Rituals Encourage High Performance

This post shared from Leadership Coaching  faculty member Megan Staczek’s blog at capacitygrp.com.  See the full version of the post here!

What is the glue that makes some teams outperform others? In addition to known factors such as technical competence, team purpose and objectives, and effective communication, successful teams have rituals. A ritual, in its most basic form, is an honored practice that is part of a community’s culture. From singing the national anthem at the start of a major sporting event, to the recitation of a pledge by students at the start of a school day, these rituals are signals of a cultural commitment that joins people together.

A major focus in my work is helping teams achieve higher levels of performance. I’ve had the chance to support both a Fortune 100 executive team and a high school women’s lacrosse team do just that. The business team had previously operated as independent units but was now banded together under a new executive with a vision. This required the leaders to operate cohesively despite their history of working in silos. The lacrosse team comprised athletes going through the highly competitive college recruiting process, which can lead to individuals making easy mistakes or feeling compelled to outshine the other players. Both reactions weaken team performance.

The similarities between the teams were striking. Both were made up of individuals who had deep knowledge and skill and a commitment to elevating their personal performance. Both teams were also known for poor communication and inconsistent collaboration. Our focus started with deepening relationships, clarifying purpose and vision, and improving team communication and coordination. With this foundation in place, these teams were ready to create meaningful and impactful rituals – the stuff that helps elevate and sustain teamwork over the long run.

The lacrosse players collectively formulated a powerful ritual that would be replayed before every game. The ritual was self-led (sometimes including the coach and most times not) and involved warming up in ways that encouraged boldness, connectivity, and freedom. Performed in a circle and with music, they playfully urged teammates to improvise in ways that were freeform and innovative while verbally emboldening each member’s performance. A part of their vision was to play freely with the sense of boldness and deep coordination of a championship team as this would raise their game and recruiting opportunities. To an observer, the ritual might have appeared disorderly and trivial, but for the players it was quite the opposite. This ritual signified high teaming and commitment, and gave each individual the emotional and mental readiness to compete. Over time, this ritual became part of the team’s culture, bringing a sense of togetherness, joy, and shared commitment.

Similarly for the business team, its ritual was focused on their work and the level of leadership required for their future. They co-created a monthly gathering to spend time as business and industry leaders talking openly about their insights, concerns and challenges in ways that were free of managerial evaluation and generative in sourcing ideas, collaboration and inspiration. The monthly agenda was formed through dialogue that identified provocative issues, ideas and unresolved problems facing the business. It didn’t matter if the topics “felt good.” It mattered that they were coming together to talk openly and thoughtfully about the future. As the team engaged on these topics, it fostered new thinking, shared leadership and satisfaction.

Both teams’ rituals involved connecting in a casual environment free of hierarchy. The rituals encouraged freedom of expression – in thought and action. These rituals were small reminders of the commitment that they were making to one another, to their work, and the possibility that existed specifically because they were not operating alone.

As leaders, part of our work is to establish the conditions for success through the ritualistic ways we have our teams engage. Consider: what is the ritual that will best serve your team?

Learn more from Megan Staczek on capacitygrp.com >>

Functional Expertise is Insufficient in Teaming

This post shared from Leadership Coaching & Transformational Leadership faculty member Chris Wahl’s blog at mirogroup.net.  See the full version of the post here!

One of my clients has a new, expansive role, and with that, a new team that is an amalgam of folks who have known each other over time but who have never worked together as a team. They’ve worked together to ‘get things done’ but see themselves as separate in probably too many ways. My client is savvy and sees what is happening, after just two months overseeing this team. He is anxious to have the team feel as if it is one team. Work to do.

One of my client’s subteam leaders has a dual reporting relationship that he uses to effectively drive wedges. The leader on the other side of this equation would rather not ever have to deal with conflict, so when my client went to her with the intention of getting aligned over the subteam leader’s behaviors, the dotted-line leader demurred.

Where is the leverage? My leader client decided to expand the responsibilities of the subteam leader, to include tasks beyond just functional, deadline-meeting-at-all-costs. He added tasks that included managing to a budget, managing talent, and, teaming. This is a very good step. In a culture that rewards functional expertise, which the subteam leader has in spades, my client has added people expertise as something to be developed.

The next step for my leader client is to have what I call a ‘fierce conversation’ (per the handy book by Susan Scott) with the leader of the subteam. This is tricky. Many factions at play here, not to mention the subleader’s being accustomed to expecting a reward for only functional accomplishments. A way my client will work to expand the subteam leader’s mindset is with recent 360 feedback, which shows the subteam leader’s amazing desire to achieve (yay), sometimes at the expense of relationships (nay). This should be a very good conversation. A next step for the my client will be to hold the subteam leader accountable for building relationships. This will require regular meetings where the leader coaches as well as gives straight talk about what is working and what is not.

