Posts Tagged leadership

Team Leadership

dysfunctionLencioni (2002) paints a wonderful picture of the development of teams that captures a valid representation of team renewal that also serves as a reflection on the key components of ongoing team development.

At the foundation and consistent with my own beliefs is the critical need for trust at the base of a team’s pyramid.  But, as Lencioni points out, these layers of concerns must be seen as interrelated in order to get at the core of team development.  Trust, by itself, is insufficient for achieving the kind of team dynamics that result in accomplishment beyond expectations, which serves as the definition of a high functioning team.

The purpose of this blog entry is not to recount all aspects of this model of team assessment.  In my own recent experience I have been involved in two ways with teams that provide diametrically opposite examples of teams at their best and worst.

As a member of a larger logistical team, I have been both frustrated and frustrating because of an absence of the foundational trust aspect that is required for team development.  While I value that I have a role to play in this team’s success or lack thereof, it seems outside my power and control to initiate actions aimed at resolving deficiencies at multiple layers of the pyramid.  At the core, this team has little trust due to a top-down management style that is inherently paranoid.  With many demonstrations of a sincere lack of trust, it is clear that what follows is a general fear of conflict and a generative focus on individual well-being.  Thus, few members of the team have the ability to commit to the team and half of the team has tendered their resignation.  This act of exasperation is the ultimate demonstration of avoidance and, by virtue of this, despite commitments to the contrary, there is no clear indication that results are in anyone’s conscious focus.

Interestingly, however, I also serve as a leader on a more local team that is one step removed from the higher leadership team.  Similar to Lencioni’s example, this departmental team is functioning well within its own context.  As a leader of this team, trust was a critical component of our initial stages of development.  As noted in another text, Katzenbach & Smith (1993) define a leadership style that is effective at addressing the team strategies denoted by Lencioni.  Development of trust is often associated with a leadership attitude that inspires team members.  Leaders must often be seen as vulnerable in order to illicit contributions from other members that develop out of concern for the well-being of the team and organization — and each other.  Thus, this focus satisfies three areas of the triangle – trust, commitment, and results.  Accountability and conflict emerge in the processes once team members are engaged.  Thus, we get a self-perpetuating cycle of commitment and accountability.

As Katzenbach & Smith point out, each team is unique in defining the skills needed to lead.  While in one instance, a leadership style applied as highly management oriented fails, in another example, honest servant leadership leads to distinct gains.  This should not be used as an argument for a more lenient leadership style.  Quite the contrary, this is just a cautionary tale that reinforces the fact that each team of experience needs to be uniquely addressed as to its respective strengths and weaknesses.  The dynamics of team development continue to emerge as unique and interesting in the realm of leadership research.

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Grand Champions

Grand Champions

Originally uploaded by chinazurfluh

Shared leadership is tremendously enjoyable when you have people so focused on making it a special event for others. This year’s Pinewood Derby was an example of like minded people coming together to serve the enjoyment and fulfillment needs of their sons. It was a day for the family as almost 100 boys competed in a racing competition with their personally crafted wooden cars. It’s impressive to watch this unfold and with 4 years under my belt, it was especially powerful to see how it has developed over the years to what now exists.

My thanks and appreciation to my com padres on the Derby Committee. It was a powerful team led by Mr. Russ Porter. He is settling into his new leadership role quite nicely and we can feel confident as our boys transition to Boy Scouts, that we are leaving the pack in good hands.

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Star Trek, CNY, Noah’s ARK, & Leadership

Three interesting events linked in my consciousness and have driven me into inspiration.  Stay with me while I meander through my thoughts.

Celebrating the Chinese New Year for the 10th time in Asia has caused me to look deeper into this phenomenon with each passing year.  The fireworks, the chaos, the calm and the almost surreal intermittent quiet that descends on the city drives one to ponder in more interesting ways about looking both forward and back.  The almost constant fireworks for 15 days and the non-stop celebration bring special focus to the year – more so in many ways than the calendar based version of the “western” New Year.

Stay with me now – while listening to the reverberations of crackling explosions, I remembered an episode of Star Trek entitled “The Return of the Archons” — an a often forgotten scene where computer controled minds of a civilization are regularly released for 12 hours  allowing a rampant expression of destruction and “celebration” by the population – an escape valve that balances against close control and monitoring.  Roddenberry’s depiction of the essence of humanity is played out in this way – under control and conformity of mechanistic intervention “the body dies.”  Human spirit – creativity and inspiration – are the key to life.

Follow on this with an email from AISH ala Bambi Betts:

From Peter Drucker, management guru extraordinaire:

“What is the manager’s job?  It is to direct the resources and the efforts of the business toward opportunities for economically significant results. This sounds trite — and it is. But every analysis of actual allocation of resources and efforts in business that I have ever seen or made showed clearly that the bulk of time, work, attention, and money first goes to problems rather than to opportunities, and, secondly, to areas where even extraordinarily successful performance will have minimal impact on results.”

More accurately, the allocation of resources might be described as going to the status quo in yet another attempt to maintain equilibrium.  Deviation from conformity drives us all to naturally steer the offender back on course through layers of bureaucracy and the subtleties of long standing paradigms.  These limiters provide a powerful lid to exactly the innovation and powerful deviations that are most needed in an age of economic meltdown and global disaster on our very doorstep.

So what does Noah’s Ark have to do with this.  My guess is we are all looking to a higher power in a time of fearful contemplation.  I am not really suggesting a religious theme of Armageddon here.  In the midst of the above musings, I settled in to watch a humorous film (Evan Almighty) on a modern day Noah and his Ark.  The character playing God (Morgan Freeman) in this popular movie posed some particularly thoughtful questions part way through the drama.

“Let me ask you something. If someone prays for patience, you think God gives them patience? Or does he give them the opportunity to be patient? If he prayed for courage, does God give him courage, or does he give him opportunities to be courageous? If someone prayed for the family to be closer, do you think God zaps them with warm fuzzy feelings, or does he give them opportunities to love each other?”

“How do we change the world?”

“One single Act of Random Kindness at a time. (ARK)”

So how does this connect, you ask?  The theme here is ultimately about breaking down the barriers of conformity. It’s about letting creativity and its random spirit spur us to create that which is not yet conceivable.  The human spirit is about randomness.  Chaos theory reigns supreme when you want to accomplish something beyond the status quo – and this is most certainly true when many fearfully cling to a narrow view of what is right, acceptable, and sustainable.

A complex world with difficult problems requires significant out of the box thinking.  Are we ready to initiate the “Red Hour” to solve them in the most creative way possible?

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