Managing stress was at the center of a coaching discussion I had with a CEO a few months ago. He was very successful and his success is attributed to the hard work he put in to his job. He gave his job first place and was willing to work late in to the evening, work on weekends and travel extensively for the success of his organization.
He had not adequately developed his team to take over responsibilities as he preferred to get things done on his own. While this worked for a while, it was taking its toll when the organization grew to a larger scale. He was also having issues at home as his two teenage sons had lost interest in studies and sports and preferred a lazy life engrossed in video’s and games using the expensive devises the father had purchased for them. He wife had given up trying to get him involved in family matters and was trying to manage on her own, but the absence of the father’s love, guidance and attention could not be compensated adequately by her. This is a source of stress when he returns home.
Coming form an Asian background, we sometimes become over-cautious about the impact our communication makes on others, especially those senior to us. Therefore we end up saying things others want to hear, saying things that are not fully accurate or not saying things. This article tries to highlight some of the reasons behind this and some practical steps great leaders take to overcome it.
In my blog post on the 7th of May 2015 titled ‘How great is your team?’ I promised to go into details of the 11 different aspects that make a great team. The first five aspects regarding ‘Burning Platforms’, ‘Team Alignment around Critical Goals’, ‘Does your Team have Clearly Agreed Way of Working?’, ‘A Great Decision-Making Process for a Great Team’ and ‘Information Flow is Encouraged’, have already been posted in this blog. Here is the sixth installment regarding the 6th aspect; ‘Candour with Respect’’.
Great leaders do not just encourage candour with respect but they insist on it. Candour is a quality that is essential for a winning team. Jack Welch in his book ‘winning’ mentions that candour was a vital quality for any GE leader. Candour is about speaking out the truth with courage even if it would create conflict or hurt someone else. Good communicators also know how to select the right words, tonality and body language to make it as positive and productive as possible.
Great leaders insist on candour using the following mind-set, thinking and behaviours,
We love to hear good news! When bad news comes our way some times we tend to get upset, our body language and tonality shows that we are not pleased with the information and some resort to further unproductive behavior of shooting the messenger! Shooting the messenger can be in many forms. Some would question the messenger and ask them to justify the information. Some others may ridicule them as being negative or incompetent. Some others may even resort to retribution in the form of impacting their rewards and recognition negatively. However great teams have great leaders who behave positively and encourage information flow! In my blog post on the 7th of May 2014 titled ‘How Great is Your Team?’ I promised to go into details of the 11 different aspects that make a great team. The first four aspects regarding ‘Burning Platforms’, ‘Team alignment around critical goals’, ‘Does your team have clearly agreed way of working?’ and ‘A great decision-making process for a great team’ have already been posted in this blog. Here is the fifth installment regarding the 5th aspect; ‘Information flow is encouraged’. Great information flow requires the following mind-set, thinking and behaviours; Continue reading “Great Information Flow to Make Your Team Fly!”→
You have just boarded a plane which is already 4 hours late after being given hope that it was going to take off earlier many times resulting in multiple visits to the boarding gate and back to the waiting lounge. Then you sit in the air craft for one more hour without the air conditioning working and no proper explanation from the crew for the reason for the delay. After one hour you are asked to de-plane as there is a technical problem in the aircraft. A further 3 hours wait biting into a sandwich provided by the airline with no clear apology for the delay. Attempts to find out about connecting flights falling on deaf years of annoyed ground staff. Back on the plane that thank fully moves. But it stops again. Pilot announces that we are waiting behind 7 other aircrafts to take off as we had missed our original slot. And finally the plane takes off after a 9 hour delay.
In this situation why do you think things went wrong? Who could have fixed it? Check-in manager? Pilot? head of Engineering? The CEO? Perhaps not anyone of them! Could it be all of them, if they had worked as one team? There could be individual hero’s who would have tried to make the passengers comfortable, speed up the boarding process etc. but it takes a team to make the difference.
