This blog completes my series on the two questions great leaders ask themselves. The first question was: “Am I a leader worth following?”
The second question all great leaders ask themselves is: “Am I building teams built to last?” There are three components to this question: Engage, Empower and Equip.
Today’s blog will focus on Equip.
Where Are the Skates and Sticks?
You’ve just been named the new coach of the Pittsburgh Penguins Hockey Team. You’ve spent the summer engaging your players by getting to know them and why they are passionate about playing hockey. You’ve spent time empowering them so they can master their position and role on the team. Then on the first game day, your team walks into the locker room and there’s no equipment. No skates, no sticks, no helmets and no pads. The players all look at you dumbfounded, and you respond, “Get out there and go get ’em!” Sounds crazy and far-fetched, yet we as leaders in every sector do this on a regular basis.
We regularly jump to accountability of the individual, when the system is broke. This simply cannot work. Social psychology tells us that the situation, not individual characteristics, determine the outcome. In other words, every system is designed perfectly to achieve the outcomes it achieves. Want different outcomes? Change the system, not the team. This is why without equipping your team, all the work in engagement and empowerment will be for naught.
Training, Tools, Time
Leaders need to equip their team members with Training, Tools and Time.
What type of training is provided for team members in your organization when starting in a new role? One of the most common mistakes I’ve seen is individuals who perform really well getting promoted to a management position. People assume that because someone is good at his or her role, they will be a good manager as well. Without training, these team members end up disillusioned with their new role, because they didn’t anticipate how different it would be.
What type of leadership training is provided in your organization?
Some of the most important training we focus on is around decision making, running effective meetings, and having difficult conversations. Without clarity around how decisions are made, frustration sets in quickly. However, just because there is clarity does not mean your team members know how to make the most appropriate decisions. Using a case study like Harvard Business Review’s Nut Island is a great way to deepen your organization’s understanding of decision making.
Training is most effective in organizations that create a culture of continuous learning. The building blocks essential for organizational learning are a supportive learning environment, concrete learning processes and practices, and leadership behavior that provides reinforcement. Do you as a leader model constant learning and encourage people to seek ongoing training?
What tools do your team members require to do their job with excellence? With a growing service and knowledge industry, it is the “soft” intangible skills that require constant honing.
Ed Catmull, in his recent book Creativity Inc., talks about the power of tools like the brain trust and post-mortems (meetings held after a project to look at lessons learned). These are the tools that allowed Pixar to continuously create one blockbuster after another. Catmull believes that a leader’s job is not to prevent risk but to build the capability to recover from failures. He believes it must be safe to tell the truth and suggests we must constantly challenge all of our assumptions and search for the flaws that could destroy our culture. Tools like the brain trust and post-mortems help accomplish this.
You can find readily available tools to assess the culture of your team. Lencioni’s Five Dysfunctions of a Team provides a quick assessment and can lead to important conversations for a team. If your team is stagnant or having trouble generating some ideas, go for a road trip. Visit leading companies in your sector and learn from what they are doing. Another effective tool is the question, “If we weren’t here already, would someone invent us?”
Leaders who are building teams built to last succeed by helping others succeed. One of the best ways to do this is by giving your time and mentoring other leaders in your organization. By giving your time you can affirm their strengths, give stretch assignments to push people beyond their current skill level, and provide feedback.
Mentoring is a complement to training. The training we do is primarily about functional things – the “How To” of our job. Mentoring is much more about coaching and counseling. It’s much more about the qualitative and subjective parts of our work – dealing with frustration, giving constructive criticism, handling disappointment, and behaving with humility and compassion.
This is a responsibility we have to our organizations. Through our time and development of people we ensure that our culture thrives and that we have built teams to last.
Make an Impact: Build to Last!
Ultimately we choose leadership to have an impact and make a difference. Leaders can only accomplish this through the teams they build. Why not create great teams that are built to last?
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