What comes first for your team?
Do they hear you bark instructions about what standard they should be performing up to or do they see you modeling the standard in your actions?
Leadership isn’t just lip service, contrary to how most managers act today. It’s a lifestyle first and foremost.
Stock the coolers.
I grew up working in the small gas station my Dad owned in east Texas. I’d spend summer days sweeping dirty parking lots, cleaning gas pumps, and stocking the cooler with soft drinks & water before I could play with my neighborhood friends.
I hated every minute of it.
On occasion, my dad would jump in and help me stock the cooler or change out a soda line that had run out of syrup. I initially didn’t understand why he was doing that. Didn’t he pay employees to do all of this? Wasn’t he paying me to do it as well? I finally asked him one day why he chose to jump in and do these small tasks instead of just telling his employees to do them.
“I have great employees who can do the work, but many times during life, a leader has to get in there and do the work himself.”
He went on to teach me about the importance of modeling the standard for your team. My Dad shared that it didn’t matter what position you are in a company – CEO or newest entry hire – leadership is first and foremost about how you live your life. Once you model the standard in your actions, only then can you expect your team to meet that standard.
Great leaders are never too arrogant to roll up their sleeves and sweep the parking lot if that’s what the company needs to succeed.
“Besides,” he told me, “if I’m going to ask my team to do a task, I need to show them that I’m willing to do it too. Nothing is beneath me or them.”
Set the standard.
ESPN’s documentary The Last Dance profiled how tough of a leader Michael Jordan was on his fellow Bulls teammates. He was ruthless in how hard he pushed his teammates, often beyond what was required. However, despite this tough persona, his teammates went on to share about how a) they needed that type of leadership in order to become a six-time world champion, and b) Jordan never asked them to do something he wasn’t willing to do himself.
If he yelled at you to practice harder, he was pushing himself to the brink of failure during practice. If he said weights at 4am, he’d be finishing his first set at 3:59am.
Jordan understood that in order to push his teammates to new heights, he must be willing to pay the same price first so they could see what it looked like. Only then did he earn the right to push them to the same level.
Model the behavior first – then ask others to meet that same behavior. Too often, managers feel that their role entitles them to do the opposite, or honestly, just tell their teams what to do and not worry about modeling it themselves.
But that’s bad leadership – and a culture-killer at that. Who wants to follow the person who constantly tells people to do one thing, only to watch them behave in a completely opposite manner?
You can tell your team what to do and what standard to live up to – but only after you have first modeled that standard for them.
Your walk talks louder than your talk. Does your team see your walk first or hear your talk?
One of the biggest “misses” that companies make in trying to build a winning culture is forgetting vulnerability.
Vulnerability is crucial to a strong company culture & a leader’s ability to influence because it’s that one thing that allows true connection between you and the people you’re trying to influence.
Here are three ways to inject a level of vulnerability into your team to foster a championship culture.
What matters most to you – winning or getting all of the credit?
Michael Jordan was quickly emerging as one of the top players in the NBA as he started his second season in the league. He came out on fire during the first few games of the 1985 season before fracturing a bone in his foot during an October game against the Golden State Warriors.
The Chicago Bulls began to crater without their star second-year guard, going a disastrous 17-33 in the first half of the season. But, as we saw in ESPN’s The Last Dance documentary, hope wasn’t completely lost. #23 was coming back.
Jordan rehabbed relentlessly and returned in mid-March to the court. Worried about the long-term health of their franchise star, Bulls’ ownership imposed a “7-minutes-per-half” restriction on him. It didn’t matter how great he was playing, or how close the game was, once he hit his minute limit, he was benched for the remainder of the half/game.
The boiling point came on April 9, 1985, when battling for the final playoff spot, Jordan hit his (then) minutes restriction – with 30 seconds left in a one-point game. He fought his coach, who was being told he’d be fired if Jordan played one more second.
It had to be one of the most frustrating moments in Jordan’s life after he’d scored 15 fourth-quarter points to bring his team back. The opportunity to compete was being taken out of his hands. He was angry and helpless to aid his teammates in that moment. He was seething at the Bulls front office as he took a seat on the bench that night.
