The CEO, of a global service company I worked with, focused only on the bottom line of the business and didn’t put a lot of focus on the ‘softer’ side of the business, including building his own leadership team.
However, when he identified that his team was not working effectively together and he felt that this was now negatively impacting the company’s performance, he decided to invest the time to train his leaders to operate as a high-performance team.
When he started this training with his leadership team their trust was low, leaders were engaged in back-channel chatter and avoiding addressing the business issues, as well as their own inner-personal issues and conflicts, in an open, honest, authentic, courageous and effective manner.
After a couple of team-building sessions, things started to improve. The team started to communicate in a more open and candid way, and everyone acknowledged that the atmosphere was better, people were happier and things were moving better at the business.
The CEO was pleased with the progress and as a result, he stopped all future team-building meetings to make sure his leaders spent the maximum time on business-focused activities.
It didn’t take long before things started to go downhill again, and not for any ill will. Without continuing to focus on team effectiveness, the intense day-to-day grind, busyness, and stress pulled people down again. Everyone was less open, compassionate, generous and collaborative. Finger-pointing and the negative back-channel conversation sprung up again. Teams started to work more in silos with less sharing and transparency, and instead of addressing conflicts head-on the leaders would go to the CEO to complain about their colleagues. Needless to say, the dysfunctional dynamic was hurting the business again.
After a month or so the CEO couldn’t tolerate the nonsense any longer, so he gathered his team, again, for a few team building sessions. This vicious cycle went on a few times. Unfortunately, I see this happen in other companies too.
Driving the business and building the team are two distinct paths and activities with two different sets of challenges and opportunities.
You are not going to develop your team as a high-performance team by merely working on the business at hand. Every high-performance of a championship team knows that.
There are multiple articles on the internet about what you can learn from sports championship teams about being a strong team and making your business greater. I found two great ones – one about the Golden State Warriors and one about recently crowned NBA champions, the Toronto Raptors. These articles are about team leadership, attitude, communication, boldness, not the technical basketball abilities of the players.
Unfortunately, I still meet too many senior executives who don’t seem to get this. They are either old school, or they are closed-minded or they suffer from a low dose of Emotional Intelligence (EQ).
These leaders tend to only spend time on developing their team when they feel they need to fix their team because they have a problem in team effectiveness. The minute they feel they have fixed the problem or at least pulled it out of danger they go back to their old ways of ignoring the importance of team health.
So, if you want your team to be a high-performance team:
Work on building the team distinctly, in addition, and in parallel to driving the business.