The Patterns of High-Performing Teams

In this episode, Tim and Junior discuss how high-performing teams are formed and maintained. The quality of an organization is a reflection of the quality of its teams, and high-performing teams have patterns. Although there are many patterns, Tim and Junior will focus on a core four in this episode, including how high-performing teams (1) connect, how they (2) improve their skills, how they (3) view transparency and autonomy and how they (4) continuously seek innovation.

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Episode Show Notes

In this episode, Tim and Junior discuss how high-performing teams are formed and maintained. The quality of an organization is a reflection of the quality of its teams, and high-performing teams have patterns. Although there are many patterns, Tim and Junior will focus on a core four in this episode, including how high-performing teams (1) connect, how they (2) improve their skills, how they (3) view transparency and autonomy and how they (4) continuously seek innovation.

The benefits of improving your teams' performance (01:43) Remember, individuals rarely accomplish extraordinary feats alone. The quality of an organization is a reflection of the quality of its teams. As you improve your teams, you’ll get two things: Leverage and scale. You'll be able to multiply the force, scope, and magnitude of your organizational efforts.

How do high-performing teams connect? (13:55) High performing teams know each other. If your team doesn’t know each other, it’s not a high performing team, or at least it won’t be for very long, or when things get hard. Tim and Junior share the story of Satya Nadella, CEO of Microsoft, and why a 3-day offsite was one of the most important things he has done as a CEO.

How do high-performing teams improve their skills? (26:33) High performing teams are constantly growing. When teams acknowledge that the knowledge they have today is not enough, they open themselves up to development. 

How do high-performing teams view transparency and autonomy? (38:10) High performing teams are focused on achievement based on transparent, meaningful metrics. Tim and Junior talk about Google's Project Aristotle and how they discovered that psychological safety is the #1 indicator of high-performance. 

How do high-performing teams chase innovation? (50:44) High performing teams believe in continuous improvement. They're proud but never satisfied. At the end of the day, challenger safety not just as challenging the organization, but challenging ourselves to do better and be better. 

Important Links

Psychological Safety Behavioral Guide

Episode Transcript


0:00:02.4 Producer: Welcome back, Culture by Design listeners. It's Freddy, one of the producers of the podcast. In today's episode, Tim and Junior are discussing what makes a high-performing team? The quality of an organization is a reflection of the quality of its teams, and high-performing teams have patterns. Although, there are many patterns, Tim and Junior will focus on a core four in this episode, including how high-performing teams connect, how they improve their skills, how they view transparency and autonomy and how they continuously seek innovation. As always, this episode's show notes can be found at, that includes a link to our free psychological safety behavioral guide with over 100 practical behaviors to improve psychological safety and team performance. Thanks again for listening, and enjoy today's episode on what makes a high-performing team?


0:01:00.9 Junior: Welcome back, everyone, to Culture by Design. My name is Junior. I'm herewith Dr. Tim Clark, and today, we'll be discussing high performing teams. Tim, how are you doing?

0:01:07.0 Tim: I'm doing well, Junior. Good to be with you. It would be a great topic for discussion.

0:01:12.1 Junior: I think so. We talk quite a bit about high-performing teams, we use that phrase seemingly every day, so we wanted to take some time to dive into what exactly we mean. What is a high-performing team? How do you become one, if you aren't, and how do you improve even more, if you are? So in our client experience and our personal experience with our team here atLeaderFactor, we've seen a lot of teams. Tim, how many teams do you think we've interacted with over the years?

0:01:38.0 Tim: And I can't even count them.

0:01:40.5 Junior: I have no idea. It's a big number.

0:01:43.2 Tim: But as you said, Junior, high performing teams is this kind of hackneyed, cliche term. And so, I'm really excited about this episode, because we're gonna talk about the vital signs of a high-performing team and how you know if you have one or not, because it's not self-evident. So,I think this is going to be a helpful discussion.

0:02:04.8 Junior: Yeah, we've got a framework for you that I think will be useful. So, as we've engaged with these thousands of teams, we've learned a lot. We've learned a lot about the patterns.We've been able to observe the patterns and distill some of the differences between the highest performing, the lowest performing, the mediocre and average teams, and so we wanted to share some of that insight with you today, because I do think we can bring a unique perspective, just given sheer volume, as well as different industries. And so, I think that we sit in this very unique place that we can observe some of these patterns in a way that a lot of people can't. So, what have we learned?

0:02:44.1 Junior: Well, as we improve our teams, we've seen that one thing is almost universally true, that you get more leverage. Now, that's a word that we chose to use today. We could have chosen a whole bunch of different words and we've chosen this one, what is leverage? Leverage is whatever happens between what you put in and what you get out. That's as simply as I can describe it. And that is, I think, one of the biggest differences between the highest performing teams and everyone else, is this scale of leverage goes up and down across teams, and as a pattern, the highest teams have the most leverage. Tim, what do you think about this?

0:03:22.7 Tim: Well, it reminds me of the basic definition of an operation. An operation has three components, inputs, conversion, right? Conversion is the interaction of those inputs and then outputs. So, inputs, conversion, outputs. That's what teams do. We take the team members, we take all of their skills and knowledge and experience, and they work together, that's the conversion, and then they produce outputs. And what you're saying Junior is that, leverage means that somehow, some way the high performing teams, their conversion produces... It multiplies force in an extraordinary way, right? Isn't that what we're saying?

