If you were the manager of an NBA basketball team, or any professional sports team, with the best stars in the league, would there be any dilemma or doubt in your mind about the need for a coach?
Would you think: “We don’t need to spend time on team strategies and team dynamics, they take away from individual players’ shooting practice or their chance to rest between games?
And, if you were winning the playoffs, would you then feel that “We don’t need a coach because we are doing so well“?
The answer is No, No and No! No sports manager in his/her right mind would think this way. And, by the way, it is the same with any Olympic athlete or world-class musician and probably in many other disciplines.
So why do so many CEOs and leaders don’t get it?! Why do so many leaders avoid investing in building their teams?
You could say: “Well, in the NBA the goal, prize and what is at stake are so clear” and “Well, basketball is a team effort“.
But, isn’t it exactly the same in business?
I was working with a large global technology company that was going through tremendous growth and change after acquiring a few companies in a very short period of time. A very ambitious undertaking under any circumstance.
With such a bold undertaking they expected that things would get worse before they got better. But the ‘get worse‘ phase was taking too long. Their performance wasn’t where they wanted it to be and it wasn’t improving fast enough. Needless to say, the downward trend was undermining internal and external morale and confidence.
The senior leaders were especially frustrated because they felt that a big reason for why things were not improving faster was that the level of alignment, trust and communication within the senior team itself was not strong. This was undermining the level of alignment and collaboration within the teams under them and hindering their ability to collaborate and fix problems.
However, the CEO felt that taking the senior leaders out of the field for a meeting was not a good investment of time. In fact, he felt that every minute away from being with customers or selling was a waste of time. He also felt that there was no point talking about anything other than how to make the sales numbers for the current week, month and quarter because if they didn’t make their very short-term numbers, they won’t have a future to talk about. Lastly, he felt that the one-hour conference call he had with his leaders every Friday, was sufficient for them to coordinate things and stay on the same page. Most of the heavy lifting he did in one-on-one calls with each of his senior leaders.
While his rational had logic, following it dragged the company further down. He was speaking with all his leaders, but they were not speaking among themselves. After a few quarters, during which the company did not meet its targets, the CEO was only then willing to change his mind. He agreed – at first reluctantly – to spend a day with his senior leaders.
To make a long story short, when the senior team started to spend quality time together, their trust, unity, alignment, courage and communication grew exponentially. They were able to discuss and address the real challenges and opportunities and make decisions that they all owned. It didn’t take long before company results started to turn around too.
I have seen this type of turnaround many times before!
When team members are in it together, they can accomplish extraordinary things. Nothing is too big for them. They are bigger than any circumstance, challenge, or opportunity. However, when team members are siloed and divided, they will be smaller than their circumstances and they will not overcome even basic challenges and opportunities. In fact, things would most likely get worse around them, just like the example above.
If you want to take your game to the next level, you need to think strategically and that often means going slower and smarter in order to go faster. To do that you must make sure that your senior team is 100% aligned, committed and in it together.
Like any NBA championship team, you need to invest the time to build and coach your team.