Here’s how to transform your team – fast!

By my partner Dammy Olopade

Do you know how sometimes things don’t seem to go well in your team? You might feel unhappy with the way your team is performing? It might be the relationship between you and your team, or maybe between team members, or with your customers. Maybe you consistently miss milestones, maybe you need to make sure the work is done. Are you feeling exhausted? You may need to make a change, a transformation. You must take action.

The first key to transforming your team, is to transform yourself … into a leader that can be the transformation they want to see in the team. If a person is leading but no one is following, what is that called? It sure isn’t leading. For your team to rise to the next level, your leadership must rise beyond that level. The rest of this blog will lay out some important steps in order to achieve that, while subsequent blogs will explore other facets of the same idea.

The 3 bricklayers

Borrowing from a story I love … “Once there were 3 bricklayers. Each one of them was asked what they were doing. The first man answered gruffly, ‘I’m laying bricks.’ The second man replied, ‘I’m putting up a wall.’ But the third man said enthusiastically and with pride, ‘I’m building a cathedral.'” –Author Unknown

What can we learn from the story? The first has a job (paid to do something), the second has a career (sees the big picture of what he’s doing), while the third has a calling (motivated by something bigger than him). Where are you on your journey? Which one of them best describes the current you? Which of them do you want be and why?

Below are areas of self-assessment, and can be helpful regardless of where you are in your leadership journey. As new leaders, they can help you to find your true self. As a leader with challenges (and we all have challenges), it can show you what areas you can improve. Even as a successful leader, it can show you various areas you can improve.

Know your strengths

What are your super-powers? What makes you unique? In what ways can these make what you do stand out? In contrast to that, also know your limitations. In what areas are you below the minimum allowed proficiency (may need to take multiple looks in the mirror)? Can you pivot away from these, or have others cover these gaps? Or do you need to grow some of these areas, to a manageable proficiency level?

Consider an assessment to help identify your top talents/strengths (eg. Strengths Finder 2.0, by Tom Rath; Now discover you strength, by Marcus Buckingham). Another great way to identify your strengths (and areas that are not) is to ask other people close enough to you who can be honest with you.

I remember a party I went to as a teenager where your entry could make or break how the rest of the evening turns out. A friend walked in all decked out, and everyone stopped what they were doing to look at him. He felt on top of the world thinking he nailed his entry based on his dressing (self-view), until someone told him his zipper was down and his fluorescent green underwear was showing (honest feedback). Check yourself!

Know your passions

Fill in this gap, “Will work for ______”. What areas are you so passionate about that you would willingly volunteer for free? Hint: When you do these, you feel refreshed instead of feeling drained.

Think of the last meeting you came out from with bursting energy, feeling on top of the world. What happened there? Were you able to influence? Was it a great solution to a problem the team had for months? What was that special thing that made you feel like that? Can you do it again and again?

Look back at some of the most fulfilling moments in your past to find out what were the commonalities. Are these still relevant, particularly if there has been big life-change events recently. Ask others if/when they’ve seen a spark in your eyes. What caused that spark? Are there any stimulants (or impediments) to igniting that spark.

Consider resources to help identify your passions (eg. Find your Passion, by Henry Junttila; It starts with Passion, by Keith Abraham)

Know your values

What are your Top3 non-negotiable values? This question is deceptively simple, but a small exercise will reveal this. Given a list of 50 values, sort/arrange them to identify your TopN (Example online resource here).

The reason this is harder than expected is because anyone can tell you their Top3 values since yesterday, as these issues have been top-of-mind, but when given time to think, especially with a much larger-and-well-researched list, we then start to truly put things in relative perspective. The key is not to focus on this Top10 (too many things), but to prioritize the list and identify the top 2-or-3 that are most important to you, and are non-negotiable. This implies that even though many things are important, they are often negotiable, so don’t get hung-up on them.

To further emphasize this point, if you asked a teenage girl what she would want in a future husband, she’ll quickly list 10 things (eg. tall, dark, handsome, rich, kind, etc.). If you returned years later after she’s married, and rated her husband against the list, you’ll find out 2 things, #1. Many of the things that were important were also negotiable, #2. Only one or two things were actually non-negotiable. This does not mean that the negotiable ones are not important, but they were not the most important. The teenage girls list of important things were an ideal to hope for, but not the “most important” things to apply. Find yours.

What are your future aspirations?

Most importantly, what are your aspirations? How well does it relate to the above three? Think of your strengths/passions/values as what got you here, and your aspirations as where they could propel you. They provide the “umph” (fuel, utzpa) for the journey ahead, and every unique advantage counts.

Consider the 100m dash at the Olympics. Did you know that there is less than 2.5% difference between the person who comes first vs. last (0.5% between first & second). 1% makes a huge difference! You want to make sure that you are taking every possible advantage on this journey, but unlike the Olympics, you are competing only with yourself, to be the best you can be, on this unique and personal journey of self-discovery.

You will be firing-on-all-cylinders when you can channel your strengths (what you are good at), passion (what you enjoy), and values (what you care the most about), towards your aspirations.

A personal vision

Taking the above, formulate a personal vision for yourself. Make sure that it is …

  • Relevant to your organization and the team (making sure you understand the big picture)
  • Big enough (grand, bigger than yourself, worthy of your calling) to attract others
  • Like Swiss cheese (has enough holes in it), such that they can find where their unique strengths, passions, values, and aspirations fit into this grand vision

You can’t give what you don’t have. In order to inspire your team, you first must be inspired!


I’ll close with a quote …

“A dream written down with a date becomes a goal. A goal broken down into steps becomes a plan. A plan backed by action makes your dreams come true.” ― Greg Reid

Here’s to dreaming big (finding your “cathedral”) and realizing these with your team.

Question for you

How are you transforming your self? How are you transforming your team?

Kindly share your ideas in the comments section below. I would love to read them.

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