High performance teams that achieve and sustain extraordinary levels of success have many characteristics in common, but likely the most important is a powerful, inspirational story.
By story, I don’t mean some fanciful mumbo-jumbo that is posted on the corporate website or hanging in the headquarter’s lobby. I mean an aspirational narrative that is grounded in real-life examples. It embodies the organization’s true values and inspires all members of the team when they invariably face challenges and setbacks to persevere and make the difficult choices to live their shared values.
I can’t think of an organization with a more powerful story than the United States Marine Corps. Every Marine learns the story when they arrive at Boot Camp or The Basic School. And here’s the key — the story is told on a daily basis, in a variety of ways, by every member of the team. Every decision, every daily activity can be directly tied to their story of who they are, what they stand for, and why it is important. The story is woven into the fabric of training, ceremonies, awards, and recognition. It is celebrated with each success, referred to when facing difficult challenges, and each person is held accountable if they willfully violate the tenets of the story.
On November 10 each year, U.S. Marines all over the world take time to tell their story as they celebrate the anniversary of the founding of the Marine Corps in 1775. Here is a link to a 7-minute video of the Commandant’s message for the 2018 Marine Corps Birthday. Watch it and hear the USMC story.
By the way, every organization, every team, every person has a story they tell themselves about who they are and “here’s how we do things around here.” Leaders of lower performing teams don’t tune into the real (and often dysfunctional) story being told and shared over and over. And it most often involves the personal behavior and example of its leaders.
What is your team’s story?
Be a High-Trust Leader: develop and repeat your team’s genuine aspirational story. Bring it alive by your personal example and highlighting the achievements of all members of the organization.