April 19, 2024
TEAM LEADERS: Communicate Your Responsibilities to Your Team!


If you are a Team Leader, one of the first things you will need to do is let your team know the full scope of your roles and responsibilities.

You may think they know, but it's very likely that they don't -- at least not at the level of specificity that a high performing team requires.

And if team members don't understand what you actually DO -- and WHY you do it -- chances are good that they will resist, rebel, or reject your efforts to play your role.

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1. HOW TO PROCEED: As soon as possible, meet with your team and explain the scope of your role. If you happen to be a new team leader (and your team is doubtful of your skills, leadership ability, or authority),let them know, who, specifically, in your organization, has empowered you to BE the Team Leader and that you take your responsibility very seriously.

Be sure to mention that one of your main roles is to be a helpful resource for team members -- to be there for them to help ensure that they enjoy their job, learn, grow, collaborate, and accomplish their ambitious performance goals for the year.

NOTE: Some members of your team probably perceive you as the person who is going to judge, evaluate, correct, criticize, intimidate, and hassle them. Paranoia alert! This is old school thinking. Or more like pre-school thinking.

A savvy team leader will quickly dispel this bogus notion. The faster you can let your team know that the essence of your role is be of of major support to them, the better.

2. BE SPECIFIC ABOUT YOUR ROLES AND RESPONSIBILITIES: The term "Team Leader" will mean different things to different people. Unless you explain precisely what your role is (and what it's not), you will be at the mercy of your team members' wide range of concepts, assumptions, and projections.

The best way to minimize this kind of background noise is to clearly and confidently describe, one by one, your Team Leader roles and responsibilities.

Towards that end, take a look at the list of your possible roles and responsibilities below. Note the ones that accurately describe your job and add whatever items may be missing.

-- Help your team articulate and fulfill its mission statement
-- Listen non-judgmentally
-- Share your expectations for the year
-- Establish and uphold standards of excellence
-- Facilitate the process of establishing team agreements

-- Work with team members to set performance goals
-- Observe and evaluate performance on-the-job
-- Give useful, humane, and timely feedback
-- Coach and mentor
-- Clarify team members' roles and responsibilities

-- Hold people accountable for results
-- Identify, clarify, and communicate team processes
-- Facilitate team meetings
-- Secure resources for the team
-- Ensure that team members create their Learning Plans for the year

-- Promote the teams' successes to Senior Leadership
-- Establish a simple, inspiring ideation process
-- Conduct performance reviews
-- Acknowledge individual and team progress
-- Address team challenges, conflicts, and breakdowns
-- Do everything possible to ensure the team's well-being


Idea Champions

Posted by Mitch Ditkoff at 11:39 AM | Comments (0)

November 07, 2023
How to Go Beyond the Team Leader Overload Syndrome

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Most team leaders often find themselves overloaded and overwhelmed. "Too much to do and not enough time," is their mantra. And here's why:

1. They haven't established clear expectations with their team
2. They don't totally trust the people they lead
3. They haven't communicated their role to team members
4. They want everyone to like them
5. They don't know how to delegate
6. They have unclear boundaries
7. They are addicted to rescuing people
8. They think their way is the best way
9. They are impatient for results
10. They don't know how to empower others

Not good for business. Not good for the team. And not good for the health of the team leader. But it doesn't have to be that way. And the "fix" is way simpler than you think.

Next time a member or your team tries to dump a problem at your feet, shirks responsibility, or wants you to "save the day," STOP and ask yourself any of the following questions:

1. "Who's problem is this, really?"
2. "How can this issue be framed as a HOW CAN I question?"
3. "Does this person understand what I expect of them?"
4. "Is this person clear about their roles and responsibilities?"
5. "Do I have the time and interest to take on this project?"

6. "If I do have time, what support can I offer?"
7. "Who else, on the team, might be able to help with this?"
8. "How can I empower this person to own the project?"
9. "How can I let the person do it their way?"
10."What's the simplest thing I can do to lend support?"

PS: Leadership doesn't mean doing everything yourself. Leadership means helping other people lead -- and take ownership for results.

Idea Champions
WORKSHOP: Launching Project Teams
The two-hour, online brainstorm facilitation training

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March 27, 2023
What Does It Really Mean to be an Effective Team Leader?

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On planet Earth, there are millions of teams. They are everywhere -- in schools, businesses, communities, sports, organizations, armies, religions, and jails. If you are reading this, it is very likely that you are either a member of a team or a leader of a team.

Some of the teams you belong to are achieving their goals. Some are not. In either case, there is a 95% chance that somebody is playing the role of leader, captain, coach, coordinator, or director. You know, the person where the buck supposedly stops.

The reality is this: few team leaders understand what it really means to be a team leader and how to be a team leader -- especially those who have been drafted into the position by someone further up the food chain.

What follows are ten best practices of high performing team leaders. Start with the one you most need to pay attention to...


1. Clarify, Communicate, and Reinforce Your Team's Mission: Unless team members understand the purpose/goal of the team, they will never become a team. A group? Maybe. A club? Possible. A loose affiliation of people being paid by the same employer? Perhaps. But not a team. A team without a clearly defined purpose is like a bathtub without water. It might look good from the outside, but it never really delivers the goods.

2. Elicit Intrinsic Motivation: Lots of team leaders think their role is to motivate people. Well, sort of... but motivating people only goes so far. The real goal of a team leader is to awaken intrinsic motivation in team members -- so motivation comes from within and doesn't depend on the team leader always having to pump people up. That gets old, fast. And it's not sustainable.

3. Foster a Climate of Collaboration: Every team has its own culture, vibe, or feeling to it. When this culture, vibe, or feeling is a positive one and conducive to people bringing their "A" game, your team has a good chance of succeeding. When the culture, vibe, or feeling is negative, stressful, or inhuman, your team does not have a good chance of succeeding. Make sense?

4. Establish and Uphold Standards of Excellence: You, as a team leader, are the standard bearer. You set the tone. You raise the bar and help people understand where that bar is. In other words, your expectations matter. Towards that end, you will need to be very clear with team members about what your standards of excellence are. If you haven't articulated them yet, you have a bit of work to do.

5. Establish and Uphold Team Agreements: These are very much related to Standards of Excellence, but are more specific and behavioral -- the measurable norms of your team, the agreements team members hold sacred. Here is your starter kit.

6. Give and Receive Feedback: Face it. Very few people like getting feedback. Why not? Because they equate it with criticism or judgment of their performance, rather than a way to learn, improve, and grow. As a team leader, one of your roles is to provide humane feedback -- to your team as a whole and to individual contributors. It is also important for you to receive feedback from team members. How to do this well, of course, is another matter.

7. Facilitate Productive Meetings:
Most team meetings are a waste of time. Boring, meandering, and ineffective -- with little meaningful follow-up. But they don't have to be that way. As a team leader, you will need to raise your meeting facilitation game. Will it take some time? Yes, it will, but it will be time well-spent because effective team meetings have a huge, positive impact on morale, collaboration, communication, problem solving, ideation, alignment, fun, decision making, and results. HINT: It all begins with your state of mind.


8. Express Appreciation and Celebrate Success: This just in. The cup is not half empty. It is half full. No matter how far your team may be from succeeding, the fact of the matter is that progress is being made. Unfortunately, most team leaders infrequently acknowledge that progress, focusing instead on problems, inefficiencies, gaps, disappointments, data, and firefighting. Not a good idea. If you want your team to become more high performing, start looking for ways to regularly acknowledge and appreciate team members.

9. Listen, Coach and Mentor: Sometimes, the only thing team members need is for you to listen to them -- as in giving them a chance to vent, be heard, and make suggestions without the fear of being judged. If you listen more deeply than you currently do, you will soon understand what kind of coaching or mentoring team members need. And if YOU don't have the time or skill to coach and mentor team members, maybe you can find someone who can.

10. Mediate Conflicts: Every team, like every marriage, family, or friendship hits some speed bumps along the way. Feathers get ruffled. Feelings get hurt. Misalignment happens. Welcome to real life. As a team leader, it is your responsibility to notice these conflicts and intercede as necessary. If the conflict needing remediation feels too difficult for you to address, look for someone in your organization better suited to play that role.

11. Secure Resources and Support: One of a team leader's roles is to make sure his/her team has everything it needs to succeed. And that includes equipment, technology, suitable work space, coffee, tea, water, and refreshments. It might also include more support (or recognition) from Senior Leadership.

12. Empower Team Members to Solve Their Own Problems: One of the biggest challenges for any team leader is the "monkey on the back syndrome" -- the phenomenon of team members dumping their complaints and problems at the leader's feet. While, of course, there are times when team leaders need to enter into problem solving mode, most of the time all they really need to do is listen, help team members frame the right questions, and empower them to solve their own problems.

Posted by Mitch Ditkoff at 01:58 AM | Comments (0)

June 26, 2020
Why Don't More People Share Their Best Practices with Each Other?


If you are a member of a team, business, school, or volunteer organization, there's a good chance you want whatever project you are working on to succeed. Yes? Towards that end, you work hard, think hard, generate ideas, go to meetings, fight fires, and (hopefully) learn from your mistakes. If you are like most people, you sometimes get together with your team and talk about ways to increase your odds of success.

Still, there's a good chance you may be overlooking one of the simplest, most effective ways to make progress -- and that is the sharing of best practices.

