Archive for June, 2009

In the last week I’ve heard many ‘interesting’ ways to take an average under-motivated team and turn it into one of the illusive High Performance variety. Office furniture, pool tables, team structure, salaries etc. all appear to be important.

I thought I would throw my 10 cents in and describe the tangible elements I have always found in teams that performed better than most.

I apologize for my exclusion of pot plants, natural light and meeting rooms that look like ski lifts.

1. People
Forget trying to change people – it just takes too long. The famous book Good To Great said correctly ”Get the wrong people off the bus and the right people on it as quickly as you can”. If you want your team to perform above average you need better than average people (no brainer, huh).

If you don’t know how to pick or recognise these people make sure you start by hiring a manager in their field who does. I personally always start with the same profile. Youthful, extremely bright people, with a genuine passion for what they are doing. These are the people who won’t let you down, will work on into the night and spend their spare time reading articles online to improve their skills.

Simply put, if you staff your team with these people you can’t go wrong.

2. A clear and exciting mission
You won’t get these people past a first interview unless you have a clearly defined and inspiring mission to offer. They don’t want to be on a losing team and they see their time as an investment which should take them somewhere great. You need to lay out a mission ie.“We’re going to be first to market with a world beating product using cutting edge technology, in 12 months we predict 100% growth etc.”.

If you do it right, good people will be climbing over each other to become part of it.

3. A clear business goal
It’s common sense but every great company needs a clear goal and a plan to get there. For a team to perform well they need to know exactly where you want them to take the company. Enough said.

4. Inspirational Leadership
Your team will be running on strong coffee and long hours so it’s very important they have an inspiring leader to keep them motivated. Sure, your highly intelligent staff members are like race horses but they still need someone to motivate and keep them running in the same direction.

5. A Reason
You now have a team of smart people working towards your goal and you better believe they will be asking themselves…what’s in it for me. You need a good answer to this question. There are plenty of ways to address this. Options, shares, bonuses. Pick something which suits your situation but just make sure there is something in it for them. There is nothing more demoralising for a smart, in-demand person than the feeling of working extra hours to make someone else rich. This should be avoided if you want to keep the talent you have spent so much time and money recruiting.

Put these factors together and your team will perform, it won’t be able to help itself. You will have the best talent working on an exciting and clear mission, motivated by an inspirational leader, happy in the knowledge that their late nights are going to make them rich.

Here are some photos of what Google believes makes a team perform. (Spot the people working – no I couldn’t either). For more go to Picasa


Managing your online brand

Posted: June 10, 2009 in Uncategorized

In 2 days time (from writing) Facebook are making named URLs available (eg This got me to thinking about online personal branding.

Company branding is often given careful consideration, but how about your own personal brand. This is the brand that sticks with you as you move between companies and it can make or break your career.

As everything moves online so does our brand. When I get CVs submitted to me I reach for Google and all of the skeletons fall out. I read a great CV last week then checked out the applicant’s Linkedin profile. It included his personal business site which I flipped open. It was the standard embarrassing one-man band approach, “We are bla bla consulting and we listen to what you want”. The problem is the site didn’t tell me anything good but it did tell me a whole lot of bad things – some of the styles were broken and overall it looked like a dog’s breakfast. The CV went into the bin and I went on to other applicants.

You could imagine a different outcome if I had found something like a blog with a long history of well thought-out content and technical comment. So, in this case, his online profile was more important that 10 years of work history.

I would make the assumption that every time you meet a business contact for the first time or submit a CV, your personal brand will be ruthlessly hunted across the net.

This makes it critical to manage what people will dig up, as carefully as you would (should) craft your CV. To do this you need to own your brand online and to put time into keeping it polished.

Own your Results

You should aim to own the top block of results for your name on Google. This way you can control how people experience your personal brand. For example if you’re a designer you want people to experience great design or if you’re a developer relevant technical content.

To do this you want to build a carefully managed collection of sites. Some examples are:
1. A linkedin profile
2. Your own site
3. Blog
4. Twitter

Own the property

When gmail came out how many people thought it was necessary to get your name as an email address…..yup and now you’re bobsmith.4.Washington. That’s right, you didn’t think it was important and now you’re paying the price!

I’ve had to convince people to purchase their own names as URLs. If your name is available you need to buy it! For the price of a lunch and a little time you now own the top result for your own name. If you don’t want to use it now, just park it. If it’s available now it won’t be soon and you will NEVER get it back.

The same applies for other technologies like the newly released Google profiles. I can’t tell you how this will be relevant but it’s a couple of minutes to claim your name and make sure its yours for ever.

In 2 days time Facebook will make named URLs available. This means you’ll be able to get This might not appeal now but is a good way of claiming some space before the 1000 other John Smiths grab it first.