Almost every one of us can relate to the feeling of having the power to influence a result taken out of our hands.
In many situations, we sulk, whine, or complain about the situation. “It isn’t fair” that they get the chance and I don’t. Our focus has gone from winning and team success, to “what about me?” We focus on our feelings, suddenly apathetic to how the team does because it’s no longer about us.
This isn’t about sports either.
Watch the last 30 seconds of the Bulls-Pacers game in The Last Dance. You’ll see Bulls guard John Paxton hitting a game-winner and the first person off the bench to celebrate the win is Michael Jordan.
The same All-Star player who was just benched by management is on the court hugging and celebrating the win with his teammates when so many others would stay on that bench or go to the locker room because they didn’t get take the winning shot.
That moment right there showed Jordan’s uncanny leadership and focus on simply winning.
It’s also a clear reminder that as leaders, greatness requires us to focus on winning results, not getting all of the attention. Is it any surprise that the winningest team captains in sports history are about the team and not just their own awards?
- Tom Brady (New England Patriots)
- Derek Jeter (New York Yankees)
- Anyone on the New Zealand All-Blacks
Leaders – winners in sports and life – care about winning. Period.
It’s not about the individual attention or praise, it’s about making sure no matter what, we as a team win.
When a friend hits a big goal, we should celebrate with them – and be motivated to raise our own game.
When someone on our team gets to make the presentation for a successful client project, we should celebrate with the team that the client is happy – not complain and add negativity to our culture that we weren’t chosen to present.
If you crave the attention, you’ll rarely get the wins. If you crave the wins, you’ll easily get the attention.
Leaders on winning teams care about winning – not the attention.
Compete to do the same this week.
Kansas City Chiefs quarterback Patrick Mahomes is already a household name, regardless if he wins Sunday’s Super Bowl LIV. The East Texas native made waves in football during his first year as a starter in 2018, earning league MVP honors. Mahomes is a special athletic talent, but one thing that sets him apart from others playing his same position is his leadership style.
See what I mean in this clip below:
Down 24 points to the Houston Texans in his team’s first playoff game this season, Patrick can be seen on the sidelines encouraging his teammates and pumping them. He was facing overwhelming odds – losing 24-0 – but remained at least on the outside, positive and focused on helping his teammates stay locked in. He’s shouting positive words to “do something special” and simply focus on the next play.
“One play at a time. Do something special.”
You didn’t catch him whining. You didn’t hear him cursing out defensive players for giving up 24 points. You only saw him trying to keep everyone focused and believing they could get back in this game.
And get back in this game they did, outscoring the Houston Texans 51-7 in the time remaining.
It’s common to see athletes put their heads down on the bench, see the frustration on their faces, or hear the expletives shouted at a couch or teammate when their team is losing by multiple scores. That’s common in sports.
It’s also common in life. We pout, sulk, or whine when things don’t go our way. We don’t get the promotion we believe we deserved. We get injured and miss a physical goal we’ve set. Life deals us a bad break that’s completely outside of our control but derails what we expected to do. It’s common in those frustrating moments to be negative and blame the situation or others for our predicament. That’s common.
That’s also why great leadership is not common.
A leader’s ability shines brightest when the situation seems darkest. A great leader stays positive despite a turbulent storm and does their best to keep their teams in positive spirits too. What Patrick Mahomes did on that Sunday – and seemingly every Sunday you seem him on an NFL sideline – is special. It has nothing to do with his talent level (which is astronomical) but everything to do with his choices.
He intentionally chooses to take a positive attitude and look for the opportunities instead of whine and stare at the obstacles. The mark of a positive leader is unquestionably visible when things aren’t going as planned. They stay positive. They encourage their team. And they focus on the most important thing – what they can do next.
It doesn’t matter if your arena is a football sideline, a business office, or your own home. Your ability to be a positive leader doesn’t have to do with your title or talent, but your choice to intentionally want to be one.
And if you need a good example, look at the Kansas City sidelines this weekend for #15.
This post is the first of many categorized as “Leadership and Popcorn Lessons” that I’ll share business and leadership takeaways from movies. I love going to movies and watching great stories unfold on the big screen, and felt it would help you, my readers, in your career & life if you had additional insights into the film and key lessons to look out for if you were to see the film.
