Why Teamwork Matters
Or does it?
There’s a lot of talk about teamwork. About how much better teamwork is than working independently. Words like “Synergy”, where the sum of the whole is greater than the parts. But many of the proponents of teamwork fail to mention the less than productive meetings, the fact that some team members rather than contribute, actually appear to sabotage your own work. And doesn’t individual skill and character of all the team members have a part to play in this “synergy”. I’m sure that I could gather 11 of you together and call you a soccer team. Then you’ll play your first match against Man Utd. OK? Your chances of winning? OK, so how about Kallang Utd.? The local Primary school? OK maybe then, but that rather depends on which eleven of you I choose, because even 6 or 7 year olds could run rings around some of you Granted, the skills and knowledge of the team members will have a part to play. But is teamwork really a good thing? Is it better than working independently. And when, as I suspect in your own situations, you don’t get to pick all of your team members, you may have some doubts about the efficacy o f teamwork over working independently. Today I hope to raise your thinking about teamwork, and why it matters…. Or does it?
The Law of Significance
Dr. John C. Maxwell wrote the 17 Indisputable laws of teamwork, and Law number 1, is the Law of Significance: One is too small a number to achieve greatness. Leaders who fail to promote teamwork undermine their own potential and erode the best efforts of the people with whom they work. To accomplish anything significant, leaders must learn to link up with others. At a recent seminar, a delegate came up to me beaming and full of pride and told me “I’m a successful businessman, I have a beautiful bungalow, , not one but two Ferraris, and a 42 foot luxury yacht… and I’m a self-made man!” He was surprised when I responded “Oh that’s a shame. Just imagine what you could have achieved with a team.”
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He walked away deflated, but I trust, thinking.
So I put to you a simple challenge:
Name one significant achievement that was the result of only ONE person’s effort? Anyone? Anything? Even inventions of one mind, to become significant, require a team of people to make, market, sell and support. Heck, even inventions come about from minds educated by others. So let’s accept that at some point, a team of people needs to be involved. i.e. it takes more than one person to create anything, certainly anything of any significance. But do teams actually perform better than a collection of individuals? Is “synergy” real? We set out to find out. .. To be able to compare individual effort against team effort we used one of our business game simulations – “Strategy Edge”. This simulation can be played by individuals competing with other individuals or competing with teams of people. We compared two groups, one group from the airline industry, another group from the telecomms industry.
Analyzing data from 2 groups of 156 teams and 78 individuals all working in the same industry as each other within different companies. Here we compare the two key indicators for any business, revenue and profit. Copyright © 2014 Dr John Kenworthy – All Rights Reserved 2|Page www.gapps5.com
A team is considered to be 3 or more individuals working together for a common purpose. Here’s a brief summary of what we found: On average, a team shows 276% higher revenue, and 115% higher profit. Less than 6 team members and the difference is insignificant, greater than 9 team members and team performance plateaus and falls off. Two individuals competing show a higher revenue and profit than sole individuals, this is due to the raised level of competitiveness. Which remains constant for sole individuals competing up to 12 individuals. More than two individuals competing (up to 5) and performance improvement is marginal.
SO it seems that teams are more productive! And, despite what your best friends might tell you, Size matters! The Ideal team size is 8 or 9 members - this concurs with so many researchers on teams from Meredith Belbin in the 60’s onwards, so we are unsurprised. Each team, for our research had a nominated team leader. What we found was: If the Manager’s leadership lid was greater than 5, the team averaged 6% higher Revenue and 5% higher profit than team with a team leader whose lid was less than 5 If the Manager’s flexibility >4, the team averaged 8% higher revenue and 7% greater profit
There are times when teamwork has been shown to be COUNTER-productive: Nature of work matters: Creative work – such as computer programming, ! Copyright © 2014 Dr John Kenworthy – All Rights Reserved 3|Page www.gapps5.com
So if a team leaders lid and flexibility have such an impact, what is it that prevents teams from being effective?
First, let’s challenge you again…
Think of three things that you do each week that you do entirely alone. Now think of why you do these things alone? Now, consider that you are recommending to someone else about how best to tackle those things… would you recommend that they do it alone or with someone else?
In John C Maxwell’s Law of Significance, he identifies these things as restraining or reducing the effectiveness of teamwork All these things reduce and constrain our ability as a leader.
