stabilityI have convinced myself of something that simply is an illusion. In the past, I have talked about safety being an illusion we convince ourselves of with the help of our parents and society.

As we grow up, that illusion starts to change. As toddlers we are taught about “stranger danger.” As teenagers and young adults, TV shows riddled with murder, abuse, and every other form of fright to condition us to believe the world is a terrible place.

The truth is – there is no such thing as safety. Only I can create a sense of safety for myself.

Recently, I realized this concept applied to Continue reading

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how to fix mistakesWe all make mistakes — in our private life and in our professional life. Everyone makes them, no one escapes mistake making, but few people know how to fix mistakes and recover well fast.

Here’s the secret. Let go of denial, blame, excuses, and castigating yourself to earn their pity. Instead, acknowledge mistakes quickly so you can move to resolution.

Acknowledging that you made a mistake is the first step of the four-step process for cleaning up broken agreements.

It’s simple enough — once you have decided to acknowledge to yourself that you blew it. You see, admitting it to ourselves is the hard part.

Without acknowledging it to the other party you won’t be able to move the relationship forward to a resolution. For this reason, acknowledgement is actually more important than Continue reading

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awareness is freedomA question came up in our community recently that gave me the realization that even when I feel “stuck,” I am free. Free to choose to continue to be stuck or free to choose not to.

To give a little more context, I was on The Leadership Gift™ Application Mastery call with Bill when one of the accredited Practitioners brought up the concept of being aware of which mental state one is in and also being aware that one may not be ready to move out of it.

For example, while processing a problem I may start to Continue reading

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What I Learned From ChildrenAn Excerpt from Kimberly Cordell’s ”What I Learned From Children”

Christopher Avery here. I’ve known Kimberly most of our lives. She married one of my best buds and we’ve all stayed buds, so I’ve watched their three girls — who appear in the photos on every page of this book — grow into happy and talented women.

Beginning a few years ago, at the end of a day of teaching or volunteering as a red-nosed smiley clown at the hospital to cheer children, Kimberly would post a new “What I Learned From Children” insight on Facebook. I found inspiring her perceptions and translations of what kids brought to her day. I’m so glad Kimberly gathered those posts into this book.

Here is an excerpt — fitting for this blog, about teamwork — from “What I Learned From Children.” (I suggest buying extra copies as gifts. I did.)

Be Good and help

Psalms 121: 2
My help cometh from the Lord, which made heaven and earth.
Many hands can make more work,
but teamwork gets the job done.

Kimberly Cordell

Kimberly Cordell

Kimberly Cordell is a retired elementary school teacher, dividing her time between Charleston, South Carolina, and Ashtabula, Ohio. Married to Stuart Cordell, they have three lovely daughters together from whom they still learn lessons every day.

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In one of my latest posts, I explained why you’d want to Select Team Members for Commitment, Not Skills.

This might feel counter-intuitive at first, but if your team comes together over commitment, skills will follow.

Another thing that might sound counter-intuitive: teammates don’t have to like each other.

You’ll achieve better cohesion when the group outcome is aligned — how the individual team members get along should come secondary.

Many teambuilders start their work by thinking. “I need to get the team members to like each other better so they’ll be a better team.”

Investing in team members’ attractiveness to each other is not my first strategy. A better strategy is to encourage affinity to a shared task (project, initiative, objective, etc.) instead of affinity to each other.

That has proven to be the fastest and surest way to create strong group cohesion. But how does this work in practice?

Instead of using techniques and exercises to promote friendship, work to get everyone to adopt a common focus so that each team member sees good reasons to work with others.

Free market economics teaches us to act in our own self-interest. Many team experts teach that individuals must subordinate their own interests for the sake of the group’s success. I see a few problems with this:

  1. It’s contradictory (and therefore unrealistic) to expect people working in competitive cultures to subordinate their self- interests to the group.
  2. And secondly, there’s no necessary or logical connection between subordination and successful, powerful teamwork.

A more effective practice is to use people’s self-interest to seed powerful teamwork.

For each individual, discover how she can win when the team wins. The easiest and best way to do this is to ask. When you align individual and collective outcomes in this way, you will have true collaboration.

Once that is done, see if team members don’t like each other better.

Get Started With This 5-Minute Practice Tip

Think of a teammate with whom you have often felt competitive and ask yourself this question: what could we pursue as partners that would increase the likelihood of each of us reaching our desired outcome?

And here is a challenge for the whole team: begin a group discussion with the question, “What is our team’s task?” Make sure people are clear about the task and that everyone is committed to achieving it.

In the future, when conflict or interpersonal tension arises, have everyone revisit this conversation to seek realignment.

Leaders and coaches: Get Christopher’s best team building and leadership strategies collected over two-plus decades of solving teamwork problems for smart people. Get this FREE Special Report while it lasts: The Five Flawless Steps to Building a Strong Executive Leadership Team.

