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    The Key Ingredients to Building High-performing, Positive Teams

    by Larry Widman / October 13, 2020

    Over the past 20 years, I’ve been blessed to work with some of the best teams, coaches, ath­letes, and other high performers in busi­ness, sport, and life. In writing this book I have tried to organize my thoughts, philos­ophies, and beliefs based on my years of experience and also based on work with businesses and teams through our company Performance Mountain

    In Max Out Mindset, I outline the steps necessary to become elite by recounting stories from coaches, athletes, and teams that I have worked with over the years to share insights on how to max out when it matters most. Using the 15 Powers outlined within, you’ll learn how to prepare for bat­tle, max out your mind, max out your emo­tions, and ultimately, max out your team.

    I truly believe that whether you’re a coach, athlete, or business leader, or just trying to improve your mindset for life, these stories that high­light the struggles and accomplishments, the highs and lows, and everything in between that accompanies pursuing the edges of elite will help you max out as well. 

    Let’s look at three companies who have identified the key ingredients of what the best teams do: Google, MIT, and Ecsell Institute. 


    In 2012 Google embarked to understand the secrets to team effectiveness. Google proceeded to study 180 teams over a two-year period. Here are the top five attributes:

    1. Dependability
    2. Structure and Clarity
    3. Meaning
    4. Impact
    5. Psychological Safety*

    *Google learned that "psychological safety" - meaning team members feel safe to take risks and be vulnerable in front of each other - was the one ingredient that stood out from the rest - by a far margin! 


    In 2010 MIT studied the performances of groups, looking for the common ingredients that make up the best teams. They found three ingredients:

    1. A high degree of social sensitivity to each other
    2. Gave roughly equal time to each other
    3. Had more women in the group 

    There were two themes that really stood out: social capital and helpfulness. Think about the interconnection between psychological safety and both of these themes. I like Margaret Heffernan’s, an entrepreneur, definition for social capital and helpfulness:

    Social Capital is the trust, knowledge, reciprocity, and shared norms that create quality of life and make a group resilient. Helpful teams of people accelerate the sharing of knowledge and expertise; they don’t let one another stay stuck or confused; they try to prevent problems before they arise, and they won’t let colleagues become isolated or cut off. 


    Finally, Ecsell Institute has provided the research on more than a hundred twenty thousand coaching interactions and identified three ingredients that are critical to team performance.

    1. Order: This is about having structure, having well-defined goals, and having all persons know their individual roles. The top leaders (managers) are identified as doing this 81 percent of the time versus 71 percent for the rest of the managers.
    2. Complexity: Creating or embracing an environment that promotes discomfort--to allow those they lead to identify and have stretch goals, and to fail on occasion. This requires that they feel psychologically safe. Top managers are identified as creating this type of environment 90 percent of the time versus 71 percent for the rest of the managers.
    3. Relationship: The best managers build connections which leads to trust with those they lead and create an environment that allows the rest of the team to build trust. The top managers do this 85 percent of the time versus 71 percent for the rest of the managers. 

    Learn more about these components in The Performance Equation

    We just discussed the role that social sensitivity plays in growing great teams, and there are a couple of questions that Ecsell Institute asked sales workers that fascinated me.

    The questions were answered differently by those being led when compared to the top 20 percent of sales manager performers (coaches) versus the bottom 80 percent of sales manager performers (coaches): 

    • Does your manager know when something is bothering you? 

    A full 93 percent of the top sales managers knew when something was bothering someone they led versus only 52 percent of the rest of the managers. 

    • Does your manager care more about the numbers than the people on the team? 

    Only 7 percent of the top sales managers cared more about numbers than their people versus 36 percent of the rest of the managers.  

    These questions have nothing to do with the technical or tactical aspects of your craft. The best managers simply had better social sensitivity and cared more about those they lead. According to Gallup, more than 70 percent of bosses do not have the talent to maximize the performance of their team; when looking specifically at sales bosses, Ecsell Institute research shows the bottom 80 percent deliver an average of $4.1 million less per team when compared to the top 20 percent of bosses.

    Wow! Just like in sports, relationship building is absolutely critical and may be the most important variable in building successful business teams. In the end, the bottom line is that “they don’t care how much you know until they know how much you care.” 

    My hope is that the book can be used in its entirety or that individual chapters, each representing a different “power,” can be selected to help an individual, group, or team with the lessons necessary to be put in the best position to max out when it matters the most. Because I always say, if you can’t do it when it matters, what’s the point?

    Grab the book on Amazon here OR  get $5 off when you buy the book through this link using the discount code "ECSELLMax Out Mindset Book

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    Larry Widman

    Larry Widman

    Larry has over 20 years of experience as a psychiatrist working as a high performance mindset coach. He works with CEO’s, Pro-athletes, Olympians, and multiple NCAA Teams and has been integral in five NCAA Division I National Championships, developing elite mindset skills and “Ultimate Trust”.