Posts Tagged ‘leaders’

Six Features of Terrific Teams

July 16, 2015

hands

Why do we so often fail to work together effectively?  

It is clear our capability to respond to problems lags far behind our ability to detect and describe them. It’s a sad paradox when abundant resources exist. We know that solo ventures don’t have the capacity to deliver what collective work can yield. Necessarily, the big and challenging work of change requires attention to teams.

Formal teams occur in our organizations and communities when two or more people are gathered to deliver a performance objective and shared activities are required to achieve it. Regardless of purpose, well-designed teams must include: roles & accountabilities; effective communications; individual performance & feedback; and evidence-based decisions.

A checklist of team essentials is a good start to building an effective team. Research indicates these six features are necessary:

A Clear, Elevating Goal. A high performing team has a shared, clear and specific understanding of what is to be achieved and passionately believes it is worthwhile. When goals are ambiguous, diluted, politicized or individual ambitions take priority then performance lags and dysfunction prevails.

Results-driven. Teams must be structured around their intended goal with explicit accountability. Typically, teams are established to tackle problems, innovate and/or support tactics. Problem-solving teams are often an executive or leadership group where trust is essential. Autonomy is a very significant for  innovation and tactical teams must have task clarity to assure execution. Sometimes teams handle all three purposes.

Competent Members. The right people matter hugely. The “right” people have appropriate technical skills, knowledge, training and experience as well as personal attributes which contribute to the collective. Successful NBA coach Phil Jackson said, “The strength of the team is each individual member. The strength of each member is the team.” One adds, removes individuals to develop a team. Careful thought about the optimal mix of people on a team is time well spent.

Unified Commitment & Collaboration. Loss of self, enthusiasm, loyalty, dedication and identification with a group of people are all features of unified commitment that reflect a physical and mental energy. Collaboration reflects both a safe climate and structure that encourages interdependence.

Standards of Excellence. Urgent pressures to perform with specific behaviors set expectations for team members. Performing to specified standards requires discipline and explicit process improvement. To achieve shared goals, both learning and accountability are present in an effective team.

Principled Leadership. Any effective team includes a capable captain. Team leaders motivate, educate, facilitate and construct a fair environment that engages contributions. When talented people are in charge morale goes up. Principled leaders offer a moral imperative for change. They intensely seek the shared goal. Principled leaders steer past the compromises of politics. They are receptive, accessible and demonstrate a dependable set of internal and public values. They assure team function through: good design, clear goals, a results-focus, member engagement, unity, collaboration and standards.

Team Threats & Multiple Entities

Two common reasons frequently account for weak or dysfunctional teams: politics and individual agendas. They are developmental misfires that torpedo progress and leave the promise of joint efforts unfulfilled. Politics kills both trust and substance. A focus on power precludes collective effort. Individual agendas sabotage shared intentions, interdependence and generate a toxic culture. Sometimes organizational leaders can limit these challenges through their talent selection. Regardless, principled team leaders must respond promptly to politics and selfishness because they cause teams (and organizations) to unravel.

Be aware that complexity gets magnified when coordination is not only inside your organization, but across organizations. The inputs for and implications of creating collective impact are substantial. It means we must understand how to integrate perspectives, engage multiple motives and align energies and skills in effective teams, task forces, networks, coalitions and other structures. Getting our own shop in shape is crucial so that we can constructively reach out to others and generate powerful synergy.

We know what makes great teams. If we have the will, we can do work together far better.

Lisa Wyatt, Ed.D. is chief strategy officer and managing partner at Phillips Wyatt Knowlton, Inc. PWK is a performance management resource for systems and social change with clients worldwide. Lisa has cross-sector and international experience. She is an author and W.K. Kellogg Leadership Fellow. See: www.pwkinc.com

 

 

 

 

 

Setting the Leadership Bar

October 22, 2013

highbar

It’s the largest annual prize in the world.

And, the Foundation’s website is clear about selection criteria. You need to be a democratically elected African head of state that has left office in the last three years and demonstrated exceptional leadership. If chosen, you get a $5 million award, plus an annual pension of $200 thousand.

The Ibrahim Prize, established by Sudanese Celtel entrepreneur Mo Ibrahim, has set some standards for leadership in Africa. Standards are specified levels of performance which define expectations.  Across the world, and in the US we have standards for safety, education, manufacturing and for food quality. Professional disciplines, like evaluation and engineering, cite standards as a reflection of their maturity. Leadership has standards, too.

This year, for the fourth time since its inception in 2007, the Ibrahim Prize was not distributed. The aim of the award is to provide a financial incentive to African leaders to shun corruption. But, the Committee was unable to find a winner from any of Africa’s 50-plus countries. Ibrahim said, “We need to really point the finger at where the responsibility lies…Let’s put the light there and let us seek heroes.”

Fareed  Zakaria, CNN host of Global Public Square (GPS), covered this story recently. His analysis: “Africa’s leaders are locked in a marathon to see who can reign longest… a crisis of governance.” He says, many African countries have had the same men in charge for more than 30 years. While these and other states are “nominal democracies” their citizens experience dictators. Their elections and day-to-day culture includes intimidation, fraud, graft and violence.

