Tuesday, March 20, 2012


Lessons in Team Leadership & Membership

The crown of thorns, purple robes, the cross of crucifixion and the wavering loyalties of disciples. Teams are powerful and painful, filled with times of glory and desecration, trust and betrayal, compelling vision and rank pettiness. But Teams are what deliver Results, Teams create Leaders, and Leaders co-create Wealth.

Together Everyone Achieves More. Or should.....

Michelangelo once famously said

"The greater danger for most of us is not that our aim is too high and we miss it. But that it is too low... and we reach it"

The learning curve in leading and managing teams to achieve more, read "ambitious" goals is not a gentle curve. It's more a twisting exhilarating scary ride on a monster water slide !

As a senior manager in a tall hierarchical organizational structure, one is given clear positional power and this often comes along with expert power. People influenced by that power acknowledge and accept it. You are supposed to demonstrate it and if you don't, it doesn't augur well. Strange yet true !

Moving on to managing high powered teams, and needing to manage relationships and commitments needs positional power released in favour of influential relationship power. Sudden flattening of the acknowledged power pyramid also has its consequences. Power sharing or empowering, although talked about a lot, is not a common experience on either side. Trust is a common casualty , trying to manage and monitor the process instead of learning to let go of what has been given and accept imperfect demos of its application as learning lessons and not misuse. Yet that is a reality too.

In powerful teams, of equals, or assumed equals, hierarchy is notional even if part of structure. Unlike among "unequals" for want of a better word, where power- sharing engagements by the leader are valued, in " equals teams " Leadership is not acknowledged unless it is first severely challenged. So managing the power line is challenging maybe because lines represent recalling or limiting the power shared and giving up or releasing assumed power is difficult. In the process accountability against commitments is lost in power struggles. The team leader's role and relationship is targeted, or team members are singled out and reprimanded, when team promises are not fulfilled, targets are not met and contagious contaminated victim- persecutor- rescuer role playing adds to the drama. So commitments are hurriedly put aside in favour of patchwork relationships. And now its difficult to get results and one accepts poor performance as part of learning to work better together.While the process is more important that the result, should the process be allowed to deny the result ?

In their book "First Among Equals" Patrick Mckenna and David Maister have interesting tips for the team leader beginning with clarifying the leader’s role and confirming the leader’s mandate as paramount for the team to know and acknowledge the leader. Then the leader needs to set about “building relationships – one at a time” , not just as a leader but also as a trusted advisor.

Team membership that contributes significantly to the team vision and goals requires that the team has established rules of membership to include setting levels of mutual accountability and shared contribution while establishing shared values. This helps build Team Trust, the emotional glue that holds teams together. According to Mckenna and Maister, the Elements of Trust are Sharing information about oneself and what makes one feel vulnerable, Following through of commitments, Letting others know if you can’t do something, Keeping people informed after asking for advice and Constructive disagreement – all of these needing guidelines to be based on demonstrable behavior. For example they say, one guideline for constructive disagreement could be “ if you hear an idea or thought that you disagree with , you cannot offer a contrary view until you have restated the initial idea and then propose a supportive or embellishing idea or thought to improve on that initial idea”

Declaration or transparency of personal goals is important too, to allay fears of hidden agendas. The team cannot manage a vision or a goal that dramatically leaves behind a personal desire and goal. Acknowledging compelling yet divergent personal goals is critical, so what's common can be included, and what's uncommon can be separately managed without too much extra energy and engagement.

To be “Effective Equals” needs the clamour for power and control to subside in the minds of all team members and replaced with shared values, practiced trust and the painstaking path of managing the alignment of personal goals with the team vision and goals.

By : Dexter J Valles, CEO & Managing Consultant, Valmar International

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