"Best practices", a much written about topic in the business literature, is really nothing more than a two-word euphemism for "what works" -- the efforts you and your colleagues make that are already contributing to your success. The good stuff.

Curiously, however, "best practices" are rarely shared in most organizations and, even when they are, they are not shared effectively. Why? There are ten main reasons.



1.Command and Control: The leaders of most enterprises, even if they won't admit it, aren't really committed to people sharing their ideas with each other. It sounds strange, but it's true. Why does this phenomenon exist? Because ideas, freely shared, often end up "rocking the boat." Old ways of doing things get challenged. The status quo gets confronted. New possibilities need to be considered, evaluated, and funded. Or not funded. More emails abound. More opinions. More disagreements. More meetings. Cranky-inducing stuff.

2. No Clear, Compelling Vision of Success: If people, working on same project, aren't on the same page about WHY they are working together and WHY they get out of bed in the morning, it is unlikely that they will be motivated enough to go beyond the "same old, same old" syndrome. Without a clear, compelling vision to motivate them beyond the call of duty, many people end up just going through the motions. Rote takes precedence. Old habits rule. Mediocrity prevails.

3. No Sense of Interdependence:
People will not take the time to share their insights, ideas, and best practices with each other if there is no recognition of the need to collaborate. If teamwork is not a clearly articulated (and reinforced) organizational value, there will be very little chance that the people doing the work are going to make the effort to connect with each other.

4. Lack of Trust and Appreciation: People may recognize the need to collaborate with each other, but they may not like or trust each other. It takes effort to reach out to other people -- especially people who are different than you. Sometimes, it's a risk, especially for introverts. Plus, if people are working in remote locations, in different time zones, the degree of difficulty increases. Without trust and a genuine appreciation for the perspective of others, best practices will rarely, if ever, be shared.

5. No Clarity About What a Best Practice Is: If you ask me to bring a tuna fish sandwich to a meeting, I can do that. But if you ask me to bring a "best practice", who knows what you'll get. If you want best practices to be shared in your organization, be very clear about what you are asking people to communicate.

6. No Intention. No Agreement. No Buy-In: It's fine to generically request people to share their best practices, but unless your request is understood, honored, and owned. it's just fairy dust. People are busy. People are maxed. You asking them to do one more thing will likely be met with head nods at best. So, if you want to make this best practice sharing thing real, you will need to make the effort to build a case for it and give people a chance to commit to it from an authentic place.


7. Fear of Judgment: Some people have a truckload of best practices to share, but they are sometimes concerned that other people may not think their best practices are so hot. Or, if they've done something they think is truly innovative, they may be concerned that others will judge them for not asking permission or going one bridge too far. The result? They clam up and keep things to themselves.

8. The Perception of Lack of Time:
Face it. We live in an ADD world. Even the fact that you have read this far is astounding. If a person thinks they have no time, there is very little chance they are going to say YES to a "best practice sharing process" that will take some time -- even if the process, itself, will yield ideas that will save them time and radically increase their odds of success.

9. Lame Listening: The sharing of best practices requires two things: someone to speak and someone to listen. Most of us, of course, would rather speak than listen. If you and your team are committed to sharing what you are learning with each other, make sure that listening -- real listening -- is baked into the process.

10. No Platform: Sharing best practices with other people requires some kind of communication method or platform. If your team does not have a reliable way to share what they are learning, it's doubtful they will. What platform might work best for your team? Group skype calls? One-on-one phone calls? Monthly meetings? Email? A Facebook Group? An end-of-the-year conference? A blog?

What other obstacles would you add to the above list? But more importantly, what can YOU do in the next seven days to jump start the process of the team you work most closely with sharing their best practices with each other?

Idea Champions
Micro-Learning for Innovators

Posted by Mitch Ditkoff at 12:12 PM | Comments (0)

May 25, 2020
RALLY THE TROOPS: Does Your Team Have a Mission Statement?

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A team is a group of people who work together toward a common goal -- a group with a defined membership and a set of activities that define the scope of its work.

The key phrase in the preceding sentence? Common goal. When the common goal is clear, compelling, and embraced by team members, good things usually happen. When the common goal is not clear, compelling, or embraced by team members, symptoms of team dysfunction begin to manifest.

The common goal of a team is its mission. Its purpose. Its reason for being. Why people get out of bed in the morning.

A team's mission statement clarifies the what, who, and why it exists. It is not a vision statement. A vision statement evokes what will be. A mission statement declares what is.

What follows are inspiring examples of organizational mission statements. Notice how specific they are... how practical... and how inspiring! If your team is lacking a mission statement, consider the following as "grist for the mill."

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Google: "To organize the world's information and make it universally useful and accessible."

AT&T: "Being the world's best at bringing people together -- giving them easy access to each other and to the information and services they want and need -- anytime, anywhere."

Ben & Jerry: "Make, distribute, and sell the finest quality all-natural ice cream and related products in a wide variety of innovative flavors made from Vermont daily products."

Binney & Smith: "Produce the best quality, safest products for colorful visual expression for enjoyment, learning and work."

Nike: "Bring inspiration and innovation to every athlete in the world."

Microsoft: "Empower people through great software -- any time, any place, and on any device."

Steelcase: "Help people work more effectively."

American Red Cross: "Provide relief to victims of disasters and help people prevent, prepare for, and respond to emergencies."

Life Is Good: "Spread the power of optimism."

Nordstrom: "To give customers the most compelling shopping experience possible."

Prezi: "To reinvent how people share knowledge, tell stories, and inspire their audiences to act."

Tesla: "To accelerate the world's transition to sustainable energy."

TED: "Spread ideas."

PS: Words matter. And so does the intention behind the words. For example, if you are a member of an IT team, which of the following mission statements are more likely to get you out of bed in the morning?

"We fix stuff that employees can't figure out or don't have the patience to figure out, so they constantly badger us to work long hours and solve their problems when we have lots of other, more important things to do."

"We empower our colleagues to master the tools of technology so they can achieve extraordinary results in the simplest, most powerful, and least stressful way possible."

Idea Champions
Illustrations: gapingvoid

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April 26, 2020
Why Team Leaders at Al Siraat College Want to Be Team Leaders


Thirty four very dedicated teachers, staff members, and senior leaders from Al Siraat College in Epping, Australia are participating in a long-term Team Leadership Development training. What follows are some of their comments about WHY they have chosen to take on this very demanding role.

"I love responsibility, challenge, mentoring, and making things happen. I feel that being a team leader allows me to add value to others and importantly make valuable changes to my workplace to challenge myself and add value as a professional. Specifically, at Al Siraat, I want to improve student culture and make it the school of choice for all Muslim students. I want students, when they leave, to have had amazing memories of their time here." - Fatema Faoual

"I enjoy assisting people in achieving their potential. This includes teachers and students. I like to inspire a love of knowledge and learning. I encourage and support the development of growing people both ethically and intellectually. I also want to encourage my own growth as a person." - Wayne Semmens

235435200.jpg "I want to be a team leader to help our school become an extraordinary learning place for students to enjoy their 13 years here and beyond -- and to be healthy and active for a lifetime." - Daniel Saleh

"I want to make a difference. I have learned so much from making mistakes. I want to be able to share and apply my knowledge, skills, and at times, my wisdom." - Esra Boz

"To start off, I didn't want to be a team leader, but thanks to Ms. Rahat, who saw the quality in me that I have the personality and commitment to be a Quran team leader. And I am loving it." - Maryam Omer


"I thrive in an environment that allows me to challenge myself to reach my own potential." - Aseel Tebeileh

"I want to make a difference in the college. I want to be remembered as the person that created a fantastic secondary team at ASC --thereby creating a great secondary school that will be the envy of other schools." - Vis Naidu

"I want to increase the skills I have gained as a teacher to the next level and provide opportunities to engage with my colleagues and benefit from them, as well." - Gulcan Ayvaz

185954154.jpg "I believe that I will have more opportunity to make a difference -- to change and improve the members of my team and pass on my learneng and experience." - Shahzad Syed

"I have passion for my topic! I want the best for my family, students, and colleagues. I want to make a difference." - Adel Ayoubi

"I want to make a bigger contribution to the school, to serve other teachers in the school, and to help improve the standards of the school." - Syed Fareed Bin Abdul Manaf


"At first, I never thought I could be a team leader. I thought you had to be efficient in your work. Spotless! Flawless! Then my mentor gave me a chance to be a team leader and guess what? I love it! I learned how to manage a group of people to make a difference. I learned to help people enhance their strengths, and I think I Iearn something everyday." - Misbah K. Aqeel

"I want to be able to fulfill the trust that has been given to me to develop inspired individuals of learning and character." - Fazeel Arain

"I want to impact the work of others that will have a positive impact on our children, and ultimately, to gain the pleasure of our Creator." - Rahat Arain


"I like to mentor individuals within my team, as I believe that we are all constantly learning and can learn so much from each other. I like responsibility, work well under pressure, and I like to know what's going on. I also like to feel as though I am making a difference." - Leah Hamel

"I want to be a voice and servant to my team, while being a teacher in the classroom. I want to help my team with their concerns and get them ironed out, managed, solved efficiently, and addressed comfortably. I want to make and create my department into one people I can look up to rather than look down." - Asim Malik

