A small company invests in leadership – Part 2 – team development process

The leadership investment mentioned in my previous post of Feb 12 is moving forward.  This week we will be discussing and agreeing to the process to be undertaken.

The purpose of the intervention with this small company is to support the executive team to take greater accountability for the direction and development of the German organization.

The following is a six step model which I will propose to accompany the team in its development over the next six months.

Team_Development_Process

Like all cultural issues, a circle is the best symbol to use in describing the process to be undertaken.  No sooner are you finished with the development process  than you find yourself at the beginning of the circle, ready to initiate the next phase of  development.  The process for this next phase looks very similar to the process which has just been gone through.  Developing teams and or organizational culture is similar to life-long learning-  it needs to be constantly nurtured.

G5_Actuators_mvn

Entheos’ Six Step Team Development Process contains the following items:

1) Establish Framework

This involves clearly setting the purpose of the team development process as well as defining what should be achieved.  It may also require clearly setting the boundaries around who is and who is not part of the team.

2) Initiate process

This phase has its challenges and pitfalls.  The objective is to get as much acceptance as possibile from the team members while at the same time taking a pulse of what is actually happening in the team.  Many team members may be lukewarm or downright hostile about getting involved in another activity which adds to the burden of their busy schedules.  Obtaining their understanding and acceptance that this process will be of great benefit to them is paramount. As a team consultant Entheos needs to diagnose initial team dynamics issues (i.e. existing conflicts within the team) at this stage  in order to plan for the next phase of the intervention.

3) Foster team awareness

This sounds simple, but is actually quite complex.  People’s understanding of team and their role within that team varies greatly.  Some individuals may not even acknowledge that they are part of the team. In this phase it is key to look at people’s understanding of the team as well as the various links which glue a team together.  Focus is on the functioning or non-functioning of relationships within the team as well as getting team members to deepen their sense of team. I also likes to look at team values s stage and compare those with how they co-exist with company values.

4) Create team identity

This stage requires a deep dive into team roles – who is filling them and what is lacking.  After sorting out team priorities, team members then make commitments to fill in the gaps where certain roles are underrepresented.  New team agreements emerge.

Throughout Stages 3 and 4 the individual team members may need individual coaching.  After Stage 4, the consultant/coach needs to shift into a team coaching role – looking not necessarily at the individuals but at the interactions among individuals.

5) Reinforce new team dynamic

With the new priorities and agreeement in place, it is time and essential to test these new commitments.  The team building development will only remain a theoretical exercise  unless it is quickly put to the test.  My preferred approach is to pick ONE challenge that the team is facing and then approach it through the prism of the new team understanding.  Team members are asked to be particularly aware of interactions on this priority item.  Through this strengthened consciousness, the possibilities of new team interactions become real and are strengthened.

6) Reflect on team development

After a sufficient amount of time has passed (approx. 6 months), team members are invited to reflect as a group on what has changed, what has improved (or not).  As part of this exercise, team members ponder what might be the next step in their development.

Throughout the process I make an extra effort to build capacity within the organization. By approaching  the team coaching in this manner, the team members develop the skills to guide the team through the next level of development.  Emerging from the positive expererience of teram coaching, the team members have acquired the language, the tools and the motivation to carry the process forward.

It is the mark of an instructed mind to rest satisfied with the degree of precision to which the nature of the subject admits and not to seek exactness when only an approximation of the truth is possible.       Aristotle

Advertisements

Executive Team Development

Most leadership development work focuses on the individual.   And indeed the leadership skills that individuals bring to the table are fundamental to the success of any endevour.  Nevertheless the real music takes place in the ensemble of how individuals work together.  We all know from watching professional sports that having the best talent on a team does not guarantee a first place finish.

As a workshop facilitator I have often run activities where the results of teams are compared with the results of individuals.  One rather sophisticated activity is a case study on change management.  A company on the verge of bankruptcy needs to change quickly.  Both individuals and teams can choose what should be done from a menu of options.  Almost invariably the team comes up with the better solution.

These activities interestingly enough are really aimed at individual leadership development not at team development.  The point of such exercises is to help individuals become aware of the qualitative difference.

However if the music is in the ensemble, why aren’t there more leadership development efforts aimed at teams?

