We are different. And while diversity programs abound, the emphasis on differences in race, age, and gender overlook perhaps the most basic fact of human diversity: personality. Personality-driven behavior dictates actions, and actions determine success or failure, harmony or riot, in any and every endeavor.
Understanding the elements of Earth, Water, Wind, and Fire is a means of determining individual and team behavioral tendencies that affect everything from career choice to daily “to do” lists. We choose to act on what we value, and each element values very different things.
Anyone who plays the game of chess knows that each piece is uniquely suited for a particular kind of move and strategy. Yet too many organizations consider the game as being made up of only kings and pawns. Life and work are much more complex and intricately balanced than that, and a wise strategist would know the powers of each piece on the board, especially his or her own.
ELEMENT ONE: THE EXCITEMENT OF FIRE
Fire is all about excitement. Fire is also about focus—bringing disparate strands and sticks of strategy and turning them into fuel for the future. Jesus was able to recruit the working poor because He ignited the passion in them to make a difference. “You right now are fishing for food. Follow me and we will fish for men,” He said (Matt. 4:19). “You think you came here for water. I am telling you that together we will find water that will well up to eternal life” (my paraphrase of John 4:14). He used rich metaphors and working class examples to get them to see the big picture of what He was asking them to do. And they followed Him.
Currently companies spend billions of dollars trying to excite and motivate employees. If your team has no fire, no zest, no zeal, or had it once and lost it, you can follow these seven steps to ignite passions:
Day 1. Make sure every team member has a clear understanding of the vision of your organization.
Day 2. Ensure that team members understand and often express what makes your organization unique.
Day 3. Educate team members clearly about your organization’s strategic advantage.
Day 4. See that all team members responsible for implementation have direct input to strategic planning.
Day 5. Make sure that team members clearly understand their direct link to, and benefit from, the vision
Day 6. Establish hiring practices that ensure team members are actively recruited for core competencies that are clearly aligned with the organizational vision.
Day 7. Set up reward systems that specifically recognize actions leading toward the vision.
ELEMENT TWO: THE GROUNDING OF EARTH
Too many team leaders try to recruit with the benefits and tales of the glory, and then are shocked when team members bolt out the door at the first sign of adversity. Taking the extra time to make sure your team knows the cost . . . taking the right time to get the right “fit” for long journeys, can make all the difference.
Beyond “fashion statements” and establish processes and procedures that are going to ensure a long and happy fit for employees and managers. Once you have whipped your team into a fiery frenzy of excitement, you must take the next immediate step of grounding them.
As the corporate environment becomes ever more fast paced and hectic, it came as no surprise to me to learn that one of the grounding techniques some teams are using is to bring in “drummers” to help everyone get in, and stay in, rhythm. Rather than the showy “hit all the drums and finish with the cymbals” routine that rock stars employ, these corporate drummers who perform at employee motivational events use very slow and methodical, booming drums to establish a sense of timing and teamwork.
Grounding has many layers to it, and we will explore some here. To me, grounding means that the team is aware of potential obstacles and is ready to overcome them. Rather than leading with the vision, and then leaving them there, team leaders who work with grounding principles know that teams who are prepared for the worst will not fall away should the worst indeed happen.
Day 8. Make sure that team members have been made fully aware of all potential obstacles, costs, and challenges that lie ahead.
Day 9. See that team members understand their direct and individual accountability for the overall performance of the organization.
Day 10. Ensure that all team members have clearly defined short-term goals that link directly to the vision.
Day 11. Review and verify that all short-term goals are measurable and reviewed weekly.
Day 12. Establish a 360-degree feedback loop that allows for fair and regular flows of communication from all levels within the organization
Day 13. See that team members hold themselves and each other to a clearly defined standard of behavior.
Day 14. Make sure that financial, technical, and human resources are clearly and adequately aligned throughout the organization to ensure both near and long-term growth.
ELEMENT THREE: THE TRANSFORMATION OF WATER
Teams must be “transubstantiated” in order to be effective.
Two plus two equals five is a longtime tenet of good team builders. Where does the additional element come from that takes a group of people and turns them into more than the sum of their parts?
Water added to almost any object shifts the essence of it—whether it is turning dry land into mud or turning fire into hissing ashes. Without water there would be few, if any, liquids. The human body is comprised of 90 percent water, and the planet itself is comprised mostly of the miraculous liquid. Each person is rocked in water in his or her mother’s womb. We need it daily in order to survive, and we find it a healing and calming influence, as well as a place for recreation
Teams that are given great excitement and grounding, but are not given enough “water,” will never perform at their highest level. What is the miracle of water that you can give your team? How can you as a team leader take what is in your hands, receive it, bless it, and turn it into something that did not exist before?
Following are practical and proven steps that others have taken to make sure their team is not only excited and grounded but also transformed.
Day 15. Verify that management knows the personal mission and vision of each team member.
Day 16. See to it that every team member has a personal developmental plan and a coach or mentor in place.
Day 17. Verify that the personal growth and development of all team members are top priorities and action items for management.
Day 18. See that leaders and managers model organizational values on a daily basis.
Day 19. Be able to prove that your team is constantly learning and improving itself through innovative ideas, structures, and technology.
Day 20. Understand and prove that research and development for new products and services are integrated into all departments.
Day 21. Show how team members can adapt quickly to obstacles, always keeping the vision in mind.
ELEMENT FOUR: THE RELEASE OF WIND
These steps will help you release your team members to do what you’ve trained them to do (freeing you to use your highest gifts).
Day 22. Show how team members are aware of, and are operating out of, their highest strengths at least 85 percent of their time
Day 23. Verify that team members know they have clear authority to release company resources and services on behalf of customers, staff, and stakeholders
Day 24. Ensure that team members leverage their core competencies through strategic alliances.
Day 25. Conduct internal interviews to see that team members have fair and well-proportioned workloads that allow flexibility and freedom.
Day 26. Ensure that meetings are well planned, brief, and empowering.
Day 27. Make sure that roles and responsibilities remain clearly defined.
Day 28. Test to see that each team member can “message” and demonstrate the organizational vision at any time, under any circumstances.