Complex teams need effective leaders
Teamwork is about a group of people who collaborate together to produce a result. The importance of teamwork has escalated because teams are being used in more ways than ever before and the makeup of those teams can often be different than how we’ve traditionally viewed them.
Our concept of a team has been shaped by sports teams, military units and traditional work environments where a team consist of a group of people in close physical proximity to each other. That can be challenging enough. The collaborative efforts from people in far distant places and different organizations such as we’ve seen with NASA and the space program are even more challenging. That type of teamwork was viewed as more unique. Not anymore.
Today’s version of teamwork and the makeup of teams
In today’s digital world, not only are we more connected personally, we also often have to work together with others from different locations and even different organizations to achieve a common goal. There has been an exponential increase in project and ad hoc teams sometimes from within the same organization in distant locations as well as from those in more than one organization who must work together on a project.
In some situations, such as an IT development team, they can be spread across many countries and time zones. It is not uncommon for a team in the U.S. to be coding then turn that over to a team in India who continues while the U.S. team sleeps. The next morning, the India team hands off their work to the U.S. team. The result is a 24 hour a day development effort with two core teams in different parts of the world that takes advantage of the time zone differences.
And this is just as true for individuals as it is with larger organizations. For the book I co-wrote The Character-Based Leader, I was one of three editors on the project. Each of us lived in a different part of the U.S. We used Skype for our frequent conference calls, Dropbox to work on chapters during our calls, and email and phone calls to work with contributing authors. We never met in person.
Whether in-person, on the phone or digitally, the world depends more than ever on effective teamwork. From the space program, IT and engineering projects to product improvements, law enforcement efforts and emergency aid responses just to name a few, teamwork has become more critical than ever.
These teams are made up of individuals from different fields of expertise, different functions, different locations, different organizations and different cultures. The same keys to effective teamwork that are critical for in-person teams apply to these teams only with a lot more effort, leadership and coordination. As the complexity of the team make up and structure rises, it dramatically increases what it takes to make these teams produce the best results.
How many members of your teams are effective leaders?
Of all that has been written about what promotes teamwork and helps make a team successful, I believe the characteristics of a trusted leader stand above the rest. This isn’t just about those who have been put in charge of the team. It’s about everyone who makes up the team.
Leadership isn’t about our title or position. It’s about our ability to build trust and that includes a “we” attitude as well caring about what’s best for everyone on the team. There are two distinct leadership challenges teams face.
1. Make sure those who are heading the team are effective leaders
Simply calling someone the team leader or captain or project manager does not magically turn them into a leader. Even if the head of the team has a position like director or vice president, it doesn’t insure they can actually lead. If they can’t and some of the team members know this, that will undermine the team’s efforts.
Effective teamwork requires effective leadership. Those heading the team must address a long list of issues that make teams effective. If they don’t do that and no one else on the team steps up to the leadership plate to do it, the team will under perform or fail.
2. The more team members who are leaders, the more effective the team
Everyone needs to lead some of the time. In a team, especially teams involving multiple locations and organizations, it is critically important that there are people throughout the team who are effective leaders.
These are not only the people put in charge. These are simply team members who can build trust and will assume a leadership role when the situation calls for it. Those moments happen all the time especially in system critical or time sensitive projects.
It turns out that the core characteristics of an effective trusted leader are the same things that create great team members and teamwork. It’s the same attitudes and beliefs. A team is a collective of people working together toward a common goal. It’s a “we” and “us” activity, not an “I” activity.
Teamwork is about respecting everyone in spite of their differences. Everyone needs to be involved and their thoughts heard. It’s being more concerned about the whole team and the end result than what’s in it for me. It’s clarify, clarify, clarify the task, issue and direction.
It’s helping everyone get on the same page and embrace where the team is going. It’s about role modeling these traits to influence the entire team to act the same way. These are all traits of effective leaders.
When I read about effective teamwork or what makes teams successful, sometimes I don’t even see leadership mentioned or it is one of a list of important factors. Even when it is mentioned, leadership is talked about in terms of those heading the team.
If you want your teams to produce great results, on time, with great teamwork, make leadership effectiveness your number one priority. In the most ideal team, ever member would be an effective leader. This, of course, hearkens back to one of my core themes….everyone needs to lead some of the time so we should be developing every employee as a leader from day one. Leadership isn’t just for the anointed ones with the big titles.
This is something that’s not on most organization’s radar screens right now and it should be. Teamwork is more important than ever. To insure that every team produces good results, develop every employee into a leader. Now you have the deepest possible bench of great team members to place on every team.
Schedule a phone conversation with Don Shapiro, President of First Concepts Consultants, to answer your questions and explore how this discussion could help your organization.