Therefore it is clear we need teams when it is difficult for a group of people together to deliver a goal.
If you see similarities of the above situation in your workplace, perhaps you need to assess the quality of team work. Given below are the qualities of a great team. Rate your team against each of these qualities on a scale of 1 to 5, 1 being poor to 5 being excellent.
We have burning Platforms that unifies team. Rating: _____
A burning platform is a critical task that needs to get done before a crucial dead line that requires real teamwork. EG: Getting the ERP system running before the beginning of the next financial year. Getting the new product into the market before the heavy buying season. John F Kennedy created a burning platform when he said lets get a man on the moon safely in a decade from now!
There is clarity about our critical goals. Rating: _____
If our goals are clear we know what we should do and should not do. When the British rowing team was preparing for the Olympics and had to make a decision they asked the question, ‘will this make the board go faster?’ This helped them to turned down dinner invitations and even attend the opening ceremony.
We have clearly agreed ways of working: _____
There are 4 possible ways of working based on the responsibilities and roles of the team. These levels include strategic, tactical, operational and interactive. It is important for the team to have clarity and alignment regarding this and to know which other related teams operates in which way with clarity of the interface relationships.
I had the fortune of helping out a person to overcome a highly stressful situation. Lets call him Frank.
He was quite a successful businessman and his success was partly due to a business partnership he forged with another individual who was more senior, who had more experience and who was more successful. Lets call him Robert. After awhile Robert had lost control of his lifestyle and had started to face some financial challenges too. Robert kept assuring Frank that it was a temporary cash flow issue that most companies go through.
After awhile Robert requested Frank for financial help and due to the gratitude he had for Robert, he responded. Frank was promised an early return of the loan. The loan amount was so big, it virtually wiped out all his savings; a part of it was reserved for his daughters’ higher education.
The promised day passed and Robert was not in a position to pay back. Many meetings with Robert and constant follow up did not help. Robert needed more financial help and mentioned that a new loan will help him seal a deal and get out of the financial mess, enabling him to pay back Frank. Frank gave the last bit of saving he had trusting his business partner who helped him to be successful.
Top Performance requires us to ensure that top teams are set up, developed, nurtured and rewarded appropriately. Most companies miss this important point. Here is a summary of the insights from the ‘Top Performance through Top Teams’ session by Omar Khan held on the 21st of January 2014.
Inappropriate strategy deployed by the organisations to measure/improve business performance is one of the key reasons that teams remain average teams delivering average performance.
They focus too much on individuals
They focus too much on how to work than how it works (excessively process driven)
They create and run ‘Vertical Organisations’ – Hierarchies are created to fix responsibilities, which in turn dilute the authority resulting in indecisiveness / delays/non fulfilment of commitments made to all stakeholders
When an organisation faces a problem, if they have mediocre team members, they will strongly believe in maintaining/defending status-quo.
The biggest untracked cost of such companies is commitments made and not followed up.
Therefore following are the appropriate strategy for the organisations to measure/improve business performance.
Ever had a situation where you had top talent in your team perhaps a great track record of performance supported by great processes and a super brand, but with no results to justify these inputs.
In our leadership consulting work we have found one of the key reasons for this. This happens when top leadership does not recognize the fact that the fastest way to improve organizational results is through the key teams that are accountable for delivering that performance.
Organizations need to be strengthened horizontally not vertically, and by ratcheting up the capabilities of top teams, we can increase the value of our organizational assets ten-fold, and every penny invested, will give a hard dramatic ROI as each of these teams are in charge of strategic business results!!
Driving up business performance through our key teams require; growing our leadership throughout the team as way to driving key results, aligning teams so they can execute and get past blocks and plateaus, having an expanded concept of individual and team accountability, improving the quality of decision-making in ways that shows up on our bottom-lines and tangibly improving ‘conversational capacity’ through the ability to have radical action conversations.