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Weekly 3: Use teamwork to improve your performance

Summary: Identify your "personal board of directors." Mix different viewpoints. Stress-test your plan

Idea Journal Weekly 3

October 21 · Issue #57 · View online
We combine 3 ideas to help you think differently and be more creative.

Summary: Identify your “personal board of directors.” Mix different viewpoints. Stress-test your plans. (~5 min read)

#1. Form a core team of people who support your success
Creativity expert Todd Henry writes in his book The Accidental Creative that most of us have blind spots when it comes to making decisions about our careers and work.
We’ll never be the most objective judges of ourselves, and so it helps to have people you admire and respect “shine light into dark places and help you see angles of a problem that you may have otherwise overlooked.”
Henry suggests having a core team of 2 or 3 people who are significantly more experienced in areas where you may be lacking, who are vested in your success, and who will tell you the truth even when it’s hard to hear.
He offers the following 3 tips for creating your core team:
1. Choose people outside your company or organization
You want to be able to speak candidly about the issues you’re facing, and if a member of your core team is part of the hierarchy where you work, “you will always be tempted to soften your comments" or withhold your thoughts.
2. Choose a dreamer
You want at least 1 person on your core team who makes others nervous with the intensity and scope of their ideas – someone who pushes you and challenges your perspectives.
3. Choose people from a variety of industries
There are a few benefits to having the members of your core team be from different industries:
  • They bring multiple and potentially contrasting perspectives, which will help to strengthen the foundation of your decision-making process.
  • You’ll be more likely to hear about new and interesting ideas that otherwise might not be on your radar.
What are some issues you’re currently facing? How might your core team be able to help you?
#2. The value of varying viewpoints
Many discussions about a team’s diversity focus on the members’ demographic characteristics: their education, ethnicity, gender, marital status, religion, etc.
But as author and entrepreneur Guy Kawasaki points out in his book Enchantment, in the context of organizational performance, diversity of viewpoints can be just as important.
For Kawasaki, these are the 6 viewpoints you want on your team:
1. The advocate takes the side of your followers and customers, and pushes for things like lower prices, faster delivery, free support, and more engagement: “She is the believer’s champion inside the organization.”
2. The adult complements the forward-looking visionary by taking a holistic view of the team’s efforts and impact, and makes sure that the team operates in a cost-effective, efficient, and legal manner.
3. The evangelist uses emotion, intellect, and persuasion to sell the dream of how your cause can make people’s lives better.
4. The rainmaker closes deals. This can mean anything from selling advertising space to convincing a foundation to donate money to your non-profit. As Kawasaki puts it, “People think making a sale is easy until they try to do it themselves.”
5. The skeptic challenges ideas to make them better, by providing a doubting attitude to both good and bad news. But don’t confuse a skeptic with a cynic: “a skeptic doubts, a cynic knows.”
6. The visionary has a clear idea of how your business, technology, and the marketplace will evolve. They’re often not the best manager, but you need someone to anticipate the needs of your believers before they can articulate those needs for themselves.
#3. Push your plan to the brink of failure
Retired US Army four-star general Stanley McChrystal, in an interview with author Tim Ferriss, says that the problem with developing a plan to solve some problem you’re facing is that you start to fall in love with it.
You begin to dismiss the plan’s shortcomings, and sometimes you’ll find yourself “skipping over real challenges to it, or vulnerabilities in it, because you just want it to work.”
To keep yourself honest, and to more accurately test your plan’s validity, McChrystal recommends creating a “red team”: take a group of people who aren’t wedded to your plan and ask them: How would you disrupt or defeat our plan?
The more thoughtful your red team is, the better the results will be.
Quote of the Week
“I’ve found in building teams myself that the combination of personalities is always more important than the expertise or strengths of single individuals.”
- Author and entrepreneur Barbara Corcoran in her book Shark Tales
Idea Journal
Idea Journal
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