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Care About and Challenge Each Other – The Two Keys to Team Performance

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I’ve been a part of lots of teams, in sports and business, and over the past 20 years I’ve had a chance to work with many high-performing teams, at companies like Google, Wells Fargo, Microsoft, Schwab, eBay, and others. 

I’ve also studied the core elements of team achievement. Through all of my experience and research, I’ve found that two conditions most effectively enable a team to create a culture of high performance, trust, and belonging:

1. Caring About Each Other. Caring about the people on our team is about making sure they are nurtured and valued—not just for what they do, but for who they are. It also has to do with it being safe for us to make mistakes, ask for help, speak up, be ourselves, and disagree.

This is about feeling psychologically safe, knowing we’re included and that we belong, and having the confidence to have tough, but important conversations. Caring environments are also filled with a genuine sense of kindness, compassion, and appreciation, where people are seen and supported as human beings.

2. Challenging Each Other. Challenging each other is about having high expectations, which are essential for people and teams to thrive. But these expectations have to be healthy—meaning there is a high standard of excellence, not an insatiable, unhealthy pressure to be perfect. We almost always get what we expect from others; however, if we expect perfection, everyone falls short and people aren’t set up to succeed.

Healthy high expectations are about setting a high bar and challenging everyone (our teammates and ourselves) to be the absolute best we can be. This also has to do with being clear about our standards and goals, holding each other accountable, fully committing ourselves to the team, and demanding excellence from one another in a healthy and empowering way.

We often think that in order to have a high bar and push each other we can’t also be caring. Or we think that if we care about and nurture one another, we can’t also expect a lot from our teammates. Actually, the goal for us as team members, leaders, and teams as a whole is to be able do both at the same time. It’s not one of these things at the expense of the other, it’s being able to do them simultaneously and passionately.

Creating an environment that supports both caring about and challenging each other takes courage on everyone’s part, and at times goes against conventional wisdom. But being willing to focus on both of these things, and encouraging others to do the same, creates the conditions for everyone to succeed at the highest level.

This combination of caring about and challenging each other is the secret sauce of high-performing teams.

Given my sports background I refer to teams who operate and perform this was as “championship teams.” There’s an important difference between a championship team and a team of champions.

A championship team doesn’t necessarily always win, but they play the game the right way, with passion, and with a commitment to one another as well as to the ultimate result. This type of team knows that it’s greater than the sum of its parts. It’s often chemistry and the below-the-line intangibles that we’ve been talking about throughout this book that separate the good teams from the great ones.

Teams of champions, on the other hand, might have great talent and motivated people, but they’re often more focused on their own individual success. Championship teams know that talent is important, but they focus on the collective success of the team and the highest vision and goals of the group.

As basketball legend Michael Jordan said, “Talent wins games, but teamwork and intelligence win championships.”

Championship teams not only care about and challenge each other, they also know the difference between their “role” and their “job.”

When most of us think about our “job,” we think of what we do—engineering, sales, project management, marketing, human resources, legal, operations, design, finance, and so forth. While these descriptions may encapsulate what we do and the title we hold, they’re not actually our job.

If we’re part of a team, we each have a functional role, of course, but our job is to help fulfill the goals, mission, and purpose of the team and company we belong to, whatever they may be. In other words, we’re there to do whatever we can to help the team win.

The challenge is that most of us take pride in our role and we want to do it really well, which is great. However, when we put our role (what we do specifically) over our job (helping the team win), things can get murky; our personal goals become more important to us than the goals of the team and organization.

It takes commitment and courage, but groups and companies made up of people who understand this simple yet important distinction—who realize that everyone on the team has essentially the same job but different roles—have the ability to succeed at the highest level and with the most collaborative environment.

What can you do to make sure that your team cares about and challenges each other, understands the difference between their role and their job, and can truly operate as a championship team?  Feel free to leave your thoughts in the comments below…

Mike Robbins is the author of five books including his latest, We’re All in This Together: Creating a Team Culture of High Performance, Trust, and Belonging.  He’s a thought leader and sought-after speaker whose clients include Google, Wells Fargo, Microsoft, Schwab, eBay, Genentech, the Oakland A’s, and many others.  

* This is an excerpt from We’re All in This Together, by Mike Robbins, published in paperback by Hay House Business, March 2022

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Food Is Medicine And What We Eat Is Important

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Your mental state is a critical component of your physical health. And when you’re under a lot of stress, you might not be eating the healthy food that provides nutrients for fighting anxiety and depression. So when we examine what we’ve been eating, most of us discover that the decisions we’ve been making in the name of simplicity, convenience, or saving time have been damaging to our total health – body, mind, and spirit.

