More and more organizations are looking at teams as an approach to better deal with disruptive technologies and macroeconomic changes, extract more learning from experience, and deliver better products and services to customers.
Although most organizations talk a good game when it comes to fostering teamwork, research shows that the odds of any team becoming high performing are at best only one in five.
This implies that organizations are falling short of the mark when it comes to having the conditions necessary to create high performing teams.
Does the need to get along trump the need to get results in your organization?
Morale can be defined as a group or team’s cohesiveness or esprit de corps. Strong emotional ties, close relationships, and high levels of trust between members are the hallmarks of teams with high morale. Members of high Morale teams often say they would do anything for their teammates; as depicted in the movies Saving Private Ryan or Lone Survivor members of some combat units become so tight that they are willing to sacrifice their lives for their teams. Conversely, low morale teams have members who will easily sabotage others if doing so furthers their careers.
About 35 years ago Steven Kerr published an article entitled, “On the Folly of Rewarding A, While Hoping for B.” Kerr rightly pointed out that organizational reward systems are often misaligned with desired outcomes.
For example, organizations say they want collaboration yet reward individual performance. It may be that many organizational succession planning processes are similarly misaligned. Before describing this problem it is important to understand the difference between successful and effective leaders.
Idleness, indifference, and irresponsibility are healthy responses to absurd work—Fred Herzberg.
Employee engagement concerns the relationship between employers and employees. Highly engaged employees are enthusiastic about their jobs and committed to performing assigned tasks at a high level; disengaged employees work to earn a living and could care less about their jobs.
Organizational research shows there are positive relationships between employee engagement and organizational revenues, productivity, profitability, and customer satisfaction, although the causal nature of this relationship may be in question.
Why do people get dumber when they join organizations?
Alfred Binet invented the first intelligence test in the late 1800s and since then Terman, Spearman, Horn and Cattell, Guilford, Cronbach, Gardner, Scarr, Hernstein and Murray, Riggio, Sternberg, and others have hypothesized about the nature of intelligence, whether it is a unitary or multi-dimensional ability, and how it should be measured.
Bob Hogan believes intelligence in everyday life consists of two related abilities. Strategic intelligence is a person’s ability to cut through the clutter and detect problems.
Is culture an excuse for not getting anything done in your organization?
I once worked on a CEO succession planning project for a medium sized company in the Southeast. There were five internal candidates, all of whom were on the Executive Leadership Team and played key roles in formulating the company’s five year strategic plan. Four were long-term employees and the fifth had joined the company 16 months earlier.
“The vision thing” is a commonly acknowledged reason why George HW Bush lost the 1992 election to Bill Clinton.
A decorated war veteran, successful business owner, Congressman, Ambassador, Director of the Central Intelligence Agency, Vice President, and President of the United States, Bush certainly had a better handle on foreign and domestic issues than Bill Clinton, who at the time had only been the Attorney General and Governor of Arkansas.
We often associate power with corruption—dictators run kleptocracies, business leaders make selfish decisions that do little for shareholders, government and political leaders squander taxpayers dollars on pet projects, and some non-profit and charitable organizations are run more like personal fiefdoms than contribute to the social good. Although we easily recognize the corrosive effects of power, Rosabeth Moss Kanter’s 2010 article in Harvard Business Review maintained that powerlessness plays an equally toxic role in many organizations. Leaders and employees with limited power jealously guard whatever they have by not sharing information with others and insisting those who need their help follow all rules, complete all forms correctly (and in ink!), and abide to their time lines. Those who fail to pay the appropriate tributes will experience expertly honed examples of passive-aggressiveness, as their calls will be ignored, forms lost, and time lines extended.
Most organizations have executive or senior leadership teams comprised of the CEO, COO, and functional and business unit heads.
The members of these 6-20 person teams are generally responsible for determining organizational strategy and structure; setting performance targets and budgets; making policy; and managing the business. Top teams often determine the fate of organizations and their unique problems merit additional comment.
The vast majority of Global 1000 companies, Federal and State government agencies, NGOs, and philanthropic organizations use leadership competency models to describe the skills and behaviors leaders need to be successful.
Organizations typically use 6-20 competencies to define leader expectations with variations for those in different hierarchical levels, functions, business units, and geographical regions.
Norms are unwritten rules that guide human behavior and can be observed whenever boarding elevators or navigating airport security lines. Most people “know” what to do when boarding an elevator full of strangers: enter the elevator, go directly to the back, turn around and face the door, fixate on the floor number indicator, don’t make eye contact or engage in conversation, and quickly exit at the desired floor. Likewise, road warriors know the airport security line routine and get irritated when stuck behind inexperienced travelers. Norms are rarely written down but everyone is expected to abide them; those who don’t are seen as rubes.
A fourth reason why most leadership development programs fail is that most suffer from serious methodological shortcomings. First, many leadership development programs are “one and done” type events with participants not being held accountable for applying what they’ve learned. Second, learning complex skills takes considerable time and is not likely to happen by attending one or two-day training programs. Third, those delivering leadership development programs are generally individual contributors who lack the leadership experience needed to translate theory into practice. Finally, having only those in charge rather than intact teams attend leadership development programs makes it difficult for teams to apply whatever lessons are learned.
About 25 years ago researcher Fred Luthans published a highly insightful but mostly ignored article on the differences between successful and effective leaders.
Luthans identified successful leaders using promotion rates--those who had been rapidly promoted over a five year period. Effective leaders were those who had achieved results that consistently beat the competition.
My observations comes from my work with over 500 teams and the work of Hackman, Salas, Katzenbach and Smith, Lencioni, and others:
L1. The Five Dysfunctions of a Team makes some very good points, but it is important to keep in mind the book's sub-title: A Leadership Fable. Lencioni deserves credit for recognizing the importance of teams and giving people a framework for improving team dynamics, but there are no data to back up anything in the book and much of the advice contained therein is off base.