June 2017

As part of our #FreeChapterFriday Series, every first Friday of the month, CATSHOT Group will release a new chapter of  Building a Culture to Win: Expanding the Frontier of Human Achievement. This week, we're starting with Chapter 1: The Performance Triad™ Straight Up into the Clouds: How Passion, Free Will and Focus Enable the Impossible. Below you can find the chapter in full. Enjoy!
World-class teams have a unique aura and mystique that people can feel the moment they come into contact with them. Those inside the organization are excited to be there; they know they are part of something special. The passion for what they do fuels a constant effort to always improve and innovate. They are living in a culture of excellence where the success of an individual or department raises the performance of the entire organization. Those on the outside see an unstoppable team exuding confidence in everything they do. Outsiders cannot always put their finger on why, but they feel a desire to be around them, to work with them. The team’s enthusiasm is contagious. I have been lucky enough to be part of two world-class teams with international reputations for excellence— the Blue Angels and the U.S. Navy Fighter Weapons School, better known as TOPGUN. My experience with these two organizations taught me that they had three overarching factors needed for their success — The Performance Triad:
  • Passion. Each team member had a passion for the organization. Passion is the fuel that drives individuals to achieve beyond what is normally considered humanly possible. Passion is what makes team members live, eat and breathe the organization, thus creating momentum.
  • Free Will. Free will may seem to be counterintuitive as a key teamwork skill. Yet, when properly harnessed, it serves as the oxygen for the fire fueled by passion. Free will stokes the fire of innovation and fuels continuous improvement. The more free will, the hotter the flames burn.
  • Focus. Focus brings heat to the fire. Focus is what hones the momentum created by your team’s passion and harnesses the direction of the team members’ free will.
Without fuel, oxygen and heat, you will produce no flame. Likewise, letting any leg of The Performance Triad fall away— passion, free will or focus— will not produce a world-class organization. When the elements of The Performance Triad are present in the proper balance, a team will be functioning at its optimal level. Just as a fire must be continuously managed to produce the best flame, an organization must always be adjusted to produce the best results. Your goal is to build an organizational culture where the proper equilibrium between the three elements becomes self-seeking – the culture finds the best balance with little intervention and adjusts as necessary for changing conditions. Truly world-class teams have cultures that naturally seek optimal equilibrium between passion, free will and focus. CATSHOT Performance TriadIn the fall of 1990, the Navy was transitioning a large portion of its aircraft carrier-based aircrafts from the A-7 Corsair attack aircraft to the new F/ A-18 Hornet Strike Fighter aircraft. Due to that transition, Attack Squadron 105 (VA-105), based in Naval Air Station Cecil Field Florida, was slated for decommissioning. The squadron known as the “Gunslingers” divested itself of most of its key assets including many pilots and maintenance personnel. The remaining pilots flew minimal hours and prepared their old A-7s to be mothballed. In mid-January 1991, President George H.W. Bush ordered the start of Operation Desert Storm to liberate Kuwait after Saddam Hussein’s Iraqi forces invaded. The U.S. military’s plans changed almost overnight, as the massive deployment of nearly all combat-ready squadrons began. The almost-decommissioned VA-105 Gunslingers would not be one of them. As the rest of the naval squadrons began their prep for deployment, the Navy realized it needed a place to send the new F/ A-18 Hornets rolling off the factory floor. As a result, the Gunslinger’s decommissioning was halted, and its designation was changed to Strike Fighter Squadron 105 (VFA-105) as it began receiving the brand new Hornets. When I arrived at the VFA-105, we had new jets and a few great people, but not much else. It was time to rebuild. The partial decommissioning process had taken its toll. The Gunslingers went from being one of the nation’s premier squadrons in the A-7 days, to one that was struggling and unfocused. It was time to kick The Performance Triad into high gear.