We often hear that teamwork is important; teams have power; a champion team is better than a team of champions, but in real life how can you inspire your team to achieve great things, even miracles?
1. Get them to respond to a critical deadline
One of the keys to team success is having an urgent deadline. Target completion times give your team focus and momentum. It also stops them from procrastinating due to over-engineering a solution. What if your CEO was to say to you on Tuesday morning, “I have booked you and your team a two-week holiday in the Bahamas. The plane leaves on Friday. The only condition is that your team needs to complete this project, which would normally take four weeks, in 4 days.”
Could you do it? Of could you could. You would do it by planning who is going to complete which job; then, you would all work in a synchronized fashion, communicating constantly about your progress.
On August 7, 2014, in Perth Australia, a 29-year-old man who was boarding the train slipped and fell between the train and the platform. His leg became wedged and began to go blue. He could have lost his leg. The driver was alerted, and the railway staff organized approximately 50 people to push the 90-ton carriage away from the platform off the man’s leg. The staff then pulled the man free.
These commuters succeeded in creating a miracle because they had a goal and a critical deadline. If they didn’t do something soon, he was going to lose his leg.
2. Give them a common enemy
We all have a naturally competitive nature; for some, it is more apparent than others, but it is inbuilt into us all. Great managers learn how to utilize that competitive nature in a positive, outward manifestation, getting the team to work as one unit.
On January 16, 2012 in West Texas, Brian Conaway was able to plan and execute the construction of a 2300 square foot house from the ground up in an unbelievable 2 hours and 52 minutes. It took 800 volunteers, and they exceeded all local building code requirements and set a new world record.
Two examples of their ingenuity were laying a concrete slab, which usually takes days to pour and cure; they did it in 22 minutes, and the garage door installation, which would normally take a full day and was completed in 3 minutes.
There are many things we can learn from this event. Planning is essential – it took two years of planning; rules were broken to achieve the impossible, and innovation and creative thinking were used to find newer, faster ways. However, the thing that I think underpinned all else was the leader’s ability to harness the competitive spirit in 800 trade people and focus their united fight against an external enemy, rather than each other.
Steve Jobs understood this principle. He knew that in every story, there has to be a hero and a villain. Before the famous 1984 launch of Mac at the Super Bowl, he told his salespeople a story of how IBM was bent on dominating the computer industry. It is believed that in that advertisement, IBM was the enemy. Later on, the enemy became Microsoft.
Jobs knew that giving his team the idea of conquering a shared enemy is a powerful motivator.
3. Inspire them with a cause
Having a cause inspires people to sacrifice, work hard, live in far away countries and give up comfort. The definition of “cause” is “a principle, aim, or movement to which one is committed and which one is prepared to defend or advocate.”
We often think that a cause has to be a non-profit venture; however, this is not always the case. One of the earliest mentions of “cause” was when David fought Goliath. David had said to all the soldiers looking at the giant fearfully, “Is there not a cause?” David did it for his country, but there were also a lot of personal bonuses for David like great wealth, a princess to marry, and his father’s family living tax-free for the rest of their lives.
On Wednesday, November 19, 2008, in Macedonia, a small country of 2 million citizens, thousands of people gave up their time, energy, and money to be used all over the country. The main goal of the campaign was to replant Macedonia’s forests after they were destroyed by extensive wildfires. Together, they had planted 6 million trees in a single day.
As a leader, you need a cause that will benefit the greater community; you also need to inspire your team to achieve great things. Bill Gates was a leader who attracted many people to work for Microsoft because they believed in his cause. At Microsoft, there are signs on the doors that say, “Change the world, or go home.”
To lead your team in achieving the impossible, you must first have a goal with a crucial deadline. Second, you need to harness the competitive spirit of your team and unite it against a common enemy, and third, you need a cause that will inspire people to give their best.
–Chris Gaborit is a serial entrepreneur who has built three successful companies without seed funding. For most of his life, Chris has traveled the world inspiring ordinary people to achieve extraordinary things. He believes that within every person is a destiny and calling that can be realized, released, and remarkable. He is cofounder of The Learning Factor, an outsource training company that delivers leadership training to Fortune 500 companies globally. Chris regularly writes for The Sydney Morning Herald, LinkedIn, and FastCompany. Find him on Twitter and LinkedIn.