and involves no obligation.
Why is it that you work wonderfully with some people, but keep clashing with others? In his 25 years of executive coaching, executive coach and bestselling author Patrick Lencioni has distilled three characteristics that make a successful team player.
In today's article I will show you which qualities make an ideal team player, what happens if just one of these qualities is missing and how you can develop your team into ideal team players.
The three characteristics of an ideal team player
Trait 1: Be humble
Modesty is probably the most important quality that makes ideal team players.
Specifically, “being humble” means :
On the contrary: Ideal team players consciously use their skills to advance their team. Only they do it with the necessary understatement, without calling for attention and applause. If people lack this form of modesty, it can make working in a team considerably more difficult.
Trait 2: Be hungry
Ideal team players are passionate about what they do and hungry for more.
Trait 3: Be smart
Ideal team players are smart, namely "people-smart". This does not mean their IQ, their cognitive abilities or their professional competence.
Then it becomes difficult to work together
Humble, hungry, smart: As simple as these three qualities sound. The key is that all three qualities must be combined in a person so that this person can become the ideal team player. If only one of the three characteristics is missing, working with this person becomes a challenge.
Four examples from my practice
Case study 1: When smartness is lacking
Peter manages more tasks in the team than three other colleagues together. Status and recognition from outside are not important to him, because he is passionate about the cause and is hungry and passionate about it. What Peter lacks, however, is the sense of how his actions and his comments affect those around him. That's why it regularly happens that Peter unintentionally steps on his colleagues' ties, causing displeasure and confusion.
Case study 2: When there is no hunger
Paul is good with other people. He is people-smart and humble. Selfish motives are completely foreign to him. But he lacks the hunger to advance his team and try new things. Most of the time he only does what is absolutely necessary. This is frustrating for his teammates, who often work longer hours than he does and often have to ask him to contribute.
Case study 3: When modesty is lacking
Mary is hungry and smart. She says the right things at the right time, works hard and is a committed team player. However, she is mindful of her own advantage and influences her colleagues in her favour. She lacks the modesty that makes a good team player.
Case study 4: When modesty and smartness are missing
It is even more difficult to work with people who lack two of the three characteristics of an ideal team player. Ringo is hungry, but he lacks the humility and the sense of what his actions are doing to others. With his unbridled actionism, he often overruns his teammates like a bulldozer, regardless of the losses.
This is how you develop your team into ideal team players
Working in a team is easy for some people. Others find it harder to work collectively towards a common goal. No matter what spectrum you and your team are currently on: I am convinced that everyone can improve their ability to work in a team. What it takes is time, patience and good coaching.
I would like to give you a simple 4-step plan that you can use to assess where you currently stand with your team and how you can continue to develop towards the ideal team player.
In 4 steps to the ideal team player [Instructions]
As with all management issues, the same applies here: If you want to improve cooperation in your team, then start with yourself.
1. Do a Self-assessment
Assess yourself which of the three core characteristics of an ideal team player are the strongest, second strongest and weakest in you. You are welcome to use Patrick Lencioni's free self-assessment tool for this purpose.
2. Share Results
Share the results of your self-assessment with your team and explain why you assessed yourself that way. What is your weakest trait, what is your strongest? Have each team member, in turn, present the results of their self-assessment and also explain why they assessed themselves that way.
3. Create a Development Plan Now go in twos, threes, fours…. with colleagues who had given the same quality as you in third place. Now consider together what each of you can do to become stronger in this area. Find one or two specific resolutions and record them briefly and concisely in your personal development plan.
4. Mutual Coaching Present this development plan to the rest of the team and ask them to point it out to you if you fall back into old patterns. With this openness and the trust that your teammates will support you in your resolutions, you will see the first development successes after a short time. Incidentally, I stick such intentions in a striking way on the monitor so that they are visible to me and the people around me.
You now know the three core qualities that make an ideal team player. What you can do with it is versatile:
Personally, I am convinced that everyone can become a better team player - with the necessary time, patience and the appropriate coaching. But not every manager and every employee fits into every team.
It is all the more important that entrepreneurs and managers ask themselves the question:
“Which culture is a conducive culture for my organization, in my market, in my environment and for our business model in order to achieve my corporate goals?”
From this you derive what kind of team player you need in this context. From my point of view, two things should be non-negotiable:
If you're interested in reading more of Olaf articles please visit the website link above. (Please note that Olaf's site is in German but Google translate does an excellent job of instantly translating it to English.)
How can you elevate your people to the next level?