A person’s diet is a direct reflection of their health. When a person does not eat the right foods, their body breaks down. This can lead to an overall decrease in quality of life and many other diseases linked to improper nutrition. In North America, our current diet mainly consists of an excess of grain, sugar, fried and fatty foods. As a result, disorders including hypertension, diabetes, obesity, Alzheimer’s, and certain malignancies are becoming increasingly widespread.

The science of food has always been discussed; however, with recent technological innovations in food processing and agriculture, people have enjoyed more convenient foods that are less expensive than ever before. Unfortunately, with every convenience comes a trade-off. Smart foods are often packed with sugar, salt, and calories, leading to poor health in some individuals. 

To understand what a person is putting into their body, it’s essential to realize that the small molecules in food are responsible for allowing our bodies to function. These small molecules are called nutrients, including vitamins, minerals, phytochemicals, and enzymes. A nutrient is not a value unless absorbed by the body through a specific pathway. For example, if you absorb calcium without vitamin D, your body will not use that calcium. 

Eating a balanced diet keeps you healthy, but it helps reduce your stress. For example, eat foods rich in vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants because they help augment your immune response and prevent toxins from damaging your cells. Vitamins A, C, and E serve as antioxidants that fight off free radicals in the body. Free radicals are toxic products of metabolism that cause damage to your cells. Experts claim that they are responsible for the aging process. Good sources of these vitamins are deeply-colored vegetables- green leafy, yellow, and orange vegetables, such as squash, broccoli, kale, spinach, and carrots.

Iron is one of the most abundant minerals in the body, and it mainly functions to deliver oxygen to your cells. Hence, an iron deficiency, medically termed Iron-deficiency anemia, is associated with weakness, easy fatigability, and pale skin. Tea, coffee, red wine, grapes, and berries are rich in antioxidants that function the same as your vitamins A, C, and E. 
You need a diet that’s healthy and balanced – and one that can fit comfortably into your busy lifestyle.

Here are some of the recommended dietary guidelines.

Eat a diet high in fresh vegetables, vitamins, and minerals. 

Exercise every other day to release endorphins, feel good, get the blood flowing, and reduce stress levels. 

Eat salt only when you need it, but not too much as your body does not need it. Many people with anxiety are hypothyroid or have low magnesium. When your body needs more sodium, it can indicate that you are not producing enough cortisol or are dehydrated. If you experience chronic anxiety, I recommend working with a physician to run tests on cortisol levels and then take salt supplements as needed. Use spices like turmeric, ginger, curry, and aromatic herbs like parsley, rosemary, sage, and basil.
Eat low-fat meals because they will cause a minor spike in blood sugar levels: think lean meats, eggs, vegetables, and nuts; avoid dairy if it makes you feel anxious. 

Drink lots of water — keep hydrated all day — ideally at least half a gallon if possible — your brain needs water to function optimally! 

Avoid foods that you know will make you feel bad, such as dairy, even with low-fat content. You can cut out dairy and not worry about it! 

Avoid sugar, caffeine, processed foods, alcohol, and any other substance that makes you feel bad or increases anxiety levels. Also, avoid coffee — drinking more than one cup a day can cause anxiety in some people. Coffee is also dehydrating and inhibits the absorption of minerals from food/water/supplements — try caffeinated water as a substitute for coffee if you like the caffeine kick. 

Find a natural health professional that you can talk to or work with to quickly get the results you want. 

Healthy foods and nutrition can help you stay fit, but they can also assist you in treating disease. When you nurture your body physically with these nutrient-dense foods, your mental capacities improve, as does your spiritual welfare. Moreover, because your spiritual health is at its best, it will radiate to the exterior world, causing others to notice you’re happier and more relaxed, and your stress levels have decreased dramatically.

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The Points of Light Civic Circle Offers Real Ways You Can Change the World 

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Sixty-six percent of Americans don’t believe they can make a big impact in the world. 

That figure is according to Points of Light’s research on civic engagement. But what if I told you there are actually many ways to drive change? 

Today’s political climate can feel divided or even stagnant, but the truth is, you really can make things better, starting with your own community, one act of kindness at a time. And those aren’t just words. I’m here to share real, practical ways for you to make a difference. 

The Points of Light Civic Circle helps people connect to opportunities and understand that doing good comes in many forms. It is a framework that represents your power to lead, lend support and take action for causes you care about and live your best civic life. 

The Civic Circle provides actionable examples of all the ways you can change your community to reflect the world you want to see around you. In fact, you’re probably doing some of these things already. Are you helping a neighbor by picking up groceries or chaperoning on your child’s class field trip? You’re volunteering. Did you vote in the last election or help others get to the polls so they could vote? Those acts of civic duty illustrate the “vote” element. When you buy a product, do you choose to support companies that reflect your values or advance a social cause? That’s called “purchase power.” There are nine elements of the Civic Circle, and countless ways to bring each one to life. 

