Loyalty, respect and support for team members are values instilled in us from childhood and they are certainly amongst the key attributes of successful leaders. A recent review has caused me to recognise that at times we may carry loyalty too far and we risk severe consequences by doing so.
In a recent review of two unrelated corporate failures I realised that each business suffered enormous damage as a direct consequence of disenfranchised and under performing senior managers. With the benefit of hindsight we can see that it is possible that if these managers had been removed 12 months earlier each company may well have survived.
Why are such managers retained? It is likely that their shortcomings have been recognised and discussed with them during performance reviews or following poor management decisions or errors of judgement. When faced with the prospect of dismissing them their line manager has almost certainly taken into account:
The monetary cost of replacing them
The productivity loss from replacing them and retraining a replacement
The disruption within the team or business unit
These are rarely valid arguments a bad manager will cause a disproportionate level of problems which may well lay hidden for months before something finally breaks. Further a bad manager is fracturing the team and negatively influencing others.
What are the solutions?
Only recruit the best: By recruiting the best possible people you are taking primary responsibility for quality – you dramatically reduce the risk of future problems.
Always Reference Check: When recruiting don’t be afraid to ask the tough questions of current or ex employers, yes we need great technical and educational skills but what about their interpersonal skills. Are they team players, do they play favourites or get involved in office politics.
Formal Process: I have a policy that senior people are employed on the understanding that they will face a 180 day performance review – fail that review and its sudden death.
All or nothing: Being mostly a team player is like being “slightly pregnant”; it’s just not on and it’s not going to work.
Now it may sound tough but if one of your apples is looking bad throw it away and do it quickly. Your team will thank you and your bottom line will prosper.
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Great Teams Win!
And Keep on Winning
We Aussies know all about teams.
We have the AFL the NRL, the Premier League, not to mention cricket, hockey, swimming, tennis, netball, bowls and of course the local drinking team.
Every one of us passionately follows a team or two so of course we know all about team work…..don’t we?
In management speak we come across the words team, teamwork, team building, team targets every day without giving a very much thought as to what a team really is and how it functions.
The most simplistic and common dictionary definition of a team is: “to come together to achieve a common goal”. Essentially the objective of teamwork is to achieve more than the sum total of the individual people involved.
Pretty simple hey? And yet recently I came across two comments which demonstrated to me that not everyone finds the team concept so simple.
The first comment was in the form of a question to a SME advice column in a major daily newspaper – “I recently started a small business with a partner and he doesn’t work as hard as me. How can I get him to lift his input?”
The second was a question asked during a seminar “As a team leader I find it very difficult getting everyone in a team to contribute equally; what do you recommend?”
In both instances my thought was that these guys just don’t understand team work!
Let’s return to the definition and to that “common goal”. The first thing a good team leader does is to define the “common goal” the individual tasks out and best match the team members to the task. A simple team check list can help such as:-
Very clearly and simply define the Common Goal
Determine the best strategies to achieve the Common Goal
Identify the individual tasks to achieve the Common Goal
Clearly communicate the Common Goal and the individual tasks to the team
Discuss the strategies and tasks with the team and allow for questions and input
Analyse the individual team members, their skills and their responses to the Common Goal
Allocate the individual tasks to team members. Ensure each member understand what the whole team is doing
Lead but allow autonomy within tasks
Remember you may be the leader but your objective is for THE TEAM to be successful
Build RESPECT & TRUST with each member for the different skills and contributions they bring to the team
Sporting teams are very good examples of team work; as the batsmen toil in the sun chalking up a hundred runs do they resent the rest of the team sitting back in the pavilion? In a soccer game the goal keeper spends most of his time standing around whereas the forwards are running several kilometres, constantly tackling opposing players to gain control of the ball.
These sporting teams understand the essence of team work; it takes different members with different skills to tackle different tasks at differing times to deliver the very best result.
In my experience the more diverse the skills and personalities the more effective the team, be it a corporate management team, taskforce or board. I once served on a board with a co member of ferocious intellect, at times he and I arm-wrestled over finances and governance for an hour or so before reaching agreement. This was frustrating but never personal because the board had that magic ingredient RESPECT.
Without respect no team will function and without leadership no team will build and retain respect.
In summary there are as many differing “types of teams” as there are differing individuals and in theory no one type is better than another. The difference is in the quality of leadership, the clear communication of The Common Goal and the individual tasks task and most importantly the RESPECT & TRUST of the team members.
If you have respect and trust then yes you are part of a team. If its lacking you are a part of a group of people……..quite a different beast!
The Barking Mad Blog
SME Advice with Bite!
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