10 Keys – Team Building for Scientists, Inventors and Innovators

10 Keys – Team Building for Scientists, Inventors and Innovators

How powerful is team building? “A small body of determined spirits fired by an unquenchable faith in their mission can alter the course of history.”Mahatma Gandhi

In a recent post I discoursed at length on the importance of explosive action and how to trigger it, in translating your visions of possibility into reality.

I used the poor metaphor of a tiger, discovering later that tigers, like bears, are solitary hunters.  We humans are social animals, pursuing our goals as lions and wolves do — in packs, in teams.  So what is the key to attracting and motivating your pack, i.e. your team and all your allies, to act in concert toward your vision?

The word team refers to the larger group of people you need to realize your vision: your partner(s), investors, top executives, collaborators, board members, advisors, key vendors, key customers, and of course, your own employees when you have them.

You’re a leader in theory only until you have a real following.  So look behind you.  Is anybody following?  Are the people that matter following you yet?

Can you see, the ability to inspire these essential team members into your vision is critical, absolutely essential, to your vision’s success? Many other aspects of leadership can be delegated, but not this one.  So let’s explore it in greater depth, in a way that you can actually apply so that your vision gains allies, collaborators, team members and investors:

Team Building -inspiring individuals to support your vision

You’ve probably heard of many terms for this:  enrollment, seduction, personal power, charisma and so on.

As you know from previous posts, one of the first individuals that you should enroll into your vision is an execution master (a managing leader).  All the successful visionary innovators I know have had such an individual behind them.

Nothing is more valuable to you as a visionary leader because he or she will, if well chosen, free you from some of the burdens of team leadership such as communicating details of the plan, choosing team members with the right skill set, creating incentives, enforcing accountability, timelines, resource management, and building trust between members of the team.  Many of these leadership burdens can be delegated to free you.

Even if you can do all of the above leadership tasks, it’s very difficult to focus constantly on both short term and long term strategy.  Your execution master allows you to focus on long-term goals while he or she focusses on how to get through the year, the month or the week.  You can be “headlights-up” while she or he is “headlights-down.”  What a gift to you.  So, inspiring an execution master to support you is we believe an essential element of success as a visionary.  I’ve given you many examples of this in earlier posts in this blog.

Shifting metaphors once again, your execution master is like the first mate or first officer on a ship, to whom all other officers report as the “face of management.”  If you can’t inspire an execution master to support your vision, you will be severely handicapped in all aspects of achieving your dream.

Here’s the key point today:  Without the necessary personal power and seduction ability, you won’t be able to “enroll” such an individual into serving your vision.

Some of this is done face-to-face. When meeting face-to-face with someone you want to move and inspire to join you in your vision, here are the generally recognized and most logical key steps:

  1. Permission:  Get permission to have the conversation.  (This creates a foundation of trust.)
  2. Rapport:  Create rapport (for example, by finding common interests and common personal history).
  3. Listening:  Find out how he or she wants to advance their career at this time — specifically what steps they want to take in the next few years to advance their career.  You do this by asking questions and listening.  Really listening, without thinking about what you’re going to say next.
  4. Explain: Explain your vision and mission.  Create a reality-distortion field so that your future follower sees that it is really possible and that it is important.
  5. Propose:  Propose what part or role she or he can play.
  6. Meaning: Suggest what taking this role would mean in terms of what he or she is seeking.
  7. Ask:  Ask if she or he is interested.
  8. Stimulate: Stimulate desire by getting her or him to express what this role means for their professional development.
  9. Respond: Ask for and respond to any objections.
  10. Request:  Request them to join the team in the desired role.

Important:  It doesn’t usually work to simply lecture someone why supporting your vision will benefit their plans.  They have to discover it themselves.

You may have to iterate this process or parts of it before you succeed with any one person.  The order of the steps is less important than making sure you’ve covered them all.  I’ve tried to create an acronym for you, but the best I could come up with is PRLEP MASRR.  So rather than memorizing these ten steps, remember ETCH — four ways of being that are essential to inspiration:

  1. Enthusiasm and energy
  2. True interest in their professional development
  3. Connection (with honest eye contact)
  4. Highest purpose — maintain your vision for a large impact on the world

The individual with the greatest interest in the other’s development, with the greatest energy and with the largest purpose (largest impact on the world) will generally have the most personal power in such a conversation.

All of the above makes you very Gandhi-like, full of purpose and connection.  You’ll also need an element of command and element of self-deprecation so you don’t take yourself too seriously.

Other ways to inspire people to support your vision

The above face-to-face formula is only one way to gain support.  There are many others.  I found the featured book this week to be loaded with other good ideas.  Quoting from the description on Amazon.com:

“When Captain Abrashoff took over as commander of USS Benfold, a ship armed with every cutting-edge system available, it was like a business that had all the latest technology but only some of the productivity. Knowing that responsibility for improving performance rested with him, he realized he had to improve his own leadership skills before he could improve his ship.

“Within months he created a crew of confident and inspired problem-solvers eager to take the initiative and take responsibility for their actions. The slogan on board became “It’s your ship,” and Benfold was soon recognized far and wide as a model of naval efficiency.

“How did Abrashoff do it? Against the backdrop of today’s United States Navy-Benfold was a key player in our Persian Gulf fleet-Abrashoff shares his secrets of successful management including:

– See the ship through the eyes of the crew: By soliciting a sailor’s suggestions, Abrashoff drastically reduced tedious chores that provided little additional value.

– Communicate, communicate, communicate: The more Abrashoff communicated the plan, the better the crew’s performance. His crew would eventually call him “Megaphone Mike,” since they heard from him so often.

– Create discipline by focusing on purpose: Discipline skyrocketed when Abrashoff’s crew believed that what they were doing was important.

– Listen aggressively: After learning that many sailors wanted to use the GI Bill, Abrashoff brought a test official aboard the ship and held the SATs forty miles off the Iraqi coast.

“From achieving amazing cost savings to winning the highest gunnery score in the Pacific Fleet, Captain Abrashoff’s extraordinary campaign sent shock waves through the U.S. Navy. It can help you change the course of your ship, no matter where your business battles are fought.”

Study leadership

This post only scratches the surface of what is possible in leadership.  Aside from refining your technology, there is nothing more important to your vision than refining your abilities to lead others to support your vision.  It’s the kind of self-education you cannot afford to neglect (now that you know what you want to contribute to the world.)

Key takeaway: Successful companies ensure that their top leadership includes a superior communicator that inspires purpose, motivation and connection throughout the organization. This is the essence of team building.

The purpose of Intelliversity (the not-for-profit leadership academy behind this blog) is to accelerate innovation through better leadership.  So stay tuned here from more on how to empower yourself as an inspiring leader.