"I'd like to, in a small way, contribute to the growth of Al Siraat". - Sitki Esenyel


"I want to be a team leader to have a great impact on students learning and ultimately become of good service to God Almighty." - Suffian Amin

"I have been teaching science for the last 25 years and have had a good experience in science curriculum and other disciplines. I would like to share my knowledge and experience with Al Siraat teachers." - Naga Thayakrishna

"I want to promote positive leadership skills and ideas to ASC staff and students. I want to share learned skills with students. I want to mentor and coach students to be be able to perform better at life skills and explore the hidden talents and skills they possess. I also want to develop trust and training skills that I can use with students." - Noori Ahmed

403694488.jpg "I've been in the school since it first stated and have experienced a huge growth -- personally, as a professional educator, and as a person. I want to be part of a leadership team to offer my skills and expertise that will make a difference and impact our students and others." - Shahidah Osman

"I want to be a team leader at Al Siraat because I am glued to a vision of developing students who are able to fulfill their purpose in life. I want to be a team leader because it is the only school that seems to be ripe to do a lot for our school community. Above all, I was brought here for a reason by the Founders and want to live up to their expectations." - Mohammed Azim

"Education has always been important to me, as I come from a family of less-educated people. Imparting knowledge to people who may have grown up in similar, poor circumstances has also been important to me. I want to use my knowledge and abilities as well as my passion for learning, to impact change on a larger scale." - Terrance Cobb

"I am goal driven and have a natural desire to help and support others. Even if I am not a team leader, I end up doing that role anyway -- so to be given a little more time to do it would be wonderful." - Cheryl Becker

"Everyone brings unique qualities. As a leader, I can share, refine, and learn amongst others. I like to inspire and motivate people to accept and learn from change. I like to move and challenge the people around me to move forward and I like to assist in making things better for all." - Colin McDowell

469662800.jpg "I didn't want to be a team leader. I was selected to be a team leader. I am learning and trying to be a good leader. It has been a difficult journey. Why am I sticking to it is because Ms. Summer and Ms. Evla and other leadership members are supporting, coaching, and guiding me. Plus, Ms. Summer didn't accept my verbal resignation. Also, being a part of Mitch's Team Leadership Training has given me the courage and skills to try to be a better team leader." - Elif Boz

"There are two types of people/professionals in a school -- teachers and people who help teachers. As a leader, it's important to me not just to be of service, but to enable my colleagues to learn continually through reflective practice and dialogue and capacity building. I love the relational experience and opportunities I have as a team leader. I believe there is a strong alignment with my faith values that leadership involves, such as benevolence and stewardship and compassion." - Evla Han


"I want to bring innovations to my team and ideas and ease in business, so my team can work on its own and work in conjunction with other teams. I want to respect other teams and be respected." - Maqsood Ahmad

"I want to try to make life easier for teachers and administrative staff with respect to mundane activities so that they can focus on objectives. I hope to assist with the above, regardless of my position." - Bilal Deniz

"I want to contribute to the vision and success goals of the school." - Sev Bektash

"I've always loved helping others. As a team leader, I am grateful to be presented with many more opportunities to do what I love; help others." - Amina Zeneli

"I want to be a team leader so I can learn and implement steps in my team to make them happier and help them perform better." - Salman Khan

Idea Champions

Posted by Mitch Ditkoff at 09:31 AM | Comments (0)

April 09, 2020
TRAINING TESTIMONIALS: Al Siraat College Team Leaders


What follows are testimonials from teachers and staff at Al Siraat College, an Austrialian K-12 school in the Islamic tradition, who recently participated in Idea Champions' Team Leadership Training -- a series of seven 90-minute modules delivered onsite over the course of a month. Al Siraat engaged our services to help 23 of their team leaders learn how to raise the bar for teamwork, collaboration, and communication.


"I found the training to be highly relevant to what I do and the success of the organisation. After all, it is people, working on effective teams, that will move us forward." - Fazeel Arain, Principal

"The training was an experience that will live long in my memory. I will constantly use these skills in the challenges I encounter as a coach, trainer, head of department and, above all, as a teacher." - Mohammed Azim, Head of English

"The leadership training was a great opportunity to reflect on the processes, procedures, and relationships within my team and allowed me to develop my skills and knowledge to drive and motivate my team to achieve our shared vision." - Fatema Faoual, Secondary Years Team Leader

"The Team Leadership Training was the best professional development I have ever experienced. I found many aspects of it very useful for my own personal growth and for my growth as a team leader." - Wayne Semmens, Head of Maths

"I found the training extremely beneficial. It provided me with a different perspective of looking at my leadership skills." - Suffian Mohammed Amin, Head of Art & Technology


"I felt like I was given the required tools to be able to fulfill my duties and be well-equipped with moving my team forward, as well as pushing them to excel more and more." - Asim Malik, Head of Islamic Studies

"Thank you so much for everything you have done for Al Siraat. We are very lucky to have you, at our school, facilitating the leadership training." - Daniel Saleh, Head of Health & Physical Education

"Mitch was very inspiring, well-prepared, and flexible throughout the sessions. He adjusted the speed and content on-the-go, based on the need of our group." - Shahzad Syed, Director Support Services

"The training gave me confidence and a lot to learn about my self before leading my team. I'm sure that, with the ongoing support I will get, I can uplift my team to higher and higher levels." - Maryam Omer, Head of Quran

"The Team Leadership Training provided me with a much-needed pause to not only reflect on my current leadership skills, but also learn important strategies to get better. Well worth the investment of time." - Rahat Arain, Director Student Learning & Achievement

"It was a wonderful experience taking part in the Leadership Training -- a great learning environment for me." - Shukran Chohan, Maintenance Team Leader

"The Team Leadership Training was vital. It highlighted the importance of re-defining a team's role and extending appreciation, rather than the do more approach." - Maqsood Ahmad, Accounts & Finance Team Leader

"The training equipped me with ways to improve meetings and communication with my team. I began thinking outside of current practices and looking for ways to be more streamlined and efficient." - Vis Naidu, Head of Secondary School

"Attending the Team Leadership training gave me an opportunity to reflect on my own leadership style and skills. It encouraged me to think about not only my strengths as a leader, but explore areas where I need more support." - Cheryl Becker, Year 4 Team Leader

"As a result of the training. I gained more confidence in my leadership role." - Naga Thayalakrishna, Head of Science

"The training gave us a very practical approach to deal with any group of people we belong to and how we can maintain a collaborative approach in achieving our personal and team goals." - Salman Khan, Project and Site Manager



"I found the training to be highly relevant to what I do and the success of the organisation. After all, it is people in effective teams that will move us forward." - Fazeel Arain, Co-Founder and Principal

"I found this training to be highly participatory and inclusive. The facilitation was outstanding with plenty of time to reflect and ponder upon our own practices. I am inspired to rethink the way I plan, coordinate, and present my work. It is an experience that will live long in my memory. I will constantly use these skills in the challenges I encounter as a coach, trainer, head of department and above all, as a teacher. Doing this intensive training with our awesome facilitator, made me realise that we need to look at our internal world in order to change our external outcomes. I highly recommend this training for any one in leadership role and even those aspiring to be leaders." - Mohammed Azim

"The leadership training was a great opportunity to reflect on the processes, procedures, and relationships within my team and allowed me to develop my skills and knowledge to drive and motivate my team to achieve our shared vision. The sessions allowed me to really reflect on what my team wants to achieve, including our goals and mission and how we will get there. This is a great addition to any leaders skill set!" - Fatema Faoul

"The Team Leadership Training was the best professional development I have ever done. I found many aspects of it very useful in both my personal growth and as a team leader. In particular, the following: 1) The Receive/Reframe/Request approach to problem solving; 2) Ten ways to become a better listener; 3) The LCS feedback technique; 4) Mitch attending a faculty meeting and facilitating an LCS session on my own improvement as a Head of Learning; 5) One-on-one coaching sessions with Mitch." - Wayne Semmens


"I found the training extremely beneficial. It provided me with a different perspective of looking at my leadership skills. The importance of re-framing problems and asking a HOW CAN WE? question is very powerful. I thoroughly benefited from Mitch's guidance and expertise, especially when it comes to providing feedback to my team members. The small group size is a must-keep for the next round of training as it allows participants to share in a very non-threatening environment." - Suffian Mohammed Amin

"At first, I was a bit hesitant when I saw all of the modules that were going to be covered, and how overwhelming it seemed. I went into the training not knowing what to expect. Each session became more meaningful and relevant than the previous one, and a lot of my concerns and barriers were broken down and were made less of a problem for me. Coming out of the leadership training, I felt like I was given the required tools to be able to fulfill my duties and be well-equipped with moving my team forward, as well as pushing them to excel, more and more. It gave me the skills to be able to efficiently lead my team, be disciplined, as well as reflect on myself and be able to systematically run things and progress in my department. I highly recommend this training for anyone who is either wanting to build a foundation for leadership, refresh their skills, or learn something new. I can guarantee there are things that will be put into perspective and allow you to be able to structure and organise your way of doing things in a way that suits you and are comfortable with. I'm a person that finds it hard to pay attention when things are boring, but this training was hard for me to divert my attention away from. I know Mitch has a lot more to offer as this was a condensed training, so I'm looking forward to being apart of the next level of his training modules." - Asim Malik


