You lead a team of direct reports.
You are a member of a team reporting to the same manager.
Which team is your priority with regard to accountability? Who do you put first?
Many of us will say the team we lead. And yes, I have said the same thing. But that was before I read the works of Patrick Lencioni and learned about his five-stage model described in The Five Dysfunctions of a Team. In essence, Lencioni says that your “first team” is the team of which you are a member – your peer team. (Read “Thoughts from the Field – Issue # 9 – What is Your First Team?” to learn more about his views.)
I’ll be honest, my initial reaction to this was “what?” Being a huge believer in the role of a manager as a developer of talent and a communicator of substantive feedback, I thought shifting allegiance from your direct reports to your peers was equivalent to the captain abandoning ship. But Lencioni is not suggesting that you shift allegiance (it’s not one or the other), but that you reprogram your focus to the broader organization and the work needed to realize its mission. It’s a “heads-up – scanning right and left” versus “heads-down – tunnel-vision” perspective.
Let’s look at why.
When you think of the word “team,” the first thought that comes to mind may be “high-performing” or it may be “competition”. In organizations, we know that the desired behavior for team members is collaboration. But, as a team leader, when we look across multiple teams in an organization, doesn’t a tiny competitive thought enter your mind? Isn’t there a moment (maybe even fleeting) when you think, “My team is better than your team?” Face it, when we lead teams, we have the tendency to believe our team is (or will be) the best. Does this type of thinking result in silo management?
Now think of your peer team. You report to the same person. You may have distinctly different areas of focus, but your goals are (hopefully) very similar. It is your combined effort that executes your strategy. By being an equal among equals, you now see how each piece fits and how your joint contributions make the mission happen.
What are the benefits of this switch in priority (team member versus team leader)?
Diversification of perspectives. As I said above, you may have very different focus areas and very different responsibilities. That difference is enlightening. Each member becomes the “honest broker” who brings to light observations and options that may be outside others’ thought processes.
Collaboration replacing competition. Instead of the “my team did better than your team” discussion, you know have the opportunity to view the puzzle as a whole. Collaboration brings about synergy.
Accountability that is easier to establish and sustain. As a team, you each have the same goals. Your path to get there may be different due to the variance of roles, but you are all responsible for the same outcome. So, if one doesn’t achieve, the whole doesn’t achieve. Sound harsh? Nope. We make it together or we don’t make it.
So how does this happen? How do you change an organization’s mindset from tunnel-vision individual downstream team priority to broad-spectrum collective priority?
State (and restate) your intentions. Yes, the team you lead is very important and should continue to have a huge influence on how you lead. But, the team of which you are a member is the team to whom you are accountable, first and foremost.
Change your measures. Accountability requires measurement. Instead of individual team metrics, create collective organizational metrics.
Create new communication paths. You may have to revise your communication methods and opportunities. Do you and your team members meet collectively? Do you have robust discussions on the collective goals/measures? How is each member accountable to the team?
Reinforce the “new normal” and celebrate the successes resulting from this new mindset. The pull to return to one’s departmental silos may be strong without constant reminders and reinforcement. It’s work to do things differently. But, the work is well worth the reward.
Start treating your team in this manner. Encourage (and expect) the team that you lead to do the same. The parts join to become a collective whole. Now, that’s high performance!
“The strength of the team is each individual member. The strength of each member is the team.”
— Phil Jackson
We bring to the workplace our thoughts of what “normal” is. In the past, I have often heard “Susan, be like this person” or “Susan, be like that person”. This feedback has led me to feel that I needed to be someone else.
I have resisted this. I am not like everyone else. I am loud. I am enthusiastic. I am over the top. I always want to change things up. I am out there.
“OK – calm down. Breathe. Be like ‘normal’ people. Be the same — not different.”
I have failed miserably at “same”. The little voice in the back of my mind murmurs, “Hmmmm – you are not measuring up”. I knew that all of the feedback I was receiving was actually true. I knew that I could be loud. I knew that I could be assertive. I knew that I have this craving urge to change things. I was (and still am) very self aware about all of this.
That was the struggle. I was of the belief that the way to build relationships, and therefore achieve success, was to be like others. This thought stemmed from past feedback and experiences.
Back in the 80s, I was hired to be part of an instructional team of 17 facilitators. The entire team was sourced for similarity — similar backgrounds, similar experience, similar personalities. And that worked for this team … until our initial project ended.
As work diversified, I was assigned to team with a colleague on a curriculum development project. We discussed direction and approach during our initial brainstorming meeting. I offered to write up some draft objectives for our review the next time we met. We knew that this overview document would be a rough cut.
During our next work session, the following conversation ensued.
Susan: “This is what I am thinking — what do you think?”
Colleague: “Susan, you need a comma in this sentence.”
Susan: “Yes, thanks. But tell me, what do you think about this approach/concept?”
Colleague: “And there should be a period here and I don’t think these two words go together.”
This “dialogue” went on for a while. I was saying look at the big picture concepts. My colleague was focusing on the details. I left that meeting thinking that I would never be able to work with this person. We didn’t see things in the same way.