To find out what you can improve in your leadership team to grow more easily, quickly and profitability, try our complimentary Agile Growth Checklist. This self-service questionnaire takes 5 to 10 minutes to complete. You'll receive the checklist with your responses immediately. Within 24 hours, you'll receive a compiled report highlighting areas to improve. This report is complementary and involves no obligation. Complete section 1 and 4 to check your leadership team* and accountability processes*. Or complete all 7 sections to find out how your company is doing in each of the 7 areas needed to produce more rapid, profitable and sustainable growth.
Every CEO and entrepreneur I’ve met and worked with has faced the challenge of having to delegate some of their activities in order to grow their company.
Often, they have to hand off things they do very well that allowed their company to get to where it is. And they can feel hesitant, and even reluctant, to do that.
Yet, we find this to be a critical action for CEOs and owners of mid-size companies to create the time and space to focus more on leading their company and their people.
In this Gravitas Impact Premium Coaches podcast, senior executive coach John Felkins, outside Nashville, Tennessee, shares a process we use to help CEOs and owners of mid-size companies identify activities they can and need to delegate and to transition those activities successfully, while growing others.
Subscribe to Gravitas Impact podcast: Android
How can you develop others to take on more?
To find out how to develop your people to grow more easily, quickly and profitability, AND enjoy the ride, try our complimentary Agile Growth Checklist. This self-service questionnaire takes 5 to 10 minutes to complete. You'll receive the checklist with your responses immediately. Within 24 hours, you'll receive a compiled report highlighting areas to improve. Complete section 2 to check your talent development processes. Or complete all 7 sections to find out how your company is doing in each of the 7 areas needed to produce more rapid, profitable and sustainable growth. This report is complementary and involves no obligation.
In this 5 Minute Growth Tips article series, I’ve shared overviews of the key best practices for growing a thriving company.
Yet, you may be asking, “how can I implement each of these best practices? how can I actually make them happen?”
For example, how do I define the right functions on my leadership team? How can we set clear priorities for change and improvement? Or, how do I get my leadership team members to change their mindset?
One way is to figure things out yourself. Another way is to use an outside expert, like a coach, consultant or advisor, to guide you step by step.
Many leaders try to figure things out themselves.
Some of these leaders don’t know there are experts who could help them in these areas. Others have had a bad experience with an outside expert and are nervous about trying that again. Other leaders are concerned about what the cost might be. But oftentimes, these leaders think it’s their job as a CEO to have all the answers.
While figuring things out yourself is certainly an option, it’s the “long road option”.
For sure, CEOs and owners can get there on their own, over time. They’re smart, passionate, energetic and fast learners.
But they’ll get there a lot faster with the support of an experienced external advisor.
As I mentioned in my previous article in this series, business owners and CEOs often have a high internal locus of control, meaning they believe they have control within themselves to make things happen and influence the world around them.
Sometimes, this belief shows up in a counter-productive way, where they influence the world by doing too much themselves, rather than getting help from others. As a result, they become the bottleneck, slowing down the company’s development, growth and profitability.
That said, let’s consider the option of figuring things out on your own.
You could read a book that includes dozens of these best practices in one convenient, integrated package, tailored specifically for mid-size companies...like Scaling Up or the 7 Attributes of Agile Growth monographs. And then you could read a book or two on each of these best practices, find a book that includes how-to guidance for each one, and implement them with their team over time.
You could even attend a workshop where you get a chance to practice a bit with a handful of best practices.
With each of these approaches, it’s then up to the CEO alone to implement their learning in their team and company.
So, what are the pros and cons of a DIY approach?
Some of the pros are:
Some of the cons include:
In short, the devil is in the details. And there are alot of them.
And why is that?
One word: complexity.
Some specific best practices are straightforward, like defining a goal. You can Google how to set a goal like you can Google how to change the oil in an engine. These narrow, individual problems have a straightforward, known solution that applies in most situations.
However, improving how leaders lead and how companies operate isn’t so straightforward. These changes involve a variety of interconnected organizational and leadership best practices.
For example, strengthening accountability takes much more than setting a goal. And how the goal is set depends on other things like clearly defined individual accountabilities.
Improving how a company operates is more like tuning a whole modern day engine than just changing the oil. There are multiple parts involved and multiple interacting solutions needed. And only an expert mechanic can help diagnose the issues and determine the solutions.
There are a few other disadvantages to a DIY approach:
For business owners and CEOs looking to grow a thriving mid-size company, the thinking sometimes goes that it’s their job to have all the answers. They were smart enough to get to this point, so they must be able to figure the rest out on their own.
Yet, this DIY mindset often leads to failed attempts, cynicism, lack of team commitment, delays and missed opportunities.
