Winston Churchill is often misquoted as having said, “They who do not know history are destined to repeat it,” The original quote, however, is credited to Edmund Burke (1729-1797). Regardless of the source, we have come to use this thought to warn ourselves of the need to learn from the past and avoid repeating our past failures. In fact, the lessons of history – from both our successes and our failures – can drive improved performance and results in our futures.
The dawn of a New Year is a perfect time to address past success as a source for driving future ones. I use this “remembering when” activity to recall lessons of the past that you may want to try for yourself in your team or organization: Gather the entire team with only a single piece of paper and a pen and a large flipchart or two. Then ask each individual to think about the following questions:
Think of a time when we (as a team/organization) performed at our best. Recall what we did, how we acted, and what it felt like to be involved. When we have been at our best, what did that feel like? How did we act, behave and function? What did our success feel like? What were the characteristics that described how we worked?
Then ask people to record their initial thoughts and feelings – recalling a time of peak performance in the past. Identify the project or activity that made them proud, and note their ideas of what made that time special. After a few minutes for private thought and recording on paper, ask the team to share their views and simply record the results as a brainstorming activity (no judging, no diets, just record the results on your flip chart). The activity is energizing and more … it helps remind struggling or stuck teams about times of high performance and reminds the team (with “history” as their guide) of how they acted at their best, and what that type of success feels like.
My own team’s results from our activity last year produced results I found interesting. They give great insight into our culture when it is producing its best results. When we are at our best (the team said), we:
When we are “at our best,” we are really good!
I resolved to share these notes with my team this week, to energize them as we all get back to work, and to remind them of what we’d like to be – every day. You might want to try this with your team. It is a great way to let the “history” of your best past performances inspire you to even greater heights in 2015, and beyond.