I find the lack of attention to team leadership troubling, particularly at the top executive level.  I did work for an automobile part manufacturer where the so called executive “team” only met twice a year.  In another case for a very large non-profit, the “team” which operated in various locations globally did not actually know each other personally.  In a third case – for a reknown truck manufacturer – the executive team would on principle never get together for any longer than two hours.

Such “team” constellations are in my opinion not really teams but fiefdoms.  The heads of the various clans come together only to make decisions that they could not otherwise make alone.  Perhaps each of the individuals is a great leader – but what image are they projecting about leadership through their team interactions?  Can such a constellation at the top truly inspire great teamwork throughout the organization? A critical dimension of leadership appears to be neglected.

Breakthrough research was conducted by Dr. Meredith Belbin in the 1970s on teams. Over 9 years teams were asked to participate in simulations.  During these simulations the different kinds of contribution from team members were observed, recorded and categorized.  The results were illuminating.  The best teams were not those with the greatest intellectual capacity, but those teams that demonstrated the best balance in the types of contributions that were being made.  From this research sprung the conceptual model of team roles.  In his book Management Teams – why they succeed or fail Belbin highlights 8 various roles (later expanded to 9 roles) that teams need to be successful.  The Financial Times selected this book as one of the top 50 business titles ever.

Belbin_Circle

Each of the segments in the above circle represents one of the 9 essential team roles.   Each of the individuals on the team have been placed into the different segments twice (represented by their initials) – for their top two contributions to the team.  There are two roles which are not represented in the team – both roles which are part of the social category.  The implications of this finding are that there could be a substantial risk to team cohesion.

Presenting this type of information to a top executive team can be very insightful.  The non-profit organization I spoke of earlier  had 3 roles underrepresented which highlighted many of the issues that the organization was facing.  In addition to the overall team report, individuals also get an overview of where there could be “chemistry” issues between certain members as shown in the sample report below.

Relationship_Report

Leadership is three dimensional. Development occurs at the individual, team and organizational levels.  Investment in individual leadership capability is not enough.

“Talent wins games, but teamwork and intelligence wins championships.” Michael Jordan

A small company invests in leadership – Part 1

Last week I had the opportunity to meet with a small to medium sized company in the precision instruments business.  With manufacturing in Europe and the US and the opening of distribution centers in China and Brazil, it has become in the past few years a truly global enterprise.

G33_InCoherentSources_mwn G36_Detectors_mvn

I have known the director of the German operations for many years.  Over that time we have had interesting conversations on leadership, culture and high performance teams.  The conversations usually ended with her telling me that I should help her with her business, but nothing concrete materialized.  I always told her that when the time was right, she would know.  Over the years, she has had a lot on her plate to put the house in order.  There were two changes in ownership of the organization.  This disruption was accompanied by operations running in the red for a few years.  Re-organizing production and distrubution were top priorities.

When I took a tour of the facilities last week, I was impressed with what had been achieved.  They have a catalogue of approximately 12.000 items – most of which can be assembled and shipped within twenty-four hours of receiving an order.  They are able to do this even though most products have to be assembled before being shipped.  Approximately 180 orders go out a day.

They have also done an admirable job in attending to the culture of the organization.  When a new employee comes into the organization, they have a one-on-one session with the director and talk about the values of the company.  Absolute priority is given to customer orientation.  As proof of that commitment, an extensive feedback system has been developed in which scientists who use the instruments are in constant dialogue with the company’s management.  The company’s CEO takes pride in being part of those conversations.

After reading the feedback from her employees from a 360° feedback instrument, the director of the German operations decided that it was time to invest in leadership.  Despite or perhaps because of all of the success that had been achieved, there was a limit as to how much further she could take the company, based on her leadership capabilities alone.  She realized that the time had come for an increase in the level of leadership within the organization.

Last week we had a discussion on what it would take for her team to begin to take more ownership for the direction in which the organization is developing and more accountability for the alignment and commitment of its employees.

I will be putting a proposal together in the next two weeks and hope through this blog to keep you informed on the way the  leadership consulting process unfolds through this most interesting case study.

“I have been impressed with the urgency of doing. Knowing is not enough; we must apply. Being willing is not enough; we must do.”                                                                                                                                 – Johann Wolfgang von Goethe

“If you’re walking down the right path and you’re willing to keep walking, eventually you’ll make progress.”                – Barack Obama