Ask yourself: “What does this team need from me?”


I’m a big NBA enthusiast (Go Utah Jazz!), and I’ve really enjoyed the off season period of free agency and trades.  If you follow anything at all about sports, you’ve probably heard once or twice about Kevin Durant moving from the Oklahoma City Thunder to the Golden State Warriors.

The Warriors now are going to be a scoring machine, probably more so than any team in NBA history.  It’s going to be something special to watch.  But I came across an article yesterday that caught my eye.  It centered on Klay Thompson, one of the multiple All Stars on the Warriors’ roster.  With Durant joining the team, it appears that Thompson is going to get fewer scoring opportunities.  Coincidentally, this may take him further out of the limelight on a team loaded with stars.

Apparently, Thompson worries nothing about this.  From the story:

When asked in Vegas of the memories that fuel him, Thompson said, “I felt that feeling of winning before and I was so close again. The pain of losing is way worse than that of winning. So I just want to keep winning, man. And we’re set up hopefully not just for this year but for years after to do it, and that’s what really motivates me.”

In the high stakes and high ego world of professional sports, this stands out.  But we face similar challenges regardless of our chosen area of work.  We all have ego, promotion opportunities, raises, and job satisfaction to think about.  To ignore those things is to invite mediocrity.

But what about the team?  In sports, players like Thompson become increasingly valuable. They identify what the team needs, and apply their skills to match that need.  That’s when excellence is created.  It’s rare because it’s hard.  It’s not easy to get everyone on the same page, accomplishing tasks, sharing credit, sharing blame, and getting the team towards its goal.

This being true, challenge yourself by answering the following questions:

  1. “What does my current team/project/assignment need to deliver excellent results?”
  2. In light of the above answers, where can I make a specific contribution immediately?

Answer those two questions, and follow up TODAY!  Start delivering on that insight.  Make yourself absolutely invaluable.  The great paradox of recognition is that it often comes when you are motivated by rewards other than recognition.

Regarding the NBA, will Klay Thompson be as consistent in his application as he has been in his off season quotes?  Time will tell.  But his willingness to discuss it provides a reminder of the opportunities that lie before you and me every day.

Deliver excellence today!




Your Project, Your Legacy


I came across two challenging ideas recently, one from a book I’m reading and one from a social media message.

The first idea is from  “The Project 50” by Tom Peters.  This book is an effort to transform the way we view and approach assignments and opportunities.  According to Peters, every task or project we endeavor to accomplish should be a “WOW Project.”  If it doesn’t make you say “Wow!” then the project is not worth doing.

Again, according to Peters, you can know that a project is a good one if it is remembered several years after its accomplishment.  It takes a lot of thought, effort, and execution to deliver that kind of result.

In his book Good to Great, Jim Collins begins with a quote:  “Good is the enemy of Great.”  Peters stresses this concept throughout his book as well, focusing on the project aspect of our lives.

As I’ve been reading this book, I came across a quote from Gary Vaynerchuk, who isolated this idea even further when he identified two reasons people fail:

  1. Fear of Failure
  2. Laziness in Execution

It was point #2 that slapped me in the face.

We’ve all had things we’ve had to do, right?  School work, volunteer assignments, work tasks, “honey-do lists,” and on and on.  But how many of those tasks really amounted to something special?  Is there a project or assignment that you blew out of the water?

This is a difficult question to ask.  I did well in school and I do reasonably well in my work. Far too often, though, I was and am simply doing what it took to approach “satisfactory.”  This works to an extent, but the greatest joy and satisfaction in life comes from delivering exceptional value in something worth doing.

That’s the catch, though: exceptional work requires exceptional execution.  “Just good enough” doesn’t cut it when we are striving as a team or as individuals to deliver excellent results time and again.  If it was easy to achieve excellence all the time, we’d see it happen far more often in the world. This isn’t the case in reality.

What we do in life matters.  Our results are essentially our legacy: what we leave behind for the world to benefit from or to trip over.  Just like a thriving garden requires consistent effort, our work and projects deserve our highest attention.

Think about the current assignments you have.  What can you do to make those assignments really turn in to a reflection of the value you can bring to the world?  What little details can you improve to make this project memorable?

Let’s get to work!




“Do you have a process?”

I was asked an open-ended question by a Department Director recently: “What is your process?”

Of course, “process” in his question related to my roles and responsibilities at the time. But the purpose of that discussion went far beyond a simple review of doing my job.

In the context I’m using today, “process” refers to the planning, habits, and methods that deliver results when followed appropriately. A process used by a litigation attorney is going to much different than a process used by a manufacturing foreman. Make no mistake, though, just because the components of a process may be different from one person, role, or profession to another, this does not diminish the importance of a solid process for each.

After describing my process to the Director, he then asked me a series of questions relating to my process, why I did things a certain way, and what I was hoping to accomplish by incorporating certain activities. In the middle of this discussion, he paused and asked me this:

“Why is it important to have a process?”

At first thought, I felt my process was important because I didn’t want to embarrass myself or be unprepared in my role. As he probed deeper, however, I learned something profound: Process enables one to improve. Without process, improvement is virtually impossible. Process allows us to isolate components that may be tripping us up, stunting results, or limiting growth. You can “fix” results by “fixing” your process. However, you cannot “fix” your results if you have no process at all. Where do you start to tweak if you have simply been winging things all along?

Consider the following example:

Many in sales have experienced or studied the “sales funnel.” How many people are you contacting? How many contacts turn to prospects? How many prospects end up buying from you? What’s your percentage of contacts that become prospects? What percentage of prospects actually buy? By examining how a salesperson moves a client from “contact” to “prospect” and from “prospect” to “sale,” the salesperson can isolate opportunities for selling and earning more.

The beauty here is that process doesn’t necessarily need to be a “one size fits all” model. Our process can and should incorporate our strengths and skills, utilizing these assets to deliver results.

Teams that consistently achieve excellent results rely on consistent processes. Whether we’re examining Alabama football under Nick Saban or Apple under Steve Jobs, processes are clear and followed.

Regardless of your role or career, there is a process that you follow to achieve results.  

Consider the following activities:

1. Write down your Key Result Areas. What metrics must you meet in your role? How do you know if you are successful? If you don’t know these yet or have not yet identified them, utilize those around you (friend, co-worker, spouse, boss, manager, etc.) for clarity.

3. Write down the process you currently use to achieve results. It doesn’t matter if you are in sales, athletics, customer service, or parenting. Write down what you do to achieve a key result Identified in Step 1.

4. Identify one component of your process that really “works.” You know it works because you get results when following this portion of your process. What makes this component successful? Why does it work for you? Does it work for others?

5. Identify one component of your process that needs improvement. Where are results potentially lacking? How can you change this component of your process to deliver better results?

6. Make yourself accountable to someone other than yourself for improving your Key Result Areas by improving all or portions of your process.

You may be surprised to learn how much of a process you already have. Utilize your answers from the five questions above to take your results to the next level.