Monday, October 31, 2011

Taking the 'dys' out of dysfunctional teams

We have been approached several times over the past few weeks about assisting organisations with team building and a few thoughts on why there is such a growing urgency to create high functioning teams.
Most organisational structures include teams as a foundational part of business and yet sometimes we have seen levels of dysfunction that shock and dismay. We all have a picture in mind of those times when we have worked in teams where everyone is in flow, everyone has each others' back and where there is a strong sense of purpose. And these teams sure achieve beyond their expectations.
And we have also experienced those teams where the level of toxicity just streams through and where the percentage of 'walking dead' is higher than usual.
So not many people need convincing that teams that are highly functional perform well and achieve goals on a personal and a team level. The big question is - how do we get to that point and from our years of experience in working with teams in global organisations and in the public sector, these are some recommendations that we have:

1. We do see some value in one off bonding events such as looking for treasure hunts, building bicycles together or going on a rowing adventure. These events are not to be scoffed at and depending on how they are set up and debriefed, can achieve their aim of being fun, bonding and creating an atmosphere of goodwill. Team meals also create this same 'feel-good' factor and are useful if there is a celebration and an acknowledgement for team members.

2. To ensure that this feeling is sustained though, there needs to be a lot more effort placed in to the process and our experience has shown that by doing a serious and fun event, a great deal can be achieved.
Methodologies such as LEGO SERIOUS PLAY and Gamestorming are critically important processes to enable discussion and to get the conversation in to a blame-free zone where all contributions to the conversation are equally valued. By setting up the team builder as having definite outcomes that are measurable after the event.
Many of our top clients have structured sessions using these methodologies to ensure that they answer key questions in a consultative way. They play and they are creative in setting open and frank discussion as a value for the team.
Questions that guide and frame a team builder include:
  • Who are we as a team?
  • What do we do in relation to the larger organisation?
  • What is the benefit of what we do?
  • What is our branding as a team?
  • Where do we stand at the moment? If we were to hold the mirror up to ourselves, what would we see? What do we think of ourselves and what do we imagine others are saying about us? What are our possible blind spots?
  • Looking at our context, let's do a SWOT analysis
  • What is possible in terms of what we can achieve?
  • What is our 'BHAG' - big, hairy, audacious goal?
  • What are the guiding principles that are going to move us forward?
  • What are the key drivers that will create our success?
  • How will we know that we are successful?
  • How we will measure ourselves?
3. For teams that want to go deeper and truly come to grips with what it takes to work at a high functioning level, the best team builder is based on the Patrick Lencioni book, The Five Dysfunctions of a team'.
Going through the different layers of what teams need to do in order to reach peak performance includes looking at preferred behavioural styles and also doing some personal story telling.
As Lencioni puts it Trust is the key to everything and by knowing who is in the team, where they come from and what they represent, is a very strong way of creating that sense of trust.

Team building is what you make of it - and can be incredibly powerful if done with the right amount of planning and set up with the expectation of success.

Women in Leadership

I attended a Women in Leadership Retreat last week with an amazing group of women who over the past few years have attended the Women in Leadership Forum at the Harvard Business School.
My lessons learnt from the 2 days spent together at the Peak Spicers Lodge in Queensland:

1. Networks sound as though they are time-consuming and they do take enormous effort. They are worth every cent! Investing that time and money in to a network that is open, supportive and from a diverse range of industries is just a huge opportunity to refresh, re-energise and reframe some of your thinking. It gives you the self-confidence to go forward and to explore different ways of approaching challenges.
One of the key comments that was made by the incoming CEO of IBM, Virginia M Rometty, was that she often lacked self-confidence. Once in her career, she was asked by a recruiter if she would like to go for a big job and she responded by saying that she needed time to think it over. Her husband questioned her and asked whether a man would have responded like that! She says,"“What it taught me was you have to be very confident, even though you’re so self-critical inside about what it is you may or may not know.”
Being part of a network provides you with the support and the strength to grow in confidence and to look in the mirror in a less critical way. This board of advisors also ensures that you hold each other accountable and that actions that are committed to, are indeed taken.

2. If you want to move ahead, you need to ensure that your value is visible. You have to be able to assertively state what it is that you say and do.
In her story of her life, Lady Gaga also speaks about how she needed the self-belief to take the next step up and how through promoting her brand she was noticed. In the initial stages of her career, Lady Gaga was asked to be the replacement for a singer and she immediately accepted. She identifies that moment as the critical turning point in her career.
But to be called on, she had to have been noticed and this is where personal branding is so important.
She is now the embodiment of what personal branding can achieve!

3. Thinking and decision making emerged as such critical components of the leadership function. It is really up to us to find that time to think and also to think in a structured way.
Books that were recommended for this purpose:
Gardner talks about the different intelligences that come in to play when thinking through challenges. We need to have a synthesizing mind to explore different fields and there is no rest for any organization. Be creative or go backwards. World has changed faster than conservative organizations.

Gardner also
demands that we use the respectful mind. In a globalized world with different ethnic backgrounds, we have to be very open to the thinking about the other disciplines. We also need the ethical mind. So much more accountability is demanded today. Boards are being filmed so that they receive feedback on how they handle issues.

We are reminded by Lehrer that our emotional brian needs credit as well as the experience side of our life. We need to include instinct to guide good decision making because it is the accumulation of your life experience.

Key question - What gifts do I have so that I can nurture them to be come the best I can be?

4. Women leaders need to improve their negotiating skills. We negotiate on a range of topics every day.

Recommended reading - Prof Daniel Shapiro - Beyond Reason.

It is really important, particularly as women leaders, to strengthen your BATNA (best alternative to a negotiated agreement) as this makes you stronger in the negotiation space. It also weakens the other person's BATNA. Having no alternatives weakens you when negotiating. So - understand your own interests really well and know what you can give away and what you can't.

Be very aware of your emotions during a negotiation - because so many emotions surface. Appreciate and value the other person and where they are at. Research at Harvard showed that they could predict which marriages and relationships would last based on whether couples showed appreciation. Just the nodding and the umm, and ah-ha's make all the difference. Look at where you don't feel appreciated and what that triggers in your attitude.