"Thank you so much for everything you have done for Al Siratt. We are so lucky to have you at our school facilitating the eadership training. I especially liked the way you engaged us, set the team agreements, and gave us opportunities to apply what we learned." - Daniel Saleh

"Mitch was very inspiring, well-prepared, and flexible throughout the sessions. He adjusted the speed and content on-the-go, based on the need of our group. I learned by practicing and applying my learnings on my team. The biggest win for me was to work closely, engage, and build relationship with other team leaders who I may not have come across in my usual day-to-day." - Shahzed Syed

"I loved everything that was taught in this significant time. The training gave me confidence and a lot to learn about my self I'm sure that, with the ongoing support I will get, that I can uplift my team to more higher and higher levels. All the materials were on-the-spot and easy to understand and implement." - Maryam Omer

"The team leadership training provided me with a much needed pause to not only reflect on my current leadership skills, but also learn important strategies to get better. Mitch, through his usual engaging style, invited our group to commit to simple changes that had high impact value. I really enjoyed his style of hosting the training as I was then able to apply it immediately to my own meetings with good effect. Well worth the investment in time." - Rahat Arain

"It was a wonderful experience being part in Leadership Training -- a great learning environment for me. We learned many new ideas which we can adopt to our daily working habits to obtain many positive results. It's always a great outcome when many brilliant minds get together to achieve good for their origination." - Shukran Chohan


"The Team Leadership Training was vital. It highlighted the importance of re-defining a team's role and extending appreciation rather than the do more approach." - Maqsood Ahmad

"The Team Leadership Training enabled me, to pause, reflect and review my current methods and approaches. It equipped me with ideas and ways of improving meetings and communication with my team. I began thinking outside of current practices and started looking for ways to be more streamlined and efficient in meetings with my team." - Vis Naidu

"Attending the Team Leadership course gave me an opportunity to reflect on my own leadership style and skills. It encouraged me to think about not only my strengths as a leader, but explore areas I need advice and support in as well. Mitch taught us all strategies to use to help lead our teams to their best potential. I am really keen to implement LCS as soon as I can. I am certain it will help me develop not only my own skills, but make my team feel better supported as well." - Cheryl Becker

"As a result of the training, I gained more confidence in my leadership role, such as: 1) How to help my team collaborate and work together; 2) If any problems arise, how to resolve those problems; 3) How to make a quick decision in an urgent situation; 4) How to handle people with different personalities." - Naga Thayalakrishna

"The training enabled us not only look at how we relate to our colleagues, but how we treat others, out of work. It gave us a very practical approach to deal with any group of people we belong to and how we can maintain a collaborative approach in achieving our personal and team goals." - Salman Khan

Idea Champions
Team Leadership Training facilitator
Go beyond the team leader overload syndrome
A clue for team leaders

Posted by Mitch Ditkoff at 09:55 PM | Comments (0)

September 09, 2019
The Perfect Want Ad

Simon Sinek cuts to the chase. This is all you really need to know if you are trying to attract the right people to your team, project, or organization. And notice how he used the Earnest Shackleton story to make his point. Telling the right story is a very powerful way to deliver a message that sticks.

Big thanks to Fazeel Arain for the heads up!

Idea Champions

Posted by Mitch Ditkoff at 03:02 AM | Comments (0)

November 14, 2018
ANNOUNCING: Teamwork Cards!


If you are looking for a simple way to raise the bar for teamwork, communication and collaboration in your company, here's your ticket -- Idea Champions' newly launched deck of Teamwork Cards. These thought provoking cards help group become teams and teams becoming high performing teams. Easy to use. Clarifying. Behavior changing. A time-efficient way to spark the kind of conversations, insights and agreements that will get you and your team to the next level of excellence.

Idea Champions
Team Innovation
Launching Project Teams

Posted by Mitch Ditkoff at 08:55 AM | Comments (0)

November 10, 2018
CREATE A HIGH PERFORMANCE TEAM one conversation at a time


While it's true there is no "i" in "TEAM", there is definitely an "i" in INSIGHT, INTERDEPENDENCE, and COLLABORATION. Which is precisely what Idea Champions' now-available-for-the-first-time-on-the-internet Teamwork Cards are all about.


We created these cards for one simple reason -- to help our clients and the other 7.6 billion people on Planet Earth increase the odds of their collaborative endeavors actually bearing fruit.

Since 1987, when Idea Champions launched, we've heard the word "teamwork" bandied about thousands of times like some kind of medieval incantation. Inspired CEOs, Senior Leaders, and Human Resource Directors invoke the word religiously and God-knows-how-many hallways and conference rooms are plastered with cheesy posters of earnest looking people rowing a boat together. Help!


The actual amount of dependable, smooth-functioning, go-beyond-the-call-of teamwork in most organizations? That's a whole other story. We aim to change that. One Teamwork Card at a time.

We're not saying we've invented the magic pill. We haven't. But we have invented a way to invoke some magic -- especially when it comes to groups becoming teams and teams becoming high performing teams. Our Teamwork Cards spark reflection, insight, connection, clarity, meaningful conversation, and demystify a whole bunch of mumbo jumbo about what it really takes to raise the bar for teamwork.

No workshop is needed. No training. No webinar. No workbook. The cards are self-explanatory -- simple, engaging, conversation-starters for aspiring collaborators to identify exactly what they need to do differently, on the job, to make extraordinary teamwork a reality.



WORKSHOP: Team Innovation
WORKSHOP: Launching Project Teams
WORKSHOP: Agile Leadership/Agile Teams
Who We Are
Contact us for pricing and volume discounts

Posted by Mitch Ditkoff at 05:30 PM | Comments (0)

June 20, 2018
How to Spark Innovation in Your Company in 10 Minutes Per Week

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Do you work in an organization that is trying to raise the bar for innovation, teamwork, storytelling, and leadership, but doesn't have the budget to pay for trainings, keynotes, and workshops? Here's an alternative -- Idea Champions' Micro-Learning for Innovators service. It all happens online. At your own pace.

The price? YOU decide on the value of our service and make us an offer. 95% of the time we go with what our prospective clients suggest. 5% of the time we decline. Interested? mitch@ideachampions.com

Idea Champions

Posted by Mitch Ditkoff at 10:23 AM | Comments (0)

April 30, 2018
The Eight Characteristics of a High Performing Team


Lots of organizations acknowledge the need to raise the bar for teamwork and collaboration. That's a good thing. The not-so-good thing is that their process for doing so is often vague, insufficient, or confused. Of all the models on teamwork, Idea Champions prefers the one one outlined by Larson and LaFasto in their wonderful book, TEAMWORK: What Must Go Right/What Can Go Wrong.

1. Clear compelling goal
2. Standards of excellence
3. Competent members
4. Unified commitment
5. Climate of collaboration
6. Results driven structure
7. Principled leadership
8. External support and recognition



-- Understandable to all team members
-- Personally challenging
-- Evokes an inspired purpose for the team
-- Creates a sense of urgency
-- Is specific


-- Have essential skills and abilities
-- Express a strong desire to contribute
-- Are capable of collaborating effectively


Clearly articulated agreements required to meet performance goals, fostered by:

-- High individual expectations
-- Commitment to rigor
-- Consequences for non-performance


-- Genuine dedication to the team goal
-- Collective, intrinsic motivation
-- Focus on going beyond the call of duty
-- Willingness to pick up the slack for others


-- Clear roles and responsibilities
-- Effective lines of communication
-- Point person identified and functioning
-- Processes and protocols in place
-- Structures appropriate for the team

-- Trust
-- Risk taking
-- Respect for different points of view
-- Proactive sharing of information
-- Fluid and frequent communication
-- Learning from feedback (and mistakes)
-- Going beyond ego & personal agendas


-- Facilitates the process to clarify vision
-- Helps others realize that change is possible
-- Sparks a plan of action to create change
-- Unleashes talents of team members
-- Upholds standards of excellence
-- Able to influence people outside of the team

-- Team is given resources to get the job done
-- Team efforts are supported by top management
-- Accomplishments are acknowledged
-- Reward and incentive structure is clear

WORKSHOP: Launching Project Teams
WORKSHOP: Team Innovation
WORKSHOP: Big Breakthroughs for Small Business

Posted by Mitch Ditkoff at 08:28 PM | Comments (0)

April 26, 2018
Micro-Learning for Innovators in Just 15 Minutes Per Week

PR idea 9guy.jpg If you are looking for a simple, inexpensive way to spark innovation in your organization in just 15 minutes per week, here it is. No workshops. No trainings. No keynotes. No complicated idea management software. No headbanging. And the first three companies that respond to this post get to name their own price. Here's what one of our happy clients says about this innovative service of ours.

PS: If you want to know how much it costs, text me at 845.389.9096 and I'll let you know ASAP.

The creator of this service
The company he co-founded
This might be included
10 ways to enable innovation in the workplace
Another way of thinking about time

Posted by Mitch Ditkoff at 08:24 AM | Comments (0)

April 02, 2018

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Click here to register for the Ignite Your Unstoppable Team webinar presented by Shane Hipps. His online Masterclass will include the following:

-- The #1 ingredient to attract the best people to your team

-- The best way to double your team's productivity

-- How to maximize your profit/impact with a few tweaks to your strategy

-- Simple tools to mobilize others to take action

I first heard about Shane from Tim Gallwey, of the Inner Game. Shane's coached some of the best and brightest leaders in the world, like Ije Nwokorie, a senior director at Apple, and Greg Henry, winner of the Ernst & Young Entrepreneur of the Year Award. Go for it!

