The Ultimate Competitive Edge


In This Issue:

Dear friends:

Teamwork is the ultimate competitive advantage; greater than strategy, than finance or technology. People working in teams can achieve more than people working individually could ever imagine.
Here’s an experiment, that I’ve had much success with, in improving the performance of teams:

1) At a team meeting, ask each team member to have a short conversation with the person sitting to their right, answering the question: What do we do well as a team? What are our strengths?

2) Next, ask everyone on your team to anonymously rate from 1 to 10, how effectively you currently work together as a team, and how well you need to work as a team to be a truly effective team (1 is terrible and 10 is excellent). These two numbers can be written on pieces of paper and passed to one team member. Whoever receives the papers totals and averages the two scores. (For example, a recent team I worked with rated their current performance as a 6, and the desired performance a 9.) Then, post these two numbers – the average of where we are now; where we need to be, on a board, where everyone on the team can see them. (thanks to Marshall Goldsmith for a variation of this process.)

3) Then, ask the team, what are two activities or two behaviors that everyone on the team can do differently that would close the gap in the rating of where we are now, and where we need to be; that is, what are two things we can all do differently to make the team become more effective?

4) Write down everyone’s suggestions; then, agree on two behaviors that everyone can do differently.

5) Follow up – once a month for the following six months, check in with your team about how you are doing regarding these two behaviors. What are recent examples of making these changes? What are examples of not making these changes? After three months and after six months, ask every member of the team to anonymously rate how the team is functioning.

I find this to be a powerful process. For many teams, just focusing on how to improve the performance of the team can be eye-opening, sometimes a bit frightening, and can shift the team dynamics in subtle as well as not-so-subtle ways. This process is intended to reduce fears, reduce assumptions, and build trust.

For a deeper experience, you can also have everyone on the team meet in pairs, where each person asks every other person on the team: please tell me, what are two behaviors that I can do differently which would make our team more effective? Then, after meeting with every other team member, each person would report the two changes they are working to change. This activity requires a fair amount of trust, and is often more effective with the help of an outside facilitator.

Yes, this is where I come in. I love working with teams in this way. And, there are many skilled facilitators that can help you improve the effectiveness of your team.

Good luck!

Warm regards,


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Accomplishing More by Doing Less

Antidotes to busyness, and tools and practices for living a more calm, meaningful, and productive life.

“But ultimately “success” in our work world and in our life does not rest with the external rewards or achievements. What matters most is how much love and goodness our existence has added to the planet, how effectively we have engaged with the people we cherish most, and how much we have been able to locate our own deep composure right in the midst of the messiness of life.”

– excerpt from Less

What Makes Us Happy?

I’ve enjoyed reading a terrific article in the June Vanity Fair, regarding a study that followed the lives of 268 Harvard students from the classes of 1942, ’43, and’44 for more than 70 years. A quote from Dr. George Valliant, who conducted the study for more than 42 years, when asked, What have you learned from the Study? – “That the only thing that really matters in life are you relationships with other people.”

One finding of this study was that a person’s relationships at age 47 predicted late-life adjustment better than almost any other variable.

Another finding was that almost all participants who where thriving at age 65 had been close to a sister or brother when younger.

The major factors for a healthy life include: education, a stable marriage, not abusing alcohol, and regular exercise.

The study also showed that it’s not the events and difficulties that determine happiness, but rather how people respond to these events. Though this may sound obvious or almost a cliché, the study found that it was not enough to be aware of one’s defenses and shortcomings in responding appropriately. “Only with patience and tenderness might a person surrender his barbed armor for a softer shield.”

click here to see the full article: What Makes Us Happy, Vanity Fair, June 2009

The World We Have – By Thich Nhat Hanh

All of us know that our beautiful green planet is in danger. Our way of walking on the Earth has a great influence on animals and plants. Yet we act as if our daily lives have nothing to do with the condition of the world. We are like sleepwalkers, not knowing what we are doing or where we are heading. The future of all life, including our own, depends on our mindful steps. We have to hear the bells of mindfulness that are sounding all across our planet. We have to start learning how to live in a way that a future will be possible for our children and our grandchildren…

We need a kind of collective awakening. There are among us men and women who are awakened, but it’s not enough; most people are still sleeping. We have constructed a system we can’t control. It imposes itself on us, and we become its slaves and victims. For most of us who want to have a house, a car, a refrigerator, a television, and so on, we must sacrifice our time and our lives in exchange. We are constantly under the pressure of time. In former times, we could afford three hours to drink one cup of tea, enjoying the company of our friends in a serene and spiritual atmosphere. We could organize a party to celebrate the blossoming of one orchid in our garden. But today we can no longer afford these things.

We say that time is money. We have created a society in which the rich become richer and the poor become poorer, and in which we are so caught up in our own immediate problems that we cannot afford to be aware of what is going on with the rest of the human family or our planet Earth. People in China, India, Vietnam, and other developing countries are still dreaming the “American dream,” as if that dream were the ultimate goal of mankind. In 25 years the population of China will be 1.5 billion people, and if each of them wants to drive their own car, China will need 99 million barrels of oil every day. But world production today is only 84 million barrels per day. So the American dream is not possible for everyone. It’s not a sustainable economy.

We have to have another dream: the dream of brotherhood and sisterhood, of loving kindness and compassion. That dream is possible right here and now.

The World We Have: A Buddhist Approach to Peace and Ecology (©2008) by Thich Nhat Hanh

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Executive Coaching and Outsourced Talent Management

Call on ZBA Associates LLC for your Executive Coaching and Teambuilding needs. We help business leaders redefine and achieve success by integrating leadership and communication skills with mindfulness practices. 415 389-6228;

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