A while ago, I was counseling a senior executive of a government bureau who was two years into shaping his agency to be more customer and results-centered. He rebuilt his 200-person group, propelled key actions, coached his staff on changing mindsets, and settled on some challenging personnel decisions. At about the same time these efforts were beginning to reveal positive outcomes, a new governor was named. His main goal? To shape my client’s agency to be more customer- and results-centered! What could this senior leader say? “That’s what we’re already doing” would have appeared defensive and resistant. He basically sat passively as his new manager laid out plans for stirring things up.
Speed and urgency, although necessary attributes of leadership, are not sufficient to successfully lead a team. In fact, our research suggests that leaders who can tether an obsession with deadlines and time to an ability to sense the work and energy flow of their colleagues will have the most success.
People sometimes tell me that The Wisdom of Teams: Creating the High-Performance Organization (Harvard Business School Press, 1993) helped them understand the difference between great team experiences and terrible team experiences. These readers recognized the value of what my co-author, Doug Smith, and I called a “real team” — a team composed of people committed to common purposes, goals, and working approaches accepting of the diversity in others’ skills and perspectives. In real teams, members hold themselves and their teammates mutually accountable, because of their emotional commitment to the work and to one another. That’s how they get things done rapidly and effectively.
“We don’t have time for the soft stuff” was recently heard in a senior leadership meeting. “Let’s get back to the real work—our budget and strategy for next year.” This team had just been through a training workshop that focused on leadership styles, their impact on the workforce, and the need to shift their behaviors toward more openness and collaboration. Comments on the “soft stuff” have been around for some time. It’s amazing in this time of work complexity, ambiguity, vulnerability, and interdependence, that some leadership still undervalue the importance of the human side of enterprise.
A popular post I wrote for TLNT.com last year on organizational culture change is still on the first page of google search results for that topic.
I approached a training video company with course content based on that post and they felt culture is a topic best suited for top leaders. They explained that training video sales are higher if the content fits first line managers and individual contributors.
I explained the culture fundamentals that apply to top leaders also apply to work teams of any size since they are sub-cultures with behavior that’s also driven by cultural rules.
From that insight, the culture content was simplified and the WE WIN framework was born!