Team Leadership with Craig Ross

Reading Time: 20 Minutes

Craig Ross explains the dynamics of team leadership including how to establish focus and connection in teams and top team communication tips.

After the Interview

About Craig Ross

Craig is the CEO of the leadership training company Verus Global. He’s the co-author of Do Big Things: The Simple Steps Teams Can Take to Mobilize Hearts and Minds, and Make an Epic Impact.

Read the Transcript

This transcript was auto-generated from the original video recording using Otter Voice Meeting Notes. While the transcript has not been human edited, we hope it will still help you to quickly find or reference useful information from the interview.


Hey Deliberate Leaders. I am your host Allison Dunn, Executive Business Coach and founder of the Deliberate Leaders Podcast we are where we are dedicated to helping leaders build strong, thriving businesses. Each episode is focused on featuring inspiring interviews to help you on your leadership journey. And today’s guest is no different. I am so thrilled to be bringing you Craig Ross, who is the CEO of a leadership training company by the name of virus global. He is the co-author of do big things that simple steps teams can take to mobilize hearts and minds and make an epic impact. That is no small title and no small task. Craig, thank you so much for joining us on deliberate leaders today.


Alli, thank you for having me. I’m excited to join you.


Yeah, we’re glad to have you and I understand that you’re joining us here from Colorado Denver area. So I love the Aspen photo picture behind you. And I’m hoping we can divert for just a moment and get this kicked off with a brief deliberate conversation about leadership, which obviously you are also an expert in. So what would be your number one leadership tip that you would give my listeners?


Number one leadership tip, you know, I would go with the idea that leading others is a function of course, influencing others, and that that influence is earned. I think all too often in our fast paced, volatile, uncertain world, that we tend to rely on credentials, authority, by position and so forth. Yet the leaders that research shows that we follow the most follow the best and do big things with her Those leaders that earn the right to influence us. And that’s a that’s a that’s a skill to talent that most of us dedicate. It takes a lifetime to, to practice them to gain the discipline. And so I guess I’d start there.


Yeah, that’s, a good tip. And it’s, um, it’s a lot of things that we think about is to how to have the right type of influence as leaders, right.


As opposed to positional. Good. Thank you very much.


You use the term DSD and so I’m just gonna tee that up. So you say that many teams feel that they’re operating normally, but in reality, they suffer from DST. So can you tell us a little bit about that and what causes this?


Yeah, even more. So today, we’re talking about being distracted, overly stressed and of course disconnected. And those three together are lethal. They create toxicity, both at an individual level and also collective level. So we just did a huddle with several of our folks in our network. And on average, most of them are on four or five, six different teams, project teams, work teams, committees, so on and so forth. And the ability to maintain focus on what matters most, the ability to ensure that we’re processing all the data, all that’s expected of us, and the ability to stay connected to what matters most our values, our purpose as individuals as organizations, those things are fundamental to our ability to do big things. And so unless I am conscious and purposeful, as a leader in addressing those three areas for those I’m reading, well will likely suffer from VSP.


And what are some of the things that you suggest that teams can do to maintain that focus and avoid the stress and stay connected even more than ever now, again, with the volatility that we’re facing in today’s world It’s really important that we’re purposeful, and purposeful to very beginning, for example, how you started off our time together by asking for a leadership tip, very clear, right from the very beginning, anybody who’s listening is going to get immediate value we’re recommending to our global leaders, that they actually start their meetings with a question that aligns people to the focus. That is their imperative for that meeting. And it’s not just the traditional What do we have to get done by the end of this call? It’s really why is it important that we accomplish this for the business? Why is it essential that we deliver this aspect of our mission? So whatever the whatever the instincts of the leader, inform them, being purposeful in guiding focus through questions, is a way to address DST.


I love the fact that you picked up on the question being the question like asking the question first because I think if we can all get quick clarity as to why we even call a meeting together and get focused around that, like immediately, as opposed to going like, what are we doing here? We’re trying to figure out right?