Register here

Posted by Mitch Ditkoff at 10:07 AM | Comments (0)

March 14, 2018
Connect to Your Community!


On a scale of 1-10, how connected are YOU to your community? And if your reply is "8" or less, take a moment and ask yourself how you can become more connected. Speaking of which, here is a cool online creative thinking tool about the power of making connections.

Illustration: GapingVoid

Idea Champions

Posted by Mitch Ditkoff at 03:10 PM | Comments (0)

January 25, 2018


I have a confession to make. Actually, it's more like a revelation than a confession.

You know all those fabulous quotes and articles you've read over the years with no attribution other than "Anonymous"? It was me. It's true. I have written thousands of things I've never signed my name to. I couldn't. I mean -- the writing just came through me. Like a storm. In fact, I was in such a state of presence as these pearls of wisdom appeared, there wasn't even a "me" involved, so how could I sign my name?

So I did the only thing I could do -- and that was to sign what I wrote with the now all-too-familiar word "Anonymous".

Please don't get me wrong. I'm not complaining, nor do I have any regrets about my selfless decision. It felt right at the time. But now, with the economy slowing down -- it's starting to make sense that I claim what is rightfully mine.

After countless hours of consultations with pundits, epistemological savants, numerologists, and intellectual property lawyers, I've arrived at an approach that is not only honorable and fair, but flawless and timely with absolutely no carbon footprint. Nor were any animals harmed in the writing of this paragraph.

I am pleased to announce that YOU, dear reader, get to play a key role going forward -- one that will take you less time than it will to order a take-out pizza.

Since I am claiming no royalties whatsoever from my past writings (many of which, by the way, went on to become blockbuster movies, novels, bumper stickers, and refrigerator magnets), I think it is only fair to request that every time you forward anything attributed to "Anonymous" you link it to this page -- a promo for my new online creativity course -- soon to be offered as a subscription service

My goal? To model what it's like to claim one's true inheritance and take the risk that this post will go viral and I will have to answer a lot of questions from slick talk show hosts more interested in their own TV ratings than my no longer anonymous success.

A small example of what I've never been paid for

Posted by Mitch Ditkoff at 09:37 PM | Comments (8)

November 17, 2017
On Being a Better Listener


Good article from Fast Company on the emotional intelligence required to be a better listener.

If you want to innovate, listen more
24 quotes on good communication
Non-judgmental listening

Posted by Mitch Ditkoff at 06:13 PM | Comments (0)

May 16, 2017
On Building the Case for Storytelling

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One of the biggest challenges that internal change agents have when it comes to fostering a culture of storytelling in the workplace is building the business case -- why it matters and what the impact can be. The quote below, from John Kotter, author of Leading Change, will help. If you need help building your case, shoot me an email and I will send you some more "grist for the mill" -- links to compelling articles and videos on the topic.

Storytelling at Work: the blog

Storytelling at Work: the book
The author of both

Posted by Mitch Ditkoff at 08:06 AM | Comments (0)

February 20, 2017
Unresolved Conflict at the Top Produces Chaos in the Middle and the Bottom


A guest post by Idea Champions' newest leadership development consultant, Dr. Barry Gruenberg.

When those in senior leadership positions avoid conflict among themselves, the unresolved conflict ripples throughout the organization and paralyzes action at every level. Key issues go unresolved and the tension at the top pervades the organization. Followers of each of the powerful protagonists must constantly demonstrate their loyalty to their sponsors in their words and deeds; they must scrutinize all that they do to ensure that they are not seen as violating the party line.

Lower level employees are often enlisted to participate in task forces or committees to deal with the various by-products of the unresolved issues.

These efforts are virtually guaranteed to fail since any recommendations for resolution will compromise at least one of the contending senior managers who will usually use their power to veto the idea, leaving the task force frustrated and progress hindered.


This is ironic because the members of the task force will have attempted to remain loyal to their constituency throughout the proceedings and will usually feel that they have salvaged the most important interests of their group in the negotiation process. But the senior managers, who have delegated their conflict, will generally take an all or nothing posture on the outcome.

The only true resolution to this phenomenon requires the direct participation of the protagonists -- their committed effort to resolve their differences before the symptoms of their misalignment irrevocably muddies the organizational waters.

Idea Champions
Becoming an Adaptive Leader
Listening With Impact

Posted by Mitch Ditkoff at 09:07 AM | Comments (0)

July 30, 2016
Why Your Organization Needs to Create a Culture of Storytelling

Why create a culture of storytelling?
Storytelling videos, interviews and articles
Sparking innovation via storytelling
Idea Champions

Posted by Mitch Ditkoff at 10:42 AM | Comments (0)

June 30, 2016
BETTER THAN THERAPY: What Stressed Business Partners Can Learn From the Police Reunion Tour

Making great music together isn't always easy, no matter how famous your band is. Nor is it easy being business partners, collaborators, teammates, or "significant others". If you want to make some serious music together, "creative dissonance" is inevitable. Count on it. The question isn't whether or not band mates or business partners will experience breakdowns. They will. The question is how committed are they to breaking through and coming out the other side.

Idea Champions

Bridging the Gulf
Becoming an Adaptive Leader
Our clients, past and present

Posted by Mitch Ditkoff at 07:43 PM | Comments (0)

September 15, 2015
The Art of Sparking Innovation

When my mother was alive, she told me she had no idea what I did for a living. Around the canasta table, she would tell her friends I was a "motivational speaker", no matter how many times I explained what I actually did. The slide show below is dedicated to her and to YOU, too -- especially if you're wondering what the heck goes on in one of Idea Champions' innovation-sparking workshops. Best to view full screen.

Posted by Mitch Ditkoff at 05:18 PM | Comments (0)

January 14, 2015
How to Improve Teamwork in the Next Five Minutes


Unless you've been in solitary confinement for the past few years, there's a good chance you are a member of some kind of team. There's also a good chance that the team you are a member of isn't always "high performing." Different issues come up from time to time that sabotage the team's effectiveness and trigger frustration, wheel spinning, and lost opportunities. Sound familiar?

If so, this is your lucky day.

Idea Champions (that's my company) is in the final stages of producing a deck of cards that will help teams get to the next level of connectedness, communication, and collaboration. Before we release the deck, we are offering you and the rest of the known universe a SNEAK ONLINE PEEK.

Here's how to view the cards:

1. Click this link
2. Scroll until you see the "We're All in This Together" icon in the sidebar.
3. Click the icon
4. Read the "Be a Club, Not a Team" card
5. Mouse over the card and click "next" for card #2 and so on.

There are total of 52 cards in the deck.

If you have any feedback for us, feel free to let us know. It's not too late for us to tweak the final content, so your input will be very valuable. If you want to be notified when deck is ready (online and hard copy), just send a note to info@ideachampions.com

Celebrate Successes.jpg

Our other team building services
Idea Champions

Posted by Mitch Ditkoff at 11:54 AM | Comments (0)

September 15, 2014
Is Peace the Innovation We Need the Most?


"Innovation" continues to be a hot topic in corporate circles these days -- a "competitive edge" organizations are increasingly attempting to hone so they can not only differentiate themselves from the competition, but survive in today's topsy turvy economy.

That being said, there are some forward thinking organizations out there who are going beyond the status quo and seriously asking themselves what they can do differently to not only be "socially responsible", but use their corporate clout to help various peace-themed global causes truly impact positive change.

If that describes your organization, please contact us. Idea Champions, in 2015, will be launching a new innovation-sparking service to help corporations, world wide, figure out HOW they can leverage their resources, bandwidth, and brainpower to foster peace and well-being in the world -- and still make a profit.

International Day of Peace in the Huffington Post
Idea Champions

Posted by Mitch Ditkoff at 02:35 PM | Comments (0)

August 02, 2014
Unleashing Business Brilliance

Unleashing Bus Briliiance.jpg

That's what we do. And below are five ways we do it.

Conducting Genius

Engaging Innovation
Ingenious Leadership
What's the Problem?
Team Innovation
What our clients say

Posted by Mitch Ditkoff at 05:00 PM | Comments (0)

February 15, 2014
How to Help Your Senior Team Get Aligned About a Strategic Direction


I am totally inspired by the feedback that Steven McHugh, co-Founder and Chief Innovation Officer of Idea Champions, received from Life Care Centers of America, in response to a two-day Senior Team Strategy Offsite he designed and facilitated for them. See below...

CelebratingMan.jpg"I wanted to thank you for the wonderful work you've done for us at Life Care Centers of America.

As you know, when I left my CFO position at Olin Corporation to help lead Life Care, I was presented with a number of difficult challenges. Due to strict government regulations, the long-term care industry was in turmoil. In 30 years, Life Care had not performed any unified, long-term strategic planning, and there was no HR department for over 27,000 employees.

Based on the excellent work you did for over five years with my former company, I knew you had the skills to help us. Your role in aligning 230 different facilities into a unified force has been remarkable, especially in the short time frame you were given.