0:04:08.8 Junior: Yeah. Another way to put it is, the highest performing teams do a lot with a little, and if you scale that up, it becomes really interesting, because often you'll say, Well, what is efficiency? It's doing the same job faster. Well, if you can do the same job faster, it means you have now more time on your hands and you can do more jobs. And so, there's this output difference, not only do you get to the destination faster, but you have the opportunity to reach a different destination that's out of reach for the rest of the teams. And so, that's I think a critical differentiator here is, there is opportunity at the level of the highest performing team that simply does not exist for the rest of the teams, because they have not achieved the type of leverage necessary to get there.

0:04:57.7 Tim: Right. And that's gonna come down to the way that that team interacts, collaborates and does its work together, which we're gonna get into.

0:05:06.3 Junior: And we're talking today about all teams. Now teams sit at every level of society, every industry, every geography, and the scope and the magnitude of those teams and their impact changes, it varies. But the principles that we're going to talk about today are universally applicable, regardless of where you are and what you do.

0:05:30.1 Tim: Yeah, that's very true.

0:05:32.3 Junior: Okay, so here are the patterns. We're going to go into four today. There are dozens, but these four are in our opinion, some of the most important. So, high performing teams connect, that means they know each other, they learn, number two, they improve their skills and they increase their range, we'll talk about what we mean. Number three, they achieve, they seek transparency and autonomy in that achievement. That's important, we're gonna dive into it. And number four, they improve, they're proud of what they've accomplished, but they are never satisfied and they're seeking for that marginal improvement every single day. They wanna get better and better and better, forever.

0:06:12.6 Junior: So, why are we talking about the level of the team? Why are we not talking about the level of the individual? Well, individuals rarely accomplish extraordinary feats alone. And we've talked a little bit about this on the podcast before, that there have been extraordinary achievements throughout history that are attributed to individuals, but are often supported by tremendous infrastructure, big teams and things that are happening behind the scenes. And so, point to an example of an extraordinary feat, an achievement that was purely individual is really, really difficult to do, isn't it?

0:06:49.9 Tim: Junior, it reminds me of the Tour de France.

0:06:52.6 Junior: Great example.

0:06:55.2 Tim: Someone wears the yellow jersey after each stage, and then, someone wins the race after all the stages and steps up on the podium and wears the yellow jersey. But they don't remotely win that race by themselves. [chuckle] Right? I mean, think about what the team does for them, so that they can draft and so that they can renew and just the strategy that goes into it. That team is helping every day, that lead writer, to be able to do what he can do.

0:07:29.9 Junior: It's a great example. And I think that it's increasingly true today. We work in teams more than we ever have. And great things happen, big achievements occur at the level of the team, because we get to pool our skills, we get to pool of our knowledge, our resources and we're more adaptable as teams than we are as individuals. This is something that I've been thinking about this week, and I've been thinking a lot about longevity and the importance of teams as they relate to longevity. Humans, individually, we can only go so far. We can only go so fast. And knowledge and skills are self-contained at the individual level. And so, progress ends with the end of the individual.So, if a person decides all of a sudden to stop working on a certain project or they go away, they leave for whatever reason, then that's the end of the road for the progress of that project.

0:08:23.5 Junior: A team allows an individual person, skills, their contributions to live on in a way that would be more difficult or impossible otherwise. So you can take the team, you can join a team, take it from where it is, move it a little bit farther, someone joins the team, someone leaves the team, but it continues to adapt and move forward and have some continuity that we wouldn't have with individuals. And that's something that's been top of mind for me. And it may seem self-evident, it may seem very obvious, but for whatever reason, that struck me this week.

0:08:54.7 Tim: Well, Junior, it makes me think of really the hypothesis that kind of undergirds this entire episode, and that is, that the team is the fundamental unit of performance. So, for you listeners out there, think about that and ask yourself, if you agree with that? The team is the fundamental unit of performance, that's our premise. Now, if that's not true, is the individual the fundamental unit of performance? We don't think so, because those inputs have to go through conversion until they get to outputs. Is the organization the fundamental unit of performance? No, not really. The organization doesn't work together, it's not monolithic, it doesn't work together as one organism. You can break it down into divisions or functional areas or geographies or lines of business or whatever, and then you further break it down till you get to the team level. So, we're suggesting that the team is the fundamental unit of performance. If you agree with that, then it gives you a sense of urgency about creating high-performing teams, and also, it helps us realize our reliance on the team.

0:10:06.8 Junior: I think it depends on the altitude from which you're looking. If you're looking at the level of the organization, and I think, yes, the fundamental unit of performance is the team. But that's not to say that the team isn't a product of its members. So if you're looking at the team level, right? Then the fundamental unit of performance is going to be the individual, but if you're looking at a business unit or a geography or an entire organization, it's certainly going to be the team level.We're gonna be talking about teams at that level, we're not going to be talking about individuals, except... Well, by exception.

0:10:39.9 Tim: Junior, I think that lens to look through is to ask yourself, at what level is value created, right? So I can contribute my value, but the value that I create and offer to the team, that's not the value that other stakeholders or customers consume. My value has to be... Has to interact with the other members of the team before it becomes value that is consumed by, for example, a customer.

0:11:09.8 Junior: Yeah. I like that perspective, I agree with that. So, here's the next premise, the quality of an organization is a reflection of the quality of its teams. It's almost another way to say it. So if you wanna build a great organization, what do you need to do? You need to build great teams.So, for each of us, there's an invitation to improve the team, wherever we are. We might be an individual contributor as part of a team, we might be a manager, but very rarely are we going to work in isolation. So it's incumbent upon each of us to take this content today, take these ideas, take the questions, grapple with them, and figure out what we can do as individuals to improve the teams of which we're a part, those we might manage, those that might be adjacent to us, because that's the level at which we're going to get the most leverage. Right?

