Picking up where I left off last week, leaders often make two other mistakes when building their teams.
First, they forget to focus on the factors that create high-performance behaviors. We already know that effective leaders clarify purpose and direction with the team. To get everyone aligned and moving in the right direction, the team must agree on the answers to the following four questions:
- What are we suppose to accomplish?
- Why should we do it?
- How will we do it?
- Who will do what?
By clarifying these performance expectations, we, as leaders, need to be very thoughtful in our choice of who is on the team. I recognize the importance of performance focus and expectations, but, when most leaders tell me their expectations in reality all they have done is to define specific steps to achieving a goal. The problem is that by defining specific steps we as leaders think we have control of the team. The reality is that we as leaders have less control than the people who report to us.
Furthermore, the people who create high-performance behaviors know the difference between what are required steps, e.g. ones related to health, safety or accuracy, and the optional steps, i.e. different ways to achieve the desired outcome. The problem is that most leaders think they are the one who is accountable for the team’s performance. They believe that if they retain control and focus people on performance then everyone will behave and get things done. The reality is that people are messy and all of them do not think or behave the same.
Therefore, the best leaders define results and outcomes during the expectations discussion. This means figuring out what is the right result and the right outcome. They do this by discussing the following questions:
- If the SMART goal is achieved, what is the result? The outcome?
- What difference will achieving the goal make?
By clarifying the results and the outcomes, we are letting people take responsibility for the route they take to the outcome. Please note that this requires of us as leaders to trust people.
One interesting I have noted about successful teams during the last 2 years is that they have a very defined schedule for team meetings. They fall into the categories of strategic, operational, and learning. And these subjects are not all covered in the same meeting.
Furthermore, during these different meetings all involved are clear about the decision architecture, i.e. how to make a decision, and the decision rights, i.e. who actually gets to make the decision. Richard Hackman in his book, Leading Teams: Setting The Stage For Great Performances (Harvard Business School Press, 2002) says that this degree of clarity “prevents the danger of the team overstepping the actual bounds of their authority.”
The second big problem in building teams is that many leaders do not focus on continually creating clarity. Many think of it as a one and done, and that clarity created at the launch meeting is suppose to sustain people through out the entire time of team execution.
To help avoid this being the problem, I often ask leaders to tell me their on-going message to the team. In essence, what are they focusing on with their team. Most give me a generic answer, but I have observed that the best are constantly on-message and share it in the written and spoken forms of communication. Plus they are very specific in their role modeling.
This week, do not underestimate the importance of face to face meetings and analog based communication. Focus more on forming and norming stages than on performing and improving stages in your team building. And remember Robyn Benincas’ Four P’s of Commitment from her book, How Winning Works: 8 Essential Leadership Lessons From The Toughest Teams On Earth (Harlequin, 2012): preparation, planning, purpose and perseverance.