As we continue to work with Leadership Teams around the world, our experience is confirming and expanding our thoughts set out in the book Top Teaming: A Roadmap for Leadership Teams Navigating the Now, the New, and the Next. We see very few true “dysfunctional teams” – and those stand out like sore thumbs. What we see more often are groups or teams comprised of very smart, hard working, and committed executives who generally do very well in their specific roles or functions. They work pretty well together. There is not a lot of overt friction. They communicate – sometimes carefully, and sometimes not fully. They are mostly aligned behind their strategic plan. In fact, many are pretty far along the road to classic definitions of High Performing Teams.
Yet those Leadership Teams that we define as “Top Teams” are in a different class. Their results show it. Their internal dynamics show it. Their willingness and ability to really collaborate, communicate, trust one another and take supported risks are outstanding. They are fully in the game as deliberate and conscious leaders. And interestingly enough, research is pointing to their experiencing less stress in their jobs than many executives.
In fact, most of the best leaders we interviewed painted a clear picture of creating Top Teams that lead with a mix of reality and optimism, focus on both the Now and the New, and deeply believe in serving others and doing the right thing. One of the most frequent comments we heard was that any decent team can thrive in times of growth or even mediocrity, but only those teams that are “fully in the game” can rise to the occasion and grasp the opportunities when times are tough.
Being “fully in the game” does not come automatically, even to the best of teams. Operating with conviction, with passion, and with a clear articulation of what the team believes in—what it is for—is a conscious and deliberate process. It requires open dialogue. It requires that nothing is hidden and very little is unspoken. It requires an unshakeable belief in the team’s ability to have the courage and deploy the collective intelligence to navigate the future and lead the organization through rough water.
This is what Top Teams do.
SOME QUESTIONS TO PONDER:
• Think of the team that you are currently on. Are you playing to your full capacity?
• On a scale of one to ten, how good is your team now? Why did you rank it where you did?
• What would it take to be a “ten”?
• What would you do differently? What would be possible?
• What are some of the obstacles that get in your way?
• Look at the variables that describe the behaviors of Top Teams. What do you have to do to make yours a Top Team?
• What does it mean to you to “go forward with trust versus fear?”
• How vocal and/or how well understood are your articulation and passion about your purpose—as individuals and as a team?