How to Make 2016 A Breakthrough Year

“Plans are nothing. Planning is everything.”  – President Dwight D. Eisenhower

Welcome to that time of year when we get to slow down, look back, and plan for the year we want.


I have so much to be thankful for this year and a lot to look forward to in the year ahead.  My family, our team at OneTeam, and our clients are what make life meaningful and I am truly grateful for each and every one of them.

My personal commitment and our commitment at OneTeam, is to help people lead great lives, teams and organizations.  With that in our hearts and minds, we are pleased and excited to publish this eBook:  Creating A Breakthrough Year: 2016 Edition.



Based on an annual planning process we use ourselves, this eBook is part journey guide and part workbook.  It combines our best ideas and experiences into a series of reflective exercises that guide you through:

  • Pressing Pause and Being Present
  • Recharging By Clearing Out Clutter
  • Completing 2015 By Reflecting and Acknowledging
  • Crafting a Bold “North Star” Vision for Next Year
  • Developing a Roadmap for the Breakthrough Year You Really Want

Some of us dive deeply into this process, others move lightly through.  We know people who use it with families and others who “Do The Breakthrough” with their teams and entire companies.  So we are confident however you choose to use it will be right for you.

Warm wishes for a Breakthrough Year in 2016. –Jon


Note: A version of this post was originally published on the OneTeam Leadership Blog

The 3 Forces that Kill OneTeam Learning

Have you ever been on a team that didn’t learn from each other?  If so, you know it’s not just frustrating but a recipe for low performance.


Once I was asked to lead a taskforce of peers from across the company.  The team had incredible horsepower and included functional heads from every key area, each with at least a dozen years of experience (some with three times that).  But we struggled with deeply held individual beliefs that made it hard for team members to listen, see each other’s perspectives, and consider alternative approaches.  Ultimately, this team became gridlocked and the cross-functional team was abandoned in favor of a more culturally aligned functional team approach.

I viewed it as a setback but it was also a great opportunity to learn about one of the key high performance team challenges…giving up entrenched individual positions and engaging in genuine collaborative thinking – a process Peter Senge and others call team learning.

The fundamental purpose of teams is to combine the brilliance of many minds and accomplish things individuals can’t do alone.  Successfully making this combination requires overcoming 3 powerful opposing forces that can actually make the intelligence of the team less than, not greater than, the intelligence of individual team members.

Force #1 – Being Right vs. Being Curious

We’re deeply wired to love “being right”.  We love to win and build evidence to support our positions.  Unfortunately, we unconsciously choose being right at the expense of being curious.  When teams become curious about each other’s positions and are committed to exploring the source of assumptions and reasoning, this curiosity opens up opportunity for influence and builds resistance to toxic defensive routines.

Force #2 – Monologue vs. Dialogue

Team curiosity opens up exploration where dialogue can occur but many teams suffer from one-sided monologue.  Stating my position is more like giving a speech than launching a productive team debate.  When teams have excess monologue, views are simply presented and defended.

Dialogue supports open and creative exploration of ideas, intense listening, and suspension of the defense response driven by the need to be right. In dialogue, teams explore issues from many points of view and individuals communicate their assumptions freely. The purpose of dialogue is to uncover weak thinking. Team members become observers of their own and their teammates thinking without judgment.  Over time this process evolves into a highly collaborative thought process that is far more valuable than individual thought.

Force #3 – Surface Conflict vs. Real Conflict

How teams debate ideas and make decisions is a major difference between great and mediocre teams. Our natural defensive routines form a sort of protective shell and neuroscience shows that we are wired to protect ourselves from pain and threat. But these same protection mechanisms also keep us from getting beyond surface-level conflict.

Trusting our teammates, believing they have our best interest at heart, and practicing curious inquiry all build real team conflict skills.  Ironically, the source of our defensiveness is not believing our views or just being nice, as we often tell ourselves, but fear of exposing the real thinking that lies behind our views and any underlying problems that may be exposed in the process.  And it is this rich, deep, collective exploration of ideas that creates team brilliance.

Teams that are curious, use dialogue to explore each other’s thinking, and real conflict to combine their intelligence, overcome these forces to combine their intelligence and achieve results far beyond what any could achieve alone.


THEORY 4: How to Allocate Resources or “Show Me Your Checkbook and I’ll Show You Your Priorities”

President Dwight D. Eisenhower famously said, “Plans are nothing, planning is everything.”  When it comes to success in business and life, neither plans nor planning matter if our resource allocation process isn’t right.