Despite poor governance, some of the world’s fastest growing economies are African. The continent, according to Ventures Africa has 55 billionaires. There are also advances in education, healthcare, and poverty reduction. So, what’s the new wrinkle?  Zakaria notes that China is now Africa’s biggest trade partner. In contrast to the history of NGOs and Western countries which have tied aid to standards, China is willing to sign trade deals with no strings. This upsets a system which previously valued transparency, democracy and peace.

We know inept leaders and toxic politics can destroy nations, organizations, communities, and individuals. What leadership standards do you set for yourself and the organizations you support? What are the attributes and behavior of people you respect and will follow?

Don’t confuse leadership with a job title. Be ready to withhold the prize if nobody meets the standards. Otherwise, anything goes.

Lisa Wyatt, Ed.D. is chief strategy officer and partner in Phillips Wyatt Knowlton, Inc. PWK is a performance management resource for systems and social change with clients worldwide. Lisa has cross-sector and international experience. She is an author and W.K. Kellogg Leadership Fellow. See: www.pwkinc.com

Culture Counts

October 1, 2013

PopeFrancis

There’s no escaping an over weighted factor in organizations: culture. It drives and  limits the potency of any enterprise or community.

Culture reflects the prevailing norms and values of people. It’s that consistent vibe that permeates what people say and do. It can be authentic, cooperative, transparent, kind, innovative, and results-focused. Or, perhaps it is competitive, selfish, and false. Fostering culture is a leadership function.

Two examples of people in very different contexts offer some insights on this vital topic.

Ramon Nunez, CEO of LiveHive, a software maker identifies four principles he relies on in his company. First, trust. Second, interdependence. Third, integrity. Fourth, customer-focused value. His sequence of factors is important. He says, “If you can’t trust your team members, there’s something wrong…either the team has to change or how you work needs to change.” In a challenging performance context, Nunez intends to build strength and sustainability. He is one of 16 children in a Mexican family and migrated to the U.S. as a teen. His perspective and business success offer an exciting story.

Pope Francis, the new leader of the Roman Catholic Church, has garnered notice for his explicit cultural messages through his words and actions. Instead of imperious and self-promoting, he’s gentle and modest. In contrast to single-minded and certain, he suggests an open mind and naiveté. In his critical role as a spiritual and institutional leader, authority seems to originate from sincerity and humbleness. Frank Bruni’s recent editorial in the New York Times captures a rich portrait of Pope Francis and contrasts it with prevailing American culture. Instead of commanding, Pope Francis invites. Bruni calls this a “radical whisper.”

While culture is often set from the top – it’s possible for anyone to contribute. Your example, on a big factor, can influence your colleagues in important ways.

Lisa Wyatt, Ed.D. is chief strategy officer and partner in Phillips Wyatt Knowlton, Inc. PWK is a performance management resource for systems and social change with clients worldwide. Lisa has cross-sector and international experience. She is an author and W.K. Kellogg Leadership Fellow. See: www.pwkinc.com

Mistakes Smart People Make

October 2, 2011

Twyla Tharp

“The best failures are the private ones…” writes Twyla Tharp, renowned choreographer, in Creative Habit.

Our work places and our communities, however, are public social spaces. While learners don’t seek failure it can be an enormous source of new knowledge. A willingness to fail is certainly an essential element of learning.

Three Common Blunders

The human brain (and ego) is a remarkable asset, but it can be an obstacle to success. Sociologists, psychotherapists and anthropologists offer some vital insights to manager-leaders about the brain and behavior. There are three common mistakes smart people make:

Denial – a refusal to acknowledge an error.

Loss Chasing – the inability to “make peace” with an error which causes more damage in a pattern of additional mis-steps.

Hedonic Edits – revisions that either convince ourselves errors don’t matter or reinterpret errors as success.

We’re all guilty of these mistakes – sometimes. Great leaders have found intentional ways to minimize or even eliminate these common human blunders. Denial is avoided more often when we can separate errors from our self-worth. Loss-chasing is reduced if there’s self-awareness and adaptation. Hedonic edits occur less frequently if we  face the mirror with   clear recall and brutal candor. Humility is an antidote for all these quirks.

Get & Give

Regrettably, our capacity to revise our internal personal stories often becomes part of a public profile. Humans are social and so we massage, arrange and position material to manage image – for ourselves and others. While ruthless review, reflection and action towards self improvement is constructive, it may not be enough. Our inner critic can mislead or fail us.

For these reasons, honest advice has huge value.  Actively seek feedback from trusted resources. Tharp’s advice is “Challenge a status quo of your own making…All you need is people with good judgment in other parts of their lives who care about you and will give you honest opinion without strings.” In turn, after asking permission, offer caring, thoughtful feedback to help others develop.

Lisa Wyatt, Ed. D. is a strategy architect and partner in Phillip Wyatt Knowlton, Inc. PWK is a performance management resource for systems change with clients worldwide. Lisa has cross-sector and international experience. She is  an author and W.K. Kellogg Leadership Fellow. See : www.pwkinc.com


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