Today, I spoke to both Adrian Gostick and Chester Elton, who are the co-authors of The Orange Revolution. They are also the New York Times bestselling authors of The Carrot Principle, and other books. In this interview, Adrian and Chester talk about why carrots are important, how to build a high-performing team, how to deal with a team member who isn’t cooperating, and more.
With our book The Carrot Principle we introduced the idea of “carrots,” our catch-phrase for employee recognition. We even created a system to help managers implement the tools of engagement, recognition and appreciation. Since then, our research has come to show us that the same practices of appreciation and recognition that create great leaders also contribute to the success of breakthrough teams. Since carrots are a foundational part of the formula for team growth and achievement, we use the term “Orange” to describe the overall characteristics, rules, and behaviors of great teams.
What is a high-performing team and how do you build one?
A high-performing team achieves world-class results, but it does so in a sustainable fashion. In other words, it’s possible to use fear and intimidation to get a team to accomplish something remarkable for a short period, but to get a team to achieve results over a long period requires a commitment to what we call the Rule of 3: Wow, No Surprises and Cheer. This means the great teams we studied commit to being world-class every day, having open communication, and rooting for each other. These may sound like soft skills, but they are as necessary to your organization’s success as fiscal responsibility, product development and corporate strategy.
What happens when one person on a team isn’t cooperating with the others but is extremely valuable?
We’ve found that most managers waste an average of six months before they act to correct interpersonal issues. That’s way too long. Certainly the best tactic with a valuable performer is to be honest and bring the conversation back to your values. A dialogue might include: “Greg, you live one of our core values, ‘Wow,’ but as you know we all must commit to living all three of our values. ‘Cheer’ is the most important of our Rule of 3. If you aren’t rooting for others on the team, or if they aren’t rooting for you, our team is never going to achieve great things together. As good as you are, it’s simply not acceptable for you not to cooperate with your team. Let me give you some examples of what I’m looking for…” You’ll notice an honest conversation like this helps you also practicing the value of ‘No Surprises.’
And yet sometimes, nothing you do, short of replacing a team member, will help. One CEO we talked to tried everything to bring his divided executive team together, and got nowhere until he realized where the problems were originating: one rotten apple that was playing political games. With the removal of that person (however talented he was) from that team, walls broke down and the team started to function as a cohesive group—achieving much more than individuals alone could have done.
How do you choose people for a high performing team?
In hiring, we see teams consistently falling into two traps. First is the team that thinks they are getting the biggest bang for their buck by hiring the person with the most impressive qualifications, experience, degrees, certificates, or number of pages in her resume. But that’s a mistake. While buying peanut butter in bulk is just fine (if you like peanut butter), it’s no way to select a new teammate. Then there’s the team who hires the same type of person over and over and over again, and wonders why they always gets the same disappointing results.
Instead, we recommend your team: 1) Look for competency and attitude, then train for skills; 2) bring in individuals with different, but complementary, skill sets; 3) make previous team experience a priority; and 4) Look for empathy and integrity.
Hiring for empathy is perhaps the most challenging. When we talk about empathy, we’re describing the ability to listen to what other people have to say, identify the underlying organizational concern that person is addressing, and respond appropriately. People with empathy acknowledge other members’ concerns before proceeding with their own agenda. They can handle it when they are corrected or their ideas are rejected.
In short, hiring should always be viewed in the context of team interaction. You want to look for people with the ability to approach hard decisions and strong conflicting opinions in a way that builds esprit de corps.
An example of a high performance team?
One of our favorite breakthrough groups we profile in The Orange Revolution is the team lead by Rajendra “Guru” Gursahaney who is an engineer at the Pepsi Beverages Company in New York. Guru and put together a team that invented a bottling process that is saving Pepsi $7 million a year on just one bottling line in Russia, but it’s a technology that will be rolled out worldwide in the Pepsi system. He and his team created a way to make a thinner plastic pop bottle that not only saves Pepsi millions, but will reduce the impact of plastic bottles on the world’s landfills by 40 percent! And in a remarkably generous move, Pepsi decided not to patent the technology, but to allow any bottler to benefit from this innovation. Why? Because it’s the right thing to do. A great example of a high performance team that took a risk and changed not only a company but the world for the better.
Adrian Gostick is the co-author of The Orange Revolution. He is the leader of O. C. Tanner Company’s recognition training and publishing practice. He is the author of several very successful business books including the New York Times, Wall Street Journal and USA Today best-seller The Carrot Principle. His work has been called a “must read for modern-day managers” by Larry King, “fascinating” by Fortune and “admirable” and “startling” by the Wall Street Journal. Adrian’s books have been translated into 20 languages and are sold in more than 50 countries around the world. Learn more at adriangostick.com.
Chester Elton is coauthor The Orange Revolution and of the bestselling Carrot books, a popular lecturer on motivation, and an influential voice in global workplace trends. He is O.C. Tanner’s lead recognition consultant and researcher and works with numerous Fortune 100 clients. As a motivation expert, Chester Elton has been featured in the Wall Street Journal, Washington Post, Fast Company magazine and the New York Times and has been featured on CNN, ABC Money Matters, MSNBC, National Public Radio and 60 Minutes. A sought after speaker and recognition consultant, Chester Elton has spoken to delighted audiences from Seattle to Singapore and from Toronto to Istanbul. Subscribe to his weekly podcasts at chesterelton.com.