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But that’s a lot harder than it sounds.  Keeping what we do in line with our priorities, especially for high achieving business leaders, can be a significant challenge.

The paradox of the Innovator’s Dilemma, developed by HBS Professor Clay Christensen, illustrates how companies can do everything right and still be “disrupted” by down-market innovation and their own inability to clearly see what is happening.  Aligning our actions and resource investments, it turns out, is driven by a great deal of unconscious conditioning that can lead us to execute a strategy that is completely different from the one we planned.

Time, talent, and treasure – the “Three T’s” of resource allocation are the same for businesses and our lives.  So the idea of looking at our lives as a series of businesses unlocks a tremendous toolset for making the vision for our life a reality. For example, the “business” of having a deep, lifelong, loving relationship with our spouse or partner, the “business” of raising great kids and being close to them throughout our lives, the “business” of our careers through decades of growth and opportunity, the “business” of friendships, community involvement, faith, and giving back in service of others.  We are all the general managers of these businesses and have finite resources to invest in them.

In life, the way we invest our personal time, energy, talent, and financial resources are the same management decisions we make each day.  If we say our families are our top priority, are we intentional about when we leave the office, how we spend time with them, and the quality of our relationships?  Or, at the end of the workday, do we choose to work a little more on our next career achievement?  Christensen writes, “You can tell a person’s true values by looking at their checkbook.”

If our lives are a series of businesses we invest our personal resources in, does our check register reflect a level of investment that supports what we say are our top priorities?

Overcoming this dilemma requires an intentional approach to how we spend our resources guided by a clear purpose and strategy for our life.  Without a plan, a resource allocation process, and a carefully selected set of measurements, our investments will follow a hard-wired path to satisfy short-term needs causing us to ignore our strategy to nurture key relationships.

Life Application: Have a plan, but track how you use your precious resources (time, talent, and treasure) and you’ll find your real life strategy.

This post is part of the series 10 Business Theories for Leading Your Life.

OneTeam Leadership Profile:
Alan Mulally, CEO of Ford

Alan Mulally became CEO of Ford in September 2006.  At that time the company was just months away from running out of cash.  Congress had offered all three U.S. automakers a bailout and GM and Chrysler put their hand out.  But Ford had a plan to reform operations, build great cars, and overcome its dysfunctional culture.  The plan was called One Ford.


Today Mulally’s One Ford strategy is one of the greatest turnaround stories in history. Taking Ford from near-death to the most profitable automaker in the world.

In this McKinsey Quarterly excerpt Mulally shares his One Team Leadership approach.

At the most fundamental level, it is an honor to serve—at whatever type or size of organization you are privileged to lead, whether it is a for-profit or nonprofit. It is an honor to serve. Starting from that foundation, it is important to have a compelling vision and a comprehensive plan. Positive leadership—conveying the idea that there is always a way forward—is so important, because that is what you are here for—to figure out how to move the organization forward. Critical to doing that is reinforcing the idea that everyone is included. Everyone is part of the team and everyone’s contribution is respected, so everyone should participate. When people feel accountable and included, it is more fun. It is just more rewarding to do things in a supportive environment.  A big part of leadership is being authentic to who you are, thinking about what you really believe in and behaving accordingly.

Mulally’s OneTeam Leadership Principles:

  • Authentic Servant Leadership
  • A Compelling Vision and Comprehensive Plan
  • Everyone Included, Everyone Accountable

For the complete interview see: McKinsey Quarterly

For more on the One Ford initiative see: One Ford 

THEORY 3: Planning for What Must Go Right

It doesn’t take long after I’ve made a gut decision to strap on the blinders.  Psychologists call this confirmation bias and it impacts effective decision-making.  As human beings we get attached to our ideas and badly want them to succeed.  This optimism is a wonderful trait but it also clouds judgment.


Ian MacMillan and Rita McGrath created Discovery-Driven Planning as a much needed antidote.  Using this planning approach we articulate what key assumptions must prove true in order for our strategy to succeed.

Their theory also points out the weakness in a singular focus on Return on Investment (ROI) for making decisions.  We’ve all seen it.  Our team gets excited about an idea, we want approval to proceed, and know the return we need to get approval.  Our PowerPoint projects a healthy return that is magically in excess of the stated corporate hurdle rate and, poof, funding appears.  If there’s any doubt about this phenomenon just ask a venture capitalist how many business plans they get that do not follow this formula.  Generally, once an investment is approved, the key business case assumptions get supplanted by project performance metrics and the team is blind to the key business performance issues as they arise.

