The key to building Resilient Teams
In the world of knowledge workers, teams are a ubiquitous presence; however, few of us have probably worked on a true team. According to Jon Katzenbach, with true teams “the leadership role shifts among the members of the group; a Single Leader Unit, by comparison, always has the same leader.” Based on personal experience, I have participated in more Single Leader Unit (SLU)-based teams. It is important to note that both types of teams are effective in their respective contexts; one difference is that true teams tend to be more productive than SLU’s in the long run, while SLU’s produce results almost immediately.
Regardless of the team type, I have found four main ingredients critical to the development of a resilient team, including
1. Clarity of Purpose
3. Working Sandbox
4. Measurement & Feedback
Clarity of Purpose
It is the leader’s job, regardless of the type of team, to clearly and authoritatively declare the purpose of the team. Just as with individuals, this is the most important element and is the foundation upon which all other elements are built. Without a clear purpose, it is difficult for the team to take over and assert its power, instead the team will have to rely on the leader for decision-making, and will require constant tending to ensure they stay on course. You must ensure that the purpose allows some latitude for the team to define the means to achieve the goal. Remember clarity = measurability!
The purpose should be clear, but should not spell out the method for achieving the vision. This provides a rich experience for members of the team and gives them the opportunity to flex their creative muscles, which is an essential element to grooming high-potential leaders and exposes them to problems in the context of real business situations. In addition, this develops the strength of the team unit, and enables individuals to take the lead in their respective areas, manage conflict, and exercise their decision-making skills. This is the best, most effective type of training for leadership.
It is your job, as a leader, to create a safe environment where failure can be celebrated. That may sound like an odd statement, but we can learn a great deal from failure. Amy Edmondson, in her article,Strategies for Learning from Failure, actually creates a continuum by which to measure failure from Deviance to exploratory testing. She suggests that not all types of failure should be celebrated, especially that which is due to violations of prescribed processes or inattention to detail. These types of failures stem quite simply from laziness. On the other hand, failures based in exploration or hypothesis testing is valuable as a learning tool for the team.
Creating this environment enhances the overall cohesion and resulting productivity of the team.
Measurement & Feedback
Providing clarity to the vision is essential to outlining what the business outcomes must be. Given a clear picture of the vision and the desired end state, teams can use innovation to reach the desired result, but it is also important that feedback is given throughout the process so that progress can be measured along the way. In a famous Gallup poll on employee engagement, receiving regular feedback ranked higher on employee satisfaction surveys than salary and other tangible benefits. This should cement for the engaged leader how important it is to provide usable feedback.
Regardless of the team type, these four ingredients must be present to overcome the organizational inertia and produce lasting change.