Maximizing Team Performance

Whether you are an entrepreneur or work for a large organization, you may work as part of a team.

Teamwork and collaboration are critical parts of running a successful business.

And a key challenge is integrating various backgrounds, personalities and motivations into a cohesive unit focused on achieving common business objectives.

Meet Maureen Monte, an engineer-turned Gallup-certified StrengthsFinder® coach, who’s focused on helping individuals and teams reach their full potential.

To wit, Monte was asked in 2015 to help talented, but a struggling, Cranbrook Boys Varsity Hockey team achieve their potential

Six weeks later, they were state champions.

And based on that particular experience, she wrote a book, Destination Unstoppable: The Journey of No Teammate Left Behind.  Since its release, Monte has worked with Fortune 500 corporations, sports teams and the U.S. Lacrosse team to help their team achieve maximum business potential.

I recently talked to Monte about her experiences and how businesses can utilize her findings to maximize team performance.

Lee:  Why did you decide to become an entrepreneur?

Monte:  I’m a natural entrepreneur – disruptive and a slightly workaholic. I’d proven my Destination Unstoppable process in the corporate world while working in a global role. I learned that when we focus on people’s strengths and help them use their talents to achieve success in the role, they don’t just survive – they thrive.

And the benefits are exponential if a team adopts that approach. By the time I left, over 15,000 employees knew their strengths and were happier and more engaged. I decided it was time to go off on my own.

Lee:  You focus on team coaching and leadership.  Why are these areas important to you?

Monte:  First of all, I love the fact that there is no formula for great leaders or coaches. I appreciate that each one will find their own path to success, and I am happy being their guide. We strive to understand and harness the talent on their teams and help them aim that talent at a common view of success. This sounds easy. It is not. My process for building winning teams has been proven to aid in this noble endeavor.

Lee:  How would you describe your role as a leadership and team consultant?

Monte:  Think for a moment – the world runs on teams – corporate teams, non-profit teams, sports teams and even family teams.  Yet so few reach their full potential.

The reality is that all teams struggle and I address three critical factors:

1)  There is untapped talent on the team – by definition, if there is untapped or misunderstood talent, the team is sub-optimized and cannot reach its full potential.

2) The team rarely has a common view of success – without it, they have no north star and are pulling against, rather than with, one another.  We build it together.

3)  The team often lacks a deep connection between who they are, who they work with, and a common view of success. We invest in connections.

Lee:  By addressing these issues, what is the outcome?

Monte:  The outcome of this journey is a team that is unified, so that they overcome obstacles and achieve big goals.

Lee:  You have data from past research you’ve completed.  Please highlight a 2-3 key findings. 

Monte:   I’ve worked with hundreds of teams all around the world. When we harness untapped talent, define success, and deepen our connections, good things happen.

Of the 25 sports teams I’ve worked with, ten have won regional or district championships. Six state finalists, and five have won state championships.

On the corporate side, 98% of my clients found the workshop valuable, 97% agree that they better understand their teammates (and there is immense value in that) and 94% believe the team will be more productive and higher performing.

The Destination Unstoppable process isn’t just a “nice” thing to do with teams, it’s a success strategy available to anyone willing to make the journey.

Lee:  Based on your studies, what do great managers and coaches have in common with one another?

Monte:  The best managers and great coaches do one thing well: They know what makes each person tick and they shape their role to fully leverage their strengths and mitigate their weaknesses. I read a quote from Coach Mike Babcock. He said, “I’ve got 23 different players and I coach them in 23 different ways.”

In my book, I speak about two fisherman – an eagle and a dolphin. As a manager, would you put the eagle in a role dealing with clients all the time? No. The dolphin is better suited for that. Would you ask the dolphin to work alone and think strategically about what’s coming over the horizon? No. The eagle is better suited for that. And finally, we don’t send the eagle to charm school to “be like a dolphin.”

A great manager or coach would send the eagle to flight school and send the dolphin to charm school, honing what they do best so that they become unstoppable.

Lee:  What can we learn from the research you’ve done with sports teams and STEM teams? 

Monte:  I’ve worked with nearly 600 athletes and coaches. I expected female athletes to be wired like male athletes with extraordinary amounts of raw competition and confidence. To my surprise, when I worked with a female state championship basketball team, they had only one athlete with the “hate to lose” mentality that is so common in male athletes, and she was misunderstood by the other girls on the team.

This team had achieved extraordinary success by working hard and leveraging their human glue strengths. My data shows that is a pattern in women’s sports. As one of my U.S. Lacrosse coaches said, “Male athletes BATTLE to bond. Female athletes BOND to battle.”

Let’s look at a couple of comparisons.

BATTLING strengths:  1)  Male athletes bring 3.5 times more “compete hard and hate to lose” ability than female athletes, and 2)  Male athletes bring 5.2 times more “raw confidence to take risks” ability than female athletes.

BONDING strengths:  1)  Female athletes bring 3.6 times more “focus on and celebrate progress” ability than male athletes, and 2)  Female athletes bring 1.9 times more “did we include everyone?” ability than male athletes.

Note: This StrengthsFinder data was culled from my Destination Unstoppable workshops conducted with 224 male athletes and 163 female athletes from multiple sports, schools, and geographic locations. 

Lee:  You’ve also identified gender differences in your work with teams, please share key insights. 

Monte:  Women generally bring more human glue, and men generally bring more analytical thinking talent. What does it mean for managers and leaders?

They must appreciate the individual and collective strengths. Human glue can be extremely powerful when combined with deep thinking talents, and vice versa. Leverage the blend to help the team reach its full potential.

Lee:  What are implications to businesses, including entrepreneurs, in building successful, diverse work teams?

Monte:  The biggest challenge in building diverse strengths-based teams is that we often dismiss others who think, relate, or execute differently than we do. Entrepreneurs especially tend to hire and embrace “people like them.” That feels great, but it is unproductive. We don’t have a baseball team with 9 pitchers on the field.

One of my favorite exercises is to put up the StrengthsFinder results of Mark Zuckerberg, a female engineer from Jamaica, a male HR professional from India who happens to be Muslim, and an African American soccer coach. I don’t include names. I work with the audience to determine who is whom by examining their strengths. Who is the female? Who is the African American?

It is impossible to tell because strengths are race, gender, or religious neutral. This exercise proves the point: all talent is valuable no matter its external package. I don’t care where you were born, what you look like, who you love, or who you pray to. Frankly, if a Martian walks into the room and has the ability to sense how others feel and think about the future, we add him/her to the team and bring that talent to bear. Period.

Be inclusive. Welcome and value talents different from our own. Give them a voice. That’s how we build a talented team with a diverse internal motor that offers a competitive advantage.

Lee:  Closing thoughts?

Monte:  While the data I’ve shared is collective in nature and founded in the results of hundreds of people, it all falls apart at the individual level. You can have an extremely competitive woman like Serena Williams and an extremely empathetic male like the Dali Lama.

Therefore, the greatest gift managers, leaders and coaches can give their teams is the gift of measuring and valuing their strengths, harnessing and aiming them at success, and fostering great team chemistry. The formal metrics often take care of themselves when we nourish those in our charge because, pound for pound, a cohesive team outperforms a fragmented team every time.


You can hear Mark, President, The LEE Group, Sundays, 8-9am, “Small Talk with Mark S. Lee” via (1270/Detroit) and “In the Conference Room with Mark S. Lee”, 11am-1pm, on 910am Superstation.