That’s where Discovery-Driven Planning is different.  Discovery-Driven Planning teams identify and continue to track their most critical business assumptions making sure they are proving out.  Is his book, How Will You Measure Your Life, Harvard Business School Professor Clay Christensen illustrates this using the story of Walt Disney World Paris as a case study.

The Walt Disney World Paris business case projected 11 million visitors per year and an average of three (3) “guest days” per visit based on other parks.  The first year the park was open they did have 11 million visitors but, unfortunately, the park lost $500 million dollars.  What happened?

While the other Disney parks had 45 rides, the Paris Park opened with only 15.  This allowed guests to enjoy all the rides in a single “guest day”.  Somewhere in the modeling process an assumption was made about the size of the theme park (45 rides) that did not carry forward to the building plan.

Discovery-Driven Planning forces us to answer the question, “What are the most important assumptions that have to prove right for this to work – and how will we track them?”

In life, it’s easy to get excited about potential career opportunities.  We need to follow the Discovery-Driven discipline and ask ourselves, “What assumptions am I making that have to prove true in order for me to be able to succeed in this assignment?”  We need to make a list and ask ourselves if they are really under our control.  If they are not and we cannot get satisfactory answers to them during the decision-making process, the best choice may be to walk away.

Equally important is to identify which assumptions must prove true for us to be happy.  Because, as we learned in Theory 2, it’s motivation, not incentives, that makes work satisfying.

Life Application: Know what must go right for your career choices to meet your expectations.

This post is part of the series 10 Business Theories for Leading Your Life.


What is OneTeam Leadership?

Imagine an organization where team members are exceptionally talented and focused on working together, where your teammates are as passionate about your success as they are about their own, and where getting better at both what you do and how you do it is a normal part of your everyday work.  This is a One Team organization: aligned, supportive, constantly improving and focused on the results that matter most.


I talk with leaders every day about the pressures and challenges they face.  The pace of change, eroding competitive advantage, and the culture we live in all contribute to a powerful gravitational pull toward transactional execution.  Underneath this operational reality are the facts about our employee engagement epidemic and eroding fantasy of work-life balance.

What has emerged is another way.  A way to deliver great results and a great place to work.  A way to have a great career and a great life.  What inspired leaders are doing is fighting back against these external forces by working from within to build their organizations as One Team.

Many leaders talk about the importance of teamwork for delivering results, but when asked to share what they do to foster it, struggle.  This is unfortunate because organizations exist to do things individuals can’t do alone, which makes teamwork essential.  Moreover, the process of building One Team is straightforward and accessible to all.  What it takes is leadership, discipline, and focus, which may be why One Team organizations are so rare.

One Team is both a way to describe how a healthy, high performance organization operates and a process for building one.  A healthy organization is one that is great for people.  Morale is high, individuals are challenged and renewed, and people feel connected to each other and a broader purpose.  A high performance organization is one that delivers outstanding value to stakeholders.

Far from one-size-fits-all, One Team organizations are as unique as the people within them making each One Team culture a distinct competitive advantage.  What they share is a vision of health and high performance working together.


Know What Really Motivates You

People work as hard as we pay them!  To some this statement reads like the truth – death, taxes, and “coin operated” people.  To others, it represents an old school industrial age mindset that is long past its prime.  Who’s right?

picture of coins

Economists Michael Jensen and William Meckling created the Incentive Theory behind this statement.  Their study set out to answer the question, “Why don’t managers always make decisions in the best interest of shareholders?” and is behind nearly three decades of work by corporate boards to align executive compensation with shareholder value.

One of the best and most critical ways to test a theory like this and probe whether you can trust the advice it is giving you is to look for anomalies – cases where the theory just doesn’t hold up.  In the case of Incentive Theory, one issue is the large number of hardworking, dedicated people in non-profit, charitable, military, and other mission-driven organizations.  These people work in difficult conditions, with few resources, for very little pay and yet are some of the most driven and engaged employees anywhere.

It turns out that incentives are not the same as motivation.  Motivation Theory, developed by business psychologist Fredrick Herzberg, distinguishes between what he calls “hygiene factors” like status, compensation, job security, working conditions, policies, and supervisory practices and “motivation factors” like challenging work, recognition, responsibility, and personal growth.

