A small company invests in leadership – Part 3 – initiating the process

Circle - phases 1 and 2

The team development process in which I spoke about in previous blogs (posts from Feb 12 and Feb 24) got started in the past two weeks.  The managing director of the German operations agreed with the process I proposed and gave the green light to go ahead.

Since then I have put the process in motion, concentrating on establishing the appropriate framework for the team development process and starting the initiative.

Getting the right framework is critical.  Two questions need to be answered before anything else can be done.  The first question is Why? – i.e. what is the purpose of making this effort and what does the company expect to be the  outcomes of this initiative.  The second question is Who? – who is and who is not on the team (and why or why not?).

I met with the managing director and the executive in charge of personal development for three hours to discuss these two vital questions.

Normally I would include more people in the search for the answers to these questions.  In the case of this client, I made a judgement call that keeping the number of people to a minimum was the appropriate strategy.  The key in this particular situation is having the 100% buy-in of the managing director who is de-facto the team leader.  This company has never gone through a process like this before.  Opening up the process to a larger group of people might create more questions and doubts than answers at this very early stage of the process.

My role was to facilitate an answer to the two key questions of Why? and Who?  that was both compelling and motivating.  Our conversation was very fruitful and the two company representatives came up with the following formulation:

“The purpose of this initiative is to prepare our organization for the next level of performance by strengthening our key success factor ‘Customer-Centricity’ and living and transmitting our values (respect, readiness to communicate and continuous improvement).”

This formulation puts the whole initiative in perspective, indicating what needs to be emphasized and what does not.

The next step was a bit more difficult – who should actually be on the team.  Studies have shown that in order to build a cohesive and interconnected team, that the optimal size is between 4 and 8 people.  The managing director had originally conceived of her team as consisting of 12 people.  Size does matter.  The larger the group, the more it tends to subdivide into smaller units.  If cohesion is an important goal of a teambuilding initiative, reducing the size of the team is imperative.  Of course, by reducing the team you have to avoid creating adverse effects with those people who are not selected.

After a thorough discussion, the team was paired down to 9.  The managing director the next week then communicated the purpose and the goals to not just the selected team, but to the entire company.  She also had personal meetings with the 3 that were not to be part of this development process.

With the purpose in place and the team defined, this week I officially launched the process for the team with an online questionnaire.  I wanted them to begin to think about what it means to be a team.  The questionnaire was made up of 12 basic questions about teams and took approximately 20 minutes to fill out.  Below is a sample view of a few of the questions in the questionnaire:

Questionnaire

Next week I will be meeting with all nine team members individually.  Two hour interviews have been arranged.  The purpose of the interviews are for me to get to know the team members personally, get them to think further about the meaning of a team and their role within that team and to address any barriers that may exist in entering into this team development process.

Circle - complete

The rubicon has been crossed….

Many men go fishing all of their lives without knowing it is not fish they are after.”   Henry David Thoreau

Leadership Pipeline at Maersk

This past week I was at the new leadership centre of A.P. Moeller Maersk in Rolighed. A former 19th century patrician home was converted last year into a state-of-the-art training and development facility.  It has a beautiful lake as a back drop and is only a few minutes walk from the ocean.  It is a temple of calm and reflection – a perfect setting for leadership development.

A.P. Moeller Maersk is one of the world’s largest shipping companies.  The company’s main shareholder is The A.P. Møller and Chastine Mc-Kinney Møller Foundation, which was established by company founder A.P. Møller in 1953 to ensure that the company would always be owned by parties that held a long-term view of the company’s development.

It is therefore not surprising that Maersk would be attracted to long-term development of its leadership.  In 2005, Maersk was introduced to the concept of the Leadership Pipeline, pioneered by former General Electric executives Stephen Drotter and Jim Noel.  The first edition of their book, co-authored with Ram Charan, came out in 2001 and was so well received in the corporate world, that a second edition came out last year.

The Leadership Pipeline Concept is simple.  As leaders progress through an organization there are several critical transition points.  At these transition points, the way that leaders lead changes.  Leaders transition from “Individual Contributors” to “Leaders of Others” to “Leaders of Leaders” to “Functional Leaders” to “Business Leaders” to “Enterprise Leaders”.  At each level different priorities, skill sets and usage of time are required.  For instance, a “Leader of Others” needs to learn the skill of delegation which was not necessary at the previous lower level.

It is important to manage the transitions well at each level.  If that does not happen, first you will have ineffective leaders in the organization.  Second, the pipeline gets clogged.  Leaders that do not make the transition make it difficult for the next transition to take place.  If an organization wants to insure that it has the leadership capacity it needs throughout the company, it has to manage and support these transitions at every level.

Curious? Take a look at the Entheos approach to instutionalize the Leadership Pipeline in your organization.

In my next blog, I will describe how I supported 18 top leaders at Maersk to make the transition to a “Leader of Leaders”.