‘Leadership Teams – why does 6+1 usually =<7?’

I rarely meet a leader who is entirely happy with the way his or her leadership team is working when they meet as a ‘team’. There is always a gap, sometimes sizable, between what they want from their leadership team and what they actually experience when the team meets.

The reasons are many and varied but they mostly lie in the ‘adaptive’ space, the way the team interact with each other and the rituals, habits and routines that grow around any regular event. I have tried many different leadership ‘team tools’ over the years to help my clients address this issue and they all make a difference in one way or another but they all suffer from the same potential pitfall, no result can transcend the strength of the relationships that exist in the team. It is in these relationships where the trust and understanding lie that enable individual leaders to set aside their personal agendas and egos and focus on winning together.

When looking at leadership teams many sporting analogies and metaphors are used and one of my favorite quotes is from Michael Jorden who said;

Talent wins games, but teamwork & intelligence wins championships.mind the gap 2 michael Jorden

I did some work with a global R&D leadership team in France and the French SVP brought in a coach from the French national rugby side to give us all what he hoped would be a great team motivation event. The coach was good; he simply showed us how to play touch rugby and ensured we had fun doing it. It worked like a dream and when I facilitated the debrief session the key lessons were equally simple; make the goal clear, the rules simple, support each other in the execution and have fun doing it…..

The challenge is translating these simple lessons into the overly serious, overly measured and invariably cumbersome and bureaucratic world that most leadership teams find themselves in.
A high performing (HiPo) team has discovered that 6+1 can be >=7 but this has to be worked at and will not naturally occur by assembling talented leaders in a room.

The journey towards high performance for any leadership team has to start with what Jim Collins in his book Good to Great calls the ‘brutal reality’ of the present situation. To enable this to occur we have developed a simple questionnaire that helps leadership teams expose their views on their current reality and exposes and extracts insight from the way the team works right now. Our questionnaire is broken into the three components that we believe high performing leadership teams need;

1. The foundation to win requires clarity of Purpose – teams need a reason to ‘be’ – a shared reason to exist and clear end in mind. Your team purpose needs to be significant enough to be worth growing up for as individuals, and growing together for as a team.

Distinctive Value – teams can be given responsibilities but can only develop commitments. A HiPo team is clear what it is that this group of people, acting as a team can deliver. They also know that without being a team what will never be accomplished. Membership & Diversity – while some turnover is healthy, HiPo teams have enough consistency of membership, so that once the team is built, it can focus on delivery, rather than keep ‘forming’ and ‘reforming’. A HiPo teams contains a variety of gifts, personality styles, perspectives, talents, and can appreciate these differences and harness the energy this creates in a productive way.
Attention to Process, Environment & Content – process includes attention to ‘how’ the work is structured and carried out in the team. In every discussion participants are clear of their role and what is being asked of them. A HiPo team matches both the physical and emotional environment to the content and challenges being discussed in a creative way that prevents unproductive rituals and routines taking over.

2. The energy to win requires individuals that can Flex Behaviour – they can effectively challenge each other’s beliefs and assumptions; support each other’s efforts and be committed to each other’s success; align the independent efforts they often have to lead to make sure they synergise and are complementary; co-create things together; disagree with each other without fear of recrimination; and can choose and deploy a range of decision making processes to suit different situations.
All of these modes are appropriate at different times to suit different challenges. HiPo teams instinctively know how to collectively adopt the necessary behaviours to match the situation they face.
Performance – HiPo teams know what success looks like, set energising targets and have performance measures that track progress towards this destination. They have a track record of actually delivering results.
Permeable Membrane – HiPo teams are externally oriented and open to ‘feedback’ and ‘feed-forward‘ input. They regularly interact with other key stakeholders, such as markets, customers, direct reports, in a listening and learning mode and take the input to re-energise their ways of working.

3. The engagement to win requires Radical Action Conversations – to take place, conversations that translate potential into real results. Such conversations go to the root, core, essence or heart of what ever has to be Pneguins fightingevaluated, initiated, changed influenced or executed. They encourage the team to; face facts fast; develop imaginative responses; take collective and personal accountability; establish and drive priorities; have zero tolerance for divisiveness, defensiveness and bull; track and drive commitment; encourage progress; and share appreciation.

Learning and Improvement – A HiPo team knows they are on a learning journey so regularly take ‘time out’ to review their performance and ways of working and invest time and resource in building the relationships necessary to make the team sustainable.

Leadership – A HiPo team leader needs to be capable of deploying appropriate leadership styles to suit the situation. Directive; coaching: supportive; delegating: & empowering styles are all necessary at times. A HiPo team is an exemplar and can exercise leadership throughout the organisation as a result of their behaviour.


If you would like to hear more about how I can help your leadership team on their journey towards HiPo status then please contact me.