I’ve been excited to see Ford v. Ferrari since I watched its trailer release on YouTube. I’m a fan of both Matt Damon & Christian Bale, and was excited to see how they would bring this story to life. The film highlights the 24 Hours of Le Mans, the world’s “oldest, active sports car endurance race.”
Ford Motor Company’s sales were struggling during the 1960’s. Desperate for a change, Henry Ford II hired a team of engineers, led by automotive legend Carroll Shelby (Damon) and his British driver (Bale) to design a Ford racing car capable of beating Ferrari in the world’ biggest race. It was a move the company was banking on changing their brand image from an “old man’s car” to a new generation’s fast, sexy car.
Ford v. Ferrari is a fast-paced racing movie, full of ego, arrogance, and the entrepreneurial spirit. It’s also filled with key lessons for succeeding in business and life.
1. What’s Worked In the Past Doesn’t Guarantee It Will in the Future
Ford had built a large company on the backs of their early models, but during the 1960s, saw their market share slip due to a younger generation aligning Ford with their parents – and like all teenagers & young adults, they wanted to distance themselves from anything that made them look like their parents. James Bond, the image of sexy & strong, drove an Ashton Martin. Other brands stepped ahead of Ford until they turned to Carroll Shelby and unveiled the Ford Mustang in 1964.
As detailed in the movie, Ford had to change their brand image & product line from what “was” in order to rise back ontop for what it “could be.”
It’s easy for us to rely on the way “things have always been” in business. We grow comfortable and complacent sticking with what’s always worked instead of continually evaluating our systems, products, and customer experience – until one day we look up and realize we’ve lost ground in the market. “What got you here won’t get you there” is a phrase I’ve kept in the forefront of my mind during my own entrepreneurial journey so that I was constantly focusing on how we can innovate and continue growing instead of being caught complacent.
2. Sometimes You Have to Look Outside of Your Industry for Game-Winning Ideas
Ford’s team looked beyond the American consumer market for ideas on how to rebrand themselves and create a new product (insert Ferrari & the 24 Hours of Le Mans). Most companies succeed with innovation with they look outside of their own industry and direct competitors for fresh ideas in other industries altogether.
We get stuck in a habit only reviewing our space when many great ideas can be found by looking at the processes & systems of other industries. Just look at how companies like Uber & AirBnB have changed the transportation & travel industries. If you’re ever feeling stuck, challenge yourself to look at how successful companies in entirely different spaces are working for a fresh perspective.
3. Be Willing to Experiment and Test with the Continuous Focus of “How Can We Get Better Today?”
Shelby’s team was relentless testing Miles’ race cars to create the most efficient & powerful machine so he had the best opportunity to win at Le Mans. Just the same, successful organizations encourage a culture of asking “how can we get better today?” It’s a simple question, that if integrated into all levels of a company, can create powerful results.
This simple question encourages every position within a company to evaluate their own workday, communication lines, customer-engagement, and more for opportunities to streamline and improve the workflow & experience. The tests to improve the workflow only benefit the company’s productivity and – just as important – the customer experience.
Be less concerned about something “not working” and more concerned with testing different ideas for improvement. You won’t bat 1.000% on new ideas – but you will bat 0% if you never attempt to test them.
4. Someone Will Always Criticize You – Even Try to Bring You Down – Ignore Them To Focus on What You Control.
Throughout the entire movie, Damon & Bale’s characters faced challenges – both from external teams & influences as well as internal at Ford. It reminded me of one key truth we forget when pursuing something great – not everyone is going to like it or you. It doesn’t matter if they do, it only matters what you continue to do.
You can’t control how someone else treats you (or tries to sabotage you) but you 100% control how you respond in your attitude, effort, & actions. You can waste precious time worrying about what someone else will say or do – or you can invest that time in getting better with your product and service. Even if you do a flawless job, someone will have something negative to say – so it’s a more effective use of your time to ignore outside critics and instead focus on what you control.
Ford v. Ferrari is a great film on the importance of thinking creatively outside of the box, believing in your ability to win, and hiring people you believe in — and then getting out of their way to let them do their job effectively.
