Leading Groups to Become Teams

Ever feel like everyone at work is on a different agenda?  Too much politics?   Are you having a hard time leading everyone forward to achieve the organization’s goals?  Or you are dragging everyone into the future?

Well, you are not alone, and this feeling is curable!


The secret is to get everyone behaving more like a team and less like a group of talented and spirited individuals.  Said another way, businesses are built by TEAMS, not by a group of individuals.  Even well-meaning individuals are ineffective if not working as part of a team.  In fact, most challenges to a positive and productive work environment come from strong individuals thinking they are adding much value…yet not working in coordination with other team members.

So, how do you get everyone acting more like a team?

First, be courageous!  Be willing to interrupt the status quo.  Visualize the team environment your organization deserves.  Then start taking action.


The first step is to remind yourself what a business team looks like.  What are the qualities and characteristics?  Then assess where your group is today, and lead them to more team behavior.  You will like the results.  Here is my take on defining a team in the business setting, based on research with leaders and my observations:

  • PURPOSE: Teams have a common Vision of the world, share Values, are united in a Mission.  Leaders hold team members responsible for achieving the Strategic Objectives that lead to accomplishing the mission and team success.
  • STRUCTURE: Teams have roles and responsibilities, known communication structures and patterns, and authority delineation. Teams have the resources and competencies necessary to achieve the mission.  Teams interact with their environments in an open manner.  Leaders build open communications and trusting relationships.
  • OPERATIONS: Teams work together to produce the desired outcomes.  Teams direct their own work, and measure output for both effectiveness and efficiency, and constantly strive for improvements.
  • FEEDBACK: Teams ask for, provide, and use feedback.  They create systems to support the gathering of and processing feedback.  Feedback keeps them on track to achieve their goals while living their values.  Feedback allows teams to navigate, learn, and adapt, and thus grow and be successful.  Feedback is the fountain of youth for organizations and teams.

I learned an expression years ago from one of my mentors: “It is easier to run with a hundred, than to drag one.”  Teams are going in the same direction.  They share a sense of mission, values, and are clear on their objectives, goals, and where they will invest their energy.  You trust them to do the right things, at the right time.  If you fall, they pick you up.   Like a charging herd of buffalo, you are swept up in the momentum of the team and are easily carried along.

Groups of individuals that just happen to belong to your company won’t carry others along.


To “run with a hundred” focus your leadership actions on strengthening team behavior.

  1. Reinforce the team identity and culture, broadcast clearly the goals and strategic objectives, clarify roles and structures.
  2. Communicate and live your company’s Brand.
  3. Create and maintain a learning culture.
  4. Respect one another.
  5. Find what your team is best at, and build Esprit de Corps.
  6. Reinforce a sense of belonging and ownership on the team.

Wishing you a productive journey turning your “group” into a TEAM!

Maintaining Focus to Achieve Your Goals

“GOALS…What you see when you are not focusing on the challenges.

A Parable on Careers

I set a goal for myself to qualify for the 2017 Boston Marathon.  Goal achieved.  It was not easy…in fact, there was time, effort, and some degree of pain.  But I had a dream, consulted with coaches and mentors, wrote out a specific plan, and then put in the work.  Gratefully, the work, planning, and coaching paid off and I realized my dream of qualifying by running the California International Marathon in Sacramento in goal time.

Then I set a new goal, this time to run the Boston Marathon and beat my previous marathon time.  Having achieved success before, I got a little laid-back in my pursuit of this new goal.  Distractions and set-backs became too common during my training.  One week I caught myself about to give up on meeting my daily training goal, when a fallen tree blocked my trail.  Turning back would have cut my run  short by about 4 miles.

Whoa! Large tree blocking my path.

Focus on this spot!

At first, I turned back.  Then I caught myself…how easy to lose sight of my goal.  I needed to run another 4 miles to stay true to my goal workout.  I reset my gaze on the fallen tree, examined it from different angles, and squinted for signs of the old trail on the other side.  Voila!

Upon determined inspection, I first saw the old trail, and then discovered a way through to it.

