Thomas: Welcome to the next episode of The High Performing Team. This is Thomas Mangum. Today’s guest you are sure to love. She has written the book with the most amazing title; “Our Journey to Corporate Sanity: Transformational Stories from the Frontiers of 21st Century Leadership.” Ayelet Baron is my guest today, and I love this woman. I hope you connect with her as well.
Thomas: Warm, connected, transformational, and conscious, she was an executive over at Cisco—amongst several other large companies. What I think is really cool here is that she brings a very enlightened approach to creating high performing teams, getting amazing results in corporate America just from this enlightened place. Listen in and I hope you enjoy the episode. Give me your feedback afterwards. All right, and away we go.
Thomas: Ayelet, thanks so much for being here. We’ve been connected by the great Tim McDonald. It has been, it feels like, a century trying to get us together and I’m so glad that you’re here today.
Ayelet: I am so thrilled to be here. Tim is the ultimate connector of connectors on this galaxy.
Thomas: Isn’t he? I’m so glad to have you on The High Performing Team. Of course, you know the first question is gonna be; what’s your definition of a high performing team, [a] championship team, [an] amazing team? Especially since you’ve been a part of some phenomenal companies, arguably, some brands that have been doing something right when it comes to teams. What is your definition of high performing team when you hear that term?
Ayelet: It’s a great question and one I think you’ve asked many times before as well. I think my definition of team has changed substantially since I left my corporate job at Cisco. I think that a lot of what we see out there today is still stuck in the 20th century, and my definition of team is more in the 21st century.
Ayelet: My definition is where everybody is an opportunity-maker and we come together around shared purpose. It’s no longer just necessary to be the smartest person in the room. It’s really important to be able to bring people together around a shared purpose so we move from a win-lose situation that is a 20th century scenario to a win-win where everybody wins, where we have to teach ourselves to be high-performing, how to lift others.
Ayelet: It’s good to have competition, but it’s better to have healthy competition and to see how we come together. For me, if you’re part of a large organization, being part of a team also is your employees, your customers, your partners, your vendors, your community. It goes much further than just building each other inside the company to compete with each other. So, what do you think about that definition?
Thomas: I like it, ’cause it’s enlightened. I think there’s a reason that—I think back to the title of your book, which is just, can you come up with a more brilliant title? “Our Journey to Corporate Sanity: Transformational Stories From the Frontiers of 21st Century Leadership.” I like the idea that it’s transformational stories. It’s a term I don’t get to hear in corporate very often. It’s refreshing, it’s provocative, it’s exciting.
Thomas: It’s something that I know I’ve been sharing with my groups as well, is that it’s not enough just to be this championship team, but can you do something transformational? Can you transform this group so that you have an amazing impact in the corporate space and really fulfill your mission out there? It’s not just about your team but, if your team is transforming, perhaps you can create some transformative results with the people that you’re impacting.
Ayelet: Absolutely. I think it’s a huge opportunity to reset it. When people step out of their fear, which is so apparent today … I was just on a call and we were talking about, maybe the opposite of fear is purpose. Maybe if we can get our teams focused, and I don’t mean commoditized purpose, I mean really understanding, why are we here, what are we doing? Research has shown that when you tie purpose and profit together, you will outperform anyone, again, in more of a team effort. Rather than taking people down, how do we come together in unity?
Thomas: One of the things that I’ve been so excited to get you on here is your book. If the listeners haven’t read that book, it’s a pretty big read. There [are] a lot of stories in there. What I’d love to know is either from your personal story or something that you heard with the folks that you are working with, what is that one that always comes to mind? If you could choose, man, this is the time that there was a shift, a turning point, an epiphany in some dysfunction in a team, and we just turned around so that we became so much more cohesive and high performing?
Ayelet: Yeah, I think that I’m gonna go a little bit strategic on this answer because I think what came out from this book is amazing 33 stories of amazing people, and what I hope is that other people find their stories as they read through these stories.
Ayelet: My realization was that business is the most powerful force organizing humanity right now because more and more people are choosing to identify themselves through what they do in the world. I think if we shift the conversation from the individual having a career, what team do you want to be part of? Wouldn’t it be great if you were looking for a new job or you were trying to attract and retain people? The conversation would move from the individual of, what’s your career path to what is your team path?
Ayelet: I think from the stories in the book, they’re all amazing.
Ayelet: One [that] really hits home for me in terms of leadership, of a team leader, of someone who’s based in Argentina who tells a story that he does everything for his team family. His son has soccer practice every Monday at five and he actually puts his whole calendar around his son’s soccer practice ’cause he doesn’t want to miss it. I think that’s pretty amazing. He says, “It’s as though I was on a plane for an hour and people couldn’t reach me.” He said, “My team actually really gets it and it helped change the performance of my team because of my focus on my family and my integration of it instead of saying work comes first.”