And all too often I’m culpable. This we assume everybody knows I sent out the meeting agenda I sent out in the calendar invite it was there, we automatically assume that everyone’s moving at 100 miles an hour. So that being purposeful is really critical.


So let’s talk about a team communications. That sounds good.


All right. Um, how important is it to a team success when one hiring the right people and replacing the wrong people versus communicating effectively with people you have who exist on your team?


Yeah, so you know, I think oftentimes communications breakdown because again, if we go to leadership by authority or positional leadership, we automatically think because I’m saying it people understand it. like to think about, a leader once told me we tend to think in Monet, when a of course, the impressionist right the path in the garden, we can see it, it’s not still life. And we can generally see this impression. Well, when leaders speak, we speak in Monet, but people here in Kandinsky, they hear an Asterix, and that creates the DSD. And so it really becomes a comeback to your point around the need to ask what we call co-discovered questions. So being deliberate in my communications, I love your name deliberate, we’re gonna be deliberate and being delivered by co discovering through questions, so we’re creating a shared reality. And so when you talk about people joining your team, leading a team goes types of communications or asking co-discovered questions becomes really critical.


And can you give my listeners an example of CO discovery?


You got it. Let’s start with what it co-discovered is not. You know, remember when we were Selling? Well, I’m gonna age myself here, there used to be great newspaper. There, you know, we all had our little sales projects as we were growing up. Remember they told us whenever you’re doing sales, you only ask questions that you know the answer to. I also have a few friends who are attorneys. And they definitely only ask questions that they know the answer to. Well, that’s not leadership. If I’m asking questions that I know the answer to that’s manipulation. And so we really advocate say what’s important, say why it’s important, but then that co-discovered question around, I want to, I want to, I want to leverage the diversity on our team, I want to understand and bring out the best in you. and mobilize your heart and mind by asking questions such as, what do you believe are the first priorities for us in moving this forward? Or why will this benefit our community from your perspective? And so those are co-discovered questions that build on what’s important and why. So now we’re executing together


Yeah, that’s a that’s a great example and a great communication tip. Yeah, I love that. And you say that one of the most important discussions someone on a team will make is whether or I guess his decision is really what I meant to say. So one of the most important decisions a team member will make is whether to bring their best. And that’s something that we should ponder about. So, tell me what you mean by that.


Yeah, we break it down to a course the name of the book three do big things. So there’s actually three do big things, decisions. And it’s so fascinating to me, because we know these, yet, a lot of us forget. And again, I’ll only speak for myself. But the research out there when you think about Daniel Goleman, and others that that emotional intelligence, we forget that this is always the first ones we call the contributor decision. I choose to bring my best to this interaction. That’s a choice. And of course, in again, this uncertain volatile world. We’re in sometimes We get into autopilot and we forget that choice. So one of the things that we can do is deliberate leaders is we can we can call and build awareness within our team and say, hey, what does it look like for us to choose in this difficult situation with this customer to bring our best and what does that look like? The other two decisions very quickly, the other ones the activator decision, I choose to bring out your best. However, you did that very clearly. Before we even started this podcast. You were asking me questions, honoring who I am showing a sincere interest in me you are choosing to bring out my best that’s the activator to the third decision is the connector decision. We choose to partner together. And well, all one has to do is watch world politics. And notice when those decisions aren’t being made, and when they are, and as teams who are going to be deliberate in succeeding, the connector decision becomes really critical. All three of them do


As we all know, not all leadership functions well, so there’s some dysfunction that happens. And you can read we see it every day. I’m sure you do as well. And what are some of the common barriers to fixing team’s effectiveness or reducing their dysfunction?