With a little extra effort, re-dedication to my goals, committed focus and determination, I made my way past this obstacle and continued my journey to success.  Having persisted and prevailed, I found new confidence in the pursuit of my goal and staying true to my workout.

Persistent focus unveils new pathways.

Next I was to run 19 miles on paved roads, and I attacked my work with renewed vigor.  I’ve since encountered more obstacles and challenges, but am stronger in my conviction, more confident I can overcome, and more determined in my commitment to my training and eventual success in achieving my goal!

I also am proud to say that in April of 2017 I successfully finished the Boston Marathon.  In fact, I re qualified to run it again next year.

What challenges are you facing in successfully achieving your goals?  Are you focusing on those challenges, or your goals? Where have you successfully overcome challenges and “found your path“?  How can you use this story as a parallel for staying focused on achieving success for yourself and your team?

Wishing you much continued focus and career success!

John Boyens on Dominating Your Market

John Boyens, Co-Founder and President, The Boyens Group

John Boyens, renown sales productivity expert, business strategist, and President of the Boyens Group, has invaluable insights to share about improving your sales performance and dominating your customer market.

6 Secrets to Dominating Your Market:

  1. Define Success…establish key performance indicators (KPIs)
  2. Know your Customers…segment your marketplace
  3. Know your Competition…establish competitive differentiation
  4. Document your Business’ 5 P’s(the 5P’s are:  1) Positioning/Unique Value Proposition, 2) Product/Service, 3) Placement in Your Market Space, 4) Price, and 5) Promotion/How You Go To Market)
  5. Establish your Go-to-Market Strategy…including a written sales and marketing plan
  6. Leverage Social Media…establish your virtual business strategy (VBS)

Too many business executives spend most of their time running their business rather than focusing on growing their business…in other words, working “in” versus “on” their business…being tactical versus strategic So what can you do to become more strategic?  Here are some best practices from successful business executives to consider:

  • Do one thing to increase your company’s visibility right away (e.g., social media)
  • Identify one person or company who could immediately and positively impact revenue
  • Identify one mundane, time-consuming task that you could delegate or outsource
  • Defer something you’re working on, that really isn’t necessary to be done now
  • Better leverage technology
  • Facilitate customer feedback to validate/invalidate the marketplace perceptions of your company
  • Ensure that your marketing messaging is consistent across all channels (i.e., website, social media, collateral material, pitch deck, sales presentations, trade show booth and advertising).

For more helpful articles on John’s “5 P’s” of all successful business strategies, what to include in a sales and marketing plan, how to create a unique value proposition (UVP), as well as proven social media tips designed to grow revenues quickly, you may refer to John’s website at www.boyens.com.

And a few thoughts from John, in closing:

  • Market domination is a result of positioning
  • Positioning is a result of being UNIQUE
  • Being unique means you can charge more… and get it!

Wishing you improved sales performance and success in dominating your market!

The Race Is On! – My Boston Marathon Race experience…April 2017


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What an experience!

After months of training, preceded by the obligatory qualifying marathon in Sacramento (CIM) to time-qualify, applying for the Boston Marathon Race, being selected, and then planning the trip to Boston…we have arrived!

Boston folks bringing incredible energy the whole weekend, from the closed streets days in advance, well-attended runner’s expo, buses taking 10,000+ runners to the start line 26.2 miles away, and cheering crowds lining the streets all the way back to Boston to the finish line!  As I sped to the finish, it felt like I was starring in a ticker-tape parade!

RESULTS?  Tremendous feeling of accomplishment…took hours to stop grinning!  Completed the race in under 4 hours, re-qualified to run again next year, and placed in the top 20% of men in my age group.

SHARING: Many events along the way to share, but here are a few select photos of highlights.

So grateful for the support from family, friends, clients, coaches, and fellow Tamalpa Running Club members.

Completing the Boston Marathon is one of my greatest accomplishments yet… AND I QUALIFY for 2018!   3:49:40.  WOW!  Who would have thought…

More thoughts about running the Boston Marathon, and parallels with running businesses and managing our careers, coming soon!


