What’s your 68?

Jim Cederna loves to tell stories.

One that the former president and CEO of Calgon Carbon Corp. enjoys most is about former Pittsburgh Penguins star Jaromir Jagr when he was a member of the 1998 Czech Republic’s Olympic hockey team. While nearly everyone expected the Canadians, Russians or even the U.S. hockey team to capture the gold medal, the Czech team took the top prize.

In 1968, the Soviet Union crushed a move toward democratic reforms in Czechoslovakia, and Jagr wore 68 as a symbol of the motivation behind his driving ambition to beat the Russian team.

One of the first things Cederna does in his work at Cederna International is to ask his clients and their work teams what their 68 is.

A tool to help leaders and teams find their 68 is one of several in the kit that Cederna’s carrying around these days as a team-building coach under the banner of Cederna International. All the tools have been refined and polished through his experience as a turnaround specialist with several public companies, including Calgon Carbon from 1999 to 2003.

The keystone of Cederna’s approach involves measuring trust and teamwork, then taking steps to improve them. He’s developed a 17-point survey that he says measures trust and teamwork and can demonstrate how they vary over time. Cederna contends that trust and teamwork are measurable, and that for every 10 percent increase in the trust and teamwork index, it’s reasonable to expect a 20 percent increase in financial performance.

Cederna tells another story about a family-owned business that brought in a high-performance management team to run the company. Despite their stellar credentials, the company’s performance began to sag. Cederna found that there was nothing missing in the team’s business skills. Instead, the problem was a lack of trust and teamwork. After addressing those issues, the company’s performance rebounded.

Cederna suggests that employers use an exercise that accounts for where each dollar of income goes – and not to be surprised if even the CFO can’t come up with the answer right away. He says that seeing where the money goes is eye-opening for most employees; few realize how little profit the company earns out of each dollar, or how their individual actions impact its finances.

Most critical, says Cederna, is that individuals, whether they are team members or leaders, identify the factor that motivates them to perform at their highest level, or their 68.

“Everyone’s got one,” says Cederna. “The question is, do you know what it is?” How to reach: Cederna International, www.cedernainternational.com