0:12:00.3 Tim: Yeah, totally agree.

0:12:00.4 Junior: Okay, so what complicates this? What makes it difficult? What are the failure patterns? Again, this comes from a lot of experience, and here's my take at the failure pattern. We're too busy focusing on the task at hand that we neglect the tool that we use to complete the task, the team. So, what is the tool of the team is the tool? So think of the team as the instrument that you use in whatever your domain is to accomplish work. Now, is it a sharp tool or is it a dull tool? Is it an appropriate tool, is it made of the right component parts? Or are you trying to use a knife when you should be using a chain saw? There are different teams that are appropriate for different situations, and if we're not thoughtful about the team composition, about the skillsets, about its development and its culture, then often we're just banging our heads against the wall trying to solve really difficult problems without looking at the level of the tool we're using and the team that we've put together. So I think that that's the biggest failure pattern, is we're trying to accomplish tasks without looking at the tool used to accomplish the task. What do you think?

0:13:13.3 Tim: No, I think that's true, Junior. It's interesting that if you take a group of geniuses and you put them together as a team, and you say, you're a team, you're now commissioned as a team.We're going to charter you as a team. And you're each geniuses in your respective, I guess, domain.Does it naturally follow that that group of geniuses that we've assembled will function as a high-performing team, as a world class team? No, not remotely, not remotely. Because they have not demonstrated the ability to work together effectively. And what does that mean? So that's where we can dive into the framework, I think.

0:13:55.8 Junior: Okay, let's do it. So, the four patterns that we talked about, the first one is connect. Now, high performing teams know each other. In a sentence, that's what we're talking about. High-performing teams know each other. As we dive into these four patterns of high performing teams, we're going to lay it out as follows, we're going to give an external example through observations and things that we've experienced, and then we're going to give an internal example from LeaderFactor. The way that some of our teams behave, for better or for worse, some of the culture that we have, some of the tools, some of the resources, some of the aspirations that help us do what we do, that we found to be effective. So hopefully, that perspective is valuable today. Some things that we've picked up on, some examples that are external, and then some things that we do ourselves that we can say work, because we're the ones doing them and we've seen the product in our own teams.

0:14:56.3 Tim: Junior, before you go into this example, let me just ask a question that listeners can reflect on and ponder, and that is... So you said, the first thing that teams need to do is connect, so that's imperative number one, but what does connect mean? Does it need to go beyond a transactional relationship? I was working with a biotech company, an executive team at a biotech company once. And the CFO said to me, Tim, we don't need to like each other, we just need to work together. I'll never forget that. And she was convinced that a transactional relationship among the members of the executive team was sufficient. Do you believe that or do you believe that, that relationship needs to go beyond a transactional relationship, to a deeper level of intimacy and connection, the members of that team? What do you believe about that? So, with that question in mind, Junior, maybe, you share an example.

0:16:05.1 Junior: Well, I think that the question is interesting or the statement rather, we don't needto like each other, we just need to work together, that's not wrong, but it depends on what type ofteam you wanna be, right? So, if you wanna be an average team or a below average team, sure,don't get to know each other. That's fine. Just work together. See what happens. But what's youraspiration? Is your aspiration to be a top 1% team? If it is, then that's absolutely not going to cut it.If it's not and your aspiration is mediocrity, then first of all, I'm sorry. And two, sure. I guess, go forit. Right?

0:16:45.2 Tim: That's okay. It may suit your purpose, and that's fine. You can be transactional, anda lot of teams are, right? And where you find a transactional team, you will find a very high level of churn. The attrition will be high, it will reflect the transactional nature of working on that team.That doesn't sustain people over time, they need more than that.

0:17:09.7 Junior: But you're also not going to get any discretionary effort. And that's a pattern thatI've seen time and time and time again. If you don't know each other, then people are not going togo the distance when it's difficult, and when it's by discretion to help and to support. And so, what you can't say is that all else equal, a transactional team will beat a team that really knows each other.That's certainly not true. So, here's an example for you. Satya Nadella. He becomes CEO ofMicrosoft in 2014. And what is the first thing that he does? The very first thing that he does? A three-day off-site in Washington state. And what's the objective? Is it to define Microsoft's mission?Is it to talk tactics?

0:17:56.9 Junior: Is it to look at the books? Is it to get a state of the state? No, no. The objective isto bond and to build trust. That is the purpose of this three-day off-site. How expensive is the timeof an executive team like Microsoft? It's expensive across a whole bunch of variables. So, that's theobjective, bond and build trust. Now, this is a bet that Satya is making, and hindsight is 20/20, youcan probably see where we're going with this, but think about that. You've just become CEO of amassive, one of the most well-known organizations on planet earth, and you make a bet that the firstthree days will be best spent bonding and building trust with the executive team. How many CEOswould make that bet? Not many. What do you think about that bet?

0:18:43.8 Tim: How many people are saying, "Hey, we can't do that. We have a business to run?"10/06/23 Page 6 of 17

0:18:47.4 Junior: Yeah. Are you kidding me? Three days, right? Like, maybe three hours.

0:18:53.4 Tim: Three hours.

