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How to instill a “can do” culture – tips for leaders at every level

You’ve seen these teams: No matter what comes at them, they work together to meet the challenge. When the going gets tough, they take a deep breath, decide to laugh rather than cry and then get a plan together and get going.  How do they do that? Give more when it looks like there is no more to be given? Meet impossible deadlines, absorb setbacks and get back on track; come out as winners even when they lose?

“Can do” teams have a short list of “don’ts”:

  • They don’t blame each other, or other departments or the lack of resources.  Blaming just wastes time and cuts off relationships that might be needed in future.
  • They don’t hide problems. Not from their leaders, their staff or their colleagues.  The truth will come out.  Hiding it just reduces trust and credibility
  • They don’t make excuses and focus on why they cannot achieve the goal, or move past the problem.  Why waste the time?
  • They don’t “go it alone”, trying to solve everything themselves.  Working harder, faster, longer breeds narrow perspective, limited (and tired) resources and a lack of outside support. These are not ingredients for success.

“Can do” teams communicate, collaborate, measure, learn and celebrate success.


Ask anyone on a “can do” team what the objectives and priorities are, what needs to be done by when and why it is important, and they can tell you.


They pull the subject matter experts together to identify what is needed and go after those resources armed with a plan to win and the “WIFX” (What’s in it for you, the company, the customer) logic to back up their requests. They identify problems early and focus on how to solve them collaboratively.  If they expect impact on customers or other departments, they put the warning out early and help mitigate the impact any way they can.

Measure and learn

Winning teams have plans based on assumptions- estimated work time by task, expected quality levels, spoilage, progress or expected work completed by certain dates or time.  They check quality and progress along the way to key milestones and escalate if indicators vary too far from the plan.  They make adjustments to get back on track, and continue measuring, always with an eye toward successful, on-time delivery.

Celebrate success

Finding what is working and celebrating even small achievements like hitting a milestone, solving a problem, getting all on the team trained in a needed skill- keeps energy up, spirits raised and reinforces best practices.

How can you build a “can do” team?   Click on these checklists for team leaders and see.

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