Ayelet: My hope and my dream is that we stop separating our personal self from our professional self and we realize that we’re one whole person. That we can come together as a team. The 21st century leader can bring the right people at the right time to have the right conversations. That ability to work cross-functionally, that ability to know people deeply and to be part of a bigger team because you have that purpose of what you’re creating in the world is the biggest opportunity in front of us that most people are still stuck and can’t see.
Thomas: Man, you know you’re preaching to the choir. I’m so excited to hear you say this. It’s nice because there are the innovators out there. There are those of us that are out there working with these teams, and one of the most common questions; “Thomas, how do I build a championship team? How do I increase my bottom line?” And all these other questions. It’s interesting because you’re looking outside versus inside. This is something I’m taking away, what you’re saying, be a part of a team. I see it as looking inward. It’s weird; to have the effect outward is like, look inward. This is your folks with the team.
Thomas: I’ve even shared that with the team. I share my experience. I’m like, “Guys, if I can’t do this with a team, then why is it worth doing?” I’m very dramatic about it. Like, what’s worth living if I can’t do it with a team? “That’s just ’cause you’re an extrovert, Thomas,” and that kind of thing.
Thomas: I’m like, “I don’t care what we’re doing,” I care a lot less about what I’m doing and what I’m selling. It could be routers and servers. It could be working for an NGO in India or something like that. If we’re doing it as a team, it’s very human to me. We’re doing something as a team that maximizes the impact and it’s meaningful to us.
Ayelet: I think this is where we kind of lost our path and common sense when it comes to business. We’re so focused on systems and structures and we forget about why we’re here and how do we bring people together. We’ve actually mixed up purpose. If you could tell your grandmother, your aunt and uncle, or someone and they could understand, what is it that you do and why is it important to the world, imagine what kind of world we can create. Too often, we look for the best practices.
Ayelet: I often get calls from people when they want to engage with me and they say, “Can you come in and do this? Can you tell us what Facebook or Google are doing?” I just stop and I go, “Yeah, but are you Facebook? Are you Google? Why don’t we tap into what your uniqueness is and what you’re doing in the marketplace and how you want to create a winning team there.”
Ayelet: Carl Young had a really insightful—well many—but one that I want to share with you. He says, “Your vision will become clear only when you can look into your own heart. Who looks outside dreams. Who looks inside awakens.” I think it’s time for business to awaken. I think the time is so ripe right now for us to really reboot business with a 21st century mindset. It’s time.
Thomas: Yeah. It takes that, and I want to echo that. I told you, I kind of felt you were my soul sister on this. It’s empowering and energizing that here I am, going out tomorrow to work with Bristol-Myers Squibb in New Jersey, and it’s invigorating. Sometimes we think that we’re out there alone. I think that’s why it’s so important that I want listeners to hear it from different voices. It’s just important. There are others out there with a little bit different take, kind of a similar thing. You get to reinvent.
Thomas: That saying that goes, “The person that you’re waiting for, that leader you’re waiting for, look in the mirror. It is you.” You want more peace on the team, you want more impact on the team, you want more connection, you want to reinvent, you think there’s a better way to create results as a team? Look in the mirror. Take that chance, you know, if you’re going be a part of the team.
Ayelet: That’s how the book ends, actually. If you’re not a reader, I would really recommend you read the introduction and you read the last two pages in the book because the last two pages of the book are a call to the architects of humanity.
Ayelet: What happened was I was driving across this bridge in San Francisco and it was crazy Silicon Valley traffic and everybody was cutting each other off. I was getting frustrated thinking, “Why is everybody so busy? Where is everybody going? What’s going on?” I just went into the right lane and I started to slow down. I just looked out into the water and said, “Oh my God, if I could just get 10 minutes with the architects of humanity, I just want to sit down for 10 minutes and talk to the architects of humanity.”
Ayelet: Then I just started laughing hysterically. I thought to myself, why is it that we’ve been conditioned that it’s always someone outside of ourselves that is the architect of humanity? I want more people to realize that we are the architects of our own human life and we’re the architects of the business that we’re in.
Ayelet: What you just said about leadership is so spot on because if more of us took control … It’s a myth that change only comes from the top. It’s a myth. It was true for the 20th century organizations, but for the leaders who are awakening, they understand that we need new leaders for the 21st century, we need to run our teams different. And once we get really grounded in our purpose to drive profitable business, then the structure, the systems, the technology come in and we thrive. This is a great opportunity to really wake up and see what’s possible.
Thomas: Okay, so we’re gonna take a little break here, listeners. We’ve got a short message for you. When Ayelet comes back, you are going to hear her answer, because I’m gonna ask, what she has found is the greatest difference in building a high performing team from her experience as a Chief Strategy Officer at Cisco and running teams?