0:18:54.2 Junior: Maybe. Right? Even that might be pushing it. So that's the objective, bond andbuild trust. Day one, what do they do? They go hiking, they cook together. Day two, what do theydo? Mission value strategy, as far as Microsoft's concerned, but then there's an addition, personalgoals and aspirations. Satya says, "Hey, what are your personal goals and aspirations, everyone onthis team, what do you think? Why are you here? What do you want to accomplish? Who do youhope to be?" I love that. So we're not neglecting the institution, but we want to see you. What doyou want, as it relates to the institution and how can these two things work together? And that'swhat day three is all about. How do we work together to accomplish these things? The institutionalobjectives and your personal and professional objectives? So cool.

0:19:41.3 Tim: That's amazing. I remember reading about this Junior, and I was kind of bowledover when I read about this first step to take this three-day offsite and to do these things and look atthe agenda, and the way they spent their time.

0:19:53.2 Junior: Yeah, it's really neat.0:19:54.6 Tim: It was pretty incredible.

0:19:55.6 Junior: So, Satya says in an interview afterwards that the offsite was, "One of the mostimportant things I've done as CEO." So, if that doesn't get your attention, I don't know what will. Interms of pattern recognition, you've got one of the most successful CEOs of all time, who'sdemonstrated that after, you know, in all the days after this three-day offsite, look at whatMicrosoft's been able to do. He's saying, this was one of the most important things I've done asCEO. So, is it plausible that you as a manager might say in the future that one of the most importantthings you did was dedicate time to bond and build trust for your team? Have you been able to dothat? Have you set aside time to bond and to build trust?

0:20:46.7 Junior: I know that this is a invitation to me, I think about my team, how well have wedone bonding? How well have we done building trust and how has that affected our performance?Have we done it well and it's affected our performance positively? Are we kind of haphazard? Dowe let it happen? Do we not do it at all? And so, I think it's an opportunity for each of us to reflectand see if we've been able to do this well. Tim, any other comments on Nadella?

0:21:15.5 Tim: No, I just think it's been a great example. And now he has what, nine years of trackrecord and he has engineered one of the greatest enterprise cultural transformations of all time.Where did it begin? Not only is he the CEO of the entire organization, but he runs a team. He's ateam leader of an intact team that consists of himself and his direct report. So, let's not forget that,right? That's the focus here, is that he's got his own little team to lead. And this is how he starts thatjourney.

0:21:56.3 Junior: It's a little bit of an aside, but I do see that as a pattern that I think is worthcalling out. Once you become a leader of leaders, I think you stop or there's a tendency to stoplooking at your direct reports as a team that needs to be nurtured the way you once did as a frontline manager. And so, I think that's an opportunity for us. So here's our internal example. Just last week,we had an all hands meeting, and at the end of the meeting, after we're done with "business," quote,unquote, we took two minutes. We went around and we shared a photo that we've taken in the lastmonth. So, this was a really interesting exercise, because there was no aim other than bonding andbuilding trust.

0:22:40.2 Tim: And connecting.

0:22:41.0 Junior: And it was interesting to see, because people can talk about themselves forever.They're doing interesting things, they have people they care about, things they care about, placesthey care about. And it was cool to see people share and you learn so much about them by what theyshared. And so, they've cast a picture up on the big screen and just give a little bit of context. Hey,here's why I took this picture. Here's what was going on. Here's why it's important to me. And of thecouple hundred photos that I could have shared, this is the one that I chose. And that alone, at leastfor me, was really impactful. It was a really cool experience to do that as a team. And not everyonecould be there, but we had quite a few and it was awesome.

0:23:23.5 Tim: I think it was, I'm just kind of reflecting on that, Junior, trying to figure out whatthat said about me. I shared a picture of, I think the five varieties of tomatoes that we grew this year,and how proud I was of that. So, I'm thinking, "Hmm."

0:23:37.1 Junior: What does everyone [chuckle] else think about my tomato?

0:23:39.8 Tim: That's an interesting way to connect, but I'm wondering what the team membersthought about that. Tim is a... He's an interesting guy. He's showing us the five varieties of tomatoesthat he grew this year. What does that say about him? I'm not sure, but you know what? It justshows you, we just reveal our humanity and the things that we do in life, we're able to connect on apersonal level, a deeper level. What's that worth? A lot.

0:24:06.3 Junior: And on this front, I'll say, stay away from kind of the contrived and really hokeyand really scripted, get to know you stuff. It often doesn't work and people see through that. And it'sjust a gimmick. And so, something like this though, hey, share a photo. To me, that gets to the heartof the issue. You can learn a lot. It's not a ton of gamification or too cute. It really works. And wesaw whole bunch of stuff, children and grandchildren and pets and places, and it was so entertainingand awesome. Just loved it.

0:24:45.0 Tim: Yeah, it was.

0:24:45.8 Junior: So, here's the point. If your team doesn't know each other, really know eachother, then it's not a high-performing team. Or at least it won't be for very long or it won't be whenthings get hard. And so, those are two things that I want to just click on. It won't be for very long.So, the longevity of the team's performance is conditional upon how well it knows each other. If theteam doesn't know each other, then almost, you're going to get that churn that Tim talked about, thetransactional nature of the team, and you're not going to be able to go the distance. The highestperforming teams are often together for a while. Have you noticed that?

0:25:25.8 Tim: They are.

0:25:26.6 Junior: You don't have teams that are moving mountains often that are just, well, we gottogether for a few weeks and we did this really cool thing. Sometimes it happens, but it's byexception. And then number two, difficulty, when things get hard. If you have a transactional team,how do you think it's going to handle things when the environment turns and it gets really difficult?It's not going to go well. Are you going to be able to dig deep and lean on each other because youcare?