As you know, the results of the process you took us through have been astounding. In an environment where five of the top six public nursing home companies have declared bankruptcy, we have enjoyed unprecedented growth. You helped our senior officers transform into a dynamic leadership team. Our clarity around an aligned mission translated into a powerful vision that we can communicate to the rest of the organization.

Your Vision Mapping sessions were the catalysts for communicating our message to the rest of the organization. Your ability to develop balanced scorecards for all 230 facilities was the key to translating strategy into results.

It is now clear what actions are important for us to take, and for the first time, our people know how their success will be measured.

From the senior level to the staff in each facility, actions are now aligned to achieve strategic goals.


As an interesting byproduct of your work here, we are beginning to develop leaders at all levels in the organization who are empowered to do whatever it takes to get the job done. They have a clear line of sight to the strategic goals and are stepping up to the plate to get them done.

I am proud of how we have responded to the process you have embedded into our culture. Thank you for justifying my faith in bringing you in to facilitate this major change in how we operate.

I look forward to continuing our work together in developing a high performance organization."

-- Michael Waddell, President, Life Care Centers of America

50 quotes on possibility
50 quotes on vision
Creators on Creating
What we do
Idea Champions

Posted by Mitch Ditkoff at 01:26 PM | Comments (0)

March 20, 2013
How to Humanize the Workplace

A recent poll has revealed that 62% of Americans are dissatisified with their work.

While there are a lot of contributing factors, one BIG factor is that most workplace environments are not wired to bring out the best in people. Quite the contrary.

That's what my newly published article in the Huffington Post is all about.

It doesn't just name the problem, however. It also provides a simple "starter kit" for how each and everyone of us can begin to humanize our workplace environments.

Click here to weigh in on the topic by responding to my Humanizing the Workplace poll. If you want to register for my April 4th Telesummit on this topic, click here. It's free.

Idea Champions

Posted by Mitch Ditkoff at 12:32 PM | Comments (0)

June 16, 2012
Teamwork Tip for Today

Be Co-Responsible.jpg

Collaboration Training
What We Do
How We Get the Job Done

Posted by Mitch Ditkoff at 01:28 AM | Comments (0)

June 14, 2012
A Tip for Team Players

Let Yourself Be Uncomfortable.jpg

Idea Champions

Posted by Mitch Ditkoff at 12:21 AM | Comments (0)

May 18, 2012
How Business Collaboration is Like Dancing Tango

NOTE: The following article is authored by Sarah Martha Jacob, founder of Tangolia.

There are two kinds of people in the world. One looks at a new possibility through the eyes of fear. The other looks at a new possibility through the eyes of faith.

I should know. I worked with both kinds of people for four years at one of the largest private investment firms in the country.

So it really should have been no surprise to me when I heard their two polar opposite responses on the day I declared I was leaving my high paying job as a portfolio manager to travel the world and dance Argentine tango.

"You are making a huge mistake," said the fear group.

"You're a rock star," said the faith group.

The fear group thought I was stark raving mad to be leaving a well-paying career to go follow .... what? My dreams?

"Beware of the gap on your resume, you silly girl," was their mantra.

The faith group thought I was a genius to go exploring, at the ripe age of 29, given that I had no mortgage or kids holding me back.

"Go! Do it for all of us," was the excited whisper beneath their words of encouragement.

Whether you make career choices out of fear or faith, it's not every day you see someone gliding off the corporate cliff and onto dance floors in other hemispheres.

I didn't see it as a savvy career move as much as a campaign to save my soul.

Today my career is thriving as a result of the set of tools I picked up during my tango travels.

How are tango skills relevant to business?

For starters, dancing tango well requires collaborating with a partner to create something you cannot create alone.

Everything in business involves collaboration: with your customer, manager, colleague, subordinate, or team.

Today's complex business environment requires us to up-level our collaboration skills -- skills that are often overlooked and underdeveloped. And because they are, we end up going over and under each other -- drained and frustrated -- to get results.

What follows are nine tango principles that have made me a smarter, more nimble, creative, and engaged collaborator.

1. Be Aware of My Surroundings: I am not alone on the dance floor. I have a partner and a whole room of other dancers to take into consideration. If I whip out a bunch of kicks and turns just because I think it looks cool, I'm going to piss off a lot of people. I have to let go of my own agenda and use discretion to keep the harmony of the group. Indeed, a misplaced kick with a four-inch stiletto heel can have deadly consequences.

2. Maintain a Strong Core and Be Flexible: In order to move easily with a partner, I have to maintain strength and balance which emanate from the core of my body -- my power center. But I cannot be so strong that my entire body becomes stiff and rigid. That will only block the fluidity that creates beautiful figures. Mastering the duality of strength and flexibility allows me to maintain a powerful presence while still going with the flow.

3. Develop Impeccable Technique: There are fundamental skills I need to master in order to play my role with excellence. It takes discipline -- hours of doing drills in an empty studio wearing high heels with no one to hang onto. Why do all this work just so I can have fun? Because it allows me to play at a whole new level -- one that will allow me to be more subtle, spontaneous, and create a precise esthetic. This is what makes it the tango and not the funky chicken.

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4. It's Not What I'm Doing. It's How I'm Showing Up: What makes a tango partner want to dance with me is not how decorative my footwork is or if my kick makes it to his eye level. It is the experience of dancing with me.

I step onto the dance floor and face my partner. My spirit is open and lively and my whole being is committed, grateful, and ready for whatever is about to happen. This brings out the best in my partner. And we dance the dance of earth-shaking, heart-beating, breath-stopping oneness.

Wait -- isn't this an article about business? Yes it is! You see ... there is something transcendent about human connection, and when we're in the zone collaborating together, it is electric and alive and right. This is the business we're all in.

5. Appreciate My Partner For Who He IS And Forget About Who He Is NOT: Some leaders are more skillful than others. They are just better dancers. I can either focus on what my partner needs to work on or I can focus on what he does well. Either way, it is my choice and it affects my experience of the dance.

Amazingly, I have found that when I tune in to my partner's strengths, he naturally dances better and will even rise to new realms of his own greatness.

6. Don't Worry About How Good the Other Dancers Are: There will always be better dancers than I am. I can make myself crazy wondering what they have that I don't. In that mind space, I will never be enough and will keep tripping over my own feet as I mentally eject from my body and compare myself to everyone else.

Rebecca may be an incredible dancer, but in the contest to be Rebecca, she will always win. I have to be at the level that I am because there is no other place to be. I can look at the masters and be inspired or shut down. I have come to enjoy the discomfort of being "less" and enjoy the unfolding.

7. Surrender and Trust: When it's show time, I don't try to control every detail (or any detail). I don't think too much or try to get it to BE something. When the stakes are high, I have to put trust in all my training, everything I have ever learned up until this moment, my innate sensibilities, and just let the dance happen.

The studio is the place for practice. The lesson is the place for perfection. When the music starts, it is a moment to surrender and trust. That is the only way a truly engaged partnership can create something unique, special, memorable, and inspired.

8. Stay Curious: Who is the person that has decided to collaborate with me in this moment of dance? What does he want to experience? How does the floor feel beneath my feet? Can I hear the faint swooshing of dance shoes beneath the music?

I may have danced with the same person to the same song 50 times, but maybe it has never been in these shoes, next to these other dancers, in this balmy air. There is no space for boredom or complacency when I am attuned to all the fascination one moment can hold. When I am curious, I am open and present, and I somehow know just the right thing to do and say -- or not say.

9. Be Authentic All the Time:
It used to be that there were all these very different roles I played. There was the professional (uptight, serious), the daughter (suddenly helpless), the girlfriend (princess), and the salsa dancer (vixen).

Dancing tango required me to be so focused that my mind stopped and all the mental chatter about who I was and how to be just faded away. All that remained was pure essence. What emerged was a person who was creative, playful, disciplined, earnest, humble, and sweet. I came alive and others were attracted to that spark.

I now bring myself fully to everything I do, and I commit to being authentic in every situation. My clients don't hire me to exchange dollars for skills. They engage with me because they want to collaborate with someone who is real and awake and totally into it with them.

How would your business relationships change if you shifted into thinking about them as dance partnerships?

(By the way, these lessons apply to all relationships! Go home tonight and dance with your loved ones -- in socks on the kitchen floor, or simply in the way you show up for them. Can you be strong, flexible, authentic, playful, open, appreciative, and curious?)


Posted by Mitch Ditkoff at 02:53 PM | Comments (0)

May 03, 2012
The Power of Positive Feedback

Most high level executives do not expect a lot of recognition from others. Neither do they give a lot of recognition to others.

Many managers are like the classic husband who, when his wife complains that he doesn't tell her he loves her any more, responds that he told her he loved her when he married her -- and would have let her know if anything had changed.

Similarly, most managers act as if the act of hiring an employee is recognition enough -- this in spite of the fact that every one of these managers wants to be valued and appreciated by their superiors, and is regularly disappointed by the lack of appreciation coming their way.

In today's workplace, there is a great fear that only the most extraordinary achievements warrant recognition and that all "just good" performance is merely what should be expected and does not require any special recognition.

The fear most manager's have? That "excessive" recognition will dilute the praise they give and reduce future motivation for outstanding performance.

The data, of course, indicates otherwise.

Acknowledgment of good performance increases the probability of more good performance. And specificity of feedback -- telling people exactly what you liked about what they did and why you liked it -- dramatically increases the likelihood of that performance occurring again.