Thomas: I want to be clear. Ayelet, correct me if I’m wrong, you’ve been both service provider and you’ve been in the company, I have to say, as a former strategy officer.
Ayelet: I’ve sat on every table and chair on all sides.
Thomas: Awesome. Perfect. We’re gonna get an answer to that and also what her advice is if she could go back to the beginning, what perhaps would she do differently. We’re gonna take a short break here and be right back.
Thomas: All right. Welcome back to The High Performing Team show. I’m with Ayelet Baron here. We’re breaking down what really makes the difference with creating a high performing team today, a championship team, an elite team, whatever you connect with. I know if you’re listening, very likely if you’re like most of our listeners, you are a part of a corporate team. That’s your thing.
Thomas: I’ve always made this very clear on the show, is that this isn’t just for someone has the title of Leader, or Executive, or Chief Executive, or that kind of thing. This is a lot for the members of the team because if you’ve been in any of the trainings that I facilitate at your company, then you realize that I always invite you into the possibility that you are the model of leadership. The person that you’re waiting for is when you look in the mirror. That’s powerful, because regardless of the title and anything that’s been bestowed upon you or your position, you get to be a model of possibility, you get to be a model of what’s going to happen on this team.
Thomas: If it doesn’t have the leadership that you like, if it doesn’t have the love and caring and the results that you would love this team to have, instead of moaning and groaning about it, be it, do it, influence it. Update from jerky place but bring a different energy, bring peace to it, bring compassion to it, bring connection to it. I give you that challenge to some degree. That’s another reason that I brought Ayelet over here. Again, the book is “Our Journey to Corporate Sanity: Transformational Stories from the Frontiers of 21st Century Leadership.” Listen guys, it’s not coming back the way it used to be. It’s a new world and we all get to be a part of that to create high-performing teams.
Thomas: Miss Ayelet, what have you found that has made the—if you had to distill it down, I know it’s so much bigger than this—but if you had to distill it down, what have you found that has made the greatest difference in building a high-performing team? And I guess you could really blend that into, if you could go back…what’s that one thing that you would do, what would you be?
Ayelet: Let me be right now. I think I can give you the example of probably the best team I’ve ever been on so far in my career.
Ayelet: That was when I was at Cisco. We created a global mobile team in 2003, a while back when people didn’t even know how to spell mobile. I was doing strategy for that globally. We hired, I think, about 77 of the most amazing global people from around the world—from Australia, China, Africa, Europe, everywhere. We focused on the purpose and we brought people together with so much fun and joy because we were clear about what we were trying to do and we were also very much pioneering. People didn’t know how to spell mobile at the time, especially outside of the US and Canada, where we had all these legacy technology solutions. It was a great opportunity to be able to drive people together.
Ayelet: I think the difference is that we didn’t look at making decisions for people. We looked at really collaborating and doing work with people. I think one thing that people take away from our talk today is that there’s nothing new. If you go back to the time of Socrates, for example, or Plato, we had more participatory leadership at the time where we did things with people. Socrates is known for asking questions, and listening, and the dialogue.
Ayelet: We no longer know how to do that really well. We’ve got amazing processes that have been introduced like Organizational Change Management and even Design Thinking. Both methodologies that I know really well and have practiced, but they have taken us into consensus management. They’ve had some participatory leadership, but they’re really something that’s being done to people for people. Even in design thinking, if you think about it, we do rapid prototyping, but it’s very, very limited.
Ayelet: What I’ve been practicing my entire career, both internally as an employee and also externally as an advisor to business and as a speaker, is something I call the Integrated Business Leadership Framework of how we really drive business from a problem in opportunity to holistic integration where we get people to participate and we tap into the human being. The way to tap into the human being is to see people, to see each other.
Ayelet: To understand that the three most important currencies for the 21st century are trust, relationships, and community. It’s no longer enough to say all the right words. It doesn’t matter if you’re inside a company, if you’re a customer, if you’re a partner, if you’re a part of the community. People are increasingly less trusting of institutions and less trusting of people talking at them and more looking for that meaning, those experiences of being part of something. The teams that really thrive, they take risks, they take courage, they take bravery.
Ayelet: They don’t sit there in the consensus just thinking about their raise because they care more about the world, and the planet, and where we’re all going. You can no longer pollute an ocean somewhere and not understand that it’s going to impact your family. We live in such an environment now that we see how connected we are, that the decisions that we start making in business becomes more important.
Ayelet: If we have a win-win mindset, a 21st century mindset, not to kill the competition … Imagine if you walked into your team and you said, “Instead of killing the competition, what’s on the edge? What can we go create? How can we go create a new market instead of taking something away from someone?”