Herzberg’s theory shows us why organizations must get hygiene factors right, as getting them wrong leads directly to significant job dissatisfaction and under performance. But he also reveals that the opposite of dissatisfaction is not job satisfaction but simply the absence of job dissatisfaction, which are not the same at all.  It turns out that getting the hygiene factors right doesn’t do anything to make us love our job, it just keeps us from hating it.

Motivating factors, on the other hand, tie directly to our need for a broader sense of purpose in our work.  Being challenged, getting recognized, gaining responsibility, and being given opportunities to grow are the things that fuel an intense satisfaction with our careers.

I experienced this first hand.  Twenty years into a great career as a technology executive that I had planned for most of my life, I found myself wanting more from my work.  I had all the hygiene factors and many of the motivating factors in place.  But I wanted more purpose and fulfillment.  Following our first business theory, I watched and listened as a new opportunity emerged around team, culture, and leadership development.  And while pursuing this opportunity meant giving up some of the security my hygine factors offered, the motivation to do something I was deeply passionate about and loved to do was incredibly compelling.

I have worked with many executives that have far surpassed their financial goals in life and still feel like something is missing which confirms Herzberg’s theory.  When choosing our work based only on incentives we may limit the extent of our satisfaction (i.e. the higher paying job may not be the one to accept).  However, if we choose jobs based on our own deepest motivating factors, we are much more likely to be rewarded with hygiene factors (incentives) as we bring our full passion and purpose to our work.

Life Application: Motivation that “gets you out of bed in the morning” is the most important thing to find for career satisfaction.  Financial and other rewards will follow.

Are you doing work that gets your heart pumping?


This post is part of the series 10 Business Theories for Leading Your Life.


THEORY 1: Finding Strategic Balance =
Deliberate + Emergent

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When I think of “strategy” I think about clearly identifying what I want to achieve and how I plan to achieve it.  This deliberate strategic planning approach is what I see most in organizations today.

But McGill Professor and strategy expert Henry Mintzberg reminds us of the importance of balancing a deliberate plan with staying open to new opportunities as they emerge.

History shows the vast majority of successful businesses ultimately abandoned their original “deliberate strategy” for a more successful model that emerged along the way.  Is his book, How Will You Measure Your Life, Harvard Business School Professor Clay Christensen illustrates this with his case study from Honda Motorcycles of America:

In the 1960s Honda entered the U.S. motorcycle market with a strategy to compete with the dominant big bikes of the day from Harley Davidson, Indian, and others. But Honda employees were having tremendous fun riding a class of small utility motorcycles called “Super Cubs” that were sent over from Japan to use simply for running errands.

One day a buyer from Sears came across these little motorcycles and convinced Honda to sell them through the Sears catalog. The success of this move eventually shifted Honda’s U.S. motorcycle strategy and defined a totally new market for casual bikers.

Honda was successful because they remained strategically flexible and were willing to change their business plan as a more attractive opportunity emerged.

Honda’s open minded approach reminds me of this quote from F. Scott Fitzgerld:

“The test of a first-rate intelligence is the ability to hold two opposed ideas in the mind at the same time, and still retain the ability to function.”

For me, the deliberate approach comes more easily and staying open to emergent signals (and changing plans) sometimes impairs my ability to function.  However, just like business history, my life and career clearly reflect the benefits of emergence.  I can certainly say that all the best parts of my life have emerged over time.  And if I were locked into following my plan I may have missed them all.

In our lives, having a deliberate life and career strategy can be very useful.  But we also need to remain open and flexible enough to see new, potentially better opportunities as they emerge.

Life Application: Have a plan for your life and career, but keep your eyes, ears, and mind open to new possibilities.


Where are you locked in on a plan and potentially missing an amazing opportunity that is emerging right in front of you?


PS. This post is part of the series – 10 Business Theories for Leading Your Life.

10 Business Theories for Leading Your Life

What if our business expertise could also serve as the tool we use to help assure our lives are rich and meaningful?  The good news is…it can.


I have had a plan for my life for a long time so when Harvard Business School Professor Clayton Christensen published How Will You Measure Your Life? in Harvard Business Review (and then wrote a book by the same name) offering a model for applying management theory to leading a successful life – I was hooked.

Today I teach a class as part of the HBS Alumni Association based on Clay’s work. The class highlights the importance of having a plan for your life and helps people like me who want to apply our management background to the management of our lives.