0:25:58.6 Tim: Do you even want to, Junior?

0:26:00.7 Junior: Yeah. Do you even want to?

0:26:02.5 Tim: Yeah. Because the level of intimacy that the team achieves becomes the glue whenthe adversity strikes. So, think about that, that intimacy, that real deep connection, that becomes theglue, the bonding agent that takes you through these crucible experiences that we have from time totime when you're really challenged, does the team come together or does it fall apart? You'll betested that way.

0:26:33.4 Junior: Okay. So that's number one is, high-performing teams connect, they know eachother. Let's move to number two, they learn. High-performing teams are constantly improving theirskills. So, here's an external example. John Wooden, one of the best, most famous coaches of alltime. He coached basketball at the collegiate level in the United States. And he is known for sittingthe team down, bringing out a basketball and saying, "Everyone, this is a basketball."

0:27:07.1 Tim: This is lecture number one, right?

0:27:09.0 Junior: This is lecture number one, basketball 101. This is a basketball. Now, JohnWooden can get the top recruits, build incredible teams of people who have had basketballs in theirhands since they were tiny. If there's a population that doesn't need to know what a basketball is, it'sthis one, conceivably. But then he goes on, right? A basketball is a... It's a spherical object made ofleather. It's inflated. It's 29.5 inches in circumference and we use this ball to play the game ofbasketball. And basketball is a team sport, two teams, five players each. They try to score points andyou get the idea. And he explains from the ground up the sport of basketball.

0:27:53.1 Junior: And he's also well-known for sharing, let's learn how to tie our shoes, right?Because we don't want them to come undone while we're playing the sport of basketball. Just thesemost fundamental, simple things that you then build on. So, why do I share this example? Thisexample I thought was pertinent, because you have to build on the basics and the basics have to bein place. So, some high performing teams will tout all of the detail and the nuance and the basicsaren't there. So, these need to be in place in order for us to have a strong foundation on which tolearn. So, the highest performing teams never assume that they have the basics down. The highestperforming teams understand that they need to start at the bottom and work their way up and thenthey can get into details, then they can get into the nuance. But they never forget how to tie theirshoes.

0:28:45.5 Tim: So, it's relearn, relearn, relearn. You never graduate from the basics, right? We'regoing to be brilliant on the basics. We're going to focus on the basics.

0:28:56.3 Junior: And then, learning speed. Here's another external example. Netflix, their data science team. If you have some time to look into this, I'd recommend it. It's pretty interesting. Thework that this team does to improve the recommendeds. So, I'm assuming that many listeners of thepodcast have a Netflix subscription. And my other assumption is that they use it. So, therecommendeds are based on their inferred emotions. This is really interesting. So, theserecommendeds, they are titles that Netflix recommends to you based on the data that it gathersabout you. And this can get...

0:29:35.0 Tim: Thinks that you'll like it, right? So watch this series, we think you'll like it.

0:29:39.8 Junior: Yeah, we think you'll like it. And now the confidence with which they can say,we think you'll like it is really high. Because they're looking at what you're watching. They'relooking at watch time, times of day. Are you watching comedy? Are you watching drama, romance?They can tell who you are demographically and put content in front of you that they think willresonate. And not only do they do that, they change the thumbnails of the titles themselves to use animage that they think will resonate you, based on the demographic profile that they put together.

0:30:11.1 Tim: Based on the inferred emotions and the emotional profile that they're puttingtogether.

0:30:16.7 Junior: And that's right.0:30:17.5 Tim: It's amazing.

0:30:18.4 Junior: The reason that I put this in here as an example is, how close to the cutting edgedo you have to be in order to learn how to do this algorithmically? And you think about that waywith a lot of big data these days, but it's constantly changing and you're constantly reacting to it.You're constantly improving these models. And so, if you stay stagnant, especially in an industrylike this, you're going to be left behind. And the improvement that you can make, this pace of yourlearning affects the bottom line, right? They're looking for customer retention. They're looking forwatch time. They're trying to do all of these things, and a lot of it ties back to how quickly they'relearning about what their customers are doing, what the trends are. And if you stay ignorant to thatfor too long, you're gonna be left in the dust.

0:31:07.3 Tim: Junior, I'm just amazed at what they've been able to do, because we don't begin bygiving them our demographics and our psychographics. But what they do is that, based on theiranalytics, their predictive analytics, they infer our demographics, but more importantly,psychographics, our preferences. It's amazing.

0:31:31.6 Junior: Yeah, it's amazing.

0:31:32.5 Tim: So that's a team... And by the way, think about how dynamic the environment is inwhich they work. There's no equilibrium for them. They have to press forward and continue toinnovate, continue to improve.

0:31:49.5 Junior: Yep. So in short, the team acknowledges that the knowledge it has today isinsufficient. We need to do something to increase our knowledge, increase our skills and ourunderstanding. And so, let's move to the internal example. There are a few things that we do andsome things that we've done lately that I think are indicative of this. So, one thing we have for the entire organization, we will buy you books as fast as you can read them. If you send us a messageabout the application of that content to your role, as many as you want, you want to listen to them,you want to read them, what are we doing by doing that? We're saying that, we care about the paceof your learning. We'll support you in that process. And that's been a really interesting thing to see,has that been taken advantage of? Has it not? But we also need to pay attention to learning styles,right?

