The Soup Method For Building Teams

Cooking inspires my appreciation for developing people and businesses. It is a beautiful example of transforming finite ingredients into endless possibilities that create memorable experiences. Even the most basic techniques can provide several lifetimes of sustenance and are open to creative interpretation.

Here is a story I found that  correlates well with building teams

In a land and time far away…

A couple of travelers from a foreign land came across a village and asked residents for a simple meal and a place to stay for the evening, but got rejected every time. As the sun set, the travelers built a small campfire in the square and placed a pot of water with a few stones to cook. 

One by one, villagers approached and asked about the contents. The travelers answered each villager the same way, “Traditional stone soup from our homeland. It is amazing! We are happy to share a bowl with you, if you make a contribution – even if it is merely some scraps of onion, bits of carrots, or ends of potatoes.”

As the evening went on, more and more villagers were intrigued and added something to the pot until one of the travelers decided it was ready, and began sharing with all who contributed. A brilliant meal was enjoyed and the travelers were asked to visit the village on their return.

The beauty of the soup analogy is that each ingredient remains itself – potatoes are still potatoes – yet they also absorb aspects of everything else as they blend and meld together. Here are a couple of ways you can use this recipe to build your teams.

Step 1: Take complete inventory.

We are rarely given absolutely ideal circumstances when putting together our teams. Accept the situation as it is right now and start working with what you have to make it better. Look at everything and everyone with the perspective that they can somehow add to the solution.

Your minuscule budget, rapid deadline, high expectations, and any other challenge are merely design constraints that we must work through. Used properly, pressure, creativity, passion, and purpose are often precisely what is needed to complete the goal. Throw out assumptions and preconceived notions as they only make experiences bitter.

Explore the hidden talents among co-workers; a receptionist with art skills; a clerical intern with a knack for building and construction; the programmer who used to be a teacher; and the new guy in sales with a photography hobby. These under-utilized skills build personal connections and are often vast resources waiting to be tapped.

Seek opportunities to create intrigue and interest. A curious buzz or well-managed rumor are ways to get the ‘informal, yet established’ systems working in your favor.

Step 2: Provide a safe place to collaborate.

Creative ideas, whims, suggestions, skills, and passions (especially ones we keep to ourselves) are often attached to very delicate emotions. Typical business meetings are filled with power plays, role expectations, and egos that often prevent people from speaking up and offering new ideas.

Find ways people can invest almost imperceptible amounts. To reduce the ‘threshold of contribution’; establish an environment free of judgment, authority, status, position, and where everyone is of equal importance. It often helps to host meetings in a somewhat unconventional place or time – an outdoor courtyard, off-site meeting room, at 10:00pm, in someone’s home, etc.

In highly effective teams; solutions and decisions are never one-dimensional. They are the result of carefully analyzing, discussing, arguing, and enhancing the contributions by everyone. Strength comes from everyone’s voice coming together, not from one voice that silences others.

Step 3: Be open to the various contributions of others.

One of the biggest reasons people leave jobs/employers is because they feel they are not heard, valued, or appreciated. Whatever they give, be grateful, accept the gift, and find some way to make it useful.

It may look like scraps, leftovers and broken pieces; but these are far better than nothing at all. Accept everything but blame and excuses. Perfectionists can take a lesson from artists and ‘hackers’ who simply create solutions out of what is available. Follow-up versions are where we move towards perfection and scale.

People are full of passions, ideas, and experiences – these benefits may be hidden behind some defense mechanisms. Leadership is about finding these qualities and learning how to work with them to produce great results. In food as well as teams, superstars are only made by those who lift them on their shoulders.

You likely have to bear through some tears as you chop an onion; but when cooked, those same chemicals that make us cry are converted into complex sweetness that can’t be replaced.

Step 4: Share it with others. 

Openly share the possibilities, responsibilities, resources, gains, glory, challenges, and ALL information. Make sure everyone understands the value of their contribution. Teams are built on trust, and transparency is one of the easiest ways to establish a strong foundation.

Leadership is one of the most important things to share with a team. It is an opportunity for people to observe and actively develop their own skills. This simple gesture can positively change their entire career while cementing your leadership skills as well.

Our traveling friends were hungry and wanted a meal for themselves. In offering to share with all who contributed, they were able to accomplish much more. Some say this is how we got the ‘Pot Luck’ style of dining/catering. Everyone brings something and leaves with plenty.

