Team Building for a Breakthrough Year

Most leaders are under the delusion that a successful year happens over the course of 12 months. Setting goals and then giving an ongoing effort on a daily basis, creates success. This is not true. A breakthrough year comes fom a combination of team building efforts which start in January. Top performing leaders understand this intuitively and use January to make December great.

“Fantasizing about the future is one of my favorite pastimes.” – Richard Branson

Branson understands the old adage “start with the end in mind.” I met a top performing SWAT team leader who understands this, too. He has a record of success so strong that he was asked to train other SWAT leaders in his team building approach. He says that a key source of his success was seeing success before starting. He always took a few minutes in the back of the van with his team to visualize a successful raid, in all aspects of what that meant, before crashing into houses to arrest criminals. This led his team to the most success with the least citizen complaints.

When executives ask our firm to do some team building to increase results, we always ask them and their teams to fantasize about their future. Once they see it in their minds clear as day and declare it, then they are ready to achieve it.

When to do it? The research says that the best time is the first week of January! You are 10 times more likely to achieve a goal if you set it near New Year’s, rather than midyear. So get your team focused on December today (specific suggestions for how to do this at the end of this article).

“It’s the repetition of affirmations that leads to belief. And once that belief becomes a deep conviction, things begin to happen.” – Muhammad Ali

“I am the greatest” was Ali’s affirmation. It was radical at the time for someone publically boast like that. The truth is Ali wasn’t really boasting. He was affirming his future. And it obviously worked for him as he became the greatest heavyweight boxer of his time, maybe of all time.

Top leaders do the same thing. They create Aspirational Ambitions that are short and easy-to-remember, that they can repeat to their teams, and continually reinforce the desired future.

The idea is to see success first. Paint a picture of it in your mind. Then, reflect on it over and over. It will point your team’s mind in the right direction, and then the actions and results will follow.

A CEO of a midsize technology firm we doing team building with just created her Aspirational Ambition with her executive team. It is amazing to watch how it takes on a life of its own with her and her team speaking of it. It is their mantra. Leaders repeat it and discuss it, and it starts to come into reality. It has become a driving focus to change the culture with all team building efforts the organization.

“We don’t do it because it is easy. We do it because it is hard. We do it because that goal will serve to organize and measure the best of our energies and skills.” – JFK

In 1969, in his speech announcing the challenge to reach the moon, JFK explains how top-performing leaders don’t set easy aspirations. They set hard ones. This is what inspires people. This is what builds great teams and rallies talents to create great results.

Here are specific team building techniques you can use when doing your own team building to fantasize about the future, affirm your beliefs and propel your team’s results to new levels this year. We use these around the world, across industries, and our clients tell us they are both motivational and results producing.

• Discuss with your team: Imagine it is December, and the year is an amazing success. What will the CEO be saying about us? This is a great team building question because it gets the team thinking about results that will truly benefit the organization as a whole, not just them.

• Role play with your team: At the end of the year, what do we want our customers to say about us when we are not around? Acting out how you want customers to speak about you will focus your team’s minds on the most important results you need to create.

• Create a vision board with your team: Using markers, pictures from magazines, and everyone’s imagination, create images of what kind of results we will achieve by Dec 31. Sounds silly, but people LOVE this team building activity. And most importantly I have seen it turn teams from disinterested silos into happy collaborators many times.

• Write a team song capturing the essence of your team’s success for the coming year. We have done this in English and other languages when in other countries. The easiest way is to rewrite the words to a motivational song you like (e.g. “We Are the Champions”). The most powerful way is to bring in us with our Grammy award-winning songwriter who will write the words and music with your team—explaining the strengths you have, the challenges you will overcome, and the greatness you will achieve.

Now is the time. Set up a team building meeting this week, with everyone rested and feeling good from vacation, and walk them through the doorway of the new year focusing on the positive future you want to create. In the process, you will be making December a time of great celebration.


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