2011-11-22

Leading teams

David Huggins

The way businesses are built these days is heavily dependent on effective teamwork. One notable feature of teamwork is that it doesn’t just happen; it needs to be designed, promoted, stimulated and supported or it fades and dies. The question is, by whom?

This is an ongoing challenge for business and organizational leaders – how to ensure that teams will thrive and prosper despite the many obstacles that volatile markets appear to place in their path. 

 

Nurturing and sustaining teams takes time and effort that has little or no payback until the team reaches a level of impetus and performance that is rewarding in itself. High performance teams all share a singular characteristic – they are self-directing, needing no external resources and support; they are fully able to be the masters of their own destiny.

 

Helping a team to achieve such a level of operation is no easy matter. It will usually happen though when the team has taken command of its own operation from the start, setting its own mandate, selecting its own membership and setting its own rules and strategies. Even given close oversight, it takes a fearless leader to offer this kind of freedom. Consider though, according to Katzenbach & Smith , “The Wisdom of Teams”, over eighty percent of teams that have imposed mandates and operating terms fail. Only a very small fraction of the remaining twenty percent attains full potential. Given these numbers, it makes sense to invest necessary time and effort to assist the team to stand on its own two feet as quickly as possible.

 

‘Magic’ will then evolve within the teams dynamics. In that each member will feel accountable for the team’s success, having been a parent to the process. Every member will have a self-imposed obligation to support the successful contributions of every other member. This is clearly demonstrated by recent leading-edge research in the social sciences; we have a built-in tendency for exchange, and specifically to seek uncoerced gains through reciprocity. This means that we are most comfortable when we naturally look out for one another.

 

At the optimal level we’ll have successful partnerships and teams when each one of us worries more about doing our share than about what others are contributing. The effectiveness of the team is the primary consideration in this case, so recognition and rewards will need to follow suit – being team-based rather than individually centered.

 

This is a meta-strategy for leading teams; just like raising your kids – get them on their own feet as quickly as you can and you’ll profit in every way.  


 

About the author: David Huggins MASc, FIoD, CMS is an experienced behavioral scientist and executive coach who’s dedicated to bringing out the best in individuals and groups. His insights and direct contributions have taken business leaders to elevated dimensions in performance. He can be reached through his websites at www.andros.org and www.polarisprogram.com

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