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.
What are the 16 characteristics of greatness, and how you can apply them to your storytelling marketing? Don Yaeger, award-winning keynote speaker, business leadership coach, and an eight-time New York Times Best-selling author, joins us for the Business of Story podcast to discuss how empathy and asking the right questions are the core of compelling storytelling.
What you’ll learn about in this episode:
- Don’s background.
- Learning from mentors from afar.
- Don’s new book “Great Teams”.
- Why it’s so important to understand your “why” — and what Don’s “why” was while writing his new book.
- What great teams look like — and what they all do to keep achieving greatness.
- The four pillars of great teams: purpose, effective management, activating efficiency, and mutual direction.
- How Don defines organizational culture.
- What “A Players” are.
- How to prepare for top employees leaving by having a strong bench.
- Why Don is a very open leader with his team.
- Why Don makes sure he learns something every day.
Our guest today has studied and written about the most successful performers, leaders and teams in both sports and business over his long career as a journalist, author and speaker. Don Yaeger is an eight-time New York Times bestselling author, and a longtime writer and editor for Sports Illustrated. Don is also an in-demand public speaker, and is brought in by some of the largest and most successful organizations on the topics of leadership and greatness, and similar to what we do here, calls upon the lessons that can be learned in the sports world and applies them to all types of organizations.
Don’s most recent book, Great Teams: 16 Things High Performing Organizations Do Differently, identifies and highlights characteristics found in both the great sports teams and great businesses. It is tremendous and I highly recommend it.
In addition to his writing and speaking activity, Don also owns a political consulting business and public relations firm.
1) First things first. We just wrapped up the Rio Olympics, and I’m curious as a writer and story teller what stood out to you from these games in terms of a compelling story.
a. Blogged about Usain Bolt – disappointed he didn’t break the record in the 200, and said he didn’t have anyone to push him. We are better when we are being pushed beyond what we’re capable of.
2) Getting into the book Great Teams: 16 Things High Performing Organizations Do Differently
a. You talk about the different types of leaders, can you tells us about those and then I have a follow up about one of the types specifically.
i. Command and control – can still be useful in certain situations, but not typically in day-to-day situations
v. Synergestic – several or all of these working together.
vi. Pluses and minus to each of these
b. Email firstname.lastname@example.org for free tool
c. Can the command and control approach work in 2016? We hear all the time in the sports world that the game passed by old-school coaches who never adapted from that type.
i. It can in certain circumstances (e.g. times of crises), but not usually in an every day scenario
d. Simon Sinek wrote a great book called “Start With Why,” where he says in a nutshell that people will respond to you if they understand why you do what you do, rather than how you do it or even what it is you do. You take that idea further and more practically talk about the importance of teams or organizations feeling their “why.” Can you help us understand what that looks like and why it is important?
i. Simon talks most about individual whys, but Don is more interested in team/organizational whys
ii. Team has to know the organization’s why; not just the leader
1. Create a moment (Make a Wish example of mission moments) (could be 10 seconder)
e. What does it mean to recruit to the culture?
i. Not recruiting to the resume for one!
ii. Great teams say here’s what fits in our environment
iii. Employees at Don’s company create a culture document they use in interviews
1. Share with candidates so they can make an informed decision
2. This only works if the people within the organization knows what the culture is
3. Example where he did this with a company with 47 executives, and each of the 47 gave a different response to WHY the company did what it does.
f. Can you talk about the differences between a mission statement, values and a road map?
i. Mission statement is reducing to a few sentences what the mission of the company is
ii. Values are simply a set of terms the organization has decided to prioritize. Integrity is the most common one and so doesn’t really say a whole lot
iii. Road map is how you’re going to get someplace that is not driven by traditional values of the world today
a. Think John Wooden’s Pyramid of Success – not about winning but about the process
b. Nick Saban’s five things – it’s about process and not the end result
c. Bill Snyder 16 steps
2. Road Map is directional toward improvement and advancement
g. You talk about the importance of adapting to change. How have you found leaders or teams improving their capacity for this?
i. Coach K’s favorite word is adapt
ii. The best at this don’t allow the phrase “that’s how we used to do it” or “that’s how we’ve always done it” to be proof of anything.
iii. Too many people are afraid to adapt because it makes them uncomfortable, and greatness really begins where comfort ends.
h. What does it look like when a leader fosters a communication culture focused on strengths and positives. To some of us it might sound a little fluffy or idealistic without realism or accountability.
i. Successful organizations talk to people differently. The days of yelling/screaming are over, particularly when it comes to the Millennials
ii. Pete Carroll example
1. Start with the premise that no one makes a mistake on purpose
2. Incorporates into his assistant coach hiring process – no yellers/screamers
3. Specific example of wide receiver dropping a pass in practice and the assistant coach addressing it in a completely different way.
i. Talk about the danger of past or current success. How do the great teams battle complacency?
i. It’s the greatest killer of sustained success
ii. Saban/Wooden say it’s hard enough to win once; it takes true character to win more than once
iii. Mike Ditka: On the way to success it’s all about we. When success happens it becomes all about me
iv. Key is to stop talking about yesterday
1. 10-time national champion Penn State volleyball coach Russ Rose has no memorabilia/hardware in his office from his success; only relationships. His grandson took one of his championship rings and traded it for a [listen to find out what!!].
2. UNC soccer coach Anson Dorrance gives out roses rather than jewelry for championships, because the roses are going to die; gotta go out and grow new roses
3) Do you have any habits or routines that have been key to your success?
a. Can’t lead people you don’t know, so each day find ways to engage with the people you are leading and learn about their lives
4) Where can people go to learn more about you and where can they pick up the book?
a. All fine book stores!