Tag Archives: world-class

World class achievers do 3 things nonstop

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Success is the result of knowing what to do, the willingness to do it, and the drive to continually improve at it  – Tim Grover

Why do only a few make it to the top? What does it take to become a world class achiever in your field of expertise?

The other day, I was at a NBA play-offs game between Toronto and Miami. It was a spectacular match where the Toronto Raptors beat Miami Heat in overtime. The crowd went absolutely crazy. It was a sign that the players delivered: they won and they entertained. While I observed the game I tried to figure out what the 3 things are that top talented professionals have, or do over and over again that makes them an outlier.

One of the concepts that I like when talking about top talent, is the one that Tim Grover introduced in his book Relentless. Tim is a well-known trainer of top basketball athletes like Michael Jordan, Kobe Bryant, and Dwyane Wade, and he talks about 3 categories of professionals: Coolers, Closers and Cleaners.

A Cooler is a follower who “can make a huge play, but he’s ultimately not responsible for the outcome. A Closer “can handle a lot of pressure” and will perform effectively if his task is clearly defined. A Cleaner is the ultimate competitor who has an “insatiable addiction to success. Or in other words: good, great and unstoppable. This model is not limited to sports, it can be applied to any profession.

My point of view is that world-class achievers have or do 3 things nonstop.

World-class achievers are self and socially aware. They are self-conscious, know what they want and deeply understand their strengths and weaknesses. The have a strong desire to learn and improve. They handle a mistake, set-back or failure as an opportunity to grow, instead of a showstopper. They are hungry and have a broad interest in exploring new concepts and emerging technologies that have potential to make them better. They come from humble beginnings. They know that arrogance eventually bend their performance curve downwards. They build and maintain strong relationships and have the intent to help grow people they interact with. They understand that trust fuels every relationship.

World-class achievers attract the right conditions such that they can operate and grow to the best of their abilities. This can range from working conditions, to the employer you want to work for, to the kind of projects you want to be on, to seeking advice from coaches, to support from family and friends, and so on. They respect these conditions and nurture them, because they understand the positive impact on their results.

World-class achievers persevere. The are focused on delivering the plan. They have alternative plans in their back-pocket in case the situation asks for it. Nothing will stop them. They run scenarios in their head that can possibly derail them or their team, and have answers ready. They are competitive and want to win. There’s no doubt. Everything they do is aligned with their goals, because they realize that if they don’t, somebody else will.

The point of succeeding can be different for each world-class achiever. It could be driven by a survival strategy, or the desire to leave something behind of significance, or an act of humanity or justice, or something else. It doesn’t really matter what it is, as long as you are mindful about it and let it keep up the fire in your belly to run and deliver. Nonstop.

Bas de Baat

Want a World-Class Project Team?

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The bigger the dream, the more important the team – Robin Sharma

The building blocks of solutions that IT business transformation projects deliver are commonly defined as people, process and technology. Many organizations tend to jump straight to the technology component to argue what the best fit would be for the future state of the business. The next building block in line that gets most attention is process. “Do we adjust the business to industry standards and leading practices, or are we unique and therefore accept modifications of the technology to fit our needs?” Organizations tend to spend so much time on debating technology and process that they forgot about the need of having a qualified project team of internal and external resources that can actually do the work.

Let’s be real. When IT business transformation projects fail, it may appear it is the technology, but in most cases it is not. If it fails, it either has to do with a lack of adequate leadership to move to standards and leading practices, or it is a consequence of not putting a world-class project team together, or a combination of both.

I strongly believe that the people factor is at least as important as process and technology, so not more. At the end of the day, the work gets done by people, and one can only expect world class output if there is world-class input. Here is a list of factors that can be helpful with building a world-class team:

Capability: knowledge, experience, skills, personality, diversity

Pick the right people for the job, and if they don’t seem to be out there, keep looking. When organizations select people, the focus automatically goes to knowledge, experience and skills. That’s perfectly fine as a first set of selection criteria, but in interviews the focus should shift more towards personality and diversity. Does the candidate fit with the team and organization? And what values can the candidate bring to the team that the organization does not have today, but can become very useful down the road? Diversity can be a driver of the ‘creative power’ of the project team as a whole

Intrinsic motivation and passion

You want to build a goal oriented project team, where people have the opportunity to unite business and personal ambitions. Motivation that comes from the inside is propelling a team to greater heights of achievement. Identify those common grounds and shared interests during the selection phase and foster them during the execution through coaching

Work environment

There is a reason why many start-ups and companies like Google, Apple, and Facebook have work environments that are way different and standing out. They recognize that there is an immediate relationship between creativity, productivity, job satisfaction and business performance, and value that by making substantial investments in the work place. An IT business transformation project thrives on creativity and there is no such thing without top talent that feels ‘at home’ and can ‘outperform’ during business hours

Feel safe

In his book ‘Leaders eat last: Why some teams pull together and others don’t’, author Simon Sinek explains that remarkable things happen when there is trust and cooperation within the team. There is a continuous need for each person to feel safe. Sinek means that leaders are responsible to takeaway elements that are perceived as dangerous, and trade them with positive elements like opportunity to grow and succeed, self-confidence, education, and ability to try and fail. If certain conditions are met and the people inside an organization feel safe among each other, they will work together to achieve things none of them could have ever achieved alone. Sinek also mentions that great leaders would never sacrifice the people to safe the numbers, they would sooner sacrifice the numbers to safe the people. The great leader has followers because he cares, not because of the rank, position and authority, as that drives fear. The world-class team of the leader who establishes a ‘feel safe’ environment will be able to consistently deliver a remarkable performance, whereas a leader with the opposite style may at best harvest some short term, mediocre results

Acknowledgement

Studies have shown that a person, who contributes to a work product, wants to receive some level of acknowledgement. People want to feel good about their performance. Deepak Chopra, a well-known author and speaker of alternative medicine and forms of spirituality, found that if a person is using his strengths and the leader:

  1. Acknowledges that, his level of disengagement goes to less than 1%
  2. Ignores him, the level of disengagement goes up with 45%
  3. Criticizes him, the level of disengagement goes down with 25%

It is interesting to see that ignorance is worse than critique.  A leader who wants to be successful with his project team, makes it a habit to provide constructive feedback on an ongoing basis, and understands that ignoring people performance is a no go zone

Effective communication

Leaders who build world-class project teams are strong communicators. They know how to share the right information to the right audience at the right time. They understand that predictability is important for senior leaders to make informed and timely decisions, and for team members to do their job extremely well. An effective approach to make that happen is to have a single plan-on-a-page readily available that provides instant answers to scope, timeline, financials, issues and risks. In world-class project teams, each member has a solid understanding of the vision of the initiative, the path to get there, the individual’s contribution and project performance. Effective communication has become a habit instead of a planned activity

There are more factors that help leaders to build world-class project teams. Think about degree of control, decision autonomy, leadership style, social interaction and team development or growth and learning opportunities. Technology can become a competitive advantage for organizations if they are able to attract top talent that is needed to implement it flawlessly. Therefore a change of mind-set is needed: one that focuses more on people and world-class performance.

Bas de Baat

Program Manager Enterprise Applications, PMP©