All blogs of type Thoughts From The Field
You read The Five Dysfunctions of a Team and perhaps held an offsite on the disciplines from The Advantage. You had several great conversations, made initial progress, then hit a ceiling and have since stalled. Unfortunately, this happens.
In my work consulting to leadership teams around organizational health, I find most teams are comprised of well-intentioned people trying to do the right thing for their team. Despite those good intentions, however, teamwork is often undermined when members inadvertently act in ways that are not in the best interest of the team.
In my work guiding clients to lead healthy organizations, I see pretty clearly that a team meeting is a great indicator of its health. One IT team I recently met with is a perfect example: our offsite was the only time the team had all been in the same room over the past six months.
I've always been very disciplined. Even as a kid, I wanted to do things the "best way." I remember going to the dentist once and when he asked about my teeth-brushing habits, I proudly explained, "always twice a day, and I brush side to side." "I can see that," he responded. "But you should brush up and down instead." That's when I learned that even though I had the discipline and the right intentions, I wasn't executing correctly.
With all of the recent fanfare surrounding the release of "Star Wars, The Force Awakens," I thought it might be interesting to channel some of Yoda's Jedi wisdom to our approach to teamwork, specifically the model found in Patrick Lencioni's book The Five Dysfunctions of a Team. In my ten years consulting to leadership teams, one thing that has become very clear to me is the importance of the role of the leader to the success of a team. Yoda's skill as a teacher, mentor, truth teller and leader impressed me as I think about the teams that I work with. Here are five of Yoda's teachings as they relate to some of the common issues we encounter with our client teams.
In my work as a principal consultant helping clients create clarity, I've seen a variety of responses and rates of success. Some find traction quickly. Others, however, are caught in old paradigms and cannot break out. It seems simple, but it's not always an easy task. The first thing I usually address is to make sure that people understand the purpose of clarity. Why clarity? What is its purpose and impact? The goal of clarity is not to generate new information. The goal is transformation. Answers to our six critical questions actually fuel effective problem solving and decision-making.
My mom and dad would have made excellent CEOs. At least, that's how I reflect back on their leadership capabilities now (believe me, I wasn't nerding out on their "leadership capabilities" when I was seven). They were excellent decision-makers because they knew how to bring my two siblings and me along in any decision-making process, yet always made it very clear that it was their decision to make.
Recently, while I was working with a long-time client, I was struck by the candor and intensity with which two of the teammates were interacting. Over a year ago, when our work together was still in its infancy, things were radically different (tense and strained are a couple of descriptors that come to mind). In fact, Bill, the head of a major division of this organization, and one of his peers, Samantha, were close to a breaking point. Their different communication and decision-making styles had caused such friction and tension that they had lost respect and trust for one another.
Virtually every executive team faces the important hurdle of running effective strategic meetings. These meetings, where teams discuss critical issues affecting long-term success, can serve as important inflection points for a team to advance the organization's goals - or be seen as a huge waste of time that erodes the credibility of the leadership. It all depends on how well they are executed.
There is no denying that virtual teams are different. Virtual teams change how people communicate, collaborate, establish authority and rules, and manage their day-to-day work. They have all the challenges of traditional teams - in other words, they often display many of the five dysfunctions - with the added complexity of working across time and distance and a dependence on technology to interact.