Recently I had the pleasure of meeting and getting to know Bradley Callow co-founder of Rich Legacy. Bradley and his Co-Founder Gordie Bufton work with high-performing families empowering both parents and children to better understand the unique pressures and risks that live around high-performing families.
Bradley and Gordie define high performing families as families that have at least one high performing parent who may work as an executive, entrepreneur, or some other kind of high profile, high pressure professional.
Perhaps more importantly they work with parents helping them develop a rich legacy plan. This plan ensures that children grow up empowered to carry on the high-performing legacy, rather than crumbling under pressure and becoming endlessly dependent on their parents to maintain access to the quality of life they grew up with.
I grew up in one of these high-performing families, so Bradley invited me to participate in a series of conversations about my experience growing up in this type of family.
Talking with them about their work has been extremely eye opening and healing for me.
Additionally, these conversation have caused me to reflect on the similarities between high-performing families and high-performing teams, remote and co-located.
It is not uncommon to hear company leaders refer to their team as a family.
As a society we tend to think of families as tight knit, intimate, trusting, loyal, and safe, so the idea of a professional family, especially when it comes to remote teams, is very romantic.
However, it is important to keep in mind that not all families are healthy. Many families are disconnected, cold, mistrusting, full of betrayal and emotionally and/or physically dangerous. Others maybe close in unhealthy ways that lack boundaries. This is known as enmeshment.
In unhealthy families, children are often starved for feedback and attention and may resort to negative attention seeking behaviors. For these children, any kind of feedback becomes better than none.
Similarly, all adults crave feedback, aka professional recognition, from their co-workers, supervisors, industries, and so on.
Remote workers need even more explicit feedback from leadership to feel seen and heard from a distance.
On healthy teams individuals will get regular proactive and usable feedback from leadership. This feedback reinforces high and equally realistic expectations and sets individuals, teams, and the organization as a whole up for success.
On unhealthy teams, team members lack feedback or get feedback that reinforces low or unrealistically high expectations and may become fearful of feedback and/or prone to lying, hiding mistakes, slacking, competing in unconstructive ways, internal conflict and so on.
If you are a leader that wants to build and lead a loyal team, you can’t just name your team a “family.” Instead you must commit to educating yourself about:
What a healthy high-performing group (family, team, etc) actually is.
How a healthy high-performing group is created and cultivated.
How to use proactive and responsive feedback to encourage positive and favorable behavioral norms.
When you focus your leadership in these ways, your team will begin to crave your feedback.
Perhaps more importantly, they will take your feedback to heart and experience it as constructive.
High Performing Groups
A high-performing family, team, or group is not the same as a family, team, or group with a high-performing leader.
The former suggests that all members are equally empowered and high-performing, whereas the latter suggests co-dependence.
Cultivating a High Performing Group
Bradley and Gordie know their shit.
They have developed a model for the creation and cultivation of high-performing families, which I feel can be applied to any type of high-performing group to achieve similar results.
The model identifies five principles: connecting, understanding, balancing, influencing, and empowering.
Proactive and Responsive Feedback
Proactive feedback, also known as modeling or leading by example, can be explicit or implicit. This type of feedback is general.
Responsive feedback is usually more specific, explicit, and corrective. This type of feedback is most effective when it aligns with previously given proactive feedback.
Bradley and Gordie developed a series of questions to help their clients evaluate where they are or are not on point with proactive and responsive feedback as it relates to these five principles.
I have tweaked and re-framed these questions slightly so they more directly relate to high-performing professional teams.
Connection is a vital part of any healthy relationship, personal or professional. Without connection teams don’t form and nothing happens. If nothing happens there is no high-performance. Establishing a strong sense of connection is especially challenging for remote teams and therefore must be addressed explicitly.
Ask yourself these questions to determine the extent to which you are modeling connection:
What is the current state of my relationship to my team?
While maintaining healthy boundaries you want your team to be clear on who you are as a person. When you are simply the “boss” people can project their crap all over you. Be human. Share your story. Share your vision. Help people connect to your humanity and your vision for the company.
Have I spent one-on-one time with my team members?
Depending on the size of your team it may not be possible to spend one-on-one time with each team member. However, you can spend time with each department head or manager and then encourage them to spend one-on-one time with each person they directly supervise and so on down the line. This ensures that every person in your organization feels seen and heard and has a person to turn to in times of need.
Am I showing unconditional respect to my team members?
Respect must be earned, right? I agree 99%. Your team members need to show up to earn your continued respect over time. And, as a leader, you set that tone for your organization. At its core, does your company culture respect the humanity and diversity of your team as a whole and your team members as individual contributors? Start with respect and you will create positive behavioral norms. Give respect to get respect!
Am I giving feedback that helps my team expand?
Focus on the positives. That’s not to say ignore or deny the negatives, but make sure you adhere to the magic ratio (3-5 positive - 1 negative). The magic ratio will help your team expand instead of contract; and expansion is success.
As the leader who is modeling connection, you have given your team the implicit feedback “I care about and respect your humanity, you have permission to be yourself.”
Once you have connection your team can start to build trust. Trust makes people feel safe. When people feel safe they are willing to take bigger risks together. High-performance is not possible without calculated risk taking.
Opening up and being seen and heard is vulnerable and always risky, but when your team members feel connected and they trust you and the company, opening up becomes a calculated risk they are willing to take. This calculated risk helps you get to know team members better. Knowledge is power and makes you a better leader. Understanding, like connection, is harder for remote teams, because the lack of proximity results in a lack of small talk and casual encounters. Creating virtual spaces for team members to socialize is a wise and popular strategy.
Ask yourself these questions to determine how you can encourage even more understanding in your team:
Am I seeking first to understand and then to be understood?
