The Orange Team

6 May 2011 | written by Chester Elton for the Small Business Tips section(s)

The Orange Team

Want a free copy of the best selling book The Orange Revolution? Read to the end.

For the past few years I’ve been studying what makes the best teams different. Why do some work groups create breakthrough results—even in the midst of this great recession—and others, well, don’t. And in 2008 and 2009 we conducted a 350,000-person survey and wrote The Orange Revolution.

In our work, a common question we heard from teams trying to breakthrough was this: “We didn’t have a say in our team goal, it came from corporate. And given our resources, time, and budget, it seems impossible.”

One thing is certain—telling management what you can’t do is not going to fly. But that doesn’t mean your team is destined to become a real-life Dilbert cartoon, either. Instead we suggest taking to management a strong proposal of how—through a creative approach and willingness to stretch—you can meet the most critical and time-sensitive deliverables on your list. It’s a “can-do” statement instead of a “can’t-do” statement that is certain to get you nowhere. Couple this with a strong case for a second phase, where lower-priority items are completed after the initial deadline. This proves that your team knows where to focus and prioritize.

The success of your proposal to extend some projects into a second phase hinges on demonstrating a revolutionary approach to achieving key items during Phase 1. Great teams are creative and innovative; they stretch themselves. So work your network, call in favors, and find a way. One national sales team we studied had a corporate goal to grow and an order to trim travel expenses by a third. Although it seemed impossible, the group found creative ways to couple delivery visits with sales calls, miraculously meeting both goals.

With initiative and hard work, you can turn this potential train wreck into a feather in your team’s cap. Remember, “A small group of people can change the world. In fact it is the only things that ever has.” Margaret Mead

Want a free book? We have three prize packs to give away, each with the book The Orange Revolution and some other goodies. Winners will be chosen at random, just leave a comment to enter. Easy.

Update: All books have been given away, thanks for participating!



  • Kevin Gamache |   May 6th, 2011 at 9:17 am

    Interested to read the ideas that you’ve compiled. Please enter me in to win. Thanks!

  • Dick Larkin |   May 6th, 2011 at 12:44 pm

    I always enjoy reading the way you all think about small business marketing and how to help on a hyper-local level. Pick me!

  • James Anderson |   May 6th, 2011 at 1:15 pm

    Could be an interesting read … Add me to the list!

  • Scott Cowley |   May 6th, 2011 at 1:42 pm

    350,000 is a lot of people to survey, and hopefully some good data came out of it, which I’d love to read about. It’s interesting to see how we, as data collectors, like to “ask everyone” before we can paint a picture. Hopefully we start realizing that it makes more sense to spend the majority of our time with successful people and successful teams as a way to learn how to do things better.

  • Tyler Johnson |   May 6th, 2011 at 2:51 pm

    Another great post! Looking forward to reading the book (if I don’t win, I will go purchase). Always like your posts.

  • Michael Auer |   May 6th, 2011 at 5:46 pm

    Great read pick me!!

  • Earl Pilkington |   May 6th, 2011 at 10:18 pm

    Hi Chester, The best thing for us is when management set no goals – just “Do your Job” – then your team can be as creative as it wants in setting its own internal goals – as such we have no real targets – just the work sent from other departments for two people to push through and do – from 20 (people in the business) to 2 (who actually produce something) to delivery to the client.
    We set our own goals, our own deadlines, and as such have made it our own goal to have less than a day turn around for the approval of a product – then less than 48 hours until delivery – before we did this, delivery could take up to a month.
    As a result, management love it, other staff outside our department can’t believe we do this, customers love it and rave about it – and we reward our selves at the end of each day once we have achieved our own internally set targets and at the end of the week for our overall results.
    We have gone from a “we will see what we can do, when we can do it” to a “you will have it before 48 hours” culture (and we aim for 24hours – that we we have some wiggle room incase something goes drastically wrong).

  • Nessa Hunt |   May 7th, 2011 at 8:58 am

    I attended your key note and the training that followed a couple of days ago and believe that it will really make a difference at my workplace. Thank you for your enthusiastic performance and the great work that you are doing making a difference in people’s work lives a company at a time :)

  • Jim Campbell |   May 7th, 2011 at 1:04 pm

    Very nice article; great points and well written. Be smart and “stretch.” Who could ask for more?

  • Mike DeSousa |   May 9th, 2011 at 6:30 am

    De-centralized control is totally where it’s at. Many of the Great Leaders set the direction based on — among other factors — listening to their teams, and giving them autonomy in decision-making. Front-liners are often the first to spot trends and collect invaluable customer feedback which, if they are empowered, can be used on-the-fly to customize one’s products/services, etc. to promote growth. Best Buy is a great example of this. Would love a book, by the way… :) Best, Mike.

  • Jen T |   May 10th, 2011 at 6:56 am

    I always appreciate a “can-do” attitude. This is a good reminder for me to do the same. I look forward to reading your book.

  • arielle l |   May 10th, 2011 at 7:52 am

    pick me! i would love to learn more from your team!

  • Bryan |   May 11th, 2011 at 8:52 pm

    Would love to check this stuff out. Please enter me to win. Thanks!

    P.S. Love the site. Awesome Design. Is it based off a wordpress theme or complete custom wp theme? Just wondering. :)

  • Elaine H. |   May 16th, 2011 at 12:57 pm

    We are trying to find ways to improve employee recognition and appreciation. 1 day a month furloughs were just announced and we haven’t had a raise in 3 years. However, we just set a new record for the # of cases open that our staff must work. We need help.

  • Elizabeth Torres |   May 18th, 2011 at 1:22 pm

    look forward to what I have heard is a good book- enter me in your drawing- :0)

  • Chester Elton |   May 19th, 2011 at 11:13 am

    Thank you to all that responded to the blog. Nessa, delighted you were able to attend a keynote, that is always great fun! Good luck to all of you in winning a book. I love Tyler who says even if he doesn’t win he will BUY ONE! Thanks Tyler! Feel free to follow me and my co-author Adrian Gostick at And drop us a note anytime. Chester

  • George |   May 22nd, 2011 at 1:14 am

    Chester, I definitely need a copy of this book. It sounds awesome and I’ll snatch a copy up soon. Congratulations on your successes so far.

  • Karen Stezowski |   Jul 11th, 2011 at 5:37 am

    I got The Orange Revolution out of our Public Library and am LOVING it! Your ideas, concepts and great stories are going to help me take my really wonderful team to break through greatness. I can’t reccommend this book highly enough. I would love to own a copy. PS. The water buffalo video is the most amazing thing ever – I would love to see more videos that illustrate incredible teamwork. Seeing how this was not just teamwork, but teamwork by parents….I am going to show it at our next PTA meeting!

  • Justin Grice |   Jul 21st, 2011 at 11:15 pm

    I hope to win!

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