The bottom line?

If we can get to a place where we are more generous and specific in the expression of our positive feedback, we will notice, in time, a dramatic increase in the quality of employees' performance and their overall satisfaction with work.

-- Barry Gruenberg


Posted by Mitch Ditkoff at 08:47 AM | Comments (1)

April 01, 2012
Our World Wide Webinatrix Speaks!


The writers of this blog are excited, thrilled, and tickled to announce the launching of a entirely new service to the known universe: Webinars powered by Idea Champions University.

Having spent the past 25 years delivering a wide variety of innovation-sparking workshops, trainings, meetings, conferences, and consulting interventions to forward thinking organizations everywhere, we've decided to let go of our addiction to Frequent Flyer miles and go virtual.

Our new venture began with a simple question: "How can we have the biggest impact on the most amount of people in a cost-effective, highly engaging, low carbon footprint way?"

The answer? Build a webinar curriculum and deliver our services online.


Which is exactly what we've done and will continue to do as long as the need in the marketplace exists.

Bottom line, if you're looking for a better way to build the core competency of innovation, you've come to the right place.

No airfare required. No cabs. No sending your people to overpriced hotels and wondering whose gonna cover for them while they're eating muffins and collecting one more three-ring binder they will never read.

Operators are not standing by. But our website is. And so is our integrity -- the collective mojo we've built for the past 25 years with some of the finest organizations in the world.

So visit us online to learn more about what we're offering. And while you're at it, feel free to register for one of our upcoming open-enrollment webinars -- a great way to kick our virtual tires.


If you are one of the first 50 people to register, you'll receive a 50% discount and a free annual subscription to our highly regarded online Free the Genie app.

If you'd rather schedule a group webinar (for up to 100 people), contact Sarah Jacob, our World Wide Webinatrix.

She means business.

More about Idea Champions

Posted by Mitch Ditkoff at 01:48 AM | Comments (0)

January 07, 2012
Go Beyond the Business Blues

FTM Logo Blue.jpg.2

For years I was trying to figure out what all my clients had in common. Opposable thumbs? Yes. The Isle of Langerhans. That, too. Big, fat opinions about everything. For sure.

But even more than the aforementioned stuff in the preceding paragraph which you just read and probably haven't yet forgotten even though your short-term memory is getting shorter by the nanosecond and you're probably wondering, by now, why I'm rambling on and on when most blog postings are supposed to be short and sweet, it dawned on me one fine day as I was scraping marinara sauce off my shirt that the main thing all my clients had in common was the blues.

Yes, indeed. The blues. The same blues Muddy Waters had. And Robert Johnson. And BB King. Those blues.

Unlike the blues greats, however, my clients didn't have a way to express their blues. And, in the absence of this opportunity, their God given right to get right was lost.

But no more, brothers and sisters! No more!

Now, even the most buttoned down, white collared, bow-tied creators of spreadsheets at midnight have a chance to get those business blues off their chest and move towards a better future -- not to mention have fun, collaborate, and learn what it takes to innovate on the fly.

Ladies and gentlemen, without any further ado, allow me to introduce you to the world's first business blues band -- Face the Music!.

PS: Should you decide to contact them, be sure to mention that it was Idea Champions who sent you. (We give 5% of our referral fees to TPRF, one of the most well-run and inspired humanitarian organizations in the world).

The Six Sigma Blues

My blues encounter at Pfizer
The Email Blues
The Gotta Have a Process Blues

Idea Champions

Posted by Mitch Ditkoff at 01:33 AM | Comments (0)

December 14, 2011
The Best Practice of Love

A few weeks ago, my wife and I had a huge fight. A doozy. The Superbowl of all fights. If you're married -- or ever were -- I'm sure you've had at least one of these. Probably more.

You think you're right. They think they're right. You attack, they deflect. They attack, you deflect. You get hopeless and weird. They get hopeless and weird.

And both of you -- self-appointed judges in a supreme court of your own creation -- feel diminished, abused, blamed, hurt, ignored, dissed, damaged, and demonized.

The love? Out the window. And the window? Stuck in a half-closed position.

Whenever I'm embroiled in this kind of dynamic and (hallelujah!) manage to make it out the other side, I get majorly humbled -- all concepts of myself as a conscious, loving, evolved human being completely blown to smithereens.

And yet... no matter how painful the experience, something good always comes out of it. A phoenix rises from the ashes. Like the list below, for example -- my wishes for my dear wife, Evelyne, (the day after) and, by extension, you, me, and all the other 8 billion people on planet Earth.


1. Gratitude every day
2. Deep inner peace, especially during tough times
3. Kindness
4. Patience
5. Forgiveness

6. The courage to be yourself
7. Rest and renewal
8. The vision to see God in everyone
9. Letting go of self-righteousness
10. Simplicity and ease

11. The willingess to let go of worry and doubt
12. Allowing yourself to be nurtured
13. More fun
14. Plenty of time to do nothing
15. Spaciousness

16. Heartfelt self-expression
17. Health and vitality
18. Moving through the tasks of your life as if you were a dancer
19. Relating to each person you talk to as if they were the only person on earth at that moment

20. Laughter from your core
21. Appreciation of your family
22. A "live and let live" mindset
23. Waking up each day with gladness
24. Humility
25. The experience of community

26. Full responsibility for your own projections
27. Trust
28. Honoring all of the teachers in your life, past and present
29. Slowing down, going deeper
30. The ability to order a very rich dessert in your favorite restaurant without enrolling someone to share it with you

31. A wi-fi connection whenever you want
32. The end of lower back pain
33. Living the St. Francis Prayer without making a big deal of it
34. Knowing you are loved
35. Good sushi within a five-mile radius

36. Appreciation of other people's "spiritual path" -- with absolutely no judgment
37. Foot massages
38. Fresh air
39. Understanding what Krishna meant when he said: "The world is an illusion, but you have to act as if it's real."
40. Random acts of kindness

41. Nights on the town
42. The ability to be alone, but not lonely
43. Accepting the aging process with dignity and delight
44. Fabulous dinners with friends

45. Nights in front of the fire
46. Having no regrets
47. Cranking up the music
48. Not judging your kids for texting or being on Facebook
49. Seeing the blessing in every challenge that comes your way
50. Loving yourself when you look in the mirror

51. Not having to look in the mirror to love yourself
52. New adventures
53. Endless learning
54. Giving up complaint
55. A dependable plumber

56. Snow angels!
57. Working smarter, not harder
58. Looking up at the stars
59. Never going to bed angry
60. Being happy for other people's successes

61. Realizing you are everything and nothing both at the same time
62. Unconditional love

63. Reframing aging as "becoming an elder" instead of "getting old"
64. Weekends in exotic places
65. Someone else to wash the dishes

66. Enjoying the poetry of Rumi, Kabir, and Hafiz
67. Did I mention foot massages?
68. The commitment to immerse in the projects that most fascinate you
69. Deep listening
70. Longer vacations

71. Reaching out to those less fortunate than you
72. Holding hands with someone you love
73. Taking on an impossible project -- and making it happen
74. Really good chocolate
75. Unforgettable celebrations

76. Going beyond your limiting assumptions
77. The discipline that comes from love, not duty
78. Spontaneous generosity
79. One remote for all your electronics
80. A hot bath on a cold night

81. Wonderful surprises

82. The laughter of children
83. Realizing you have enough
84. Timelessness
85. Understanding this quote: "When you're on the path it's a mile wide, when you're off it, it's razor thin."
86. Giving flowers to absolute strangers

87. A wardrobe you love
88. Resilience
88. Making a clear distinction between longing and desire
89. No fear of death
90. Dancing around the living room for no particular reason
91. Howling at the moon
92. Knowing how to say "no" without being negative

93. Completing what you came here to do
94. Experiencing life as a beautiful play
95. Freshly baked chocolate chip cookies
96. Forgiving everyone who has ever wronged you
97. Passion

98. Compassion
99. The peace that passes all understanding
100. Sweet watermelon on a summer day


Posted by Mitch Ditkoff at 11:58 PM | Comments (0)

November 29, 2011
All Hands on Deck!

Look around you. This is not the time for lone wolves, closet geniuses, unaffiliated mavericks, out-of-orbit freelancers, hidden agendas, sole proprietors, superstars, cranky collaborators, or hyper independent dreamers.

Sorry. Wrong decade. Now is the time for alliances, partnerships, collaborations, and team chemistry. If you are trying (heroically) to "get something done" and it just ain't happening, pause for a moment and take a good look at how you are operating. If you don't have a team of committed collaborators, allies, and partners in place, it will be very challenging to get the inspired results you are imagining. Make sense?

Idea Champions

Posted by Mitch Ditkoff at 10:12 AM | Comments (0)

March 26, 2011


If you are looking for a simple way to improve teamwork in your organization, click on the "We're All In This Together" banner in the sidebar.

What you'll get is a series of 53 Teamwork Cards newly published by the writers of this blog, Idea Champions.

Each card describes a quality of a high performing team and then poses a question for reflection.

The cards spark dialogue, insight, and the kind of positive changes that increase a team's ability to accomplish the seemingly impossible.

If you want to license Teamwork Cards for your intranet, click here.