As the Gravitas Impact Voice of the CEO survey showed, the results are low productivity, market share, revenue growth, profit and/or cash flow. The survey also found that CEOs often feel unsure, stressed, frustrated, scattered and reactive.
In contrast, the owners and CEOs that get the furthest fastest tend to take a different path. They don’t focus on how to make things happen, but on who they need to learn from and partner with to speed up the process.
In fact, the Voice of the CEO survey showed that CEOs who engaged a qualified Gravitas Impact business growth and executive team coach saw significant improvements in employee engagement, overall productivity, revenue growth and profitability. They also felt more focused, clear, confident, balanced, calm and strategic.
Did Mahama D’Ali, or Lennox Lewis, or any successful athlete, rise to the top of their sport by figuring everything out on their own? No. They each had a coach, an experienced advisor.
Or Steve Jobs, Bill Gates, or Eric Schmidt? Did they build and grow thriving, enduring companies by taking a DIY approach? No, they also used coaches and advisors.
In my next 5 Minute Growth Tip article, I’ll compare the pros and cons of some options for getting dedicated and tailored, external expert guidance, from strategic planning facilitators and business consultants to CEO forum groups, business coaches and executive team coaches.
What can you do to grow your mid-size company?
To find out what you and your leadership team could do to grow more easily, quickly and profitability, AND enjoy the ride, try our complimentary Agile Growth Checklist. This self-service questionnaire takes 5 to 10 minutes to complete. You'll receive the checklist with your responses immediately. Within 24 hours, you'll receive a compiled report highlighting areas to improve. Find out how your company is doing in each of the 7 areas needed to produce more rapid, profitable and sustainable growth. This report is complementary and involves no obligation.
There are many approaches to leading change to solve a problem.
Most include common practices, such as creating a sense of urgency, communicating the vision, celebrating early wins, etc.
However, these methods fall down with a certain kind of problem called “adaptive challenges”. One indicator of adaptive challenges is that they persist after attempts to solve them.
The Practice of Adaptive Leadership, by Ronald Heifetz, Marty Linsky and Alexander Grashow, goes through how to distinguish adaptive challenges from conventional “technical problems”, and how to successfully lead adaptive change.
Technical problems are problems an organization has already developed the know-how to solve.
For technical problems, one or more experts in an organization can identify and solve the problem on their own, with others adjusting in minor, known and predictable ways.
Adaptive challenges, on the other hand, require a response that is outside the organization’s current knowhow.
There is no one expert in the organization who can solve an adaptive challenge. It requires people to do their part. You can’t take the problem off the people because the people are part of the problem. Their ownership and responsibility-taking for the problem becomes part of the solution. Adaptive challenges require people in the organization to change and often require multiple perspectives to identify and solve them.
Most problems are bundled. There are some problems that are purely technical. But most problems include both a technical problem component and an adaptive challenge component.
Indicators of adaptive challenges include recurring crisis and persistent conflict. This happens when an adaptive challenge hasn’t been addressed fully in the past, because a technical fix was insufficient, and so the challenge resurfaces again and becomes a crisis or persistent conflict.
Changes in leaders’, managers’ or employees’ actions and behaviors are great examples, as well as changes in culture and relationships.
The authors argue the biggest mistake leaders make is dealing with adaptive challenges as though they are technical problems. That’s one big reason change efforts fail.
This happens because leaders often assume any problem is a technical problem. So the leader throws technical fixes at an adaptive challenge. And so the problem persists. People get disappointed because the problem doesn’t go away. Employees feel the leaders should give them a solution, as do the leaders.
This creates a dependency loop where leaders over-promise what they can deliver and employees are continually disappointed.
Leaders need to instead ask employees to realize that there are alot of problems for which there are no quick solutions, where their own responsibility-taking will be needed, where they’ll have to put in effort to figure out solutions together, and where they themselves will need to develop knowhow to act or behave in new ways.
The leader’s job isn’t to provide the answers but instead to frame the questions for which the answers are discovered over time by the collective intelligence of the people.
This book, building on the authors’ two previous ones, acts as a practical guide.
This one is a must-read for leaders looking to make lasting change on the persistent problems that have eluded them.
Book: 304 pages. GetAbstract book summary: 5 pages, 10 minute audio.
What could be changed and improved in your company?
To find out what changes and improvements you could make to grow more easily, quickly and profitability, AND enjoy the ride, try our complimentary Agile Growth Checklist. This self-service questionnaire takes 5 to 10 minutes to complete. You'll receive the checklist with your responses immediately. Within 24 hours, you'll receive a compiled report highlighting areas to improve. This report is complementary and involves no obligation.