I meet some amazing leaders in my work. People hire me to work with their organization and I end up growing by spending time with them. One such leader who has turned into a good friend is John Liston. John was formerly a regional director at Great West Life, and now is the principal of Liston Advisory Group. John lives what he leads. He’s a person of strong character. He’s passionate. He cares. He cares about his people. He cares about the work. He cares about his organization. And his approach to leadership produces results. When he was at Great West Life, his region was the top region in Canada in 2010, 2011 and 2012.
Unleash Greatness Within A Team
In a recent conversation with John about his coaching experience with his daughter’s Under 19 Ringette team, he explained how he coaches the same as he leads. Same philosophy. Same approach. Same leadership. Here are John Liston’s five keys to unleash greatness within a team:
- Hire Great People.
You need to know the skills you need from your people but, more importantly, you need to know the kind of attitude you want from the people around you. You can always teach skills, but you can’t teach attitude. Building a great team means knowing precisely the kind of person you want on your team. It means hiring s-l-o-w-l-y. Take your time. Ask questions and assess the right fit. If you study what we do in business you find that we spend our time hiring for competence (resume, experience, etc.) and we almost always fire for character. What John, and other great leaders do, is hire for character, and train and develop for competence.
- Create an environment for people to be their best.
When are you at your best? Typically it is when you are focused, but not worried about mistakes or failing. In John’s words, “When we win, we party; when we lose, we ponder.” This means it’s okay to make mistakes, as long as you learn from them. See the best in people. Fit people don’t fix people. Find their strengths and build on those strengths. Find a place where people can take their gifts, their passion, and their talents, and make a contribution. It takes coaching, mentoring, and, most importantly, time. When you create these environments, people “chose to” come to them; they don’t feel they “have to”.
- Understand the why before the what or the how.
At the 1963 Washington D.C. Civil Rights March, Martin Luther King did not stand up with a “strategic plan.” Martin Luther King had a dream. He had a “why.” He gave people a reason. John Liston understands this. He understands that people aren’t accountable if they aren’t motivated. If they aren’t accountable, it’s because they don’t have enough reason to be accountable. A vision, a “why,” is what gives people a reason to get on board. John uses the vehicle of sport to teach character – that is the why. Some people get confused and think sport is about winning. Professional sport may be, but all others are about character. Winning is a by-product. It works the same in business.
- Execute with precision.
John is a master of accountability cultures. He understands that you have to inspire people, and then you have to link that inspiration to clearly defined outcomes and a precise way to get there. This is where John is tough. He models the values. While he cares about people, he has a precise, results driven process for creating an environment for people to hold themselves accountable – to themselves and each other.
- Celebrate Success.
In John’s words, “you have to know what success is, know how to get there, and know how to celebrate it when you’ve achieved it.” You have to know what “right” is, and then catch people doing it right. You have to care and you have to connect. Celebration can be big or it can be small, but most importantly it has to be meaningful.
John’s passionate, inspiring energy is contagious. It’s always been important to him to create an environment in which people have a chance to be their best, to realize their potential, and to be recognized for their achievements. John is the kind of leader people want to work for. He’s also the kind of friend people seek.
What kind of environment are you creating on your team?