• Michael Hughes

Define the Team you want to Become

Use this "Jedi Mind Trick" of pre-defining your team's brand and watch them evolve into that definition


Champions of Change


I heard a story at a leadership training session several years ago that transformed how I approached culture development in the teams I lead. The story illustrated the power of branding your team and defining clearly what is meant by that brand. I was honestly skeptical about the effectiveness of this approach, but having tried it on multiple occasions, I am now a true believer.


My first implementation came when I became plant manager of a large, well established factory in the mid-west. This organization had a reputation for being highly technical but sometimes difficult to work with. This cultural reputation limited the number of new projects that came our way. There was a general sense that the team "knew better" and was resistant to trying new things. It became clear in our VUCA world, that this reputation could be detrimental to the long term success of the organization.


This is when I decided to brand the organization "Champions of Change"....definitely a cheeky move given where we were starting from, but I decided we needed to go all-in. We created a uniform, that every employee wore, with our new Champions of Change logo. We created banners in every department. We put the Champions of Change logo in the signature of everyone's e-mail (it made it difficult to write a 'resistant' e-mail when your logo is screaming at you from the bottom of the screen!). We defined characteristics of Champions of Change and shared them broadly. We created the reward structures around each of these characteristics. It was simply impossible, if you belonged to this organization, not to understand the types of behaviors that were expected of our team.


Then the actual changes began. Our openness to new projects, new ideas, organizational change and even responsibility adjustments all became par for the course. Our agility sky-rocketed and our results quickly followed. Soon there were counterparts from around the globe being sent to visit us to learn how to adapt more quickly and deliver initiatives flawlessly. The pride that this created in the team was palpable and simply unimaginable twelve months earlier.



Create an Identity

Think carefully about what you truly want your team to 'be famous' for. Gather input on how to create a memorable title for this overall characteristic.....you only have on shot to get this right. Flush out the behaviors you want to see to live up to this new reputation. Market, market, market....make it unavoidable and celebrate every success and every small demonstration of the new, desired behaviors.



The Family Example


Your family is probably the most important team you are a part of. The principles described above can be applied equally, and sometimes even more effectively in the family setting. The night I learned about this Jedi Mind Trick, I talked about it with my wife. We had a 4 and a 2 year old at the time and we decided to try out our newly learned psychology tool on our unsuspecting infants. The next morning we told our children that to be part of the Hughes Family, you needed to continuously demonstrate three traits - use your manners, always share what you have with others and try, try and try again....even when you aren't good at something the first time. We built these characteristics into discussions at many a dinner time and also on the fly if one child was not behaving...."Keelin, what do the Hughes' do when someone else asks to play with their toys?" The responses were simply amazing. If you ask our kids today (now 12 and 10), what it means to be a Hughes, they will rattle off the three characteristics without a second's thought. They will even hold me accountable to the traits if I am mis-behaving (they really enjoy that) and I truly believe it has helped all of us raise our game in these three areas. In fact, if I had known how powerful it was going to be, I might have spent some more time adding in a couple more traits at the start (like I said, you need to get this right at the start).


It Takes Work


Like all of the tips I share on this blog, it takes work to execute with excellence. There is a lot of upfront work thinking through the brand you want to create and getting buy in from the critical people. It takes an entire marketing campaign to get the brand off the ground and depending on the situation, it may take some dollars invested to show how serious you are as a leader about this new message-track. Most importantly, it takes you as a leader truly owning the brand, living the values yourself, leading by example and building the brand message into every communication opportunity you have. I have seen this technique work amazingly well at a small team level also and the level of ownership the teams develop for their brand will blow you away....in a good way! Enjoy the fruits of this effort and please share back your successes......young padawan :-).