Sustainable results occur when leaders focus their efforts on both results generation (i.e. WHAT needs to be accomplished), and the manner in which the team operates (i.e. HOW the team functions as a unit).

Effective Teams focus on both WHAT needs to be accomplished and HOW they accomplish it.



Can you coach for a Growth Mindset? Definitely yes—but only when done properly. 



What can a leader do to stay connected with their people? Hint: Operationalize empathy.



When the world changes rapidly, how do you keep your team engaged, empowered, and moving forward?



What do high performers have in common? Hint: They find their way.



Does the quality of coaching matter? Does coaching more frequently help? Or hurt? Hint: It does, but maybe not the way you think ...


Teams are the building blocks of an organization. To accomplish great things, an organization must develop leaders who can get the best out of their teams. But what should leaders focus on as they build and develop a great team?

The Key Ideas in Brief

Leaders need to develop their team with three dimensions in mind:

· Results – It goes without saying that a great team generates results. They deliver what was expected, when it is expected, in the quality that was expected.

· Collective Development – Successful teams are more than the sum of their parts, but the development of the collective mentality, the collective work effort, the collective learning, and the collective sacrifices necessary to achieve the goal is what the leader must guide their team through

· Individual Development – Each team is made up of individuals who bring ways of thinking, and ways of doing, to the collective. To develop a great team, the leader must also develop each individual to be better at those things that will make the team better. And by developing the individual, their engagement will increase, their skills will improve, and the relationships amongst the team will strengthen

But it is not just these factors that the leader needs to be managing and cultivating. To get the results they desire, leaders also have to pay attention to how the team is working, and the following are the three most common reasons for poor team performance:

1. The gap between the goal and the team’s capabilities. What is your goal? And does your team have the capabilities to get there? If the team doesn’t have the capabilities to achieve the goal, no managerial tactics will be able to overcome the shortfall.

2. The process of teaming. Being a team, requires teaming. Teaming is the process of relating to people, listening to other points of view, coordinating actions, and making shared decisions. Teaming results from effective team process management. The degree to which this is effectively managed, is essential for team success.

3. The emotional needs of the group. When the emotional needs of your team are dismissed, or under-appreciated, the performance of the team suffers. Leaders must also keep their fingers on the emotional pulse of their team. This requires emotional intelligence, and purposefully choosing to invest time to listen to the group’s needs and work through the ‘soft’ issues.

Effective Teams – Focus on the WHAT

Every leader knows that the results count. A team must accomplish its mission, and the leader must guide their team towards that goal. Every successful leader I have known has had a very strong results orientation. They know WHAT must be done, and they get laser focused on the steps necessary to achieve those goals.

This absolute focus on results can be a double-edged sword. It can be a source of positive action, when the leader pushes the team and the individuals to be the best they can be. In this scenario, the leader uses results (or failure to achieve results) as evidence of where the team needs to improve, which in turn acts a catalyst for learning, development and growth. This is how it should be. However, too many leaders are so focused on results, that they discount, or deem irrelevant, anything that is not directly tied to generating the result. Employee relationships, feelings, interpersonal communication etc… are all noise in the system for these leaders. And in the leader’s mind, dealing with these issues is ‘a waste of time’. Surely the team knows that they should be focused on the task at hand, and getting the work done? Surely they don’t need me to get involved with personal differences, when we have much bigger issues we are dealing with? Why are we wasting time talking about people’s feelings when we have so much work to do? These are all examples of the down-side of an exclusive focus on results. For leaders such as this, their blindspot is the fact that they fail to recognize that what is holding back the team’s performance is the very thing that they deem ‘irrelevant’- their people’s emotional state and the team’s ability to be a team.

Effective Teams – Focus on the HOW

A broader view of an effective team quickly leads one to realize that both the results themselves, and HOW the team achieved the results are the key to success. By developing and strengthening how the team achieves results, the leader creates the conditions for sustainable performance. To understand how the team performs, two pathways need to be considered. The first focuses on the role of the team itself, while the second focuses on the individual.