Completing the 2017 Boston Marathon in under 4 hours.

I couldn’t have done it without my coach!  Worked with athletic trainer Warren Lanier for 9 months to prepare for a pain-free race.

So glad I got to run with my partner for life!  Danielle also qualified to run the Boston Marathon, and encouraged me all the way here.  And I encouraged her!

Repping Stanton Chase!  Checking out the finish line the day before the race.

Caught me! Hand Slap #195… Gotta love these fans!  Who knew an introvert could get energized by strangers?

Lot of active audience participation. My right shoulder started hurting from all the High-Fives I shared along the way. Some fans are over-enthusiastic in their support…and hand slaps!

Trusting that I was truly across the finish line, it hit me that I could stop running now, and take a break. Yahoo!

2017 Boston Marathon successfully completed.


Effective business leadership means more plain talking…and less “RCRS.”

Sometimes effective business leadership means more plain talking…and less “RCRS.”  Communications challenges getting under your skin?  Then take a pointer from the CEO of Mylan’s refreshingly direct letter to the public, linked below, in today’s WSJ (A11: Dear EpiPen Customers…).  This CEO won me over.

Ladies take note…the CEO I’m applauding turns out is also a lady, Ms. Heather Bresch.

Ms. Bresch offers a clear explanation for how pharmaceutical products are priced in America, and how Mylan prices its EpiPen for Americans seeking a quick cure for allergic reactions to peanut allergies and bee stings.   Open, transparent, communications taking responsibility and sharing motivations builds trust.  Would you agree she accomplishes this in this letter?    Will your next letter get you to the CEO’s seat…or keep you there?

http://www.wsj.com/articles/dear-epipen-customers-1472247399 to log into the article if you have a WSJ subscription.

(NOTE: if you cannot access her letter online, ask me for the full version.)

Ms Heather Bresch

Job Hunting for Career-Savvy Executives

jobsearchWhen a successful executive finishes up a term with one employer and needs another employer to continue their career progression, they invariably speak with executive search consultants. When they call me and ask for my advice on how to do it properly, here is what I say:

First, recognize that according to various surveys, including those conducted by Stanton Chase, even C-level executives report that around 57% of them found their last C-suite role either with someone they knew before, or through a first-line connection with someone in their personal network.

Second, like anything else in life worth having, it takes a plan.   A proven plan is even better.  Here is the one I teach at Dominican University for California to get one started in the right direction:

  1. CAREER PLAN: Create a written Career Plan.
  2. FIND YOUR TARGETS: Identify dream industries, companies, and roles inside those employers (Top Ten List).
  3. DO YOUR HOMEWORK: Research those roles, find out who is responsible for hiring and employing those role inhabitants.  Conduct Informational interview with those Top Ten Employer Contacts.
  4. DEPUTIZE YOUR NETWORK: Formalize your personal network, ask them to help you with your search, arm them with the above information on your desires and assets, and then explicitly ask for their help!  Be willing to reciprocate when possible. Nurture your posse…they have better than a 57% chance of being responsible for your income from here to retirement!

dreamjobSound like a good plan?  Great.  Now that you know, what will you do about it?  Many successful people find that they need to focus on their Dreams, write down their Plans, engage a Coach to keep them on track and provide feedback, encouragement, and improvement, and then Work their plans on a consistent and persistent basis.

Call me if you have any questions…share this with someone you know who would benefit from this plan at this point in their lives…and enjoy career success!

Recruiting Board Members

Don Reinke, a prominent partner at the leading U.S. Law firm Reed Smith, invited me to speak on recruiting board members at his recent Capital Markets Conference.  He asked me to explain my statement that recruiting Board members is just the opposite process from recruiting executives!   Here is what I shared with the Board members, CEOs, and CFO at this conference.

CaptureI’ll start by giving you a bit of an introduction of what we do and who we are at Stanton Chase. We are a retained executive search firm, working with companies all over the world in 43 different countries, typically recruiting CEOs and their teams.  We are included in the top 10 search firms in the world. Not one of the “Big Four” in executive search, we like to think of ourselves as a Mid-Market expert with a culture of “rolling up our sleeves” as our search partners stay involved in all the details and are hands-on managers of each search project.  We have different industry practice groups and functional practice groups, one of them being our Board Search Practice.

