chess not checkers

I don’t even know how to play chess, but I loved this book! chess not checkers

In typical Mark Miller style, he writes the book as a story, weaving humor, wisdom, care, and pragmatism in a quick, easy-to-read format. The main character, Blake Brown, takes a new CEO job in a struggling organization. Work is frustrating and drudgery, teamwork is non-existent, morale is weak, and customers are going elsewhere. The game has changed, old strategies aren’t working, and losing is miserable for everyone.

Blake begins to meet with a chess master mentor who teaches him four simple – yet essential – principles for playing a new game in today’s complex world:

1. BET ON LEADERSHIP – Identify and invest in emerging leaders. Mark gives excellent tips about developing yourself, your team, and the organization.

“…proactively develop your leadership.
The earlier in their career you invest in them, the better.”

“Leadership growth always
precedes organizational growth.”

2. ACT AS ONE – We know this as alignment, and it requires excellent communication. Mark describes it with a helpful illustration:

“Think of your organization as a car
driving at high speeds down a bumpy, dirt road.
The car will constantly be knocked out of alignment.
Part of your never-ending role is to keep the organization
aligned on what matters most.”

3. WIN THE HEART – Greater engagement happens when you allow people to contribute their unique gifts and work using their personal strengths.

“This is the way you need to look at your people.
When you deploy them thoughtfully,
you create greater value.”

4. EXCEL AT EXECUTION – This involves the important areas of resource allocation, measurements, and systems versus personality design.

“To help your team improve execution,
measure what matters most.”

There is much more in the book. I highly recommend that you pick up a copy today!

Any leader who implements these timeless principles will grow personally and improve the game plan for their team and their organization.

Which of these principles is most urgent for your situation? How can you apply new and improved strategy in your context?

Check out the great book trailer video HERE!

You can also find Mark Miller blogging on his website, Great Leaders Serve.

I also wrote a summary and review of some of Mark’s other books: The Secret and The Heart of Leadership. 

is there magic in teams?

Aside

Sometimes we act as if we can put a few random people together, call them a team, and we will automatically obtain magical results. All of a sudden, miraculously people will be happier, progress will be faster, productivity will be greater.

I love working on teams.
I have had incredibly positive experiences working on highly effective teams. I have also had horrendously miserable experiences working on dysfunctional teams. I can tell you… there is nothing magical about a team! Healthy, effective, highly productive teams require work – preliminary work in forming the team… and continual effort working together as a team.

From my experience, these are some of the most important errors to avoid when building a leadership team: 

  • If you are going to have a team leader – have a good one.

Do not pick a leader just because he is a “nice guy”. Do not pick a leader who has no vision for the team or who isn’t willing to work hard to turn the vision into reality. On the other hand, do not pick a leader who is a control-freak or who is hesitant or incapable of building and developing the people around them. If you are considering someone who has a track record of feeble results or a history of working alone… don’t do it!

If at all possible, pick a leader who has a proven track record as a visionary who also makes things happen by working together well with others. If that person doesn’t exist at the time, it might be better to create a “peer team” and share the leadership responsibilities. Consider term limits – you don’t want to place someone in leadership who won’t step aside so others can lead in the future.

  • Consider the emotional and spiritual maturity of each potential team member. 

Do not invite team members who constantly criticize (very different from critical thinkers) and complain. Do not accept people who take all the credit for themselves when there is success and then act as victims or blame others when challenges come. Steer clear of anyone who evades honest evaluation and direct communication. Unhealthy people = unhealthy teams.

You are not looking for perfect people, but rather people who are learning and growing – if possible, those with a track record of healthy relationships with others… those who know they aren’t perfect and openly recognize their need for others, and those who walk humbly with their God and give grace to others. Choose those who actively pursue community and accountability in their life… who have a good attitude and encourage others.

  • Don’t just yell desperately for “help” and take anyone who comes running.

(Been there. Done that. Paid the consequences.) Sometimes the people who respond to a crisis actually like crisis… and continue to create them in order to stay busy helping to fix them. This is not a good person for your team. Do not choose people simply because of seniority. Do not choose people just to fill the gap.

In the long run, it is better to learn a position empty, than to fill it with the wrong person. Evaluate your own strengths and weaknesses and those of your present team members – if you have one. Have an idea of where you want to go, and then recruit intentionally – more admin, more vision, more HR, more Ops, more crazy, more fun… depending on the need. Choose people who bring skill, experience, and excellence in their area of expertise. Add diversity (age/gender/nationality/etc) whenever possible.

Now ask yourself… do I work well with others, dream visions and get things done? Am I humble and growing? Do I bring value and excellence to our team?  

Would others want me on their team? Would I add to the “magic”?

Let’s learn together… What has been your experience with forming a team?

(In the next blog, I will write about working together as a team.)