Like other timeless recipes, its simplicity can be misleading. Though the basic recipe might be followed each time, there will always be variety in the end result.

 

I invite you to connect with me or start a conversation about how to build better teams. We can arrange workshop around a cooking demo/meal.

Productivity vs Profitability

Businesses today operate with remarkable similarity to how they did more than 250 years ago. It made absolute sense to relate productivity to time (units/hours) solely because it was so much easier to work during daylight hours. But that was before things like electricity, telecommunications, automobiles, computers, and the internet.

As the multitude of technological advances became prominent fixtures in business of all types, the standard of productivity has remained in place, though it is becoming increasingly irrelevant. Many tasks that used to take days, weeks, or months now just take a couple minutes or hours. The increased speed also brings increased reliability, predictability, and value.

Our fascination with maximizing our productivity might actually be hindering our profitability in more ways than billings-per-hour! It minimizes our time for crucial planning, practice, and preparation while making almost zero time for mistakes, prevention, or maintenance.

Planning

“Failing to plan is planning to fail.”

The sophisticated coordination and scheduling of resources is critical to every project’s success. It is a highly imaginative process (where many details can be anticipated with high degrees of accuracy) that is as crucial to completion as showing up in the first place. While some tend to be naturally pre-disposed to this type of thinking; we can all improve with good experience and exposure. Another way to increase productivity is for everyone involved to be intimately involved with the planning.

Organizations should spend more time actively planning rather than merely being ‘being productive’.

Rehearsal

When we look at actors (many earning a lifetime of income per appearance) we see they spend far more time rehearsing and conditioning than they do in actual performance or production mode.

Rehearsal allows us to stop, try again, and proceed with varying paces to build enough connections between performer and performance. This facilitates the kind of deep learning that is the foundation for transformational growth. It is the safe environment where we can try new things, push limits, and make mistakes.

Organizations focused on growth should build environments and systems where high performers can rehearse and improve their skills.

Preparation

Before any actor takes the stage, they first go through wardrobe and make-up as they become the character they will portray.

The transformation time is critical to a great performance. Whatever our chosen profession, we also have obligations to friends and family outside of work that are likely more important to us. A daily commute is hardly enough or ideal time to switch between modes. Preparation is when where we gather and inspect our tools, inventory supplies, and focus on our upcoming tasks. It is both physical and mental activity.

The more valuable or critical the work, the more we tend to appreciate the preparation that goes into it.

Relationships

Working with other human beings means building and maintaining dynamic relationships. Without these, teamwork is next to impossible, and we also miss out on the synergistic benefits that come from collaborations.  Working together as a cohesive team constantly drives effectiveness and efficiencies, but they take time to build.

Organizations that invest in building and maintaining relationships among team members benefit tremendously over those that do not.

Planning, rehearsal, preparation, and relationships are pre-cursors to great productivity. They make it possible to shatter records and bring new levels of productivity we previously only imagined.

Google famously encourages employees to spend 20% of their time working on something that fascinates or excites them. The opportunities to do this not only builds intricate webs of strong personal relationships between individuals, it is also one of the biggest driving forces behind their growth through new products, features, endeavors, and so-called ‘moonshots’.

 

 

Drop me a line if you are interested in discovering ways your organization can grow while escaping the dated ‘productivity’ cycle.

Culture: Your MVP for Growth

Let me begin with this. Humans are social, intelligent, dynamic, learning, caring, resourceful, and reactive beings who are strongly inclined to make emotional connections and associations with others. We are driven by some sense of togetherness. It is one of the things that has allowed our species to thrive on this planet.

We need culture in nearly every aspect of our lives!

Yet businesses continue operate on a different mindset and rely heavily on various ‘carrot and stick’ approaches to management.

Here is what that produces:
A recent survey conducted by LinkedIn reveals that 64.7% or professionals claim they decline job offers, projects, and promotions if they don’t know, or do not agree with their culture. 52% of them claim to be actively looking for employment with places that align with their own beliefs.

The Gallup Organization has formally been studying and monitoring employee engagement since 2000 and estimate a low engagement contributes to a negative impact of over $400Billion in the US alone.

Despite this information, thousands more reports, articles, consultancies, and resources being available; nearly 80% of companies to not have a formal strategy regarding their culture.

Building a thriving culture comes down to formalizing three simple ideas with absolute clarity, dedication, consistency, and transparency.

