with greg layton

The Inner Chief is for leaders, professionals and small business owners who want to accelerate their career and growth. Our guest chiefs and gurus share powerful stories and strategies so you can have more purpose, influence and impact in your career.

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Our High Performance Teams series now enters part 13, and we’re right into the Culture pillar, where today we look at how to get your team focussed on winning and collaborating intensively.

In the last 2 weeks, we spoke about high performance lifecycles and how to use them to automate the pursuit of excellence, and also how to tighten the bonds in your team.

So, today we talk about how to go about setting up and leading a high-performing, industry-leading, best-of-the-best team. We cover how to get your team members to come along on the journey in pursuing excellence, the practical and fun ways that you can engage your team to have more commitment, focus, and accountability, but also how to simultaneously avoid becoming too internally focussed and operational.

This is the difference between hunting and being hunted.

In this episode, I outline:

  • How continuous learning can shift your mindset from being operational and technical, to changing the game;
  • How getting out of your own work environment will help you look at your challenges and problems with a different perspective;
  • How to create an environment where failure and trying new things is normal, either internally or through external partnerships; and
  • Why even the top performers have mentors and coaches as they have a hunting mindset.

Thinking outside the box…literally

Often we get too internally focused within our teams. We pay too much attention to the operations or the technical aspects, rather than driving excellence or being valuable. As a result, we get change fatigue and we end up being on the back foot a bit too much. You'll turn up to work and see a bunch of individuals competing against one another, with the result being low energy in the room, a lack of spark, a team that’s defensively-minded and you as the leader can’t drive your own track record and career momentum.

And there's a reason for this. One of the ways true chiefs get the best out of their troops is to compete externally; that is, changing the game of the industry, giving the team the energy and the tools to be the best.

There's a magnificent quote by Trevor Matthews, who is an insurance industry titan:
“Compete aggressively on the outside, and collaborate intensively on the inside.”

And this is what this topic today is about. If you're not out there trying to be the best in your industry, to reset the bar, make a new standard, change the game, your team will focus internally, and compete amongst themselves. This is a vitally important step to get them to start thinking about how, as a team, they can be number one rather than a bunch of individuals.

Competing on the outside creates unity. It creates energy and ownership because everyone starts thinking, “How can we be the best? How can we win this game?” It creates those tighter bonds we spoke about last week. Team members will recognise each other's performance and give each other a pat on the back when someone does something good. Ultimately, you'll get the results and the track record I talk so much about, which is in line with what the company needs you to produce, which in turn means career momentum for everyone involved and a whole lot less stress.

Moving from hunted to hunting

Sometimes, when you're in an environment where you're just not winning, it feels like you're playing defensively all the time like the world is out to get you, and you just cannot stay in front of the game.

This is because you are being hunted.

So how do you turn the ship around and become the hunter? Well, for a start, hunting is at the absolute core of all high-performing teams. It's a mindset shift, and so here are 4 methods to transforming your team from the hunted to the hunters:

1. Learn together

Those that are continuously learning, in order to be the very best in their profession, or sector, or environment, are the ones that are setting the bar. They're the ones that are reaching in and across different sectors, to try and learn from other industries. They're the ones that never stop improving.

Have you ever noticed, on a journey through transformation, how every now and then, it seems to run out of steam? It's like someone's not putting the coal in the engine any more, and the steam engine just peters out. This is because people have stopped learning. They've stopped growing. All change requires consistent personal and team-level growth, so you need to, as a team, learn together.

You can do this through a knowledge share. An example is every week one person presents on a book they've read or a podcast they've listened to. Or they could seek counsel on a key problem and the whole team starts to work together to help solve that individual's problem.

Another example is a field trip. Get everyone out of the office and go and visit a different industry or sector. If you're in sales in a particular area, go and look at sales in a totally different area. If you're in corporate, go to retail. What I have found is that when you approach an organisation and say, “We would love to come and visit you, and in return, we'd love to invite you into our office,” they almost invariably say yes. And you know what? Nothing bad can happen from it.

So, get out of your own work environment. Look at what your competitors are doing; study them, hunt them.

2. Create an environment of innovation

The more your team is innovating through process improvements, the more it is starting to feel like it's got momentum towards growth, towards change. It's also quite exciting. This doesn't mean making massive, sweeping changes across your business. This is allowing individuals within the team to make systemic changes regularly, safely and efficiently. They learn to embrace change and to grow and hunt for excellence. This is about hunting for being the very best version of yourselves.

What if you don't think you have a benchmark? Or don't have any competition? For example, you're an internal HR or Legal team. Well, there are professionals out there, leading their teams in other organisations, just like you. And they are probably better at what they do than you are. They are your competition. Your challenge is to be the best professional you can be, and lead the best team that there is; this is what it means to be a professional services firm of one.

3. Connect with educational institutions

Another really cool way to transform your team into hunters is to seek out partnerships with learning organisations such as a university or institutes of technology. A lot of these organisations are looking for teams and professionals who are at the top of their game to learn from, to apply some of their own academic research, and they can be an absolute well of knowledge.

4. Consultants, coaches and mentors

Every great chief has a coach, even me! I pay a lot of money for my business coach every single year, and I believe that it is because I'm hunting. I'm on the front foot and I believe that I cannot possibly be the best at what I do if I don't have some sort of coach, or mentor, or consultant, that teaches me about things I don't know. I can't know it all.
It's absolutely impossible to understand all the things we need to know to be the very best. The benefit of these people is that they've got experience across a lot of different fields already, and they can bring that combined wisdom and knowledge, and that network, over to help you solve your business problems.

So, Chief, there are four ways that if you put them together, consider what that might do for the mindset of the team. This concept of hunting is absolutely vital in all high performance teams. And it may seem difficult to you to begin with, but you know what? Just take at least one of those steps as a starting point. Pick one. Do knowledge shares. Test innovations. Just do something and take your game to a new level.
Stay epic,

Next article in the High Performance Teams series:

Pillar 3/Culture: Part 14 – Raise the Bar