Posted by Mitch Ditkoff at 12:26 AM | Comments (0)

September 23, 2010
Unity Takes Two

Mitch Ditkoff and I have an interesting mercurial chemistry when we get together.

Certain things get completed when we riff and improvise. He and I, and the rest of the Idea Champions crew, have all been talking about what creates a culture of innovation for a few years now. Often, all it takes is two people who have what I call "creative resonance."

Show me any two people who can agree and disagree with equal enthusiasm and respect and I'll show you a duo who can brainstorm persistently at high heat.

A great new series on Creative Pairs at Slate talks eloquently about the dynamic balance and high energy the right two people can create when they "complete" each other.

As a successful professional songwriter, I grew up loving the songs of John Lennon and Paul McCartney, Mick Jagger and Keith Richards, and older teams like Rogers and Hammerstein, the Gershwin brothers, and Lerner and Lowe. It makes perfect sense to a songwriter that creative pairs would launch some of the most successful companies of the last 35 years.

The creative boom in digital technology started in the early 70's with Bill Gates and Paul Allen, Steve Jobs and Steve Wozniak, and continued a generation later when Larry Page and Sergey Brin created Google.

Great duos exist in every vocational and artistic field: Watson and Crick, Gilbert and Sullivan, Engels and Marx.

Two centuries ago, breakthrough composers often arrived in pairs, pacing each other even when they weren't working as teams: piano innovators Chopin and Schumann (both born 1810), opera titans Wagner and Verdi (both born 1813).

Creative pair chemistry ignites when two people spontaneously strike a agreement to both compete and collaborate with each other simultaneously. That tension between collaboration and competition is more easily achieved and managed in pair relationships than any other kind of team configuration.

Joshua Wolf Shenk's Creative Pairs series is now in its third installment at Slate. Part 1 of Inside the Lennon/McCartney Connection starts here and continues on to Part 2.

If you really want to see how simple the crucible of creativity can be, be sure to keep following Shenk's series. You'll think differently about that colleague you argue with all the time.

One little tweak, a mutual change in attitude and mindset, and something magical could happen.

-- Tim Moore

Posted by Tim Moore at 11:08 PM | Comments (0)

January 26, 2009
ONLINE POLL: Raising the Bar for Extraordinary Teamwork in 2009

If you are committed to accomplishing extraordinary results, chances are good that you will need to collaborate with others.

Your ideas and dedication, no matter how inspired they may be, will never be enough by themselves. It takes a village.

Most people's experience of being on a team -- especially those who work in large companies -- is less-than-ideal, filled with frustration, power struggles, and the belief that it's not worth the effort.

OK. Those days are over. No matter how disappointing your experience of teamwork may have been in the past, it's never too late to turn things around. And it all begins with AWARENESS -- tuning into what's actually going on with you and your team.

Intrigued? If so, click here and take Idea Champions' online TEAM REALITY CHECK poll. In a few weeks, we'll post the results here -- a way to help you and your team get into deep dialogue about what it will take to really collaborate in 2009.

Posted by Mitch Ditkoff at 09:25 AM | Comments (0)

July 26, 2007
InnovationTools' "Quote of the Week" is from Mitch

In a nice and unexpected coincidence with the kickoff of our blog here, the Quote of the Week in the current InnovationWeek newsletter is from our own Mitch Ditkoff, President and co-founder of Idea Champions. The newsletter is published by the respected InnovationTools.com.

Innovation Quote of the Week

"In today's flattened, restructured, downsized organization, your role is much more than getting the best out of people. It's getting the best out of the best part of people - out of their inspired imaginations, their ability to dream, conjure and conceive - and transforming those inspired ideas into the products, services and improvements that will not only keep your business humming, but make the world an even better place for all of us to live."

- Mitch Ditkoff

The quote comes from near the end of an article of Mitch's, "Innovation Coaching, The Manager as Idea Midwife." The article also appears on the InnovationTools site (demonstrating at the very least what a thorough reader their Chuck Frey is).

Posted by at 07:12 PM | Comments (0)

July 24, 2007
Talking Innovation: 3M's Secret Weapon

When talking (or blogging) about practical innovation in the corporate world, there's no better place to start than 3M, a company whose name has become synonymous with the word. 3M is committed to 30% of its revenues coming from recently introduced new products.

Impressive, indeed, but how do they do it?

Dr. Larry Wendling, VP of 3M's corporate research labs, revealed 3M's "secret weapon," in what he refers to as the "Seven Habits of Highly Innovative Organizations."

The Seven Habits are (paraphrased from Amy Rowell's Innovate Forum article):
1. Totally commit to innovation from top management on down.
2. Actively maintain an innovative culture.
3. Maintain a broad base of technology.
4. Encourage formal and informal networking.
5. Reward employees.
6. Quantify efforts.
7. Tie research to customers.

It all makes perfect sense, of course, starting with Wendling's first habit, the commitment of top management. But the fourth habit, what Wendling calls 3M's "secret weapon," is often overlooked, or even ignored, much of the time in organizations. In Rowell's words: "Talk, talk, talk. Management at 3M has long encouraged networking -- formal and informal -- among its researchers."

I think Wendling calls this 3M's "secret weapon" because so few other companies do this well, or are even aware of its importance. But what could be more important to innovation than encouraging the collaboration and teamwork we know lies behind every innovation since the invention of the wheel?

This is where the "silo" mentality and the "not invented here" syndrome intrudes on an innovation culture. Strict, formal reporting structures, loyalty to business unit before the organization, and the human tendency to only interact with people who already share our own views and experiences, all come into play. Any or all of these can block, or at least slow down, many companies' internal "network of innovation."

I can't tell you how many times I've facilitated a brainstorm session at a major corporation when a proposed idea will get criticized, or even rejected, because the development of the idea would involve another department or business unit! Sometimes the excuse is that there is no protocol for working with the other unit, and one would have to be created. Sometimes there is a poor previous history of collaboration between the two departments, (often involving, unsurprisingly, the two people at the top of each division).

In any case, I can't help but wonder how many great ideas fall between the cracks because executing them falls between the purviews of two different departments. And, unfortunately, it is in space between two major realms of focused business activity where we would expect to find some of the most exciting and profitable innovations!

To its credit, 3M actively encourages employees to talk to each other; across business units and despite formal roles, responsibilities, and organizational charts. If an employee has the kernel of an idea, he (or she) has the permission, indeed, the responsibility, to reach out and find out if it's viable, or if someone else has the missing piece. They're free to ask if others are interested in developing it, no matter where they work in the organization! (You mean you're allowed to DO that? Who knew?)

So, how does YOUR company's culture deal with employee networking? Does it encourage employees reaching out across organizational boundaries to share insights and ideas? Does it ignore this important aspect of innovation? Or is it actually hostile to it, punishing employees who reach out to others in order to get something started?

Here's a relatively cost-free way to improve the culture of innovation of your organization. Take advantage of 3M's experience and success and make employee networking your innovation "secret weapon" as well.

And, yes, you ARE allowed to do that!

Posted by Val Vadeboncoeur at 06:45 PM | Comments (7)

Who Are We?

Idea Champions is a consulting and training company dedicated to awakening and nurturing the spirit of innovation. We help individuals, teams and entire organizations tap into their innate ability to create, develop and implement ideas that make a difference.

Click here for the simplest, most direct way, to learn more about Idea Champions' semi-fearless leader, Mitch Ditkoff. Info on his keynotes, workshops, conferences, and more.
Storytelling for the Revolution
Storytelling for the Revolution is Mitch Ditkoff's newly published book about the power of personal storytelling to elevate the conversation on planet Earth. Provocative. Evocative. And fun. YOU have stories to tell. This book will help you tell them.
Storytelling at Work
"The world is not made of atoms," wrote the poet, Muriel Rukeyser. "It's made of stories." Learn how to discover, honor, and unpack the stories of yours that show up "on the job" in Mitch Ditkoff's award-winning 2015 book, Storytelling at Work.
Top 5 Speaker
Mitch Ditkoff, the Co-Founder and President of Idea Champions, has recently been voted a top 5 speaker in the field of innovation and creativity by Speakers Platform, a leading speaker's bureau.
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Workshops & Trainings
Highly engaging learning experiences that increase each participant's ability to become a creative force for positive change
Brainstorm Facilitation
High impact certification training that teaches committed change agents how to lead groundbreaking ideation sessions
Cultivating Innovation
Your "best and brightest" are the future leaders of your company, but unless they know how to foster a culture of innovation, their impact will be limited. A one-day workshop with us is all they need to begin this journey.
Our Blog Cabin
Our Heart of Innovation blog is a daily destination for movers and shakers everywhere — gleefully produced by our President, Mitch Ditkoff, voted "best innovation blogger in the world" two years running.
Team Innovation
Innovation is a team sport. Brilliant ideas go nowhere unless your people are aligned, collaborative, and team-oriented. That doesn't happen automatically, however. It takes intention, clarity, selflessness, and a new way of operating.
Awake at the Wheel, Book about big ideas If you're looking for a powerful way to jump start innovation and get your creative juices flowing, Awake at the Wheel is for you. Written by Mitch Ditkoff, Co-Founder and President of Idea Champions.
Face the Music Blues Band The world's first interactive business blues band. A great way to help your workforce go beyond complaint.

"In tune with corporate America." — CNN