The core idea is that management theory can be very effective when used as a lens on life.  Just like a company, having a strategy, management approach, and measurement system for our lives can greatly enhance long-term sustainable results – as it does in business.  In this blog series I will combine Clay’s thinking with my own and present 10 proven management theories for leading a great life.

The areas we’ll cover include:

  1. Strategy
  2. Motivation
  3. Planning
  4. Resource Allocation
  5. Marketing
  6. Investment
  7. Sourcing
  8. Innovation
  9. Talent Management
  10. Culture


Next Up…How to Use Business Theory as a Lens on Life


What if our business expertise could also serve as the tool we use to help assure our lives are rich and meaningful?  The good news is…it can.

3x One Team Results That Matter


If we’re honest, most of us judge winning teams by the output they produce.  It’s our default team performance result.

But don’t be fooled.  This singular focus, while it may seem successful in the short-term, often leads to burnout, burned bridges, and an unstable foundation.  There are, in fact, three kinds of team results that matter for long-term team performance.

Experience is the great teacher and I learned this lesson the hard way.  Our team had worked extremely hard for 18 months, managed our resources carefully and delivered what we promised on time and under budget.  A trifecta in the project world and real “high-five” moment according to team measure #1 – output.

But something didn’t feel right.  Once the high of a successful go-live wore off, morale was low, relationships were frayed, and the team’s capacity to take on new challenges was severely diminished.  I couldn’t diagnose it at the time, but our team was suffering from what Harvard team researcher J. R. Hackman discovered.  What I was missing, and Hackman revealed, was that real high performance teams actually deliver three kinds of results:

  • They deliver output
  • They grow strong, healthy team members
  • They build team capacity for future performance


One way to look at the 3 Key Results of High Performance Teams are that they “do good” in 3 ways.

  1. Do good for the organization – by delivering output
  2. Do good for the team – by improving the well-being of everyone involved
  3. Do good for the future – by leaving the team more capable and ready to take on even greater challenges


As leaders we must continuously focus our teams on all three.  To do that, ask yourself three questions:

1. Does My Team’s output meet the standards of those who use it?

Team output is the measure we all know and can see.  It’s either done or it’s not.  Our mission statements and project charters define it, our customers and stakeholders expect it, and most of our energy is focused on it.  When the team achieves the results we set out for we judge the team successful. Obviously, if the team does not achieve results it is difficult to call it a success.  But, we also need to ask ourselves, “At what cost does the team achieve these results?”

In my case, a unidirectional focus on team output eroded the foundation of long-term sustainable performance.  By prioritizing task delivery over collaboration, I created a divide-and-conquer teamwork model.  This is not real teamwork that benefits from team collective intelligence but, instead, assembles complementary resources (a.k.a. people) toward a common task-set that is beyond the capabilities of a single person.

This distinction is a key factor I missed years ago.  Adopting the view that what we were doing was a short-term sprint put our focus only on team output which missed the opportunity to create long-term value through the team experience.  Which leads us to question #2…


2. Does My Team’s experience contribute to their well-being and development?

Team member well-being?  In the middle of a “set your hair on fire” war against the deadline – are you kidding?

Taking care of team members should be priority one for all people managers.  Unfortunately, when the pressure is on, human quality of life often takes a back seat.  And this is a mistake.

I often talk with leaders about how they “set up” their work, teams, and lives for success.  The set up for a team and the overall well-being of the people involved requires top leadership commitment to row against the tide of “redouble our efforts” or, as a project leader friend of mine used to say, “just whip the hamsters harder”.  This under-plan, over-manage mindset is one of the most troubling trends in team leadership today and flows directly from our bias for output-based results.  Which points us to question #3…


3. Does My Team’s experience enhance the capability of members to work and learn together in the future?

Residue and resistance are significant invisible barriers to change and overall organizational performance.  I have lost count of the number of people who recount their terrible team experiences as they politely decline invitations to join another great team adventure.  If people aren’t knocking on your door to sign up for the team you are assembling, you likely have a teamwork hangover culture.

Peter Senge’s, The Fifth Discipline, brought team learning to the forefront as a key to team performance.  When viewing our team and collaborative efforts through this lens it is easy to see where we aren’t just investing in one-time team output but building the relationships, trust, and cultural foundation necessary for even higher performance teams in the future.

Unfortunately, the siren song of task performance combined with rigid scheduling has, in many cases, erased people investments from our team leadership playbook.

Where is your team performance focus?