​For a team to be successful, it is essential that it adapts and evolves over time. The collective has to learn how to evolve together. Learning how to learn, collectively, is one of the most important processes that the leader must manage, support and nurture. The team also needs to develop its emotional intelligence, and to learn how to anticipate the various reactions team members will have in certain situations and with these insights, become more effective at supporting them. Equally important is the creation of psychological safety amongst the team. Psychological safety creates the conditions where team members feel accepted and respected by the group, and as a result, are much more open to taking appropriate risks to achieve the team’s goal. The team’s collective behaviour is also influenced by the external environment they operate in, and the process of teaming is essential so that the group develops the ability to adapt and adjust based on the external forces influencing them. All of these elements influence group performance.

​The second pathway that the leader must master is how to strengthen the capabilities of each individual on their team, and deepen the relationships between team members. Smart managers know that trust is built through task. They know that trust will emerge by having two or three people working together, bringing their talents to bear on a problem, and completing deliverables to help the team. In this way, one of the most important things a manager can do is purposefully design situations that will bring people together to solve a problem, deepen their relationships, and develop professionally.

How do teams fail?

The first way a team fails is to ask them to deliver results for something they are unable or unqualified to achieve. The goal must match the team’s capabilities, authority, and resources. Otherwise, failure is only a matter of time.

​The second way a team fails is that they forget that being a team requires teaming, which is the active process of relating to people, listening to other points of view, coordinating actions, and making shared decisions. When the process of team is not managed, it breaks down, and team effectiveness suffers. The daily work of a leader therefore is to ensure that the activities of teaming are happening, and to quickly intervene when they are not.

​The third way a team fails to perform is because they did not pay attention to the emotional and relational aspects of the team. Teams are often made up of difficult personalities, there is often emotional conflict, and far too frequently, poor communication is the norm. These types of issues affect the emotional stability of the team, which in turn creates the conditions for sub-optimal output from the group. Leaders must be in tune with the emotional state of their team, and invest time and resources in developing and maintaining healthy relationships in the team.

Tying it together

As a leader of teams, focus your energies on both the WHAT and the HOW of creating results. Pay close attention to the three common ways that teams fail, and be on constant guard that they do not occur. As a leader, your goal is to make your team better, stronger, and more capable…every year.

​To get a sense of where to focus your energy, challenge yourself to see if you can hear the ‘noise’ your team is making. When things are ‘noisy’ there is a good chance that things are breaking down, friction is occurring, and opportunities to grow are present. But don’t just rely on your instincts, use assessments and surveys to get more specific feedback about the magnitude of the ‘noise’, the frequency of its occurrence, and to get a deeper diagnosis of the underlying issues that you and the team need to work on. As you make your team stronger, and more capable, you will create the conditions for your future success.

​As the late Professor Clayton Christianson of Harvard Business School once said, “Management is the most noble of professions if it is practiced well. No other occupation offers as many ways to help others learn and grow, take responsibility and be recognized for achievement, and contribute to the success of a team.”

​What kind of an impact do you want to make on your team and your people? Getting your this right is the most important thing you can do.

Let me know how your team is doing. Where do they struggle? Where do you stuggle? Based on your feedback, I can shift the focus of future articles to help you. I can be reached at:

- Dr. Paul

#BeAmazing #DoGreatThings


CHRISTENSEN, C. M., ALLWORTH, J., & DILLON, K. (2012). How will you measure your life? New York, NY, Harper Business.

SHAPIRO, M. (2015). HBR guide to leading teams

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# BeAmazing #DoGreatThings


I help leaders coach better at work, and I am often asked ‘is it possible to develop a growth mindset in my people?’.

The short answer is ‘yes!’, and to do so, a leader must establish feedback loops that facilitate GROWTH. These feedback loops focus the thinking of their employee on analyzing their own choices and actions, and how they move through ‘The Growth Cycle’.

The Growth Cycle has four elements: 1) a lived experience or unexpected result 2) a critical examination of that experience 3) a generalization of the learnings 4) an experiment to test the learnings/insights ….which then leads to a new ‘lived experience’ and the cycle begins again. The leader’s role therefore is to repeatedly coach the individual through The Growth Cycle. It is the quality of the coaching the drives the development of the growth mindset.

And now that you know what you must do, you must do the work that needs to be done…connect this model with the pursuit of a vital business goal and the people on your team. Ask yourself: ‘Who on your team would create massive value if their effectiveness improved?’. Target those key individuals, and coach The Growth Cycle consistently with them.