Listen more than you speak. Encourage team members to share their experience of working for your company. They are on the ground and therefore full of wisdom. Listen to them, the good and the bad, and then use the information gathered to lead them towards more success.
Am I speaking my team’s language and considering their diverse learning style?
Unless you are interested in cultivating minion cult style followers, don’t expect your people to adapt to you. Rather adapt to them. As a leader it is your job to speak everyone’s language and lead with all learning styles in mind.
You have modeled connection and understanding and you and your team are thriving. The difference between an overachieving and a high-performing team is sustainability over time. The key to sustainability is balancing energy expenditure and energy renewal.
Now you want to ensure that you are modeling balance. Balance is an art and a science and most importantly a practice. A balanced team will reduce conflict, sick days, and turnover. Remote teams are capable of offering more balance to team members, but are also more vulnerable to workaholic tendencies. Encouraging team members to set and stick to office hours is highly recommended.
Ask yourself these questions to determine if you are leading and modeling balance:
Am I clear on my own needs and wants?
Understand your own motivation. Are you taking action based on your wants and needs, the wants and needs of your team or are you taking action based on what you think you ‘should’ be doing? Don’t should yourself to death. When people see that you are motivated by your wants and needs, rather than the shoulds, they will be way more likely to acknowledge and honor their own wants and needs.
Am I practicing self-care?
You can not have high-performance without a healthy baseline: physically, emotionally, mentally, and spiritually. Any stories you tell yourself about lacking time for self-care are undermining your success. If you model self-care your team will follow your lead. If you don’t they won’t. The result? You either end up with a group of powerful healthy people or vulnerable and soon to be burnt out people. Your choice.
Am I balancing the needs and wants of each team member, the team as a whole, and my own in order to find a compromise?
As a leader you have the power to bulldoze the wants and needs of the team and individual team members and focus on your wants and needs above all else. However, doing so will set you up to fail. Show your team that one of your wants is to help them create balance in their own lives. Let them know you need them to practice self-care, so they can be 100%.
Now you are modeling connection, understanding, and balance. You are well on your way to cultivating a truly healthy and high-performing professional family, aka a rockstar team of loyal professionals who crave your feedback. The next step is to harness the influence you have begun to cultivate.
Unlike manipulation which is about trickery and has nasty side effects, influence is the capacity of a person to be a compelling force on the actions, behavior, and opinions of others. You have taken the time to connect with your team, you understand who they are, and you respect their wants and needs. This means you have earned the right to influence them, to shape them. Remote leaders will have to work harder than co-located leaders, because influence is often enhanced by physical presence. Using video conferencing and video recording to communicate with a remote team is much more effective than email or audio alone.
Ask yourself these question to determine if you are influencing or manipulating your team.
Am I leading by example?
By now I hope you see that you need to lead by example when it comes to fostering connection, deepening understanding, and establishing balance. In what other areas can you lead by example? What else can you practice before you preach? How can you be even more accountable to your team and in so doing inspire them to be accountable to you?
Am I allowing team members to develop their own ideas or strategies?
If you aren’t allowing your team to come up with their own ideas and strategies you aren’t taking full advantage of your influence. Trust that your influence will inspire good ideas and strategies. Dictation is not influence.
Then use your influence to help your team members refine their ideas, giving them the right mix of positive and constructive feedback until the idea is the best it can possibly be.
Am I encouraging team members to connect with and share their unique “why” or core motivations?
Let your team members influence you, by letting their “why” be part of the conversation. The more each team member feels a strong “why” to show up each day, the more work turns to play and the more powerful your team becomes.
You and your team are connected, which has lead you to trust and understand each other. You are all working together to find the right balance and you are using your influence to inspire creativity, innovation, problem solving, and self leadership. In other words you are empowering your team members to spread their professional wings and soar.
Empowering others to stand alone is the greatest thing a leader can do. That is how legacies and protegés are born. Remote teams are more likely than co-located teams to be made up of independent contractors and part-time workers. Remote leaders are wise to empower their team members. People are much more likely to develop a healthy sense of loyalty to a leader who empowers them to be the best they can be.
Ask yourself these question to determine if you are truly empowering your team:
Am I willing to let them fail? If not, why?
While failure ought not be the end result, as a leader you are wise to hold space for failure as an important part of the road to success. In doing so you let your team know that it is safe to try new things, that failure can be a teacher. Failure is empowering, because it gives team members a chance to learn from their mistakes and self correct.
Am I leading based on my ego or my highest self?
Fear of failure is about ego. As the leader you must be aware of your ego. It is an important function of your mind, but be mindful of its attempts to run the show. Always double check to make sure that the voice in your head, the one guiding your actions and feedback, is informed by your best interests, the best interests of the company, and the best interests of the individual team members in question. Whenever possible empower all of the above mentioned parties, as well as the company.
Am I helping my team members grow as professionals or holding them back out of fear?
Just as some children will grow up to leave home and branch out on their own, while others will grow up to become key players in the family business, some team members may eventually feel compelled to move on, while others will be inspired to stay and work their way up. Be mindful of any impulse to encourage those you sense will stay while discouraging those you feel might leave. Team members who may feel compelled to branch out will eventually do so anyway, and you want to them leave with fond memories.
If you follow this advice and give your team proactive and responsive feedback about the importance of connection, understanding, balance, influence, and empowerment, you will be cultivating a healthy group dynamic that will earn you a loyal team; that will admire you and crave your feedback now and well into future.
If you enjoyed this article and found the advice laid out here actionable and helpful, please leave a comment.
If you have complimentary advice about how to give feedback your team will crave we would love for you to share it.
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