Several years ago, I travelled to Sydney, Australia to do a few advance stories leading up to Michael Phelps first Olympic competition. Since I was traveling that far, I decided to do a brief side trip to New Zealand too. My wife and I made the 24 hour trip from the East Coast to New Zealand.
As we approached Auckland, the flight attendants handed out custom forms. Back then it was a simple form with four questions that stood out to me. It struck me that the Kiwi’s had nailed it when it comes to not only getting information from visitors but also listing the essential questions that leaders have to answer for their teams.
Here are the questions:
- Who are you?
- Where have you been?
- Where are you going?
- How will you get there?
Question one is about more than your identity. It’s about your brand. What makes you special? What makes you stand out?
Question two is about your roots and history. Are you a new team, an old team? Are you part of a long tradition? Every team—even new ones—draws on the experience of the members. And newer team members need to know that history. It connects them to something bigger than themselves, something bigger than the present moment.
Question three is the vision question. Where are you as the leader taking this team? Where will you be in a year, three years, five years? What will this team look like in the future. It’s crucial that your team members have a sense of your vision. Otherwise, they will do one of two things: 1. Move into the future feeling like they are wearing blindfolds, or 2. Guess what the future will look like. Neither of those options is good.
Question four is about strategy. These are the steps you plan on taking between now and the fulfillment of your vision. Strategy without a link to vision is nothing more than an unruly to-do list that will feel like a heavy weight bogging down your team.
Those four questions have stayed with me long after the 2000 Olympics. They played out pretty well for Michael Phelps too. He didn’t win a medal in those games, but in hindsight here would be his answers:
- Who are you? The youngest athlete to qualify for the U.S. Olympic team in 68 years.
- Where have you been? Pursuing a membership to the strongest Olympic team in the world for the past several years.
- Where are you going? To become the most decorated Olympic athlete of all time.
- How will you get there? A regimented and discipline approach to multiple practices a day and nutrition.
Now it’s your turn. Answer those four questions for your team and watch the synergy begin to build and take you and your teammates to an amazing future.
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