Time Out!

April 4, 2013

team-organizationAll work teams are in process; they never stay the same. The old adage is that every day we are either growing or dying, and it is true with people, organizations, and with teams.  In my 25 years working in the Dale Carnegie business, I have come across flashes of teams who operated at Stage V and IV, but it seemed almost unsustainable.  That is why most of my work with executive teams has been helping team sustain Level IV, and my efforts are to continually pull them out of Level II behavior.   Much to my surprise, this week I found a high performance team operating at Stage V and VI in a Fortune 500 company.  I was impressed and surprised at what I discovered.

First a quick review of the six stages of team or organization development:

Stage I – Autocratic

Stage II – Family

Stage III – Formal/Professionally Managed

Stage IV – Leader Centered- Adult to adult and servant lead

Stage V – Team Centered

Stage VI – Holistic

Next, remember all teams have different purposes.  For example some teams are designed to be problem solving teams; others might be strategic, informational, research, sales, marketing, etc. The team I will give you some insight into below is a product team working from R&D through the role out to their customers. Also, I also understand that we play different roles on a team depending on various factors. Regardless, you will enjoy the story and insight.

Last Thursday I am in my State College office working on a coaching assignment. I looked up and it was 1:45 and I was starved.  One mile from my office is a pizza shop with great hoagies.  I ran down and into the back counter, ordered a baked ham hoagie and I looked up and saw Russ.  I had not seen Russ in several years other than briefly one evening while out to dinner in passing.  I first got to know Russ when his son and my son played on the same 10 year old basketball team 11 years ago.  At the time Russ was running one of the area’s top industrial plants and I was fascinated with his leadership styles which lead to many interesting and thoughtful conversations.  After I placed my order Russ invited me to sit with him and within minutes, due to our common interest in our sons’ athletics and more important academic pursuits and our business minds, we went vertical in our conversation.

Russ is leading a global innovation products team.  My description not his:  His team is to do the research and development and then actually take the product to market by working with a variety of global customers.  It is not what he does that was most fascinating to me, but rather it is how his team functions and how they find and keep team members.  Here are a few observation of what a level V or VI Stage team might function or look like in 2013.  My friend Russ is the leader …

  1. His office is where his iPhone is located.
  2. He set parameters from a direction, but is always amazed where the team ends up…hard evidence, not personal opinion, wins at the end of the day.
  3. They all work 12-15 hour days when they are working, but it feels like 6 because time flies when you’re having fun.
  4. Problem solvers cannot be on their high-level team.  They have direct reports to solve problems.
  5. Team member talent is about thinking systems, not functions.
  6. Being a systems thinker is the talent they search for, meaning if someone comes across as having the answers in an interview and trying to impress upon how smart they are, the interviewing process stops.  They are not looking for team members who give answers, but rather team members who will look to the system and structure by answering the questions as to how and why, all while advancing their product launch on behalf of the customer.
  7. They must have collaborative human relation skills – always looking for refinement.  No one believes they are finished learning when it comes to the human dynamics of working together with each other and customers.
  8. Yes, the team has scheduled blocked time but have more “ad hoc” discussions on the fly.
  9. Only bring team members into the meeting who can directly or indirectly give possible input to the issue at hand.  Team members are trusted and not offended when not invited or cc’ed on an email.
  10. When offended by another they confront it immediately… happens rarely.
  11. It is not about ego – it is about results!
  12. If you were observing the meeting, other than the opening comments, framework and the ending, you might be hard pressed to know who the leader is.
  13. Seldom is anyone called out for trying to manipulate or control an outcome.  Teamness, collaboration and being helpful to each other is their teams DNA.
  14. They are paid well and given significant bonuses for results in the marketplace.  Due to their success in the marketplace, they are having too much fun and are paid so well that it seems unthinkable to leave.
  15. Winning in the marketplace is the reward and it drives out fear when communicating clearly to each other whether it is good, bad or indifferent news/facts.

Hmmm…the above does not just happen; it is intentional with all team members committed to Level 4 and 5 communications.   Thanks to Russ for describing what it could look like!  The conversation was powerful and gave me some tremendous pictures of what could be and should be regardless of what is.

FYI…because of #7 on the list, Russ would agree it is the human element that threatens the Stage V and VI team dynamics every day and after describing what I heard he looked at me and smiled, saying, “Well, we are not that good.”

Human Relation Principle of the Week:

Give the other person a fine reputation to live up to.

–        Dale Carnegie

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