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Growing Leaders Podcast Interviews Don Yaeger

Today, I’m excited to share with you a conversation with Don Yaeger. Don is a nine-time New York Times best-selling author, award-winning speaker, business leadership coach, and former Associate Editor for Sports Illustrated. Here are some highlights from our conversation.


Tim Elmore: Don, I’d like to talk to you about this idea of teams. I’m sure every single person is either part of a team or leading a team. They have learned that chemistry and making teams work is more than just gathering a group of people. What are some things you’ve learned that make teams great?

Don Yaeger: A great team looks at a huddle or a meeting as an advantage that we need to treat like the most important minutes of our day. The truth is that most of us don’t do that. We dread meetings. We come to meetings looking forward to checking our Facebook, texting people, or catching up on emails. The truth is, in those moments you are letting your team down. The important stuff is being left in the room, as we are going forward in a different direction. Great teams understand the value of these moments that we have together. They treat their team with so much respect that it gives them strategic advantage over their opponents.

Tim: Wow, that’s powerful. Don, in your book called Great Teams, you also highlight some very practical application, so what advice do you now give to organizations?

Don: An office place or workplace is a culture. Most of us don’t take the time to identify what that is. Culture is what you value within your environment. It is what you celebrate; it is what people get promoted for. The culture is what you really have within your office or workplace. Great teams are in discussion about their culture regularly. What I love is that these amazing organizations are so culturally aware. They talk openly about what they value. Then they reinforce those values by celebrating them when they occur. That is one of the things that is missed often. We say we want you to be a great teammate, but then the only thing we reward in the organization is when there is an increase in profit.

Tim: Culture is so important. And one aspect of culture is chemistry. What are some challenges, related to team chemistry, that leaders are going to face when pursuing these habits of greatness with their teams?

Don: I think the greatest challenge is trying to find time to do it. You think to yourself—I’ve got to do this or I’ve got to close that, or I’ve got to teach this class. How am I going to find time to start changing culture or start rewarding people, or start making our “why” evident? The truth is—the effort to find time is leadership. You have to decide what it is you are trying to build. If I am trying to find greatness in what I want to be and what I want our team to be, where am I going to find the time to do it? None of it happens by accident. The greatest challenge is finding time. It is easy to get caught up in the minutia of everything going on. The minutia is often how we get rewarded from our environment. So the question is, “How do we find time to change that environment?”

I hope you take time during your drive to listen to the whole conversation. If I listed every great insight Don shared during this conversation, this blog post would be quite long. Click below to listen to the full discussion.

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About Don Yaeger

Don Yaeger - Certified Speaking Professional (CSP), longtime Associate Editor for Sports Illustrated, 11-time New York Times best-selling author, leadership expert and executive coach.

Don Yaeger is a Certified Speaking Professional (CSP), longtime Associate Editor for Sports Illustrated, 11-time New York Times best-selling author, leadership expert and executive coach.

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