I grew up working in a small town gas station my Dad owned in east Texas. Starting at the age of 7, I’d spend summer days sweeping parking lots, cleaning gas pumps, and stocking the coolers at the store as my chores before I could play with my neighborhood friends or head to baseball practice.
I hated every minute of it.
Sometimes my dad would jump in and help me stock the cooler or change out a soda line that had run out of syrup. I didn’t understand why he was going that or was making me work in the store. Didn’t we pay employees to do all of this, I asked him one day.
“We do – but many times throughout life a leader has to get in there and do the work himself.”
He went on to teach me about the importance of setting the example for a team. He said,(more…)
Last night my Texas Rangers lost to the Minnesota Twins 13-6. I turned the game on during the 5th inning and saw my team was already trailing by 10 runs.
Ten runs is a huge amount in baseball. In fact, only a few times in baseball history has a team overcome a 10-run deficit to win the game. It would be very easy at that point to call it a night and start looking toward tomorrow if you were losing.
In baseball, maybe more than any other sport, great players know the importance of every single at-bat. It doesn’t matter if you’re up 10 or down 10, a great player won’t mail it in at the plate just to get through the inning. They’ll work the count and do everything they can to get a hit.(more…)
Is it even worth investing the time to train a new hire who is going to ultimately leave?
I know from experience how frustrating it can be to invest time into training someone who leaves you. However, the alternative is always worse and you can use the opportunity to build your own career in these 3 ways.
We all want to have a championship culture in our organization. But what does it actually look like and how can we build one?
Do you know who you’re competing with?
Who are you looking toward as your competition? Who do you see on a daily / weekly / monthly basis as your measuring stick, and God help you if you haven’t caught up – or passed – them?
But do you know know you’re most important competition is with? It is not with the person you work with, the friend at the gym, or the stranger you follow on social media.
Your strongest competition is with the person you were yesterday. It’s that face that looks back at you in the mirror every morning and every evening.
A lot of people talk about the importance of being “better than yesterday.” It sounds great, but honestly, what does that look like in the real world?
Contrary to what you might think, it doesn’t look like
- bases-loaded home runs
- 99-yard touchdown runs, or
- “overnight” success.
In reality, it looks like small steps forward, every day. Boring, monotonous, plain steps forward.
It’s 1% progress made.
Newspaper headlines won’t scream “1% BETTER” but if you’re serious about getting better, that’s how you do it.
Because 1% today starts, and then you add 1% tomorrow, and the next day, and next….
Here’s a cool fact: if you do that, every day, in one year you aren’t 365% better. You’re actually exponentially better (thank you compounding interest!)
What does 1% better look like then?
1% is a small number. It’s simple to make a 1% positive adjustment each day – but just because it’s simple doesn’t mean it’s easy. And simple doesn’t guarantee that everyone will do it. Most won’t – because a 1% change requires being present and intentional in your daily actions. It can look like a number of different things, but here are a few suggestions to get your wheels turning:
- Create the 5 minutes to journal that you skipped yesterday – write 3 things you’re thankful, 3 targets for the day, or 3 lessons you can build on.
- Push yourself harder in a workout than you did last time. Instead of giving in, this time tell that voice to shut up when it said slow down you’re almost done and instead sprinted to the end.
- Prepare for that presentation just a little bit more than you did before. When is your next meeting at work or socially? Can you review your notes more thoroughly instead of ‘winging it’ this time?
- Practice more patience in a (work, social, love) relationship. Bite your tongue when you want to give advice. Take a deep breath when you want to fight. Keep working on that goal when you get anxious and want to quit because it hasn’t been achieved yet.
- Read 1 chapter of a book that’s collecting dust just sitting on your shelf not being read. You can knock out 30+ books a year if you focus on just 1 chapter a day.
Whatever it looks like, pick one thing and do it just a little bit better than you did today. We all have the ability to be 1% better every day. Most people fail to take advantage of the day (i.e. opportunity) they’re given. Don’t be like most people.
Be a Competitor instead. (I promise, winning tastes better than “what if”).
Do what you can to be a little better than you were last time.
I’m curious – what’s one thing you do every day to build on the previous?
Leave a comment below with your daily action to be better than yesterday!