0:32:41.5 Junior: Maybe books aren't the best for everyone. Maybe it's meetups, maybe it'sconferences, maybe it's... It could be a whole host of things. But the point is, are we giving attentionto that? Are we investing in that as an institution? And not just from a purely technical standpointthat we want ROI in the business, but even general learning, are we providing some of thoseexperiences outside of your typical role that push you to learn even in other areas? So, Tim, what doyou think about that?

0:33:09.3 Tim: I think that we're reinforcing it, we're recognizing it, and it's ongoing. It just makesme think of the imperative that we have for learning, which is to demonstrate learning agility. Ithink we've talked about that a little bit before, Junior. We define learning agility as the ability tolearn at or above the speed of change. I don't think that anything less than that is viable in anorganization today. So then you have to get practical and think about, okay, how can we supportlearning agility at the individual level and then at the team level?

0:33:43.0 Junior: And there are some things that I've been kind of keying into that just chatter inour organization and across teams that I think are indicative of this learning mindset. So, salescomes and says, "Hey, we think we wanna hire this very specific consultant to look at this veryspecific process. We wanna do some pricing and analysis. We wanna look at some recruitingstrategies. We wanna do this and this." Marketing, "Hey, I was in a meetup. I joined this group. Ilearned this thing." Technology. So, our CTO comes to me, we're talking the other day, and he said,"Oh, yeah, I spoke at this meetup recently." And this doesn't have to do with our work directly. Thisis outside, really niche technological topic. And then he says, "Hey, do you think LeaderFactorcould host or sponsor technology meetup?"

0:34:31.3 Junior: So, we started that conversation. See, yes, you know, hey, I was listening to thisperson or this person, this CEO, this podcast, and he had this insight I thought was reallyinteresting. So, those types of things are flying around all the time in Slack, in person. And so,there's this real energy. And I think that people feed off of that and they see, oh, you're out doingthis thing, you're learning. Maybe I should do that too. Oh, and then they'll share what they learnedand so on. And it starts to get into this flywheel that I think is just... It's really fun. It's really greatenergy. And I think institutionally, that starts to become part of your personality, part of your brand.And people can start to feel that when they start to get onboarded, right? They join yourorganization they're like, whoa, these people are moving. They're learning all sorts of stuff, right?Maybe I should too. Or maybe I absolutely have to in order to keep up, right?

0:35:26.0 Tim: Junior, I would put two words together. So you said energy, but there's a specificspecies of energy that we're talking about. We're talking about learning energy. So, this is a questionthat listeners can ask about their own teams, and that is, what level of learning energy, specific tolearning, what level of learning energy do you observe in your team? Is there this ongoingexcitement and curiosity and sharing going on about what you're learning? It's a specific category ofenergy, learning energy. You can ask yourself that question and it will tell you a lot about what's going on.

0:36:11.9 Junior: Yeah. And another thing inside this vein is, if you're doing a lot of privatelearning, do it publicly, share what you're learning. That's one of the behaviors in the behavioralguide from stage two that I really love, is share what you're learning. And then most recently, so justlast week, Wednesday, Thursday, we went to the Silicon Slopes Summit. We're headquartered herein Utah, and we were able to listen to Reed Hastings, Jimmy Pitaro, the chairman of ESPN, ReedHastings founder Netflix. Maybe that's why the Netflix example I've been thinking about. RyanSmith, Executive Chairman of Qualtrics, Will Grannis, the CTO of Google Cloud.

0:36:50.9 Junior: Really awesome speaker list. And the lineup, it was fun to just go and listen, andabsorb and then chat with the team afterwards. Hey, what did you get out of that? What didn't youget out of that? What are the things that are top of mind for you leaving the conference? And so,that was some time... We have a lot going on, everyone. We have a lot going on over here atLeaderFactor. And there was a lot of pressure to say, no, let's not do it, right? There is enough onour plates. But we decided to make that investment and go at least for a portion of the time toabsorb some of that. And I think for me, it was interesting just to observe my own behavior and myown energy and going there with real intent to take something away, I absolutely took somethingaway. And so, you don't necessarily need to go to some big conference or do something big, it couldbe that you take 10 minutes, watch a piece of a podcast and absorb that the same way you would ifyou were in person in a conference. When's the last time you took physical notes when you listenedto a podcast? Have you ever done that? Why not?

0:38:10.6 Junior: Why not? If you're in a room with somebody in front of you, you're probablygonna take notes if it's live, so what's the difference? It's the same type of content. So, what arethese little things that we might do to increase our own pace of learning individually and thenpublicize that so that we can do it at the level of the team? So that is number two, is learn. High-performing teams are constantly improving their skills. Let's move to number three, high-performing teams achieve. They are focused on achievement based on transparent, meaningfulmetrics. And most of these are going to be lead indicators, that's another metric. That's what high-performing teams are concerned about, is the lead indicators, the things that they can control, thethings that are in that black box of conversion that lead to the leverage we're talking about. So Tim,there's the example that we're going into is project Aristotle, can you frame that?

0:39:02.1 Tim: Yeah. Project Aristotle was an internal project that Google undertook... Let's see, itgoes back to 2014-2015. And they studied, I think it was 82 of their own teams internally for aperiod of a couple of years, to try to understand and identify the factors that defined their most high-performing teams. They figured, Well, there's gotta be a pattern here, and we have a bunch ofbrilliant people, but we also know that some of our teams are high performing and some of ourteams are not. So, even though we have talent across the board in terms of team performance, whatare we looking at? A bell-shaped normal distribution curve. So, how can that be? We still have thisbroad distribution of performance, even though we have all these talented people. So what's goingon? So they studied that for a couple of years, and they landed on five drivers that they said, theybelieved accounted for or described the most highly performing teams.