# BeAmazing #DoGreatThings


A leader's primary role is to create the most value they can, given the resources they have. A leader's job therefore is not to do the work. It is to help their people be more productive. But what do you do when your team is rattled? When you are taking on a new team? When you don't know the players? Or the situation has become so unpredictable, that you can no longer rely on what has worked in the past?

You get back to basics, and you get even closer to your team, to your customers, to your suppliers. You take control of your own actions, and you role model how you expect your team to perform. You take a page from Steven Covey's playbook, and you 'seek first to understand, then to be understood'. In other words you practice empathy. Once you have understood what is the real situation that people are facing, then you can build a plan on how to move forward.

Here's how I suggest you operationalize empathy:

1) Relate and communicate with those who need you

2) Learn what they need

3) Elevate your focus on serving them

4) Build your plans based on what you learn 

If you approach uncertain times in this way, your team, your customers, your suppliers, and your organization will follow you. Isn't that what leadership is all about?

# BeAmazing #DoGreatThings


My research on goal pursuit showed how Choices, Actions and Results operate as a feedback loop; Choices lead to Actions, Actions lead to Results …. and Results inform the next set of Choices. Given the times we are in, a new level of flexibility and adaptability is key, as is keeping the various teams aligned. Thus a relevant question for leaders today is ‘how can I help my team(s) make the best choices, so that we are flexible AND aligned?’.

I would like to offer four suggestions on this:

1) Establish a simple set of decision making principles (not rules). These principles should be intuitive for your people, SIMPLE, and link to the DNA of your organization

2) Establish the process of how a decision will be made. This should not be complicated, and should make sense given your people/culture

3) Empower the people closest to the problem/opportunity to apply these principles, and make their own Choices. Treat your people with respect, and they will do the right thing

4)Choices, Actions, Results operate as a feedback loop. Learn as you go, and coach your team when the Results aren’t what you expect.

Leadership is about Choices. What is it that your team needs from YOU, as their leader, right now? Focus here.

# BeAmazing #DoGreatThings


A journey that I began in October 2013 ended in February 2020, when I received the official news that my doctoral thesis had been approved.

My journey through the doctorate was a process of 'finding my way', and ironically this was one of the key findings from my research ... that when individuals strive for goals, and the path forward is unclear.....they find their way. High performers in my study exhibited four characteristics that made them highly effective at 'finding their way'. These were: Goal Focus, Persistence, Self-Reflexivity and Growth Mindset.

So my friends, when you take on a challenging project at work, or are given an underperforming team to lead, or anything for that matter when you don't know how to get from 'here to there', the key to finding your way to success, will rest on:

1) being clear about your goal

2) making daily choices to work on activities that will lead you to the goal

3) reflecting on what worked or didn't, and then

4) trying new ways of working so that you can overcome the barriers in your way.

Are you applying these principles in the pursuit of your goals? Are the people on your team applying these principles? Are you coaching your people to strengthen these capabilities?

# BeAmazing #DoGreatThings


According to a Nov/Dec 2019 article on the Leader-as-Coach in HBR, only three out of four managers were effective coaches (and this seems really high to me). But from their study, one in four managers were deemed ‘ineffective’ as a coach by their employees. So even if this number is accurate (and I actually think it is much likely that only 1 in 4 are effective coaches), it means that 25% of the employees are being poorly coached.

So even with the HBR numbers, is this a big deal? It sure is, because the evidence is clear that both the the quality and frequency of coaching does matter...but perhaps not in the way you think.

Let me tell you about a coaching study that was done in 2015. The researchers looked at the impact of coaching quality and coaching frequency on sales performance. They put one group of managers in a coaching program, and another group who were just told to 'coach'. They then monitored the sales performance of the managers who had received coaching training and compared them against their peers who did not participate in the coaching program. Here's what they found. They found that a manager who mastered coachng was able to elevate the performance of their people, even if they didn’t coach often. On the other hand, the individuals that reported to ineffective coaches (i.e. 25% of managers in your organization!), had lower average performance than their peers who received high quality coaching. Perhaps even more interesting was that when these poor coaching managers increased their coaching frequency, they actually accelerated the decline of the performance of their people.

So what does great coaching look like in the workplace? It is anchored by three key elements:

1) providing specific and high quality feedback

2) role-modelling the desired behaviours

3) setting challenging but achievable goals

Think about your own coaching. Are your one of the great coaches? Can YOU improve your coaching game?

# BeAmazing #DoGreatThings

The Coaching Clinic