Team: Introduction

by Ron Potter

A new year, a new series. Ready to talk teams?

When Wayne Hastings and I began writing our first book, Trust Me, I assumed we would cover all three areas that I focus on, building Teams, Growing Leaders, and creating Cultures—TLC. As we began to work with the publisher, it became obvious that the first book was going to focus on the leadership area. The team and cultures would have to wait their turn to be covered in future books. The good news is that over the years I’ve learned more about what makes great teams work.

A few of the things that I’ve learned about teams include:

  • Hitting the sweet spot of TLC
  • Team is the leading element
  • Being a great leader, functioning as part of a great team and creating great cultures makes you happy!

Hitting the Sweet Spot

When I formed my company in 2000 (I had been in the business for ten years at that point), I wanted to give it a name that described what we did. Reflecting on the previous ten years, one pattern that emerged was that new clients hired me at one of three entry points:


I was being asked to help improve the leadership skills of existing or up-and-coming leaders.

Or a slight variation was the young hotshot contributor that the company thought would make a great leader someday but was currently advancing based on some great competency and had not learned the role of being a leader.

Or sometimes I was being asked to help save a derailed leader who had been in the organization for a long time but had gotten off track.

Team building

Team building was the second point of entry into a client. The work wasn’t necessarily related to a leader (at least in their mind), but the team wasn’t performing well.

Many times, these were existing teams where:

  • Productivity had fallen off or never existed.
  • There was a conflict or rift in the team that they couldn’t get past.
  • The team was facing dramatic change they weren’t handling well.

Sometimes they were ad hoc teams where:

  • They were pulled together for a short-term project that needed a quick launch to get productivity levels high as soon as possible.

A side story to that scenario was my first taste of team building when I was a young engineer. My company brought in a consulting firm (HRDA—Human Resource Development Association) to help facilitate communication, understanding, and decision making between ourselves (the constructor) and the design engineers. The process was called “Face-to-Face.”

Both companies had good people. We were all good engineers but weren’t communicating or more importantly, understanding each other. I began to realize that understanding relied more on good relationships and character than it did on competency.

Corporate Culture

My third possible entry point is corporate culture. When I started in the business in the early 1990s, the idea that you had to understand, pay attention to, and mold corporate cultures wasn’t well known, understood, or accepted. By the early 2000s, it had become an accepted fact.

Those seemed to be the solid entry points for me to provide services and add value to all the companies I worked with in those early years of my consulting work—leadership, team building, corporate culture.

Team is the leading element

After ten years I could see that my three entry points were leaders, teams, and cultures. The challenge was what do I name my new company that reflected those points?

Leaders—Teams—Cultures            LTC

Culture—Leaders—Team            CLT

Teams—Culture—Leaders            TCL

Teams—Leaders—Culture            TLC!!

TLC, that was it. Team Leadership Culture, LLC. That was my new company, TLC!

I must admit that I still thought of leadership being at the core and many of my presentations still reflected that belief. But how could I pass on TLC, so that became the name of my company, Team Leadership Culture, LLC.

What’s interesting is that over time, I’ve come to believe that great teams are the essential lead element. I’ve seen more corporate failures caused by the lack of teamwork than either of the other two elements. Great teamwork can overcome mediocre leadership and lack of a good culture, but neither leadership or great culture can overcome a bad team.

TLC is indeed the right sequence.


One of my friends is Jim Berlucchi, who is the executive director for The Spitzer Center. Jim introduced me to the four levels of happiness that were described by Aristotle and greatly expanded into a mental model of leadership by Dr. Spitzer.

Aristotle concluded that what makes us uniquely human is our pursuit of happiness. That is why our forefathers included it in the Declaration of Independence.

It seems even more visible when we see the opposite. Despair and depression seem to occur when there is a loss of hope or happiness. If the ability to pursue happiness is lost, depression fills the void.

The pursuit of Happiness has Four Levels

Level 1 drives our basic needs for food, money, and sustenance — anything that relates to the senses. Without level 1, we don’t survive.

Level 2 drives us to win, improve, get better, achieve, grow. Without level 2, we don’t thrive.

Level 3 is focused on providing blessings to others. These are the elements of our book “Trust Me” which provide great leadership.

  • Humility – “I don’t have all the ”
  • Development – “I want us to grow through the ”
  • Focus – “Let’s not get ”
  • Commitment – “We’re looking for the greater ”
  • Compassion – “I care about what you think and who you ”
  • Integrity – “I will not hold back, I will share who I am and what I ”
  • Peacemaking – “We want divergent perceptions leading to ”
  • Endurance – “We will endure to a committed ”

Level 4 is described by Aristotle as

  • Truth
  • Love
  • Purpose
  • Beauty
  • Unity

These become the elements of great teams and deliver the greatest level of happiness.

Over the next several blog posts, we will be exploring each of these “Team” elements in more detail.

The team is the sweet spot. The team is what makes you happier. The team is what provides the greatest value to your organization. A great team will provide the greatest of memories when you think back over your career and lifetime.

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