0:40:07.3 Junior: So, if you're familiar with our content, you probably think that we're gonna talkabout the first driver, which is psychological safety, we're not. We're gonna talk about the seconddriver. So the second of the five drivers was dependability, so this high performance and reliability. I can rely on the person next to me. The quote from them was, "Team members get things done ontime and meet Google's high bar for excellence." So I thought that this was interesting as it relatesto achievement. Team members get things done on time and meet a high bar for excellence. So,what's the opposite of this? The opposite of this is shirking, right? So, reliability is takingownership, it's taking responsibility. It means that, I'm helping the person next to me when theyneed help. Dependability, I think is really interesting, and psychological safety gets a lot of thespotlight as it should, as number one. But number two, dependability. Let's not ignore that. I thinkthat that is some really interesting data that we should look at and say, Hey, you know what? There'ssomething there. Dependability is a big thing, and it's a hallmark of the highest performing teams.

0:41:17.7 Tim: Junior, I would say the dependability, they landed on the word dependability, but Ithink you could say accountability as well. I think they're synonymous. They're interchangeable.Think about what it does to you personally, when you're working on a team that is highlydependable, highly accountable? It is an expression of respect toward you, personally, and it's veryencouraging for you and to you to be able to participate and to want to participate on a team that isaccountable, that holds itself accountable, that is dependable. That's where you wanna be. You'reexcited about it, because you know that if you do your part, the other members of the team aregoing to do their parts. They're not gonna flake out. They're not going to shirk their responsibilities.They're going to be there, they're going to deliver. If we all deliver, what can happen? We don't evenknow what can happen, but it's exciting to be a part of that team, because you know you can rely onyour fellow team members.

0:42:24.0 Junior: Yeah, I love this one. So, an example for us, I was thinking about transparentmetrics for which we are accountable. And one example that came to mind was sales and marketing.I think that we have a top 1% sales and marketing relationship. Now, sometimes this can be anantagonistic relationship, but one of the things that I think has helped our team more than anythingelse is radical transparency and collaboration, around these shared and transparent metrics. So, whatis a qualified lead? If you went and asked that question to your sales team and then went and askedit to the marketing team, chances are, you're gonna get slightly different answers or very differentanswers. Our teams have collaborated for months and months to establish a shared yardstick thatwas transparent for the entire organization about what a qualified lead was.

0:43:20.5 Junior: And in our team, we have a Slack channel that is a thread with every single leadthat comes in, every single deal that's closed, and there is transparency across the entireorganization. Our graphic design team gets to see every single one of those things moving in andout of the organization. And sometimes they're probably like, Oh, my word, enough. But it's reallyneat to be able to have everyone in the organization have line of sight into those types of sharedmetrics, because everyone is accountable to those, everyone gets energy from those things. Theycan see how we're doing, and they can see how they can help. So, here's another example, sales,anyone at LeaderFactor can watch sales calls. Marketing watches sales call, CS watches productinterviews. The calls, not just in sales, but any recorded call is made available.

0:44:13.3 Junior: Now, of course, people know what a recorded call is or not on the call itself, soit's not that we're recording a whole bunch of people that don't know they're being recorded, peopleknow. But that transparency, I think has been amazing for our team. It's radical transparency.Anyone can just pop in. And I remember a few weeks ago, it was a relatively... I'm trying toremember when this was, but I remember it clearly a meeting we were in, and there was a sales repthat wasn't clued into this yet. And someone else was like, Oh yeah, I watched that call. It was really awesome. Like, what do you mean, you've watched the call? You know? You watched my call withthat project? [chuckle] Then, I think that, that has been really healthy for our team. We havecustomer voices, and we call out some of those, we'll pull up a call, we'll watch some thingstogether, and...

0:45:07.5 Junior: I guess the point here is that we've got a shared yardstick for performance forsome of these lead measures, and then we have transparency all the way through. So we don't dothis perfectly, but I think that we've done it quite well. Okay, number four is improve. High-performing teams believe in continuous improvement. They're proud of what they've achieved, butthey're never perfectly satisfied. And I think that that's important. I think that there should always bejust a little bit more that we identify that we can improve, if not, then what's the alternative? Thealternative is that you perceive that you've arrived, and that's the behavior we've achieved. Andthat's it, we're at our destination, and we're not even gonna look at how we got here, we're justgrateful that we're here. But I think it's important to look back, unpack it, and see what we can dobetter. So, the external example for number four is the Toyota Production System. Tim, tell us aboutthis.

0:46:04.1 Tim: Well, Toyota pioneered a production system in which anyone that's a part of theproduction system, they could be in a production role, an engineering role, a maintenance role, theycould participate. Not only could they participate, but they could pull the end [0:46:20.4] ____ andstop the line if they wanted to, if they felt that something was wrong or they felt that there was aproblem that they could fix. And they were also not only expected, but rewarded in that process. So,continuous improvement becomes, the mentality becomes a way of life, and that's really what we'retalking about. We bring that posture, we bring that mentality to work to the team. And it'sinvigorating, because we're always looking for continuous improvement. We always know thatwhatever the performance level is today, we know that there's a bottleneck somewhere. So let's gofind the bottleneck and let's de-bottleneck the system and let's elevate to the next level ofperformance, and then, let's do it again and again and again.

0:47:10.7 Junior: So, while we're doing that, we're asking a bunch of questions, we're asking, Whydo we do it this way? Is that are a better way to do this, what can we stop doing and eliminate? Howcan we make this process more efficient? And the thing that I love most about this is eternal, you'renever done.

