By Nettie Reynolds
For this Ask the Expert interview we caught up with Mark Miller, author of the newly released, “The Secret of Teams: What Great Teams Know and Do” and co-author with Ken Blanchard international best-selling book The Secret: What Great Leaders Know and Do. Miller has launched his new leadership community as well – Great Leaders Serve – http://www.greatleadersserve.org . His Twitter is @leadersserve .
In this interview Mark shares his insight on how to develop and nurture high performance teams and what it truly means to be a great leader who serves.
Hi Mark, you started your career at Chick-fil-A
almost 35 years ago – what’s the most important thing you’ve learned about leadership during the last three decades?
Mark: I’ve had two big leadership insights thus far in my career… First, Great Leaders Serve. That’s not what conventional wisdom will tell you, but I believe it is true. The second big idea for me is that leadership is fundamentally a choice. As leaders, we don’t get to choose the position we’ll hold within an organization, but we do decide if we’ll lead or not. And, no one else gets to determine how well I will lead – I do. The choices I make on a daily basis define my leadership. That challenges me everyday.
Nettie: I want to come back to the idea that great leaders serve, but first, tell us why you wrote your most recent book, “The Secret of Teams: What Great Teams Know and Do”
About 20 years ago, we started trying to determine what made some teams really exceptional while others remained average or worse. In the book, we’ve attempted to capture the lessons we’ve learned on the journey.
Teams are certainly not a new idea. However, now is the perfect time to set a higher team standard – now is the time to create and harness the power of high-performance teams. The world is more complex than ever. Many leaders are looking for ways to leverage the talents of their team members. Most industries are under tremendous competitive pressure. Leaders are running out of personal capacity and leadership capacity. Men and women working together in a high-performance team setting is the best response we’ve found for these realities.
Nettie: You’ve used the business fable style in this book – why?
Mark: Three reasons: About 10 years ago, Ken Blanchard and I wrote, The Secret, What Great Leaders Know and Do. It was the product of some work we were doing at Chick-fil-A to accelerate leadership development. Because that first book was a business fable, and The Secret of Teams is a sequel, we decided to stay with that style.
Next, the fable allows each of us to see ourselves and our challenges in the story. It is a story based in the real world where all of us try to lead on a daily basis. We can relate to the characters and their story because it’s based on real life scenarios.
Their story is our story.
Finally, the format – around 120 pages, makes the book and its content accessible. We never wanted to create an academic treatment of the team concept. It was not written to impress, rather to assist. The practical side of the fable makes the content feel much more doable, more pragmatic. As a result, people are more likely to try the ideas and enjoy the results of their efforts.
Nettie: Can you talk about what you’ve learned about these high-performing teams?
Mark: In summary, there are three ingredients and one catalyst needed to make any team a high-performance team.
Talent – Great teams begin with the right people – men and women who have a desire to learn, grow, contribute and be part of a successful team.
Skills – The members of high-performance teams possess two types of skills: individual skills and team skills. The individual members must be skilled in their assigned roles and be willing to develop the needed team skills.
Community – This is the element that separates good teams from great ones. High-performance teams foster a deep sense of genuine care and concern for each other. They do life together.
Nettie: What’s the catalyst you referred to?
Mark: Leadership. Teams don’t drift to high-performance. It will require leadership. Someone to say, we are going to become a high-performance team.
Nettie: I want to go back to something you said earlier, “Great Leaders Serve.” What does that mean to you?
Mark: The best leaders serve. This is more than a warm thought or a platitude of some sort. While these men and women do have a serving spirit, the best serving leaders also engage in five strategic practices. They…
See the future
Engage and develop others
Value results and relationships.
Embody the values
Nettie: You’ve just launched a new site – http://www.Greatleadersserve.org What will we find there?
Mark: Great Leaders Serve.org is a place to find free resources, ideas, encouragement and a community of like-minded leaders. One resource I’d like to point out specifically – a free team assessment. It’s a downloadable PDF – http://greatleadersserve.org/wp-content/uploads/2011/11/GLS_secret-of-teams_assessment.pdf.
Take the assessment. Give it to your team; ask them to complete it. Then have a candid conversation about productive next steps.
Nettie: Thanks Mark for the great team insight.
Expert Access Radio recently interviewed Mark Miller. You can listen to the podcast below: