On 28th July 2011, almost 5 years ago, I got an email from a lady, asking me to remove a link from IBM Manager Community – a place for all IBM People Managers, across the globe. I was the community manager then. It was 12:10 AM, India Standard Time and I was surprised – why would someone ask me to take down anything from a community I manage! The sender was Maureen Monte – someone I have never seen, never met, spoken to only once on a call with few other people.
Her point was valid – Why should we restrict the learning to a special set of people, when we can make a bigger, larger, more astounding impact. We did exchange few emails back and forth and we both knew, we are heading towards something brilliant.
We both joined hands and ran. The result of our partnership was the ‘biggest’ virtual learning event in IBM till date – from attendance: over 7000 people enrolled and attended the webinar sessions. Greater than 90% of the responses indicated that the workshops were valuable and should be shared with other IBMers.
I checked the replay data today: Our five webinar recordings have been downloaded over 12,500 times, accounting for 40% of all the downloaded recordings since June, 2011 (There are total 72 recordings).
By the time we finished what we started, we felt more excited, never tired and more in love as friends and professionals. I requested Maureen to mentor me and she gladly accepted – she has been a guiding star for me. I remember when I was in Colombia – as a part of IBM Corporate Service Corps member, where my work included proud contribution to social and economic reintegration of the demobilized people from the Organized Illegal Armed Groups (OIAG), I had to deal with a really menacing situation, I called her and she helped me out.
And here we are today, Maureen is a published author, a celebrated coach and a reliable professional, who is living her world of success consulting, in her #LifeAfterIBM phase, which to me is yet another example of how she has taken control of her situation and has come out with stupendous success.
I caught up with her and I am sharing with you some excerpts of our discussion on her journey and new book: Destination Unstoppable: The Journey of No Teammate Left Behind
What motivates you as a professional?
I build winning teams. As I say that, I can hear warning bells going off in the minds of some people. That’s because competition often has a negative connotation, particularly for those who are not competitive by nature. That is unfortunate because competition is neither good nor bad. It is an “energy force” that, when used properly, drives people and teams to achieve things they wouldn’t have achieved otherwise. Also, winning has many facets. There are metrics like management and business controls, or sales targets. I am all for including those hard measurements in the success statement I build with my clients, but we don’t stop there. We talk about the how and why. Respect. Trust. Refusing to let one another fail. Those are examples of winning metrics associated with the human side of teams, and that is my playground. My only requirement is that the team be willing to work hard to get there.
Why did you decide to pursue the ‘path of strengths’? Where did the idea come from?
I was exposed to the Clifton StrengthsFinder in my Masters program for Leadership and Business Ethics in 2006 and I was instantly hooked. I’ve used it to help hundreds of teams and thousands of individuals achieve their best. It offers a deep dive into a person’s potential because it is holistic in nature. It measures how we think to solve problems (and I can’t watch you and see what’s happening inside your head!), how we execute tasks, how we influence others, and how we build relationships. It puts people’s strengths under a microscope which honors the uniqueness of individuals (we are all different from one another) and helps us describe our value proposition in detail that was previously unavailable to us. I’m a leadership and team consultant and the Clifton StrengthsFinder gives me data to build a performance strategy for individuals and teams. When teammates understand each other, judgment and conflict decrease. Performance and collaboration increase. These changes improve hard metrics like employee engagement, profitability, productivity, but they also improve well-being and happiness. It’s a win for employees and it is a win for the organization. It’s not an easy journey, but it is a worthy journey.
Why did you decide to write a book when there is so much already written about teams and team building? How is your book different?
Let me start by explaining what my book is about. Destination Unstoppable: The Journey of No Teammate Left Behind is about my collaboration with a seasoned ice hockey coach to help a boy’s varsity team win the Michigan State Championship. It’s fast paced because the entire experience was complete in six weeks. It’s not a sports success story; it’s a team success story. The world runs on teams, yet so few reach their full potential. The purpose of my book is to help individuals and teams maximize their success.
My book is different because it’s not a “how to” book that is theory-based, dry, and boring. After reading Destination Unstoppable, Dr. Cindy McCauley, Senior Fellow for the Center for Creative Leadership, asked me an interesting question. She said, “Why did you choose to write this as a narrative?” I wrote it as a fast-paced story with lessons embedded because it was the only way I knew how to do it. It is also how we experience lessons in real life. Destination Unstoppable is a true story about a real leader, a real team, and real people struggling to achieve their best amidst a sea of obstacles. Isn’t that our own experience? We all struggle, as individuals and teams, to reach our full potential. Dr. McCauley remarked on how effective and refreshingly different my approach was, because they advise leaders all the time to “share stories” to influence and inspire their teams. After becoming fired up by the story, leaders and teams can follow my 10 page roadmap in the appendix so that their teams can reach their own Destination Unstoppable!