0:47:26.7 Tim: Yeah.[chuckle]

0:47:29.7 Junior: Ever, ever. And for some of it might seem discouraging, but for me, I love thatidea of a more efficient way to do something, a better approach. And that could be in terms ofoperational efficiency, but it could also be cultural. Have you ever asked that question? How can wemake this process culturally better, right? Maybe efficiency as far as operations is exactly the same,but you have a culturally better outcome that's better, that's improvement.

0:47:58.4 Tim: That's better.
0:48:00.1 Junior: And so, we don't just need to be looking at some of these metrics for technical efficiency and technical performance, but cultural. There are these things that we can pay attention to. So, in LeaderFactor, one example that comes to mind is just the number of revisions for theassets that we put out. So, you may have seen years ago when the four stages of psychologicalsafety was published, there's a QR code in back of the book that pointed to the four stagesbehavioral guide.

0:48:24.0 Junior: Now, this is a guide that we had put together at the time, that has since becomeour number one most downloaded asset of all time. If you haven't seen the newest version, go checkit out. Chances are, if you just peek back every once in a while, there will be a new version, but thenumber of revisions of that particular asset is astounding. The complete guide to psychologicalsafety, right, now that's being overhauled, right? And I thought that that asset was really good andmarketing comes back like, No, we gotta do another version. There's more that we can do online.

0:48:54.3 Tim: And it's better.

0:48:55.3 Junior: Yeah, and it's better. They went out, they got after it, and now it's better, andthere will probably be another one, right? I think about the website. These things that are just neverending, these things that we can improve constantly. And then, challenging ourselves at anindividual level to get better. So, not just challenging the institution and challenging theorganization, the team, but challenging ourselves in order to improve. And an example of this one,recently, we're having a conversation about some pilot programs for a client and we needed to dosome additional APAC facilitation on a pretty short timeline. And our head of client successimmediately raises his hand. He's like, Oh, I'll go do it. Right? We're talking APAC on a shorttimeline in a really high stakes environment, immediately raises his hand, I'll go. I'll go. And I justlove that posture. I love that posture. I love that mindset of, Hey, this is high stakes, it's risky. Thisisn't even part of my role, right?

0:50:04.7 Tim: Sign me up.

0:50:05.6 Junior: But put me in, right? [chuckle] I'm ready to go. I love that, of just looking at abig hairy problem and being like, I can do this, right? I'll do it. And also, understanding part of whatthat showed me was that he had the confidence that the institution wouldn't look back at him and belike, No, uh-uh, we're gonna have to figure out something else, but rather like, no, I think if I putmyself out there and say that I'm gonna go do this difficult thing, then my team's gonna back me upand support me. Right? And he's fully capable. And so, I thought that that was a really cool examplerecently for me.

0:50:43.0 Tim: Yeah, I agree.

0:50:44.8 Junior: Okay, so that's number four, improve. High-performing teams believe incontinuous improvement. So, what did we talk about today? We've talked about high-performingteams and we've tried to share some patterns that we've seen in external examples and some thingsthat we do internally along these four behaviors, these four patterns. Now we're not perfect as aninstitution, but I think we've got some things right. And so, to summarize, high-performing teamsconnect, they know each other, they learn, they improve their skills and increase their range. Three,they achieve, they see transparency and autonomy, and four, they improve, they're proud, but they'renever satisfied. Now, you may have picked up on this trend, we try to be a little bit less over today,but these four things match up to the four stages of psychological safety, inclusion, learning,contribution, and challenging. High-performing teams feel safe to do those four things.

0:51:43.4 Junior: So, if you don't feel like you can do those four things safely, do themconsistently and predictably, then you're not a high-performing team. And we have to look at, Okay,where is the gap, what can we do to become better? And if we believe we are high performing, andwe can do those things predictably and consistently, and we feel safe when we're doing them, howdo we get better, how do we start to tune and get those marginal gains, the 1%, the 2%? How do webecome more culturally efficient, not just technically? And so, this has been invitation to me aswell, to look at the things that we do as a team and see what we can do to become better? Becausewe are probably leaders of teams or parts of teams, and we have influence to the quality of ourteams that are things that we can do. Tim, any final thoughts as we wrap up today?

0:52:28.2 Tim: Well, I just think it's so helpful to go back and ask yourself that question about yourteam, are you connecting, are you learning, are you achieving? And then the final one is, Are youimproving? And that diagnostic question will give you a very good sense of where the team is andwhere you go from there.

0:52:48.6 Junior: Awesome. Well, Tim, I appreciate your time today. It's been a great conversation.I've learned a lot, some food for thought for me, and thank you everyone listening for your time,your attention. We appreciate your listenership very much. If you found value in today's episode,please consider subscribing, so you can stay up-to-date. We're putting out episodes very consistentlyand hopefully some ideas, some contents and questions for you. So thank you, for all you do. Andwe'll see you next time. Bye-bye.


0:53:22.7 Producer: Hey, Culture by Design listeners, this is the end of today's episode. You canfind all the important links from today's episode at And if you foundtoday's episode helpful and useful in any way, please, share it with a friend and leave a review. Ifyou'd like to learn more about LeaderFactor and what we do, then please, visit us Lastly, if you'd like to give any feedback to the Culture by Design podcast, oreven request a topic from Tim and Junior, then reach out to us at or find andtag us on LinkedIn. Thanks again for listening and making culture something you do by design, notby default.


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