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Ross Judd: “Align with a common purpose”

Align with a common purpose. The most essential ingredient in a successful team is that they share a common purpose or goal. Discuss the purpose and engage people in conversations about how they contribute to achieving it. When you do you will be building a strong foundation for “why” the team exists. As a part of […]

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Align with a common purpose. The most essential ingredient in a successful team is that they share a common purpose or goal. Discuss the purpose and engage people in conversations about how they contribute to achieving it. When you do you will be building a strong foundation for “why” the team exists.


As a part of our series about the five things you need to successfully manage a large team, I had the pleasure of interviewing Ross Judd, the Founder and Director of Team Focus International P/L and author of “Cultural Insanity,” a book that outlines the A.D.A.P.T. process to creating a great organizational culture and helps organizations navigate the crazy pitfalls of “culture change.” Ross has a Master’s Degree in Communication Management and has spent over 20 years working with organizations to create the culture, leadership, and teams they need to deliver their purpose.


Thank you so much for doing this with us! What is your “backstory”?

After spending a few years as a wilderness guide I took a role in the Paddy Pallin group of companies and ended up moving to Tasmania to manage their Hobart store. Paddy Pallin is an iconic company that sells outdoor equipment. It was a great experience as I had the opportunity to run stores in Hobart and Sydney. I spent a lot of time developing my team and this lead to great success, particularly in Sydney which was the largest store in the group. This experience taught me the value of engaging and developing your people. It was their performance that created our success.

This got me interested in training and development so, in the mid 90’s I went back to University and did a Master’s Degree. I also Lectured part-time while studying.

I then worked for 2 years as a Training and Development Manager in a large Call Centre called TeleTech but I was always destined to run my own business and work with a variety of companies.

Since starting Team Focus in 1997 I’ve had the opportunity to work with a really diverse clientele throughout Australia and Asia. My work has taken me to offices, mines, construction sites, manufacturing plants, schools, and even prisons.

Can you share the most interesting story that happened to you since you started your career?

I had the chance to work with a regional prison in Victoria. The prison was expanding and the workforce was going to double in size. The new GM realized they would not survive with their current culture, which most people described as “toxic.” Our objective was to create a new culture that was aligned with the purpose and strategy of the prison.

It was a fantastic opportunity and a great experience with a unique client. The GM and I were able to create a dramatic shift in the culture and in the process we changed people’s lives. They went from an existence that many of them described as “miserable” to working in a healthy environment focused on keeping the community safe.

I often reflect on the contrast between my various visits to the prison. My first visit was met with cynicism, negativity, suspicion, and anger. More recent visits have been met with enthusiasm and gratitude. It’s a response that confirms why I do this work. We have the opportunity to positively change lives by creating a great organizational culture.

Can you share a story about the funniest mistake you made when you were first starting? Can you tell us what lesson you learned from that?

I was running a program for Honeywell that involved a series of workshops. We ran the first two in their offices but the third was offsite as a celebration and reward. I completely forgot, went to their offices and had just finished putting up all the flipcharts from the previous workshops when the coordinator rang to check everything was OK at the offsite venue. It was a comical conversation that had me spluttering apologies as I quickly gathered up all my charts and headed out the door to the offsite venue.

Suffice to say I always double-check workshop venues now and I’ve never made that mistake again.

Ok, let’s jump to the core of our interview. Most times when people quit their jobs they actually “quit their managers”. What are your thoughts on the best way to talent today?

Be humble and learn to listen.

One of the great challenges in leadership today is that leaders think they need to do all the talking. They think they should have all the answers and that they need to tell people what to do, solve problems for them, and generally provide instruction. The opposite is true. Leaders need to be humble and let their people do the talking. This will engage people in delivering success.

When I took my first management position I knew nothing about running a retail store. I knew the equipment we sold from my experience as a wilderness guide but had no idea how to run a store. Despite that, or possibly because of that, I ran the most successful store in the group and was moved to the largest store (in Sydney) where I achieved a record number of budgets during the recession Paul Keating said Australia “had to have.” I knew I didn’t have the answers to I listened, and my staff, customers, other managers, suppliers, and other stakeholders told me everything I needed to know to run a very successful store.

Your people want to contribute to your success, the success of the company, and their own success. The job of a leader is to engage their contribution. When you do you will find they are full of ideas and will make fantastic contributions. So be humble and learn to listen. They will appreciate it and you will be better for it.

How do you synchronize large teams to effectively work together?

The secret ingredient for creating a great team is a common purpose. You need to keep having conversations that align everyone to a common purpose. What is it that brings this team of people together? What are you trying to achieve?

Leaders at every level need to have conversations with their teams about the purpose and benefit of working together. This is by far the most important ingredient to a successful team.

Based on your personal experience, what are the “5 Things You Need To Know To Successfully Manage a Team”. (Please share a story or example for each, Ideally an example from your experience)

Number One: Align with a common purpose. The most essential ingredient in a successful team is that they share a common purpose or goal. Discuss the purpose and engage people in conversations about how they contribute to achieving it. When you do you will be building a strong foundation for “why” the team exists.

Number Two: Discuss how you will work together from a cultural perspective. What attitudes and behaviors will we expect from each other?

Number Three: Discuss how you will work together in terms of systems and processes. Let people know the process for making decisions, dealing with disagreements, resolving conflict. The more you establish simple processes the easier it will be to apply them when they are needed.

Number Four: Get to know each other so you can learn to trust the intention of each individual in the team. To be successful teams need to build a foundation of trust, and this means trusting the intention of each person. Trusting they are making decisions for the right reasons. Teams that trust each other are much more successful.

Number Five: Review. Review. Review. Make sure you constantly review the performance of the team. Two simple questions is all you need to ask (a) what are we doing well? (b) what do we need to do differently?

What advice would you give to other CEOs or founders to help their employees to thrive?

People need context and purpose, particularly the younger generations. They want meaning from their work so they need to understand why it’s important and how it, or the company, contributes to a greater good. Leaders need to spend less time in the detail and more time communicating the big picture, or context.

You are a person of great influence. If you could inspire a movement that would bring the most amount of good to the most amount of people, what would that be? You never know what your idea can trigger. 🙂

At the moment I’m really focused on culture. Too many people are working in a poor or even toxic culture. The more we create a great organizational culture the more people will enjoy their work, which will have a subsequent benefit in their life.

I’m on a campaign to get leaders engaging with their people to create a great culture. When that happens everyone benefits.

Can you please give us your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Can you share how that was relevant to you in your life?

The quote is from Stephen Covey.

“We control our actions, but the consequences that flow from those actions are controlled by principles.”

It took me a while to understand the idea that if we follow principles or natural laws, life will be a lot easier and if we violate principles we are doing things the hard way.

I’ve now learned this applies to culture. People are running “culture change” programs that violate natural laws and they are subsequently getting poor results. If they align their culture program with sound principles and natural laws they can achieve something fantastic.

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