Mission:

This is the WHAT that you are doing, assigning, targeting, or building. It is as much about the macro, big-picture notions as it is about the micro, daily details and tasks. Everyone remotely related to the process should know and be excited about the mission to which they are contributing.

Values:

These are the beliefs, attitudes, and actions that are important, supported, accepted, tolerated, and inexcusable. These five distinct lists are more important than any specific mission because when people come together based on values, they will almost effortlessly adapt or completely change the what if it doesn’t align with their shared beliefs.

Purpose:

This refers to the WHY that inspires us to contribute, and sometimes contribute our very best. It can be aimed towards a social endeavor or problem, supporting a non-profit cause, community, environmental, technological, artistic, entertainment, religious, fun/adventure, or be purely altruistic/philanthropic. It can be anything besides ‘making money’, growing, selling products, increasing profits, or any similar ilk.

Bringing clarity and sharing your MVP is the foundation of your culture. It also allows people to build emotional connections to it. These emotional connections are THE MOST IMPORTANT thing you can build. They will be created whether you focus on them or not. The difference is in the number and strength of those that support your growth efforts.

Here are a couple ways your culture determines your growth.

Talent attraction:

Because of the interconnectedness of humanity (as in the six decrees of separation concept), your current workforce is likely already connected to the next 2 rounds of talent you need to hire. Social media sites (LinkedIn is most powerful) help facilitate and visualize these connections if we use them properly. The missing factor is your culture.

Your employee Bill has a great friend named Suzan, whom you want to hire. It is very likely that Bill is in one of the groups at the top of article who is not aligned with the company, and will try to dissuade Suzan from leaving her current position even though it pays 20% less.

The opposite is also true. Suzan absolutely loves where she is working, so much that it always shows up in her smile – even in the carpool line where she and Bill regularly talk as they wait to pick up their children. Her attitude is infectious and makes Bill wonder if the extra money is worth the headaches of his culture.

The situation of Bill and Suzan occurs thousands of times every day and has likely already happened to your company on more than one occasion. In her role as Development Engineer, she developed breakthrough products for your competition. Remember, we are hiring humans. Emotional connections are crucial!

Customer attraction:

Rebekah is looking for a new car. She talks with friends about what they drive, how they like it, and service it needs. Though all of her friends can easily afford the purchase of new cars, Ramon still drives one that he has had for 15 years, and he loves it.

She had previously never considered that brand because she never heard any stories. Because Ramon (not a car salesman, employed, or affiliated by the brand) was the only one of her friends who displayed any passion for the car he drove, she went for a test drive and was comfortable making a $50,000 purchase. Her other friends talked about the next car they were thinking about buying because they were bored, unimpressed, or frustrated with their current one.

The situation of Rebekah and Ramon also happens thousands of times daily. The purchase had almost nothing to do with marketing budgets, the dealership price, or salesperson’s skill. Remember, all purchases are made by humans. Emotional connections are crucial!

 

Culture impacts marketing more than most budgets do and it comes into play in all industries and price points. It is time to invest into understanding and shaping your culture so that it becomes the MVP of your growth. Feel free to connect with me to start a conversation about it.

Goals Bring Progress

Goals are some of the most powerful tools known to the human race! Our brains are naturally problem-solving organs that have an indescribable power for creating options, ideas, and circumstances for our own success. Babies begin finding ways to get their hands on almost everything in sight—without anyone encouraging them. They naturally mimic gestures and words while learning how to crawl, walk, run, and communicate.

When handled well, this phenomenon can continue throughout our entire careers and lives.

Goals help bring focus and shape to our future. Key steps begin to fall into place once we get a clear idea in our head. Naturally some individuals seem better at this or more driven than others; but it is an ability we all have.

The best thing about having and achieving goals—better than the sense of accomplishment and satisfaction—is becoming what it takes to achieve them. No matter what happens to the item or goal itself (making a certain dollar amount, receiving the promotion, etc); the process of learning and becoming is YOURS FOREVER! Great managers and leaders understand how to use the right goals to ignite the passion and effort of their people.

Set long-range goals to keep you excited and moving far into the future. Set small, easy-to-achieve
goals to keep you motivated through regular accomplishments. Set fun goals that keep you smiling. Set BIG goals that require you to work with others. Remember that big goals are just lots of smaller goals connected together like links of a chain.