What is missing in corporate teams today which hinders their performance?
When I ask leaders, “What does success look like?” I often receive a look of surprise, followed by, “I’ve never thought about it.” If the leader and their teams do not know what success looks like, how will they ever achieve it? Luck? Divine intervention? Defining success, both in formal and human terms, is an area where I engage deeply with my clients. When we define it together and evaluate the strengths of the team, everyone can find a connection between who they are, what they do, and success for the organization. That offers a distinct competitive advantage.
If you were to identify one reason why teams do not work, what would be it and how do we solve that issue?
Teams often have overlooked or undervalued talent, and many receive little guidance on how to direct their energy. This results in people and teams that lack purpose and focus. This is not effective or enjoyable for anyone involved. I help fix this problem by:
- Discovering and harnessing the untapped talent on the team (their innate strengths)
- Aligning people’s strengths with success in their role
- Aligning strengths & roles with the team’s success statement (the what, how, and why of winning)
Untapped talent is a real business problem because it results in disengaged employees. On the hockey team, we discovered that the backup goalie had an amazing ability to prevent fragmentation on the team. We discovered that a third string player had an analytical mind that was undervalued. He learned to share his observations and analysis with the team. Coach Weidenbach empowered the boys to use those strengths on and off the ice, driving engagement and momentum. Finally, here are a few paragraphs from my book that describe what happened to the hockey team after we worked together.
Assistant Coach Patrick Ronayne noticed that after our workshops, the team was more focused on a common vision of success. “In the beginning of the season they seemed like a herd of young colts running around, sometimes in circles with no direction or focus,” said Coach Ronayne. “Later they were like a herd of stallions, running in a pack toward the same goals, not asking questions, just doing and achieving.”
There is something primal and inescapable about a pack mentality. It strikes fear in the minds of their prey. Pause for a moment and imagine how the opposition might have felt when that determined pack of stallions thundered upon them with unrelenting fury. Hearts pounded. Defense crumbled. Mistakes were made and paid for. Panic set in. Courage and morale sank. It was over. That’s what Destination Unstoppable looks like and feels like. It is a perfect visual for how the Cranbrook hockey team played the game. (Destination Unstoppable, page 240).
Wouldn’t it be great if all corporate teams had that experience? What if your corporation doesn’t and your competition does?
Can strengths understanding be applied in all teams?
Yes. Khalid, you and I saw firsthand how effective it was in IBM. I’ve worked with teams all over the world in all sorts of industries. I’ve never seen it fail. When people feel valued for being valuable, and empowered to use their strengths in their role to achieve success, they are on the road to Destination Unstoppable!
What’s your next professional and personal goal?
I need to create the e-book so that Destination Unstoppable can be easily shared around the world. And I am excited to bring Destination Unstoppable to military veterans who are suffering from Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD). I want to give back to those who have lost so much in serving our country, and they can benefit from this positive and nourishing experience!
Where can this book be bought?
It will be on Amazon.com in six weeks. For now, it’s available online from my distributor here: http://bit.ly/1Odm3Qb
I invite your readers to watch an interview with Coach Weidenbach and goalie Nolan Rogow in a short video that can be found here: http://maureenmonte.com/video/
Finally, thank you, Khalid, for being such a wonderful partner on my own journey of finding Destination Unstoppable! I couldn’t have had a better co-pilot. We make a great team, and more importantly, we’re great friends! I appreciate the opportunity to be interviewed by you. Keep up the great work!
- Facebook link: https://www.facebook.com/DestinationUnstoppable/
- Twitter link: https://twitter.com/maureenemonte
- LinkedIn: https://www.linkedin.com/in/maureenmonte
End of Interview.
Thank you Maureen for everything you have done so far for me, including this interview.
Tagged: Cindy McCauley, Destination Unstoppable, Destination Unstoppable: The Journey of No Teammate Left Behind, Gallup, IBM, ibmcsc, Interview, LifeAfterIBM, Maureen Monte, motivation, strengths, strengthsfinder