If you are a regular reader of this blog, then you have read my strong belief that teams have become the primary unit of production in almost all of our workplaces. Unless you are a self-employed one-person shop, the successful delivery of your products and services is dependent on the ability of a group of people to collaborate and work together to delight the customer, client or stakeholder. As business owners, we invest a great deal of time and dollars in the development, performance and management of individuals in our business, but we seldom spend enough time thinking about the productivity and development broader unit – the team.
Truly cohesive and highly productive teams obsessively focus on the collective results of the entire business or organization. When a business team loses its laser focus on results, bad things start to happen. The business starts losing to competitors. Good achievement-oriented employees leave the team. Team members focus on their own career and individual goals. The team becomes easily distracted, stagnates and fails to grow. Ineffective teams sink ships…..and businesses.
For the moment, let me focus on a business leadership team – although the principles are equally applicable in almost every other team. Here are some questions to help keep your leadership team focused on what really matters – the collective results.
- What Colour is your Hat ? When members come together in leadership team meeting, they most often come to the table wearing their departmental hat – representing that part of the business or organization that they have leadership responsibility for. This may seem natural and normal – but if a team member cannot take this departmental hat off and put on the bigger team hat, then all of his or her energy will go into ensuring that decisions are good for the department – regardless of their impact on the collective organization. The whole is greater than the sum of its parts – and the collective needs of the organization are always greater than the individual needs of the ‘silos’ within the organization. A leadership team is the CEO’s or owner’s best, and often only, source of advice and focused effort to achieve the collective results that the organization needs to succeed. This leadership team must be TEAM ONE in the minds of all participants – and while at this leadership table, all must be wearing their organizational hat, and sitting on their departmental hat. Understanding hats is the first critical skill required to obsessively focus on collective results.
- What’s The Score? Every sports arena has a visible scoreboard with clear indications of who is winning, losing, and time remaining. The scoreboard enables focus – because it is always visible. Teams need scoreboards as well – simple dashboards with basic information that communicate winning or losing. But a meaningful scoreboard requires crystal clarity about the most critical goals and how they are measured. Success in business is almost always more difficult to measure than in a sports game. As consultants, we work hard to keep things simple. What is the most important collective outcome or result that you need from this team over the next 6 months to achieve your broader goal? Maybe one or two more – but not a long list please. What will it look like when you achieve it? How will you measure your progress? If you step into the future and imagine complete success, what did you have to do to be successful? Create a short list of these critical deliverables for success. Open every team meeting with a progress review – using simple colours: green= on track; yellow = caution; red = high risk – needs immediate attention. Only when this agenda item is complete, do you allow discussion on any other agenda item in your meeting. Obsessive focus means laser focus. And whatever interests the boss should eventually fascinate the heck out of the rest of the team.
- Who is Number One? There is no “I” in team. Truly cohesive and results-focused teams are made up of humble people. Humble people think of themselves, ‘less often’ – and the bigger picture ‘more often’. There can be little room for self-interest and personal agendas in a truly results-focused team. This too is hard to achieve – but as teams, we must strive to make it so. We have a strong natural tendency to look out for ourselves more than others – even when those others are part of our families – or our teams. And once this tendency kicks in, or is perceived by others to be at play, then the natural defensive position is to follow suit – and the disease spreads like wild-fire. Results-focused team members regularly and willingly make sacrifices, both personally and in their areas of responsibility, for the broader good – for the collective results of the team.
Three tough questions – all relevant in any team that you are on – from family to the executive board room – all demanding some reflection and discussion in your team. Good luck on your results-focused journey.