ATD Blog

Transform Teams to Transform the World

Monday, June 1, 2020

A group of individuals who are committed to a shared mission and to each other can do extraordinary things, explained Keith Ferrazzi, Monday morning’s keynote speaker for the Association for Talent Development’s Virtual Conference.

We’re in extraordinary times, and no one can crack the code of these challenges alone. In his presentation, Ferrazzi outlined how individuals can serve as leaders, even without the badge. It’s about how you show up and whether you are willing to co-elevate.

Show up a half hour early

In recounting his humble roots, Ferrazzi—author of the recently released book Lead Without Authority: How the New Power of Co-Elevation Can Break Down Silos, Transform Teams, and Reinvent Collaboration—spoke about growing up in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, the son of an out-of-work father in the manufacturing industry and a mother who cleaned houses. He said his father didn’t feel as though he had a voice at work. It was the time when the US manufacturing industry was losing its stature in the world.

Ferrazzi came to understand that worker-empowered teams—from manufacturing to customer service—could transform work through total quality management. Those on the frontlines know their jobs best and, working together with a commitment to each other, can solve the pressing problems at hand.

When Ferrazzi secured a job at a golf club, his father repeatedly reminded him to show up a half hour early. Because he showed up early, Ferrazzi noticed rough spots on the course and relayed that to one of the top golfers—this insight took two strokes off her score. That golfer took Ferrazzi under her wing, which led Ferrazzi to other experiences that would greatly affect his life.

Connection Point Ferrazzi sketch notes
Sketchnotes provided by See In Colors

How to lead without authority
To lead without authority, Ferrazzi said we all have to show up a half hour early. Even without a badge, we can use the structure of teams, infusing in teams the essence and commitment for co-development. Further, leading without authority requires these elements:


Vision. “What is it that you might want for your organization?” Ferrazzi asked Virtual Conference attendees. Organizations differ, so only each individual can answer that question. For example, how have traditional leadership competencies changed? What will informal learning look like in the remote world? What are the new people rules?

Team members. Everyone must take responsibility for the relationships in their life. We all encounter individuals whom we find to be difficult.

To lead without authority means not letting those individuals stand in our way. Rather, we must invite them onto our team. But that is easier when we have a group of team members whom we already trust and whom we know have our back.

Ferrazzi encouraged attendees to get rid of negative ways of thinking, such as “It’s just not my job” or acting like a victim.

Co-creation. Collaborative problem solving has its own set of rules, Ferrazzi said. We have to be candid with each other. There must be bold inputs, followed by the group making a bold decision.


One of the challenges is getting to the place of psychological safety that is required for team members to open up to each other. This can be especially tricky in a remote environment where we don’t naturally run into each other.

We have to make it purposeful, Ferrazzi pointed out. One way is an exercise he calls “sweet and sour,” in which individuals become vulnerable with each other. Teammates share what is going on in their life that is both good and not good.

For example, Ferrazzi shared a “sour” that his mother, who is asthmatic, wants to go out rather than staying apart from her friends during the COVID-19 pandemic. He’s scared for her. The “sweet,” he said, is that his new book was just released.

Grow. A final element of leading without authority and co-elevation is wanting to make growth a hallmark of our teams, creating a peer-to-peer network in which we support one another.

Ferrazzi concluded by urging conference participants to adopt the principles of co-elevation to birth new solutions—a place where people don’t have a mindset that it’s not their role or their place to speak up; a place where individuals work fluidly together within networks to grow.

During these unprecedented times, it’s more important than ever. Ferrazzi reminded participants that they are needed—the “disruption around us can be debilitating, but the innovation could be extraordinary.”

Share your ATD Virtual Conference experience on social media. #ATDVirtualConference

About the Author

Connection Point is the daily news source written by ATD staff for the ATD Virtual Conference, relaying news, session coverage, and other updates.

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