Executive Search

We start with a unique thirteen-step process to conduct retained executive searches…then, after listening to our clients, we customize this process for each search project.

I was talking to a client about our search work and how our process differs for a board member search. I explained that we start with the same steps, however, around the middle (Step 5) we flip the process and turn it on its head. Normally we would go through a long list of candidates and talk to them, and develop a short list of candidates and really getting to know them, then present that to the client who then does more assessment.

Board Search

In Board search work, we turn it around.  After laying the foundation of needs and readiness assessment, then we do the analysis of the long list of prospective candidates and narrow it down to a short list of candidates, assess them, rank them…BEFORE we speak with the prospects.  Then we pick up the phone and talk to the prospects only when we have done that much work with the client. So it is very different. When we pick up the phone, the client is already debriefed about the person, ranked our slate and chosen the number one candidate we want to go after. Can’t get number one? Well, then we call number two!

When we speak with the candidates, we say we nominated you to be on the board of this company. We know this much about your background, we have already brought you through this process, now we want to know a little bit more about your interests, strengths, availability, and requirements.

There are constraints on prospective board members: how many boards you can join, the different type of boards, how much time you have, travel schedule for attending meetings, and others. To find out if they are a fit, we will go through the clients Board Meeting calendar with them and make sure they can attend the meetings. We talk about compensation and sub-committee work they could do.

How to prepare the Board Matrix?

We would have already performed a thorough analysis about the client and its board through what we call a Board Matrix. The Matrix can involve these questions:

  • Who is already on the board?
  • What skill sets and activity level do they bring?
  • Where is the company going?
  • What is the mission of the company and board today?
  • What are the skills sets, influence, and connections needed of board members today to achieve our mission and goals?

We put the Matrix and candidates together through the nomination process, then we run a normal offer and onboarding process.

A lot of effort goes into working with the search committee of the board, ranking the candidates, then contacting them, swapping information for further analysis, and everything else that goes on before we get to the final selection and board member approval.

I like recruiting board members because you talk to fascinating people who may be going through transitions in their lives. Maybe we are meeting an esteemed individual who recently retired and is asking “what do I do now?” Prospective candidates are faced with lots of options, and opportunities on a board are a part of those options.  We participate with them in this dialogue.

Knowing what we know about board searches and how it is different from other searches, the question for you is:

If you want to be on a board, what can you do?

One of my thoughts is: be visible. If we are going to do that much background work before picking up the phone to speak with you, make sure that we can find you and your qualifications. Whether that is on LinkedIn, Google, company websites… be visible.

The second thing is to work up your board ladder. What does that mean? That means being qualified to serve on a board by serving on boards. Start with non-profits, maybe a community board, a homeowner’s board, work your way up a trade industry board, then private company boards, then ultimately publicly-traded company boards. We look for a progression through that process.  Also, know the committees you want to serve on.  Executive, Compensation, Audit…each committee is unique.  If you serve on an audit committee, be sure you are qualified as ACFE (Audit Committee Financial Expert).

Third, let your network know that you want to serve on Boards, and specifically which industries, size, culture, and type of boards.  You can also go to the AESC website (www.bluesteps.com). It is a database built by the leading trade association of executive search firms, so it is a great place to get visibility bang for your buck. Candidates self-populate their information and the only people that can access it are member retained search firms looking for executives and board members.

In summary, if you want to serve on a board, be visible, work your way up the corporate ladder, and let people know. If you know someone in an executive search firm like Stanton Chase that is doing board search work, let them know!

if you are looking to build out your organization’s board, then call in an expert. They can ensure the board conducts a thorough needs assessment, accesses a wide candidate slate, preserves the dignity and egos of prospective board members, and projects a quality process to the board member community, supporting future board member recruitments as well. Boards are meant to oversee compliance, guide, provide access and counsel, and recruit the top executives.  Doesn’t every organization want the best board possible?