Following best-practices is a smart way to get predictable results. That is until those best-practices are no longer relevant. Then continuing to use those outdated norms stifles your growth

That is what is happening in today's rapidly changing marketplace. The demographic and psychographic makeup of consumers is evolving. And advances in digital technologies continue to transform the way we live, communicate, and get things done.

To have a team that thrives in the midst of all these changes, you've got to be open to finding new ways to lead them to reach your goals, especially as more traditional methods show signs of being less effective.

Conrod Kelly is a 35-year old Executive Director and US Market Leader for the Diabetes Franchise at Merck, a leading global pharmaceutical company. Throughout his career, he's earned a reputation for building high-performing teams that exceed expectations.

I interviewed Conrod to gain insights into his leadership philosophy that has enabled him to consistently build teams that perform at a high level. He shared four ways he's abandoning the status quo to build teams equipped to play and win in today's evolving market. 

1. Stop hiring based on cultural fit.

Company culture is increasingly playing a bigger role in how well a business does at winning and keeping their customers. As a result, leaders traditionally looked for candidates that would seamlessly fit into the existing culture.

But Kelly notes, that model is limiting:

There was a point in time where when hiring people we'd say 'Is this person a good fit?' And the more I start to understand diversity, and the value of diversity, it's like, 'should we really be hiring people to see if they can fit into our box?' That's probably not how we should be thinking about that.

Cultivating a winning culture doesn't mean you have to focus on hiring people who fit so well that they give you more of the same. To elevate your impact, you have to embrace stepping outside your comfort zone, by adding people to your team that will help you expand your way of thinking about what good looks like.

2. Let your team envision how they are best able to contribute.

Often, companies will declare the vision for their company, establish the norms of how they expect people to operate, and then expect everyone to fall in line.

But if you want a team that shows up with a more entrepreneurial mindset, you've got to give them the freedom to think about their contribution strategically, so they can add value in a way that maximizes what they have to offer.

Conrod Kelly is a big believer in helping his team shape the culture, rather than the other way around. 

I don't rely so much on the company culture, I talk about this culture of excellence and epicness, and that starts to shape how people are thinking about it...If they know their own strengths, and they know their opportunities, then they know how we can work together to accomplish the larger goal.

3. Declare a common enemy to unify your team.

For a team to perform at a high-level, they've got to work together, rather than viewing each other as competition for the best performance ratings, accolades, or promotions. It also means they have to get rid of any insecurities that may cause them to hold back.

Kelly unifies and lights a fire under his team by getting them to focus their energy on beating a common enemy. Even if that enemy is an imaginary one.

I create an "us vs. the world" philosophy. It's that thing where you say 'they don't want us to succeed, they don't think we're great enough, they don't think we can hit our number, but we're going to show them!' What happens is, it gets you to stop thinking about being accepted by everyone else, and just saying 'I'm accepted by my team because we have a shared vision and we're in this together. 

4. Make transparency the norm.

Historically, company management shared information on a "need to know" basis with their staff. And team members often shared and discussed only the politically correct parts of themselves.

But Kelly argues that perpetuating these norms of selective communication puts walls up, rather than tearing them down.

As a leader, you have a responsibility to make sure that your team feels safe. 

He creates that safe space through transparency. That includes sharing feedback he's received, giving team members feedback publicly at meetings, encouraging sharing about their lives outside of work, and even carving out time for to discuss current events as a team.

You can build a high-performing team, even in the midst of significant and constant change. But you have to embrace leading your team in a way that looks different from the status quo.

Published on: Nov 9, 2017