[ Volume X, Issue 2 ]
“All our knowledge has its origins in our perceptions.”” – Leonardo da Vinci
[Author’s Note: In this issue of The Beacon is another excerpt from my recently published book, Sharing the Sandbox: Building and Leading Great Teams in the 21st Century. If you like what you read here, you can pick up a copy at www.SharingTheSandbox.com.]
About 10 years ago, before I founded The Latimer Group, I worked for a great guy (and still good friend) named Bill. He leads a management-consulting firm that is headquartered in Connecticut and has a national presence. While working there, I picked up on a great concept that I have adapted to our work at The Latimer Group: the concept of “fingerprints.”
Every time we touch something, we leave fingerprints behind. Each set of prints is unique and, as such, is proof of our individual presence in a particular place. Each time we interact with someone, we leave behind figurative fingerprints. These fingerprints comprise the unique impressions, perceptions and lasting impact we leave on everyone and everything with which we interact. The way we treat people, the way we speak, and the way we conduct ourselves all leave a lasting mark. This applies to every one of us. And since teams are nothing more than collections of individuals, this applies to all organizations as well. We all become known for something – our personal or organizational brand, if you will. We leave our figurative fingerprints everywhere we go.
Once we understand this, it is an easy leap to say that business leaders – and strong teams – must give some thought to what they want their individual and collective fingerprints to be. Forward-thinking, sophisticated teams make conscious decisions ahead of time on how they want to be perceived by others. This is critical to creating well-aligned, successful, and effective organizations and teams. The more thought we put into this concept, the more we can control the way we are perceived and the brand image that we leave behind. We can decide how we want to be known; we can decide how we want to be remembered.
We’ll come back to this concept later in the book when we discuss in greater detail how we actually construct strong teams. But for now, I simply want you to think about the fingerprints, individual or organizational, that you leave behind all the time. Think about the impressions you and your team leave on others. Is your team perceived the way you want it to be? Are you sure? If you are building a new team, you have the luxury of planning and choosing the members of your team based on whether they are likely to leave behind the fingerprints you want your team to have.
Let me illustrate the point with some actual organizational fingerprints. At The Latimer Group, we have five impressions that we strive to leave on every interaction:
- Thought leadership. We pursue constant evolution and improvement of our communication frameworks, methods and tools. We strive to be relevant. We strive to be aware of the general business climate and resultant needs and demands on communication skills.
- Collaboration. We believe that the creative process is best served and problems are best solved in a collaborative environment. We work with our clients, nor around them or for them. We don’t solve our clients’ problems for them. We work with them to identify the path to success, and then we coach them to solve their problems for themselves. In other words, we won’t do your important, year-end sales presentation for you. But we’ll stand right there with you and help you put on your best possible performance. At the end of the day, the performance is yours, but we’ll be with you every step of the way. That’s a big difference.
- Simplicity. We distill issues and concepts down to their essences. Our clients are busy, successful executives and professionals. A significant aspect of our value added should be our ability to present concepts in ways that are memorable, digestible and easy to put into action. In addition, our value added should also include our ability to provide clients with simple tools and frameworks that will help them solve problems for themselves in an efficient manner.
- Authenticity. We believe people communicate best when they are authentic. So we encourage everyone we interact with to speak in their own voices and with their own styles. We don’t hold up some idea and say, “Just do it like this person.” Rather, we want our clients to develop the confidence to be themselves. The reason? Authenticity is a form of honesty, and having honest relationships with your own clients will pave the way for your success.
- 5. Positive – but honest – reinforcement. Our ultimate value is driven by our ability to coach better communication skills. We believe in building people up rather than tearing them down. In other words, we coach in a positive way. However, when brutal honesty is required, we do not avoid it. For some people, coaching is a way of showing others that they know more than everyone else. For us, coaching is about serving the client. In the words of basketball coach John Wooden, “a coach is someone who can give correction without causing resentment.”
These are The Latimer Group’s organizational fingerprints, and I share them with you in the hope that you will begin thinking about your own. Every person is unique. Every team and organization is also unique. Therefore, everyone will leave their own unique fingerprints. What are yours? Once you know what they are, you can make them a unifying element of your team and a great filter through which to choose who belongs on your team and who doesn’t.
 Key Concept: Collaborate. We live in a permanent state of interdependence and connectedness. Success today requires successful interaction with other people, which means that our ability to effectively collaborate with the people around us is now a mission-critical skill.
 Key Concept: Encourage authenticity. At its most elemental level, authenticity is about honesty. It takes confidence to be comfortable being yourself. It also takes trust in the people around you. Confidence and trust are, in many ways, two sides of the same coin, the coin that buys you the ability to be authentic. When we are authentic, we are showing our true self to those around us. This makes us more compelling and interesting – and more likely to bring out the same authenticity in others. When we show our authentic self to others (and encourage others to do the same), we build a high level of trust within the team. In other words, accept people as they are and ask others to do the same for you.
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