You know, one of the most common so that the barriers is one of the important steps in our seven do big things, the seven steps to do big things framework and the barriers that we’re talking about. we’re noticing in our research, 25 years working around the world, that oftentimes teams will focus on external barriers, like right now, of course with the Cova endemic, a lot of you know, our economy is obviously under duress. Yet the most important barriers that we must address as a team are the barriers are weak, we can control the internal barriers. Our brain is actually constantly to protect ourselves individually, it’s actually constantly creating barriers between us the biases, the biases that I have for different types of people. One of those biases is the affinity bias. You look like me, you talk like me, you’re from the same part of the world as me, you’re in the same function as I am a we’re both finance people. Hey, we’re not both finance people. So you don’t get my world. I mean, the list goes on and on. So answer your question, really encourage teams, leaders, leaders to be deliberate. And in addressing those biases, that can if we’re not mindful, will inadvertently build barriers in our effectiveness to work together.


Do you have any tips on how someone can recognize that that may be the challenge that they’re facing in the communication or you know, making the team less effective?


You got number one is just being mindful My emotional state, when I’m moving to frustration, when I’m moving to actually with some of the leaders we support when I’m getting too passionate and excited.


I am more like you and I both. Yeah.


But we learn from our lessons every way because we miss important data when we get too passionate, too excited. So it’s whenever we lose control of our emotional state now, we are emotional beings. And was it Daniel Goleman says 91% up to 91% of the decisions we make when we’re interacting with each other based on how we feel about people. And so to deny that isn’t smart to recognize it is what’s important. And so that would be my answer to your question is, let’s just be mindful of our emotional state so we can do a better job of functioning from a shared reality and seeing the same data together.


I assume that you’re saying this, but I think it’s worth pointing out just because that aware of my emotional state, so I have the opportunity, and then also who we’re speaking to, right. So it’d be like, Oh, wait a minute, you’re getting you know, too emotional. Like there’s, you know, something, you know, we need to get it back on track and figure out that we’re, we’re hearing each other and that we’re both communicating. So it’s totally a two way street, which is an obvious thing to state. But I can only control mine, but I have to observe yours. So I have a role in both.


I love that. I love it. It’s step number six in our seven steps. It’s called Energizer on shared reality is a simple tool called the intermit energy map. Neha shared please, that would be amazing. Yes.


So the energy map is really it’s based upon understanding that whatever I focus on, I’m going to see more of that, of course, is well known. And then of course, whatever I focus on and go towards actually start to that’s how we create beliefs and the beliefs drive my emotions, and so the energy map is basically broken into three parts. There’s the backside of the energy map, which is my emotional state of upset, the middle is neutral. It’s Shakespeare, nothing is good or bad, but thinking makes it so it’s just data. And then the front side of the energy map is when I’m enthusiastic, I’m moving forward. It’s the feel good emotions. Well as human beings, we’re all over that map. The key to teams that are effective, that do big things, is a leaders ability to recognize where people are on that map. And therefore, to your point, if I’m sensing you’re frustrated with a customer, I can actually say, tell me more about why you’re frustrated. backside learned you map as a human being in a professional once you feel heard, where do most of us go? We go to the middle of energy mountain, once I get that off my chest, but as you know, all too many leaders they want to deny. He may suppose they lead those emotions and just say, Get over it. Let’s move forward. Let’s solve this problem. And that’s an impossible task for a human being right?


Which I know that is almost the eloquent essence of why coaching is so important. Huge. There are certain team settings or environments where we can’t express what is holding us back as a human or as leader and in our thinking, and we’re on the wrong side of the energy map. And coaching gives you an opportunity to express that and have it have permission to ask that tough question of well tell me why you’re feeling that way.


Yeah, I love that. And then when I tied to your mission, and being deliberate, the understanding that that I’m creating abundance. And when I’m on that backside energy map, I’m thinking scarcity. I’m fearful. And again, it’s not wrong to feel that way. It’s what we do through coaching. I love your connection there. Absolutely. Through the coaching through the support, creating the experience of abundance, I can lead from that space.


Do you have any advice for someone On a team that recognizes that the company’s official leadership is preventing the team from accomplishing the objectives. You’ve never seen this before. Right?


Yeah, that’s a big one, isn’t it?


If I were to Well, there’s a lot, you know, one of the things I think is really critical. Again, I apologize I know what I’m working with here. So being deliberate.


