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  • Creating High Performance Teams

    If you want to bring out the best in people, you don’t start with problems or obstructions. Anje-Marijcke is adamant about that. ‘We live in a VUCA world with a high level of instability, which means you need teams with growth and development potential, teams with dynamics, teams that can see opportunities and create new solutions. Those kinds of teams go for the best results. From psychology we know that it is better to tap into the barrel of potential: working from values with your dream in mind boosts your talent – the approach from the Compass Vision. Naturally, there must be attention for the difficulties and situations in which you restrain yourself. But for that extra performance I always focus on what is possible, not what is impossible. And on three fronts: individual, team and leadership development.’

    vision, passion, action

    ‘Of course, there is a lot of fuss in the run-up to the race. The boat has to be restickered, there are boat trips with guests, interviews with the media. But that’s fuss, not stress! The crew, of course, would much rather just sail, but those guys realize only too well that the fuss is part of it all and that there would be no Ocean Race whatsoever without sponsors. If that is your ambition, you can deal with it and find a balance.

    If you start with the problems and what is not going well, you are reactive.The problem then becomes the trigger of your behaviour. A problem gives stress: it must be done differently. In response, you set to work to resolve the problem. And when the problem has been resolved, what do you do then? Exactly, then you don’t have to do anything. You just lay back and wait for the next problem. In terms of effectiveness, you don’t make any progress. You are just resolving problems one at a time as they arise.


    Imagine how differently you will learn, develop and perform if you start from vision, from your dream: how do you want it to be? This generates passion which leads to action aimed at that vision. You “do” things that bring your dream ever closer, which leads to even more optimistic emotions. Then you are proactive. Then you are really taking one step forward each time, with your compass pointing to where you want to be instead of what you want to get rid of. You’ll be able to learn, grow and perform to excellence. That is why we begin with the dream in the compass vision. Such a proactive approach works for both individuals and teams. That’s why, in coaching Team Brunel, I started searching for the underlying values and ambitions from a concrete story. First with the members of the crew individually and later with the entire team. My first question was: “Look at your peak experience in a team. What happened then in the team, what did you think, what did you do, how was the interaction, how did you manage to reach your performance?” You will also get there by looking at your worst experience in a lousy team. Bouwe’s reaction was splendid. “Going down with the Movistar,” he said “was the best team experience of my life.” That’s something you can extract values from.’

    Look at your peak experience in a team. What happened then in the team, what did you think, what did you do, how was the interaction, how did you manage to reach your performance?

    Anje-Marijcke van Boxtel, Schouten Global, coach Team Brunel

    focus on talent

    ‘Based on those values you build on the clear and challenging collective vision. The objective is clear: winning the Volvo Ocean Race. But how are we going to win, how are we as a team if we win? Who are we if we live our values, which include friendship, respect, teaching and ambition, for one hundred percent? How does that look in one vision? And how do we work to get optimal results? You set your compass needle to that image. This is the engine for change. From that focus you look to see what you can change and develop, in behaviour, in communication. Who can contribute which talents? Which talents should the team develop to bring that vision closer? Determine that, and then practise, experiment and fine tune. For example, challenge each other and address each other’s strengths to increase the level of the entire team, even if it means that you have to stretch yourself when you would preferably remain in the background. Teaching sometimes means that you have to be more clear than you feel comfortable with. Another group value was: “There are no I‘s in the group (egos).” There are, of course, but how do you deal with them if they threaten the dreamed group identity? You have to work on them! That will not happen overnight, of course. Developing talent is hard work. Sometimes you fall into your own trap and fall back into your old ineffective pattern - where you were crystal clear in the debrief, but you failed to act on board. But that doesn’t matter. Once you recognize this, you will know when you tend to fall back into your old pattern. Moreover, you learn from that. Just get up and start all over again until that new and more effective habit has become ingrained, individually and as part of the team. My main task in that respect: exploring, mirroring and encouraging.’

    individual, team and leadership development

    ‘If you want to create a top team, you will have to work on three aspects: individual, team and leadership development. Because it doesn’t matter how much talent you have on board or how often you train that talent, high performance is really only created when there is precise alignment between the inner compass and the team compass, there where the three aspects overlap each other. Initially I surprised the skipper with team coaching. “You coach me,” he said, “because I can always be a better leader. And you coach the guys separately.” A team, however, has a process of its own. It grows in its own way. As soon as he gained confidence in me, he became interested and I was given time to do something with the entire group. But I started with one-on-one discussions.

    That’s how, together, we build on creating a high performance team. Not by connecting to what is not going well but by focusing on talent, on what is going right, and then further developing those strengths. Initially the focus was on individual talents and ambitions, but also very soon on developing team talent and team ambition.

    You, Anje-Marijcke van Boxtel, coach me, because I can always be a better leader

    Bouwe Bekking, skipper Team Brunel


    In creating excellent teams, you start by exploring what is going well in the team. Think of a situation in the past that you are proud of. What did you do at the time? Which skills did you use? That’s where we start. Because that’s where the values lie. The steps are then:

    High Performance Teams steps.JPG

    individual, team and leadership development

    1. Definition What’s it all about, what are we going to work on (winning the Volvo)?
    2.  Discovery What are collective values from the perspective of what works in a team?
    3. Dream What is the collective aspiration? Imagine what might be if we take our values seriously. How are we as a team in order to win the Volvo?
    4. Design Determine what should be. What do we decide, how should it look? Action planning, indeed.
    5. Deliver Create what will be, implement, do it, get down to work.
    6. Review Reflection in and on action.

    What works, what are we going to work on, what are we going to change?’


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