This blog is the first in a five-part series that will help you find real and manageable ways to activate the Civic Circle through apps, documentaries, podcasts and books. 

We also offer other resources to help you connect with all the ways you can become empowered to be the change you want to see in the world. Check out our videos that provide an in-depth look at each element of the Civic Circle. And don’t miss Civic Life Today, our digital magazine series. Each issue takes a deep dive and provides materials, ideas and inspiration so that you can become civically engaged.  Get started today, and launch your own civic engagement journey with these tools. 

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Are you an Amateur or a Pro? 30 Differences to Help You Decide…

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My client, Sebastian, thinks he’s behind on “life”.

He thinks he missed the memo the rest of us received on how to live a happy life.

I know better.

Sebastian hasn’t fallen behind and there is no such memo.

We’re all just trying to figure it out.

Unless we’re not. And there are a lot of people who simply are not trying to figure it out.

My friend and Professional Coach, Elaine Taylor-Klaus, calls them Status quo-ers — as opposed to Growers.

Anyone who makes a serious commitment to working with a Professional Coach is by definition a “Grower” and Sebastian is no exception.

Growers want to know, feel and live more. They push every boundary and sometimes fall off cliffs. They say “yes” to way too many things and often feel overwhelmed and over committed. They have a congenital distaste of the status quo and will sabotage any situation if it feels like “settling” to them. They’re insatiable and often don’t know what exactly will assuage their hunger.

Growers often appear to the world as troubled, frustrated and critical.

Inside they feel unfulfilled and misunderstood.

The truth is that they can’t help but be driven by Oscar Wilde’s belief that,

“To live is the rarest thing in the world. Most people just exist.”

Growers will break every piece in the china shop when they find themselves just existing and not living as they see fit. And they suffer for it.

That is… until they turn pro and transform their life!

Steven Pressfield famously states in his book, Turning Pro

“Becoming a pro, in the end, is nothing grander than growing up.”

Sebastian thinks he’s falling behind because he’s still living life as an amateur at 34.

To put the above into context, I didn’t turn pro till well into my 40’s!

Best move I ever made! 

So what’s the difference between living life as an amateur vs. a pro?

Although there is no one size fits all manifesto on “how to turn pro”, here are thirty distinctions I’ve learned which apply to ANY Grower who is truly committed to living a life of purpose, fulfillment and ease.

  1. Amateurs look for hacks and shortcuts — Pros do the work.
  2. Amateurs speed up — Pros slow down.
  3. Amateurs are busy — Pros are focused.
  4. Amateurs sell first — Pros serve first.
  5. Amateurs think it’s about them — Pros know it’s never personal.
  6. Amateurs think life is short — Pros know life is actually really freakin’ long.
  7. Amateurs are reactive — Pros are responsive.
  8. Amateurs live with constant misunderstandings — Pros take the time to get clear.
  9. Amateurs don’t know what success looks like (to them) — Pros  know their definition of success and aren’t afraid to change it.
  10. Amateurs don’t know their core life values — Pros do.
  11. Amateurs want to feel happy — Pros want to feel alive!
  12. Amateurs play to “not lose” — Pros play to win.
  13. Amateurs are harsh — Pros are fierce.
  14. Amateurs secretly enjoy being in the “Victim Mindset” — Pros are a “Hell No” to that!
  15. Amateurs wonder what people say about them when they leave the room — Pros know.
  16. Amateurs have false and limiting beliefs around money — Pros don’t.
  17. Amateurs are constantly searching for life balance — Pros are living an integrated life.
  18. Amateurs think everything matters — Pros know what few things actually do matter (for them).
  19. Amateurs set boundaries defensively — Pros simply honor their “operating system”.
  20. Amateurs think help is a four letter word — Pros actively seek opportunities to help and be helped.
  21. Amateurs don’t have a relationship with their “Future Self” — Pros are best friends with their “Future Self”.
  22. Amateurs confuse knowing with doing — Pros receive knowledge and apply it (EVERY moment of EVERY day).
  23. Amateurs love information — Pros love insights.
  24. Amateurs have intentions — Pros have commitments.
  25. Amateurs have expectations — Pros have agreements.
  26. Amateurs compare — Pros create.
  27. Amateurs live from probability — Pros live from possibility.
  28. Amateurs are focused only on the “Goal Line” — Pros are focused on both the “Goal Line” and the “Soul Line”.
  29. Amateurs set goals with contingencies — Pros know contingencies are just excuses and NOW is the time!
  30. Amateurs create from the past — Pros create from the future.

Now that you are aware of the 30 differences between an amateur and a pro, where do you see yourself?

And I’d love to know why. Get in touch with your answer.

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