Strong Leader, Strong Team

I’ve been enamored with the concept of leadership for some time.  A good leader puts in much effort and a whole lot of themselves, all the while making it look effortless and appearing invisible. A true leader makes it about the TEAM.  It’s beautiful. 

Today, I want to talk about the teams these leaders lead.  Highly functioning teams are led by amazing leaders.  They accomplish missions and change the world.   

Not All Teams Are Strong

Dysfunctional teams are made up of individuals that can’t put the team above the individual.  In the book The Five Dysfunctions of a Team, by Patrick Lencioni, we see the common dysfunctions of a team.  

While this book is an easy read, it is written as a fable; the content is technical.  I recommend the book to folks leading a team.  Although I am not going through the dysfunctions today, I want to share some thoughts about what we as leaders experience and how we influence our teams.  

Again, strong teams accomplish missions and change the world.  Dysfunctional teams spend a lot of energy fighting, wasting valuable time and resources and eventually destroying our organizations.    

Not Everyone Wants To Be On a Team

I get called in to work with teams, often when things aren’t going well. 

I learned which teams want something better collectively and which teams are made up of individuals wanting something better for themselves individually.  In most circumstances, the majority of team members want something better collectively and usually there are just a few team members unable to grasp the team concepts and simply must leave in order for the team to move forward.  

As a leader, it is imperative that your team is filled with members who can positively contribute. As a leader, it is your responsibility to show them how and to provide a safe space for this to happen . It is also your responsibility to remove or to encourage the removal of team members that cannot grasp the team concepts once shown and this privilege once given.

Side note: if problem team members aren’t removed, they stay and the good team members will leave.  Good team members always have other options and will relocate to better environments. The team will end up consisting of individuals seeking something better for themselves rather than the team/organization. The organization has very little hope and the mission dies.  

Making It About the Team

Those who can’t become invisible for the sake of the team must leave at this point, whether a consultant working with the team, the leader of the team or a team member.  The team is the difference between success and failure.  

Functional Team

The words we and us are common language.  

Example: Our board.  We experienced.  Our team.  We discovered.  Our data.  We (our team) ran reports. 

Conversations involve everyone together. 

Everyone owns what’s been done and what needs to be done.

No right verse wrong climate. The environment is one of improvement and seeking the best for the organization.

People are respectful of consultant’s time and team members’ time, which shows they are respectful by nature of others. 

People listen, seek to understand, value input from others.  

Team members are encouraged to contribute, think out loud and ask questions.

Stakeholders and constituents have a way to share and give input and it is met with appreciation, never judgement or defensiveness – it’s the only way an organization can grow, be relevant and meet the needs of the ones it serves.

Open, lively conversations. 

All members attend all meetings.

Dysfunctional Team

The words I and me are common language.  

Example: My board.  I led.  My team.  I discovered.  My data.  I had my staff run reports.  My EA.

Lots of individual conversations and gossip.

Individuals think they are somehow different and deserving of preferential treatment.

Individual team members think they are right and their way is the right way. They spend enormous amounts of time wanting to explain and justify.   

Everyone wants to be heard, but no one remembers to listen.  

No process for stakeholders or constituents to give input.

Team meetings are not collaborative.  

A lot of “that isn’t what I meant”, “that wasn’t my intention.” – no accountability or personal awareness.  

Passive aggressive behavior is common.

Sub-tweeting – social media accounts have memes and quotes referencing someone or something.  

People see only other’s behavior as problematic, never their own.

Who’s Behavior Do You Call Out?

There is a meme going around. It shows someone walking away from a table and the person walking away is saying, “I will no longer sit at the table where I may be the topic of conversation when I get up from the table”.  

It is an example of passive aggressive “sub-tweeting”. It is calling out other people’s behavior. And while it is a very reasonable point to make, I think there is a bigger point to be made in regards to teamwork.

We all too often are willing to “sub-tweet” about other’s behavior – call out other’s negative behavior.  But, how many times are we willing to examine our negative contributions to a team or just in general?  Are we the ones that often or even occasionally do the talking at the table when folks get up?  

What’s a Better Approach?

How about we post that meme and then say, “may I never be the one that takes part in the conversation at a table about someone once they get up”? Or better yet, “may I always have the courage to speak compassionately and directly to someone and never be the one that instead talks about someone at the table after they get up”.  Or, what else?

One is judgmental of others, without examining my own behavior. It is passive aggressive “sub-tweeting” about someone else’s behavior. The other two are more honest attempts to examine my own contribution to a team and to life in general.  

We don’t have to post the meme, but we should still want to reflect personally on how we show up in the world and in our relationships and this includes our teams. But, if we do post, calling out other’s behavior via social media sends a message and I am here to tell you – it is never one that helps build a team or a relationship. Examine your own behavior, have the conversation compassionately to someone’s face or let it go.

Contribute to the World

Dysfunctional team members are quick to point out the bad behavior of others while never taking responsibility for their own. Functional team members own their own behavior as individuals, address what needs addressing and show up ready to be a team for the sake of the organization.

Take a look at the list above and let’s all consider how we can better lead functional teams and be better team members on the teams in which we are a part. I know I’ll be re-examining!

Great leaders build great teams and great teams build great organizations and great organizations accomplish missions and change the world!

Let’s change the world!

With purpose,