I love it. I said, Okay, okay, that being really deliberate around what is where, where are we autonomous and what is under our control. And so my recommendation is, is when we find ourselves being victim to the leadership of the organization, as the leader, my temptation might be, I might be compelled to say, Hey, get over it via professional, that’s not going to work. What’s going to work is if I allow people to process coach them, and say, Tell me why it’s frustrating, and then follow that up with So where do we have? Where are we empowered? Where can we be accountable? what’s under our control? And then of course guide focused out?


Yeah. Great advice. What do you think are the most common mistakes that companies make when developing or not developing leaders?


I think one of the biggest mistakes is they separate it from business performance. They oftentimes we see this, you know, culture initiatives and leadership development initiatives fail, because their culture and leadership development initiatives. At the end of the day, I, as a leader have to hit a number. And I’m held accountable for that number, my performance is going to be assessed on that on that number. And so along comes some people and say, hey, let’s develop our leaders, our list of all of our culture. Well, no one’s going to raise her hand and say, No, that’s stupid. I’d be a heretic I have to raise my hand and say count man Because we all know how important it is yet at the end of the day, where am I going to spend my energies, I’m going to spend it on hitting my number. So our recommendations to our clients is use a method that allows us to develop leaders in the context of hitting that number. let’s develop our culture in the context as your strategy. Hit the number. Now I’m all ears, because now we know you’re going to help me hit my number. And you’re going to do it by developing my leaders, and it’s consistent. I’m all in.


I, I stay very business focused on everything that I do, although my heart’s all about leadership, development and building culture and engagement. But none of it makes any difference if you’re not actually helping the organization succeed forward right? To achieve its own level of excellence, whatever they decide that is, on the concept of fostering trust and collaboration, do you have any advice on how to be the team leader that team members want to have meetings with, they want to be on your team. They want to be on your project.


Yeah, fabulous, good, important question. Because a lot of people, you know, my generation in it, let’s just say I have less time in front of the horse than I do by that. We grew up thinking trust was in the business place was essentially about being credible and consistent. If you were those two things, people would trust you. Well, times are changing, and more and more, in addition to being credible and being consistent. It’s about being humanly connected. And everyone’s aware of the research that’s out there. We have more digital platforms to connect on as human beings yet people have never felt so alone. depressions of suicides up we see that and why is that? Because digital does not replace the human connection, right. It’s a platform At the end of the day, then my answer for your for your question is as human beings as leaders, we have to be a good friend of mine. He’s the CEO for Tillamook is a co-op of farmers that world class dairy out in the West Coast. Best she’s ever Yes, there was a lot more worried we can get there ice cream.


Actually, it’s best ice cream.


I agree. There peppermint. Mint. Chocolate.


Yes, that’s it. That’s it. Patrick Kreitzer is a dear friend and he doesn’t he’s a perfect example of what’s necessary to create trust. And what he does is Yes, he’s credible. Yes, he’s consistent. But when you listen to his town hall meetings as an example, he’s personable, he’s telling stories where he’s vulnerable. He’s sharing his fears. He’s sharing his concerns. Another leader, very similar, Patrick that’s just on a call with him and he was in front of his own organization. And so When asked him a question, he said, You know what? I haven’t thought of that yet. It’ll stop the press how instantly. Now there will be some people say he has thought about it yet he’s not credible. Well, most of us are saying, you know what, thanks for being real. Thanks for being human. Because his next statement was, I’m glad you brought it up, because we are now going to think about it. And I’ll follow up with you. I’m going to recommend for action items. So my answer long winded I apologize. The third item is connected to humans is just as important as being credible.


Yeah, and that’s a great example because someone might say, well, that’s not inspiring your team, but I actually if I contributed something from the audience, to the to the person I’m, I’m looking to lead us and we want to know that I like there’s a win in that for sure.


Every day, every day, every day, by the way, most of us our own hearts are mobilized, when I can be more authentic. I become more mobilized myself. And it creates fabulous synergies?


Absolutely, yeah. And what steps? What are the steps that you can take to make sure I’m asking this correctly? I know, steps you can take as a leader or team member to grow trusting and collaborative relationships among team members. That’s a complicated question.