Expressing Goals:

Dreams and desires are great, but lack the action plan necessary to become reality. Learning the ideal format of effective goals helps align our own powers to make them come true. Perhaps the most difficult part of achieving goals is actually in the setting and refinement of them—not in the work to attain them.

Once goals are clearly established, internal forces begin to take over and constantly work in the background of our consciousness to bring them to fruition. The following format techniques will help streamline this process and help you set powerful and exciting goals. The nuances can sometimes get tricky as we learn how to put these fictitious ideas from our minds into a physical form. There is no ‘perfect’ way to do it, but this guide will help provide structure.

Results Goals

These are the most common types of goals as determined by a measurable result or end—$100,000 personal income, complete triathlon, achieve ideal body weight, and so on. These are relatively easy to understand and accomplish. They might be items on a ‘bucket list’, to-do tasks, or be linked to work quotas.

Write each one on a separate sheet of paper in large letters. Fill the rest of the page with action items or milestones that can be checked off the list.

Feeling Goals

These are about how you feel during (or directly after) a task. This is an ideal approach when we want to become a better presenter; build confidence, or increase comfortable in some aspect.

Start by taking a moment to honestly rate your feelings about the particular task on a simple scale of 1-10 (10 being best or strongest). Then set a results goal for where you want it to be. Finally, list some process goals that might help build your confidence.

Process Goals

These are great for pulling us out of the inevitable slumps in performance. Rather than a specific result, these focus on a specific process that is loosely correlated to bring about the conditions of a completed result.

The disconnections are critical as they prevent emotional investment into a lack of result. make 20 cold calls, attend 4 hours of networking, or run 15 miles each week. It doesn’t matter when, where, or how they are done – just that they are accomplished.

They build confidence in essential habits, facilitate key learnings, and help keep us focused on growing.

How To Create Alignment In Your Organization

Before we can think about creating it, we should spend a moment or two making sure we know what it is. My favorite definitions are: A position of agreement or common understanding; Consistency across or a coming together of different ideas; An arrangement of groups in relation to each other.

In simple terms; misalignment CAUSES stress while alignment REDUCES it.

Step 1: Be Authentic

Alignment among groups and organizations is not about how well people can pretend. It is about truly connecting an internal belief that you value with an one shared by the organization. It is about finding common ground, not compromising it.

In business, leadership, sales, and any other personal relationship; alignment is a constant state of fluidity being reinforced and destroyed with every single action by all involved. Being natural and authentic is the easiest way to offer personal consistency. It is what you live outside of the ‘9-5’ that matters more than what you do and say at work.

Step 1.5: Have A Core Purpose.

This applies equally to individuals and organizations. You cannot have alignment if at least one party is unsure of the things that matter to them. Invest the time to put it into words – however rough or awkward they may sound.

A core purpose helps filter and unify the skills and contributions of people by providing a framework of what is to happen. Functions and tasks of the job easily become ways each of us go about fulfilling or living the organization’s core purpose.

Profit and money are not your purpose. Period. They are poor approximations of value, connection, and trust.

Step 1.75: Share It With Others.

It is pointless to have a purpose if it doesn’t excite you to the point of nearly bursting at the seams to share it with others! So start sharing it already.

Know that sharing your purpose is an open-ended invitation for others to critique it as well as tell you theirs. That is the beauty of it all though. Through these exchanges, we constantly update and refine our purposes while we are exposed to new ideas. You will undoubtedly want to add some aspects you hear from someone else.

Step 2: Repeat. 

State your purpose and values three times daily for 60 days, then twice daily for another 60, followed by the first thing in morning for another 60. This repetition not only helps you refine your purpose, it is crucial to being an authentic reflection of who you are and what you believe.

Just as you start to get bored with it, you’ll get find yourself in a situation that challenges you – either reinforcing or shifting your values.

I had a client ask if I was interested in a project that would put a great deal of money in my pocket and increase my status in an industry. It was perfectly legal, but didn’t align with my purpose. When I gave my reasons for respectfully declining, I was instantly applauded for the display of integrity. We both still have great respect for each other though we haven’t done business together in over a decade.

In case you are interested: My purpose is to engage people, create value, and grow businesses. It has been an exciting 20 year work-in-progress and I anticipate another 20 years of the same pleasure.

 

Do you want help discovering your organization’s core purpose? Connect with me here and I will be happy to discretely offer my assistance.