I am looking forward to the change of seasons as it seems to give us all permission to begin afresh.
As I reflect on the summer, I have had the privilege of working with several senior leadership teams who are on a journey determined to discover and overcome challenges, and often times dysfunction in and among their own C-level team.
As a result of working with these respective teams I am encouraged by the willingness of senior leaders to take an intentional look at how they are functioning as a team. Often times, I find that well-meaning senior leaders hold their direct reports accountable for developing strong and cohesive teams. Although this is also very critical in creating happier, healthier workplaces, focusing on C-level team development can set the example for the entire organization.
Sometimes we get cynical about the notion of team development because we have experienced team building sessions that have included popular exercises like trust-walks; rope courses; and building towers from Legos. Although these exercises may be applicable and fun, they often leave groups jazzed up for the moment or perhaps a day or two, but do they really sustain the necessary trust and commitment among teams that is critical to achieving results?
Patrick Lencioni, author of The Five Dysfunctions of a Team quotes that, “Teamwork in and of itself is not a virtue, it is not motherhood and apple pie. It as important as a marketing or financial strategy. Teamwork is a strategic choice.”
The senior leadership teams that I have been working with have made the strategic choice to unpack any team dysfunction and determine the obstacles that are getting in the way of developing trust; mastering conflict; developing commitment; being accountable; and achieving results. They have spent time and energy having the difficult conversations and choosing to work together to develop strategies that will help them to create a pathway to optimum team health on behalf of the greater whole of the organization.
Research has shown that leadership teams who have designed collective rules of engagement and whose members are willing to hold each other accountable to abide by the rules of engagement, are more likely to make better, quicker decisions than those teams who do not.
Recently I asked a group of leaders if they ever:
- Said they agreed with a decision the team made just to get the meeting to end, when really they disagreed and struggled with commitment to implement the decision.
- Had difficulty trusting team members to tell them what they really thought, and visa-versa.
- Went along, to get along.
- Felt confused at the end of meetings in terms of what had been decided, and no one was asking for clarity, including them.
- Had back-channel conversations instead of direct talk with the primary stakeholder(s).
- Swept conflict under the carpet instead of allowing healthy debate.
Most laughed, and nodded yes. Depending on the degree of dysfunction among a team, it can be no laughing matter, as the best ideas are left off the table; relationships suffer; and productivity decreases.
Senior teams who make the strategic choice to develop all teams in the organization, beginning with their own, and who are intentional about doing the hard work, will be set-apart from those organizations that do not.
By the way, I happen to love motherhood and apple pie (with ice cream), however if you have made the strategic choice to develop your team, Fortis Leadership is here to help you!