A tour guide once told me that we are actually moving in four directions at once. We are moving in our own direction on Earth, the Earth is spinning on its axis, rotating around the sun, and orbiting the galaxy. This idea blew my mind, until I realised that most of us are doing this at work every day.
Most of us play roles in multiple teams at once. For example, one individual can be in the Leadership Team, the Marketing Team, the Board, a committee, a Project team, or a geographical team; seamless moving in and out of these teams without a moment’s thought.
But to play effectively in these so called “teams” means knowing the difference between being a team and being a group. This was a key question explored by Dominic Gourley and Corinne Canter in the Human Synergistics Team vs Group podcast.
Corinne said it best when she said that a group is a team when they are “better, together”. That is, they perform better together than any one individual can do on their own. This is, in fact, the whole idea of Human Synergistics – to provide tools and techniques for teams to achieve “synergy” where capabilities are collectively leveraged.
The table below summarises how Corinne and Dominic differentiate a team from a group;
|• Interdependent (shared responsibilities)
• Collaboration (seek each others’ involvement)
• Shared goals & Key Performance Indicators (KPIs)
• Collective purpose – clear reason for being together.
|• Independent (independent responsibilities
• Cooperation (seek each others’ support).
• Stand alone goals & Key Performance Indicators (KPIs)
• No clear collective purpose – just a collection of areas that we lead.
These ideas apply to all teams, but it’s Leadership Teams that hold a special level of focus for me.
In a Leadership Team (LT), the responsibility to act and behave like a team is magnified. The LT set the tone for the whole organisation, role modelling what not just what we do, but how we work together to achieve it. Their actions and behaviours set the example for how talent can be leveraged in all teams within a business.
When the LT demonstrate a positive team climate of both high challenge and high trust, they make it safe for every other team in the business to do the same; and that’s how they influence a high-performance culture.
To play more as a team; here are five key actions for leadership teams:
Define your purpose as a Leadership Team and build a team charter together. This is different to the purpose of the organisation. It’s the key responsibilities and expectations of the leadership team vs second tier leaders and even frontline leaders. A clear leadership charter defines where you are interdependent vs independent, and where you need collaboration over cooperation.
Trust is fundamental to open, constructive dialogue. Discuss how you will collectively build a high challenge, high trust team climate; where psychological safety is a key feature. It is specifically important for the boss to state they are willing to be challenged and participate in thinking; and then demonstrate this by inviting input with open questions and active listening. A great way to start this is to discuss how you will live the values of the organisation in the way you work together as a leadership group.
Shared vison & strategy
This sounds obvious but is often taken for granted. For a team to own the vision and strategy, they need to be part of creating it. Strategy is both planned and emergent. The vision takes shape over time; growing and expanding as market dynamics evolve. Continue to build the vision and strategy as a team; making regular time to lift the gaze and discuss where we are headed and why that matters.
Design meeting structures that create the cadence for decision making and workflows throughout the business. Meetings are the moments when individuals tap into collective intelligence. They are massive opportunities to create insight and accountability. Leadership Teams set the cadence for operational rhythms by what they discuss on a weekly, monthly, quarterly and annual basis.
Get to know each other. Spend time checking in on each other as human beings, understanding what is important to each individual both personally and professionally. This means opening-up about your inner thoughts and feelings, and being prepared to be vulnerable. The payoff is immense. The LT is ideally a place where leaders can be their most authentic self. Sharing, knowing and learning more about each other allows you to take off the mask and turn-up their creative energy.