It is, you already wrote it?


Yeah. Yeah.


I think I would apologize come back as a broken record. But the collaborative relationships are really going to be built on certain capabilities, interpersonal capabilities. And those are skills. those are those are skills just like technical skills need to be developed. And so this skill and the ability to bring my best, even when there’s conflict is really important. The ability to bring out your best even though I don’t agree with you, even though you’re from a different phone, And even though you haven’t worked here as long as I have so on and so forth, is a skill, and then the ability to partner together to find shared objectives to find shared motivations, what we do have in common. We can see it in our world today, people are struggling to do that. And so we like to say align teams are led by collaborative leaders. There’s just no doubt about it. And it’s a skill worth developing.


And when So I love that. I want you to say that quote, again, because I think that’s a really important when you see teams that are aligned, align teams are led by collaborative leaders.


Aligned teams are led by collaborative leaders because collaboration means that you’re working, what’s important to me, and what’s important to you, and together Oh, I like that a lot. I’m gonna have to, um, I’d like to use that in that I’m working on right now. If that is okay, you gotta feel free and one of the things I’ll give you a little tip.


Lots of people will they struggle with collaboration. So it’s really worth asking our teams deliberately, what is collaboration and what’s really important to collaboration is not consensus. Collaboration is not agreement. Collaboration means that we’re actually doing those who were optimizing our collective talent. It means we’re going beyond processes, structure, role, clarity. And we’re actually optimizing the talent, the collective talents that we have. And so it’s worth as a collaborative leader, we encourage our leaders to make sure that you’re asking your team and creating that definition of shared definition in advance.


At Sam, that is a brilliant exercise to go through because I’m sure it’s not the same thing amongst everyone. So creating that, and so do we do big things, it’s talking about bringing your best so I love the concept of bringing your best versus being perfect. Hmm.


Right? Yes. And


You talked about the seven steps have we missed? Can you do like a high level overview of kind of the seven steps? Is that possible?


And you got it real quick, real easy, real easy. I’m going to share, we didn’t sit in the room and just make these up. This is 25 years of I don’t know what it is, like 34 different industries, all the continents except for the polls. I mean, it’s, it’s been a lot of work and we’re continue to evolve. And the first one is, is committed to the human imperative. It’s committing to an understanding that who we are as people is going to make a difference in the business our ability to deliver the business imperative, and commit means actually invest in it. Right. So step number one is commit to the human imperative. Step number two is embody success and leverage failure. All too often organizations leaders will create cultures, micro cultures, or lead where they’re fear based. And we actually don’t even know what means to be a success. Lots of inspiring stories a friend of mines a former astronaut, as an example, when you walk in and you meet his team, they It doesn’t matter what the crisis is, there’s a confidence about them, because they have a process way to develop themselves to overcome obstacles. The third one is the three to make things decisions. And so that’s the contributor decision, can choose to bring my best the activator decision bring out the best and others and the connector decision. We see teams do big things when they’re making those conscious choices. fourth step is of course, breaking the barriers. And again, I want to remind everyone that those are oftentimes default we think external, it’s the internal barriers in our thinking. What am I on fifth step fifth step is focusing on what matters Focus, focus, as Daniel Goleman says is it’s the seed of our actions. And so because it gives birth to our thoughts and so forth, Most people know that far too few are deliberate. sixth step is energizing around the shared reality. It’s impossible to collaborate effectively. If we’re functioning from different realities. It’s really, really critical. And then the seventh step is mobilizing hearts and minds. We’ve worked with some organizations that they have a shared reality, but they’re actually not doing anything with it. And so we must be mobilizing not just our hands, but our hearts and our minds. And those that do, of course, accomplish big things.


And have a plant example or a company example of that have worked really well through the six steps and what is the what’s the demonstration of the seventh step?


You got it.