Next, my leader client will need to pull the entire team together and help everyone get to know each other as team members who are there to support each other, and who can start to adopt an enterprise-wide mindset, where the work is bigger than me, myself, and I.

In our work with teams, we often refer to the I4 model, where teams need to launch around these four concepts: Identity, Individual Goals, Integration, and Influence. These four aspects of pulling a team together really matter to team members and help the team be more unified. Using these ideas in creative ways will help this team launch, and begin to work mindfully and purposefully for the good of the group.

Learn more from Chris Wahl on mirogroup.net >>

Three Things I’ve Learned About Public Speaking

This post shared from Leadership Coaching faculty member Scott Eblin’s blog at eblingroup.com.  See the full version of the post here!

If you’re in a leadership role of almost any type, the odds are high that you have to do some sort of public speaking on a semi-regular basis. It could be a staff meeting, a board presentation, a town-hall meeting or a conference keynote. Your public speaking possibilities are endless, really.

Most people dread them and usually don’t feel like they’ve nailed it after speaking publicly. As someone who delivers 40 or 50 speeches and presentations every year, I’ve worked hard over the years to get better as a speaker and take the feedback I get from audiences seriously. The feedback has gotten better and better over the years, so it seems like the work I’ve been doing is paying off. There are three things in particular that I’ve learned to focus on when speaking. They’re simple but powerful ideas.


Several years ago, I was booked for my first keynote to a really big audience – more than a thousand people in a big hotel ballroom with high production values. An intimidating set-up for sure. Fortunately, I was working with a well-known speaking coach, Dr. Nick Morgan, who had some great advice for me. He told me in the moments before I went on stage to be really intentional about what I was thinking. Instead of thinking, “Oh my gosh, I have to speak to all these people. I hope I do OK,” Nick wanted me to think, “Wow, I get to share my message with all of these people. How cool is that?” That shift from “have to” to “get to” made all the difference.


My normal energy level is pretty low-key. I hear “zen-like” a good bit. That may be a good way to go through life, but when I’m on stage, I need to be intentional about amping it up. My energy has to fill the space. That means finishing sentences strong, more expressive body language, making eye contact and things like that. It doesn’t mean shouting, it just means that I need to remember to project more than I would in a one on one conversation with someone. I’m still me, I’m just a bigger version of me.


For most of the past ten years, I’ve been out talking about the content in my first book, The Next Level. Those talks went well and I was asked by a lot of clients to keep coming back. Then, in 2014, I released my second book, Overworked and Overwhelmed, and started giving speeches and presentations on that. I wouldn’t have written that book if I hadn’t learned some major life lessons about how to successfully manage my multiple sclerosis. I wrote about that experience in the book and started talking about it in my speeches. A few months after I started sharing that story, I got my first standing ovation from a roomful of 500 people. Then every time I spoke, I heard from people who wanted to talk about their own challenges and how my story was inspirational. I had never been comfortable talking about myself from the stage but once I did, I realized how much all of us value human connection.

Learn more from Scott Eblin on eblingroup.com >>

2016 Year In Review [Infographic]

2016 was a big year for ITL. Our mission is to develop and sustain worldwide communities of transformational leaders and leadership coaches, and this year we supported that mission with a plethora of initiatives including hosting several conferences and events, launching a new certificate program in facilitation, and growing our team to better serve our students and community. Check out our infographic for some highlights from the past year.

Give The Gift Of Great Leadership

Starting in late November, all organizations will navigate a jam-packed holiday season. It can be difficult to embrace peace on earth when deadlines loom and your team is distracted by family visits and shopping malls abuzz with sales. Being a thoughtful leader during this season can be challenging, but following a few smart strategies can help your employees stay productive during the holidays without losing their sense of cheer.

Focus on Tactics

During the holidays employees will have numerous distractions competing for their time and attention, and are unlikely to bring their best to brainstorming sessions or work on long-term strategic initiatives. Save the strategy sessions for January when your team is bringing the energy and momentum of New Year’s Resolutions to the office. For the next 30 days, focus on execution and tactical activities that will help your employees start the new year with a clean slate.

Be Flexible

At ITL we talk a lot about how transformational leaders must engage and retain employees in order to lead successful organizations. During a stressful holiday season, allowing employees the flexibility to alter their hours or work location can increase productivity and deliver long-term benefits. Offering a work-life balance and respecting the diversity of holiday traditions will create an environment where everyone on your team feels valued.

Reflect and Give Praise

The holidays and the new year are a time of thanks, reflection, and even transformation. As leaders, one of the most powerful tools you have to mitigate employee stress during the holiday season is praise. Recognize accomplishments during the past year and give thanks for strong performance. Likewise, take time to reflect on yourself as a leader, what’s gone well over the past year, and what your vision for the future looks like. Use the holidays as a time to do some of the inner work of leadership so that you are ready to lead change in the coming year.

Most important of all – enjoy the season!