James: And we actually stripped away all the traditional roles. And I said, just take whatever tasks you want within our business. And they do such an eclectic mix of tasks that you would never expect one person could do these things, but they’ve been with me so long and they’ve learnt so many cross-trained roles.
And we took a lot of things from the airline industry – cabin crew, cross check doors, we have checklists, SOPs and stuff. And we make very few errors, which is great. And they’re so good and talented. And they’re really hands off for me. I see that, and I talk about it, but a lot of my customers, they just think I’m talking a fantasy.
Do you see this high-performance level of team often? And do you think anyone can get there?
Jeffrey: The answer is no, I don’t see it often. But the other answer is yes, I think any team can get there, if they’re able to like, really distill down to the core elements of what you just described so beautifully. Because as I was listening to you, I’m thinking, you articulated with your own team what I would call sort of the four key principles of effective teamwork in a virtual world.
And so just for example, if I can remember, because you just did this, but number one, equity. What you did when you said we all turn off our videos, or we all turn on our videos, the conference call, is powerful. If you’re listening, sometimes the phone is a much better connective medium than video, because video can be very distracting. And as you said, people will pay attention to their appearance and spend time looking at themselves. We all do it. Not just women, we all do it.
So you know, video is great. And there can be very powerful connections just by phone. But the key is all or nothing. Don’t have five people on video and five people on phone, because then you have an imbalance. That was one of your core principles at the beginning, is we sometimes use video or we don’t use video. And so I totally agree with that.
Another principle that you pointed to was to leverage the power of actually being together. Right? That when you do get together now, and I’m hoping a lot of my leaders that I work with, and a lot of teams will get more intentional about this in the future, because they realize that they have in the past when they were all in the office all the time, they just took it for granted. Oh, we can meet at the cooler or we’d meet in the hallway or whatever. And now they’re beginning to realize that when we actually have physical connection, it’s very meaningful.
It can, as you said, double, triple or quadruple the relationship building. So it doesn’t mean we don’t do it anymore. It means we do it with intention. We do what we know works, which is you really do need to get together with people.
And then the third, I’ll probably forget the fourth, but the third point you made in that narrative was getting to know people personally, not work-related. You talked about going surfing and doing other things and getting to bond with people. I just finished writing an article that I published, called Setting the Virtual Table. It’s a whole article, basically, about how to have dinner with your team, when you can’t be there in person. And it’s no joke. It’s like, you really can have cocktails, you really can have dinner.
James: We have Yellow Cab pizza Fridays.
James: I send extra money to pay for a pizza. Everyone gets a pizza, they share pictures of it. We don’t go on the video and share it. But if everyone’s collaborating on this, you know, this special occasion to celebrate something great or whatever.
Jeffrey: Exactly. But that’s the point, is that, you know, getting to bond as human beings is incredibly primal.
And then I do remember the fourth, because you really nailed it, and I want to give you a lot of credit for that. And I was listening as you were speaking, as I’m a coach, so I listen. And the fourth point that you made was about autonomy. You said, I stripped the roles in the hierarchy, and I asked people, what do they really want to do and what are they good at?
And that’s getting at one of the core research elements of success in today’s academic research, that is not as well known out in the real world, which is that autonomy really motivates people. When they feel a sense of ownership, like, Oh, I’m getting to use my capabilities, and I’m getting coaching, and I’m learning, it’s not about the role. It’s not about what you spend one hour, two hours, tasks, to-do lists. It’s about developing your skills and doing something that you actually feel passionate about.
And if you give that kind of freedom to your team, you know, some people will say to me when I bring this up, Oh, but then there’s tasks that nobody will want to do, Jeff, everybody will want to do the glamorous tasks. And I’m like, really? That’s a myth too. I know when I was an entrepreneur, when I was first starting out with my coaching and training company, I had to buy the toilet paper. I had to buy the paper clips. I didn’t mind. I told people I was an entrepreneur, I’m buying the toilet paper, because it’s my office. This is so cool, dude. Like, you know, it’s like, what you may think of as a low-end job may be somebody else’s bread and butter.
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