News & Insight
May 2004

Your Career Path to Success - Coaching High-Performance Teams

Bill Morin Chairman & CEO WJM Associates

Many of the top executives we coach report that they have a problem getting their people to work together as a team. What they usually have is a leadership problem.

Once we coached an executive of a major company who was the consummate micromanager. He had his hands into everything and consequently had control of very little. His superiors criticized him for the way he was operating his function and told him that he must create a greater sense of unity among his people.

After we worked with the executive for almost a year, he developed a totally new skill set -- that of leading teams. Instead of focusing all of his efforts on the work, he spent his time developing an environment and work process that encouraged the people in his group to work together. He became the facilitator of his team, rather than a policeman of the work, and it made all the difference in his own effectiveness and the effectiveness of the people reporting to him.

The most successful companies today are those that create organizations where people act like they own the place, where they are passionate about what they do, and where they are encouraged to challenge management -- all characteristics of a team-based culture. While the benefits are manifold in terms of business results, getting there is no small feat.

Over the next few issues of this newsletter, we will focus on what you as an individual manager or supervisor can do to achieve higher levels of performance by transforming the group of people you are leading into a true team. Obviously, the more the culture of your company or organization is structured around teams, the easier it will be. Even if your company doesn't have a strong team-based culture though, there are still many things you can do to improve the performance results of your work group.

Teams are more important today than ever. Work is more complex; organizations have been flattened, which means most managers are managing many more people; and the rapid speed of change has changed all the rules and made old ways of working obsolete. Most organizations are running on a much leaner staff. Those organizations that create the synergy that comes from teams are usually in a far better competitive position.

Managers and supervisors who can engender a true sense of team among their work groups not only improve performance for their companies, but they also create an entirely different work experience for the people on their teams.

An Amazing Transformation

A few years ago I was involved in an intensive team-leadership training program for government managers. Each session brought a new group of 30 or so managers together to develop ways that they could better lead their teams. Participants attended the session with members of their management team back at work. The whole idea was for the managers of intact groups to create more of a sense of team among themselves so that they could bring the same spirit and ideas back to their work groups.

It is amazing the transformation that takes place. As one participant put it on the last day of the program, "You know, when we came here on the first night we were all a little anxious, very reserved, not knowing what to expect. Some of us didn't even know each other. And now, look at us. There is a real sense of community here. It almost feels like family."

The people in the program had worked very hard, but because they were in the right relationship with one another and they weren't working in isolation, the work was fun. They were tired, but the predominant feeling reported by most of them was a sense of camaraderie … of being connected to other people in a meaningful way.

That's the way it is with real work teams. When a group of people make the transition to team, it's almost like magic. People aren't quite sure when or how it happened; all they know is they feel very different, and work begins to take on a whole new meaning.

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