Shortly after our conversation, we had an opportunity to attend a leadership course with the other members of our team. During this workshop, we were introduced to the Myers Briggs Type Indicator®. Comparing my results to my colleague’s results — yes — we were the exact opposite. I was an ENFP – a big picture external focus; my colleague was an ISTJ – a detailed inward focus. At that moment, it clicked with me. Now, I know why we were so frustrated. It had nothing to do with our ability to work together, but it had everything to do with seeing things in a different way. Even though we were hired for our similarities, we were different.
This was 30 years ago when this epiphany hit. Since then, I have grown more and more willing to embrace differences and different preferences in others. But what I have not done during that time is grown more comfortable embracing my difference. I felt like I had to be like everyone else. This person is doing this — so I had to do that. This person is making this career move, so I need to make a similar move. I would see my perception of personal success and failure in others’ moves and promotions. I never saw my “worthy” self as one that I truly am.
Fast-forward to the summer of 2104, when I was introduced to the Sally Hogshead’s Fascination Advantage®. This content focuses on our personal branding from an external viewpoint. How do others see us? What makes us different?
I learned that our ability to influence is subject to commoditization, competition, and distraction. I learned that we each speak a specific language that allows us to fascinate, stand out and be heard above the noise. I learned that when we are communicating in our preferred language, we are at our best — delivering our highest value.
On that July afternoon, I learned that I speak the language of relationships and creativity. I learned that I am an out of the box thinker. I am energetic. I am enthusiastic. I learned that my “quicksand” was the language of stability and routine. I get dragged down when asked to repeat tasks and processes. I avoid the status quo like the plague.
These are the same comments that people have said to me all of my life. But now, I see this as a good thing. My focus on relationships and passion for creativity are how I deliver my highest value. This is how people see me at my best. It’s ok to be enthusiastic, energetic, relational, creative, a re-inventor. It is ok to be different.
“Different is better than better.”
– Sally Hogshead
[inlinetweet prefix=”” tweeter=”” suffix=””]Being different flavors the pot.[/inlinetweet] Picture a fruit salad. Pineapple chunks. Strawberries. Grapes. Pears. Apples. Singularly each has a unique taste – each is different. When you put them all together in a bowl, you still taste the individual pieces, but they all contribute to the overall mouth flavor.
Now think of yourself and each of your team members as individuals, with unique contributions. When combined, you retain your uniqueness, but you also contribute to the value and performance of the team. [inlinetweet prefix=”” tweeter=”” suffix=””]Yes, there are Is in team.[/inlinetweet]
Identify what makes you different. Embrace it. Leverage it. Be proud of your uniqueness.
How does your difference deliver value? Please share.
As we think of teams, we immediately envision one of two types. One is the high-performing team where a mind-meld exists among members; they move in unison. And then there is the dysfunctional team. Yes, the type from which “horror stories” emanate; the team that actually moves backwards as they try to move forwards.
Naturally, we would all like to be a member of the first type — the high performing team. That takes work and attention.
High performing team members are devoted to each other. Think of the struggle this may cause. For example, you are a member of an executive team and you also lead a functional team. Can you say your first priority is to your fellow team members as opposed to your direct reports?
You may think of this as heresy. But, Patrick Lencioni, known for his on-point description of dysfunctional teams, points out that this shift is paramount to team effectiveness. Without acknowledgment of your priorities, you may find yourself waffling back and forth with your allegiance.
“A functional team must make the collective results of the group more important to each individual than individual members’ goals.”
– Patrick Lencioni
Once priorities are straight, I look for three ingredients, that when combined, indicate the existence of a high performing team. What’s in this secret sauce?
And I mean true listening. Not just a nod of the head while one waits for the speaker to take a breath so he/she can jump in with their own thoughts.
True listening means suspending your thoughts and being open to others. Listening is letting go of your ego and internalizing the speaker’s words. Listening is a singular focus on what the other is saying and the nuances that appear in tone and body language.
As with listening, clarity goes deeper than just a head-nod to the words. High performing teams ensure that each member has a deep understanding of the words they are communicating. High performing teams, in fact, use the same words.
I am always startled by the outcome of a 7 Habits of Highly Effective People workshop exercise that asks the attendees to spend one minute writing synonyms for the word “trust”. Certainly, we all know or understand what the word “trust” means, don’t we? However, without exception, each participant group fails to have a commonality in terms. I have done this exercise with groups of three and with groups of thirty. The outcome is always the same. No one synonym is common among all members of each group.
We will quickly agree that we all know what the word “trust” means. But this exercise shows that we know the meaning of the word “trust” through our own filters — which may not be the same as your filters. High performing team members take the time to dissect each word of their shared outcome so they have a singular frame of reference.
Once again, it is easy to say yes, we collaborate. But does the team actually do that? Collaboration is all about mutual benefit. Collaboration is working toward the Third Alternative described by Dr. Stephen Covey.
At times collaboration may be messy. As each team member shares from the heart, passion may turn into frustration. The true litmus test of a high performing team is shown in the manner by which frustration and conflict are resolved. Resolution comes from the true desire to understand and the need to achieve a solution that is better than any one individual input – not through avoiding, accommodating, or compromise.
The collaborative team doesn’t settle. The collaborative team takes the time required to achieve excellence.
Take your team to the next level. Listen. Clarify. Collaborate. Mix up the secret sauce for your team and enjoy the taste of high performance.