Christopher Avery, PhD, is a recognized authority on how individual and shared responsibility works in the mind and an advisor to leaders worldwide.

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big world(Christopher here. We are grateful to for allowing us to re-publish this post for you.)

Getting Out of My Bubble…It’s a Big World Out There

It was 4 am on a Thursday, and I found myself driving to the airport. It is early in the morning like this when my brain is the least conditioned. Deep thought comes easy when the rest of the world is still quiet or asleep.

As I entered the airport expecting to see a ghost town, I was surprised to find a line of at least 25 people waiting to get to the same airline counter I was attempting to reach.

Naturally, I went into Denial – how could so many people be aiming for the same goal I was so early in the morning on a Thursday? Continue reading

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Lessons in ResponsibilityGuest Post by Cathy Laffan

Christopher Avery here. With pleasure I welcome Cathy Laffan again to this blog. Cathy is an innovative executive with a global financial services firm. She shares a love for responsible leadership. Read more about Cathy at the end of her post. Enjoy.

Now that I am aware of The Responsibility Process™, I learn lessons in responsibility from all aspects of my life.

Two important women in my life regularly teach me lessons without even knowing it. Meet ‘Jane’ and ‘Lucy.’

These two women have many things in common, including; humble beginnings, upsets in life, devoted wives and mothers, religious beliefs, financial limitations, illness, and being big-hearted, caring, and genuine.

Despite these similarities, Jane and Lucy deal with life’s upsets very differently.

When Jane experiences one of life’s upsets, without fail, her first reaction is denial. She only moves out of denial when Continue reading

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power of focusIn a society with so many distractions from people to television, phones, music, and social media, focus can be extremely hard to tap into.

As I continue to study different leaders and leadership practices, the concept of focusing seems to come up everywhere.

After being booted from his own company and returning more than a decade later one great leader, Steve Jobs, said the key to being a leader, a CEO, a visionary, was focus. This became the leadership mantra for Steve Jobs as he brought Apple back to life. Continue reading

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commitment vs. skillsTrust me, if you come together over commitment, skills will follow. But if you select team members for skills, then needed commitment might never appear.

Conventional wisdom on teambuilding advises leaders to first attend to creating the “right” skill mix as they assemble teams. I disagree!

I have observed time and time again that skills are much less critical to responsible relationships and high performance on teams than is aligned motivation, energy, enthusiasm, and interest.

Don’t get me wrong, I demand the best fit in terms of skills for a job, but managing the skill fit is a project management concern, not a team leadership concern. It’s important to not confuse the two.

I have seen “teams” with all the right skills perform miserably. And I have seen teams without all the “right” skills but broad alignment and high enthusiasm perform at extraordinary levels.

Consider this example from sports: for many years during the 1980s and 1990s the New York Yankees baseball team had the greatest talent money could buy, yet they often got beat by teams with much less talent.

Why do you think that was the case? Why didn’t they win the World Series every year?

3 Reasons Why Commitment Trumps Skills

  1. Talent doesn’t created teamwork — shared commitment and desire does.
  2. Low motivation is more infectious in teams than high motivation. Even highly skilled freeloaders will rapidly bring down a team’s performance level.
  3. Skilled individuals act within their roles. Committed team members do what needs to be done for the team — they improvise.

The solution: if teamwork is important to you, choose team members for their motivation first and their skills second.


Get Started With This 5-Minute Practice Tip

Reflect on the experience you have accumulated while participating in the last few teams. How were your skills and commitment treated during the selection and start-up process?

Remember a negative team experience and imagine how things might have been different if commitment had been addressed first, before skills. Would the team have performed better?

Dare to make commitment the priority the next time you assemble your next team.

Team challenge; discuss with your team the implication of placing “commitment over skills.” How will this priority work to your advantage?

Leaders and coaches: Get Christopher’s best team building and leadership strategies collected over two-plus decades of solving teamwork problems for smart people. Get this FREE Special Report while it lasts: The Five Flawless Steps to Building a Strong Executive Leadership Team.

Christopher Avery, PhD, is a recognized authority on how individual and shared responsibility works in the mind and an advisor to leaders worldwide.

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Scotty and Christopher onstage

Scotty Bevill and Christopher Avery present The Chaos of Leadership (and The Leadership of Chaos)

Awareness. Intention. Integration. Confront. Contribution. These five words make up the foundation of my leadership study.

Earlier this year, Christopher and Scotty shared a stage for the first time and spent time talking about these words and the concepts behind them.

It was one of the most powerful presentations I’ve ever witnessed. Since being put online, I have re-watched it a dozen times, each time finding a new nugget of brilliance that I toss around my head for the next week. Continue reading

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