30 August 2011

Building a Team

The word "team" is becoming a prominent part of the language and culture of many organizations. Buildings that were once home offices are now referred to as "team headquarters." The Team Disney building in Orlando, Florida comes to mind.

Much has been made over the past decade as to the importance of teams and team building and it’s having a noticeable effect on corporate life.  Like any management idea that comes along (vision, for example), it’s possible to attach ourselves to a word and miss the core concept.

Or simply take a good idea too far.

With all the talk about "teams" we are reminded of something former British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher once said on a different subject.  She offered that if you had to say you were a "lady" too often, you probably weren't.  (This was before being given the title, Lady Thatcher).

We are beginning to think the same thing about leaders who keep talking about getting their people "on the team." In fact, there tends to be more said about the team than the results the team is expected to achieve.

A practical lesson from the book, The Wisdom of Teams, is that leaders foster team performance best by building a strong performance ethic rather than by establishing a "team promoting" environment alone.

"Biases toward individualism exist," says Jon Katzenbach, one of the authors, "but need not get in the way of team performance." He goes on to say that team and individual are two subjects on the opposite ends of a continuum.

It’s essential to provide balance so that the situation is well served by either a person or a group. Believe it or not, sometimes a single person is just what circumstances call for since the task determines the form.

Those who have played on a well-disciplined athletic team know the better coaches use the word "team" carefully. They strive to develop the team by growing individuals focused on a common goal. 

Before the era of celebrity athletics, now at practically all levels of participation, it was a great fan experience to watch a well-coached team perform.  It still is even as most sports are being overtaken by the driving forces of profit and loss.

As in sports a successfully executed idea or plan in organizational life is a thing to behold.

Our observation is that some, not all, may be using "team" in a disciplinary fashion versus a discipline that is required to achieve a common purpose and set of goals. When referring to employee attitudes and behavior supervisors often refer to work associates as either being a "team player" or not.

Based on whose set of rules?  I think most employees know.

Rather than a boss--worker arrangement, Katzenbach notes that teams really come into being when individuals hold themselves mutually accountable.

It might be helpful to review your communication to see how much the "t" word is being used (or overused).  And is it possible, through some form of assessment, to determine if you and others are developing individual strengths as well as building a well-balanced team?

Remember, the best teams know they are. If you have to say it too much, you probably aren't.


(C)  Bredholt & Co.