We were the client right now, actually, this client based in Europe, and because of the pandemic that we’re moving through, of course, they’re seeing a certain segment of their customer base. That is, of course, just all of a sudden gone. Or on pause. And so in that particular case, it’s an understanding of the importance of how they’re interacting with each other. So that’s the human imperative of valuing everybody. What does that mean to take care of one or two actually truly care? Are they leveraging the failures to ensure that they’re embodying success now as they move through that, and rather than boring and going through all those really focused on energizing on a shared reality? what’s really critical is that the data that they’re seeing right now, in being a autonomous of the data, and asking themselves the questions of what’s the best we could do right now. And this, this leader actually just shared this. If we were to fail, it won’t be because of COVID. It’ll actually because of our inability to be agile, and I thought that was really profound and so they’re developing they’ve got the edge systems and processes, but they’re wanting to be more agile as humans and as a team. And I mean, because I can only tell the truth, I can’t tell you how the story is going to end. But I can tell you that they’re in a really good place. And probably better than most companies as they’re not just responding to this crisis, they’re actually creating the future they want versus actually trying to guess what the future will be like.


Oh, that’s fantastic. I, I’d like to read that story. When it’s done.


You got it.


I could go to myself.


would do you feel like we’re in a period of time where we actually have the most shared reality that maybe has ever existed or not?


And you talk publicly that false thinking? Yeah, yeah.


Okay, we just keep being authentic. Okay. Should we do that? Okay. Yeah. Actually, no, it’s Actually the opposite I mean, and not just in the US, but it’s in countries around the world, something any event can occur. And because of our biases, you know, 45% of the population will think it’s a good thing and 45 of people think it’s a bad thing. And it’s the same event. And so my answer is No, we are not functioning from a shared reality, which makes it very, very difficult to collaborate.


It says,


Okay, so maybe that’s my positive, passionate, wishful thinking of we’re all experiencing the same thing. We’re in it together, right? We keep on saying we are.


Yes, yes. You know, Someone once told me, I thought this was really wise. We’re in the storm together. But right now we’re all in different boats. So we’re experiencing it differently. Which there’s some sadness for me in that, because we are about of course, unity and a shared focus, if you will. But it’s why the listeners to your podcasts are so important in our world, that we must continue to focus forward and do We can, because the alternative doesn’t appeal to me.


I would agree with you on that one.


Do you have a kind of number one takeaway that you’d like to pass on to our people? On this podcast today? Kind of a final thought?


Yeah. Pretty simple, pretty straightforward. Leadership matters, but only teams deliver. And we put a lot of emphasis on leadership development. There are still far too many of us that keep thinking about leadership as it’s very me oriented. And as leaders, if we’ve just a little bit more understand that it’s the collective and how do I bring the best out of more of us than in fact, I’ve been an effective leader.


Um, that’s a great that is a great person tip. Craig, I first off very much appreciate your time this afternoon. And I want to make sure that people know how to connect with you and or follow you what would be the purpose preferred channel for that.


Oh thank you really any the common means so you can find our work at various global v R Us global comm very active on LinkedIn, we have a new video cast. It’s called connected focus. It’s free comes out every other week, five minutes video on this type of discussion. We also have a free collaborative leaders huddle that’s every other week. We now have hundreds of people tuning in from around the world for discussions like this. It’d be fun. Maybe we’ll have you around our that’d be fun to have you as a part of that someday.


I would love to participate in that. So that’s a collaborative huddle every other collaborative leaders huddle. Yes, that’s fantastic.


My, my closing thoughts are that it’s just so important that the work that you’re doing, and I just I hope that I don’t know that you have another book coming out. Do you have anything you’re working on writing right now.


We’re, we’re, we’re in the early stages. So yes, we do as on the collaborative leadership capabilities and what’s required and yeah, I’ll just leave it leave it there. It’s a big undertaking.


Okay. Well, fantastic. Well, I, I look forward to seeing what that looks like as it does and I would love to be part of your collaborative huddle. That would be fantastic.


Alli, thanks for having me on. It’s been a pleasure.


Thank you. And we’ll talk again soon.

I'm Allison Dunn,

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