Continuing from my post a couple of days ago about how Chick-fil-A decided on their definition of leadership, The Chicken also decided that they wanted to become a “team oriented organization.” From that edict (Mark Miller related that Dan Cathy literally walked into Mark’s office and said, “I want us to be a team oriented organization,” and walked out), the leadership at the Chicken began a journey into defining “team” that continues to this day. That was more than 25 years ago, and Mark is still working on those orders.

What is a “team”?

The word “team” does and should invoke certain concepts like leader, competition, winning, losing, teammates, etc. Another concept that should be right beside team is growth. A static team will eventually die out, which is one reason that you see professional sports teams constantly changing. However, just changing for the sake of change is not enough, nor is it appropriate. From Mark Miller‘s second talk at the Leadership Summit on August 20, we learned that The Chicken discovered and now intentionally and systematically pursues another element of the team. That other element is the subject of this post.

There is one fundamental roadblock that we all have when it comes to our team. Our team can be a team in which each of us does a job and we are the sum of our parts, so 1+1+1 = 3. However, as we grow and mature as a team, unless we implement one specific thing, our productivity will actually decrease, so that 1+1+ 1 might equal 2. The question then is, how do we turn our team into a powerful unit by increasing our efficiency, our output, our horse power, and our impact on whatever it is that we’re doing? This added element requires effort, it burns more fuel, but it is worth it.

As we grow as a team, we can go from a pseudo-team or group of individuals for which 1+1+1 = 3 to a real team that is more than just the sum of its parts, so perhaps 1+1+ 1 will equal 4. But that’s not the end. Many teams see that as a victory and they stop there, not because they can’t move further, but because (a) they don’t know there’s something better awaiting them or (b) they don’t know how to get to that next level, the “rare air”. But what earns us that rare air, what gets us to that new spot, is this one thing that we have to implement.

The “Rare Air”

When we hire for talent and train for skills we get results. That’s where our team produces more than the sum of its parts, so 1+1+ 1 will equal 4 or perhaps 5. But that’s not enough, and again, most teams stop there because they think they’ve won or they don’t know how to get to that next level.

Most teams have skills and talent and get some sort of results. However the ingredient that supercharges any team is community. Intentional, purposeful focus on cultivating community. What does that mean? Well, first, you don’t drift to any of this by accident. It’s messy. It takes time. It’s painful. But, as they say at The Chicken, “the juice is worth the squeeze.” So how do you get to this magical “community”? You can get there in any setting and any forum if you do these two things:

  1. Define it.
  2. Pursue it.

What is “Community”?

Define what community is for you. If you cannot define it, then you cannot intentionally pursue it. Chick-Fil-A defined community like this:

Community is…

  • a place where you know and are known.
  • a place where you serve and are served. You look for opportunities to serve others and you accept others’ giving you service.
  • where we love and are loved. Love is a verb, not some mushy gushy feeling. It is the showing of kindness, gratitude, appreciation, and doing things for other people without expecting anything in return. Love is directly meeting a need.
  • where we celebrate together. We look for things to celebrate both as a team and as for individuals. When someone gets married, has a child, has a personal victory, and certainly when the team achieves a goal or has a victory.
  • where we mourn together. Life happens. Life is messy. When someone is in mourning for whatever reason, it’s the leader’s job to mourn with them, to be there for them, to show them how much they are loved in their time of loss, whatever that loss might be. Weddings are optional; funerals are mandatory.

So if you are in a place that that does not look like this, then you must define what your version of ‘community’ is and then you must pursue it. The gold standard for community for Chick-fil-A comes from Acts 2:42-47:

42 They devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching and to fellowship, to the breaking of bread and to prayer. 43 Everyone was filled with awe at the many wonders and signs performed by the apostles. 44 All the believers were together and had everything in common. 45 They sold property and possessions to give to anyone who had need. 46 Every day they continued to meet together in the temple courts. They broke bread in their homes and ate together with glad and sincere hearts, 47 praising God and enjoying the favor of all the people. And the Lord added to their number daily those who were being saved.

Nuts & Bolts, Blocking & Tackling

So how do you actually get there? One example came from the leader of our breakout session, who recently retired the CEO of a multi-billion dollar corporation. He realized about 10 years ago that, while he had a solid team, they were lacking, and that manifested itself in one specific way: trust.

In his case, the lack of trust manifested itself when they would have a team conference call. He would invite his 5 executives to the call, and each of them would invite 2 or 3 or 4 people of their own to the conference call. So a weekly conference call would have 30 or 40 people on the call! He realized through this painful weekly process that there was no trust in the organization.

One of his executives pointed out his own lack of trust directly to him. This CEO would regularly attend one of his executive’s team meetings. Finally, the executive pulled him aside and said, “please stop coming to my meetings.” When he asked why, the executive told him, “when you attend my meetings, it looks like you don’t trust me because you’re checking up on me and micromanaging me.” It was at this juncture that the CEO realized that he actually did not trust or show trust in his executives, and that he was indeed micromanaging them.

Intentionally Pursue

So he engaged in a season of building relationships in order to build trust. He defined trust as having the following three relationship traits:

  • Character
  • Confidence
  • Communication

One exercise in which his team grew tremendously was when they gathered together off site and each answered the following three questions:

  1. Where did you go up?
  2. How many siblings do you have, and where are you in the birth order?
  3. What was the most difficult, most important, or most unique challenge from your childhood?

You build trust by getting to know one another. That was it. It was that simple exercise that allowed him to get to know each of his executives on a much more personal level, helping him understand how they operated, how they made decisions, how they thought. And that was the very start of building trust and community.

Team becomes Family

Community, when added to skills, talents, and results, will supercharge any organization, because then you are interacting with each other on a personal level. You trust each other on a personal level because you’ve been there through the marriages and the celebrations and the funerals and the children being born in the wins and the losses and everything else that goes into life’s messiness. And when you do all of this with the team, you grow as a team into a family.

What do you think about that?

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