Ayelet: Do you know how inspired and creative people would be? That is the thing. I was a theater major. I had to audition to do my under grad. I wanted to be a playwright. That’s what I wanted to do and I feel like I’m back, writing, I’m being an author, and speaking, and doing what I love to do. I want more people in the world, especially in teams, to find their bold and beautiful voice. When we can connect, it’s the most amazing music and rhythm that we can create on this Earth.
Thomas: Beautiful, beautiful, beautiful.
Thomas: Ayelet, we’re into your Quick Fire Questions round, kind of a fun little round there. Already making a mental note, I hope we get the opportunity to come back many times and dig in even deeper on a lot of what you shared. Would you be willing?
Ayelet: Absolutely—only if it helps people. For me, I’m all about return on impact. Forget about return on investment, that’s a given. Let’s do return on impact.
Thomas: Yeah, we got a lot of really delicious stuff to get through in the book. Some of us, I’m saying me and my fellows, we’d love to hear it. Sometimes it’s ambitious for us to read as much as hear it, so fine, I’ll put it in that format.
Thomas: Anyway, Quick Questions Round. Do you have any special routine, any special morning routine that gets you set up and puts you in the right space?
Ayelet: Wake up, that’s it.
Thomas: Fabulous. I’m awake today.
Thomas: What’s a piece of technology or an app or something you just can’t live without?
Ayelet: There’s two. Can I cheat? There’s Flipboard, which I love. I get most of my information through Flipboard by customizing it and I also produce magazines on it so I can share with others. It’s the gift that keeps on giving. And video. Video is the most amazing technology on Earth.
Thomas: Do you have a favorite book, or resource, or even a favorite quote that you’d like to recommend?
Ayelet: I already gave you my quote.
Thomas: You did. I got that.
Ayelet: Yeah. My favorite quote is by Socrates. “An unexamined life is not worth living.” One of my favorite resources are other human beings that I can learn from. Taking the time to look at this ancient technology called the two-way conversation or dialogue is one of my favorite ones.
Thomas: I love you. I love you even more. Oh my gosh.
Thomas: Who is someone you look to besides Socrates as an influence?
Ayelet: I just like to see people. I went and did a keynote a couple weeks ago. The woman who was driving me to the talk was amazing. She was 63, she lost her job, and she was driving. We had the most amazing two-hour conversation. Anywhere I go, I don’t know who and what I’m gonna learn from. Then she was so sweet. She delivered a bag with Meyer lemons from her tree and also a CD from the 70s that she produced. That was just amazing. She wasn’t a driver, she was Judy, an amazing woman who really cares about the health and welfare of other people.
Thomas: Anything you were hoping I would’ve asked you on this show?
Ayelet: Um, my shoe size. No, I’m just kidding.
Thomas: Oh my God.
Ayelet: I’m just really excited that you’re doing this show and I’m really excited to see more people stepping up and taking control of our lives. I think life is just one great adventure and it doesn’t matter if you’re a millennial or if you’re one of our wise elders. Each of us count on this planet and we need to start seeing each other more. Probably just talking a little bit more about why life matters and why work just needs to be a part of it so we can get away from our addiction to busyness. It’s probably a good conversation for next time.
Thomas: Yeah. Okay!
Thomas: Who would you recommend that we host on the show? You’ve kind of got a flavor of what’s going on. It is The High Performance Team. I don’t put it necessarily in the intro, but it’s the higher performing team, the high performance team in a conscious enlightened 21st century future way.
Ayelet: Lisa Hendrickson, for sure.
Thomas: Okay, we got it. Thank you.
Thomas: Yeah, thank you so much—
Ayelet: Thank you!
Thomas: — for your time, your energy, your presence, your wisdom, and absolutely your flexibility. Knowing that you and I must live on planes because the time zones, locking us down was … I don’t know. Sometimes I think, “Man, if it’s that tough for me to open up time on the schedule,” but maybe you, I suspect, your self-care is a priority.
Thomas: If you’re flying and all of this, it’s like, yeah, did I have five minutes between that flight or 15, 20 minutes? Sure. Could we have done something? I’ve just learned no, take care of you, Thomas. You’re flying all the time.
Thomas: Yeah, thanks so much with that and if people are interested in finding out more about you, connecting with you, how can you be reached? Where should they go?
Ayelet: You can find me very easily if you can find my name. You can go to my website, which is ayeletbaron.com, or you can tweet me, DM me @ayeletb, or you can email me, which is my first name, Ayelet, my eternal age, 27, email@example.com.
Thomas: Okay. Of course we’ll have all this on the site as well. Thanks to everyone for listening to The High Performing Team. Make sure that you share the love and connect with our guest. If something resonated, please let us know. We love the feedback. All right, we’ll hear you next time.