The Three Ingredients of a Successful Team

Is there a secret recipe for a successful team? A little of this, a little of that and BOOM! Can it be that easy?

The latest HBR post suggests these 3 must-have ingredients in your recipe for a successful team. And, well…how much you add of each gives something for leadership to chew on.

1. A big challenge: How big is the goal you are chasing? Is it big, a bit scary but abundantly clear what the mission is? Do you have the support you need?

2. People with a passion to perform: Do you have passion to find answers to the big problems and challenges? It’s the passion and excitement that keeps your team pushing through and keeps you engaged during the frustrating times.

3. Space to excel, space to create and innovate: The freedom to fail, room for experimentation to help ignite the power of passion and kick around the big problems.

These ingredients (challenge, passion, and space to create) nicely compliment Daniel Pink’s research on workplace motivation. His 3 ingredients: autonomy, mastery and purpose.

These food analogies are making me hungry. What is your recipe?

“Take out the trash”, and other lessons learned from career development

I’ve received lots of wonderful advice the past few months as I have spent my days – and many nights – navigating the path from passion to purpose.

Some of the best advice I received included this phrase – “don’t forget to take out the trash”. No, not housework. Something much more important.

Two months ago, I wrote down some tips, and then some questions to ask yourself – to help others navigate through a transitional phase.  Here are some additional lessons learned:

  1. Don’t be afraid to ask for help – Whether you are an entrepreneur, an independent contractor or a full-time job seeker, a lot of us can get used to doing everything by ourselves. While it’s great to be independent and self-sufficient, it’s also more than okay to ask for help.
  2. Take out the trash – Famous animator Don Hahn coined a saying, “Take out the trash” – meaning, learn what you’re not great at, or what you need to work on and be honest with yourself about it. While he’s not advocating we focus on the negative, taking out the trash now will allow you to enter your next project, job, shift, school, etc a bit more prepared, and humbled. Part of taking out the trash includes asking others for help, and asking questions.
  3. Ask questions – Ideas are sparked by asking the right questions. Ask questions of others and ask yourself plenty of questions as well. A curious mind, hell-bent on doing purposeful work that’s unique to you and your strengths can mean going through a lot of trial and error. Keep asking the tough questions and surround yourself with people who aren’t afraid to ask those hard questions.
  4. Learn to not take things so personally – You care a lot about your work – and you (hopefully) believe it can do a lot of good. As much as it stings, not everyone believes the same thing you do. Not taking things so personally can really help keep you on an even keel. It takes a while to build up this muscle – but if you can, find out why someone resists your idea, or your application. See #2.
  5. Ride the rollercoaster – You will encounter your fair share of highs and lows, it’s almost a guarantee.  Somewhere between the line of complete apathy and utter disappointment and euphoria lies a healthy medium that allows you to do consistent work, with consistent drive.
  6. Know your audience – Sometimes we can get so consumed with our passions  or ambitions that we need to take some time to get outside of our head. Get clear about how your customer views you, what your value is, and what need you are filling. See items 1-4 to help you shape and hone your offerings.



Questions to ask yourself as you navigate the path from passion to purpose

This talk from Dr. Srikumar Rao provides more tips and thought-provoking questions that nicely complement yesterdays blog post on finding your passion and purpose:

There are two keywords to remember – story, and journey.

  1. Become clear about what you want, why you want it, AND how you can engineer what you want to create greater good to the community
  2. An attitude of “if then, this” will not serve you well. Passion does not exist IN the job, it exists within us.
  3. What stories are you telling yourself? Are these stories hurting you or helping you. Can you change your mental models (mindsets) to tell yourself a different story?
  4. What journey is your story taking you on? Is this story taking you to a place where you want to spend time?

Tips for navigating the path from passion to purpose

It can be a bumpy ride, this whole passion and purpose adventure. Buckle your seatbelt but please remember to take in the view.

Here are some practical tips for navigating the journey to finding and pursuing your passion and purpose.

1. Mistakes are gifts

Something I’ve learned over the past 8 years is to truly embrace the improv principle of: “Mistakes are Gifts”. If we can learn to view what might be considered a mistake, as a gift, there really are no mistakes. Our definition of a mistake, or a failure can be shaped by our mindset — and our mindset is something we can control. What did you learn from each experience, and what lessons can you take with it on to the next stop in your adventure?

My “mistakes” contributed to so many positives – I feel more equipped to take on challenges, I have come to appreciate my breadth of experience, and I actually found my passion because of some of the “mistakes” I made in choosing past jobs.

Increase your bounce-back rate from these “mistakes” and use them as intuitive guides to help shape your path. What gold can you mine?

2. Diversify your dreams

This blog from HBR’s Passion and Purpose series stresses the importance of diversifying your dreams. It may seem silly to treat our dreams as stocks. But what happens if your dream never generates a return?

Keep an open mind as you look to follow your passion. Several years ago I was convinced I would be happy IF I landed a certain dream job. I very much had a “if then, this” attitude. I landed the job after over a year of waiting and paying my dues. Turns out, it didn’t make me happy. What I thought was my passion was just a hobby. Finding your passion doesn’t always include a means to an end. As so many say, the reward is the journey, not the destination.

Diversify your dreams. Find the tools that inspire you and keep adding to your toolbox. Remember that the tools you acquire can be used for a multitude of projects and jobs. Keep searching for more tools, keep adding to your toolbox. And most of all, keep an open mind.

3. Celebrate the small wins

It’s more important than we realize.

4. Practice gratitude in the face of uncertainty 

This quote from today’s HBR article encompasses the grateful, open-minded approach we need to keep on the path:

“develop a folder of gratitude – a constantly updated listed of all the things in life you’re grateful for. Chances are, many of the things on your list correspond neatly with your underlying passions. Then, take your list and amplify these passions with intelligent experiments. Test and invest in your areas of interest, and cultivate the joy of learning from failure. Finally, just like any investor worth their salt, double down on winners. If something strikes a chord, reallocate more time and energy to it. View your dreams as organic and ever-changing, and you’re much more likely to be pleased with the outcome”

Remain flexible, adaptable, open-minded and most of all curious. Set your intention and keep moving one foot in front of the other. There may be multiple paths, but the unknown is as exciting as it’s ever been.