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What Makes Teamwork work?
What we found is that teamwork works, under two key conditions: 1. The Leadership Lid of the Team leader and 2. the Leadership Flexibility of that leader. Let me, briefly outline what these two things are:
Law of the Lid
John C Maxwell’s 21 Irrefutable Laws of Leadership starts with Law Number 1, The Law of the Lid. Everything rises or falls on leadership. Leadership ability is the lid that determines a person’s level of effectiveness: The lower an individual’s ability to lead, the lower the lid on his potential. The higher the leadership, the greater the effectiveness.
Your leadership ability – for better or for worse – always determines your effectiveness and the potential impact of your organization. Maxwell uses the McDonald brothers as example of weak leadership putting a lid on their ability to succeed. The brothers started the McDonald’s hamburger chain but lacked the leadership to take it to national prominence. Ray Kroc had a vision for a national hamburger chain and bought the brothers’ business and turned McDonald’s into the successful giant restaurant chain it is today.. Ray Kroc’s lid was high and obviously the McDonald’s leadership lid was low. I know this for myself. You may already know this, but I was born as a chef. Actually that’s not quite true. I was born as a baby and became a chef. Or at least that was my first career. I started cooking because my mother, God bless her, was a terrible cook. And when I say terrible, let me give you an example. My mum overcooked everything. On Sundays we would often have roast beef for lunch. Roast beef in my home was a charred blackened, rock like substance that would not be out of place in a stone quarry. Everything was overcooked. We used to joke that on Sunday morning, mum would put the brussels sprouts on to boil before we left for church. By the time we returned home, 2 or 3 hours later, the cabbage, potatoes and carrots would be a grey mushy slop, whilst the roast meat would make up for this with an entirely inedible texture. Mum would put the Christmas treat of Brussels Sprouts on in October… OK, perhaps a little exaggeration but still. Copyright © 2014 Dr John Kenworthy – All Rights Reserved 5|Page www.gapps5.com
So I started to learn to cook. Mostly so that I would have something I could enjoy eating. I even got pretty good at cooking. I worked with some of the very best chefs and became a lot sure of myself and my fantastic abilities. Brilliant. Now of course, I knew everything there was to know about leading and running a kitchen. In my first real leadership test came in the Isle of Man, when after assuring everyone how brilliant I was, I was (rather foolishly as it turns out) given charge of the Palace Lido kitchens. Our first event was for 800 delegates at a telecommunications union conference. And just so you know, the telecomms union was at the time, a very militant bunch. Well, it was a disaster. I had 30 kitchen staff, 30 waiting staff, a great kitchen and had even ordered enough food. My planning however was, well let me say, there wasn’t really any. Lunch for 800 hungry, angry and loud delegates was late… by 2 hours! It was not pretty. It was not good. PERHAPS MY MUM HAD A BETTER WAY AFTER ALL. I didn’t know the Law of the Lid at the time. But very clearly, what I had demonstrated was a very low number on my leadership. All the skills and competence to do the job of cooking, had not prepared me to effectively lead a team of 60 to deliver something. I was ready to quit in shame. Already to hide out and hopefully disappear. But along came the Executive Chef for the hotel. A big Swiss guy, renowned for his violent temper. I wasn’t going to be fired, I was going to be sliced into pieces… or so I thought. He, on the other hand wasn’t about to let me get away with it. He immediately called the entire team together, issued instructions and took command. Hey, we had a dinner to prepare and we were already running late. I realised as I watched and listened in awe. My job wasn’t about cooking at all. My job was to lead a team of people and prepare and serve meals to the customers. Looking back on this day in my life, I now realise that this was the day I chose to develop as a leader and raise my leadership lid. After all, a team of great people were expecting me to guide them to deliver and a whole multitude of hungry people were relying on me to make sure they were served. I wasn’t fired that day, by the way. Chef later told me that such a very expensive experience wasn’t something he was about to throw out. Your team, your organization, your church. Are limited by your leadership lid. It’s the maximum headroom of your organization. The team must fit under the bridge.
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Leadership Lid and Effectiveness
If the leaders lid is at one, then, in spite of the team or organizations success dedication, or their competence at doing the job they do. The effectiveness of the team or organization is held down by the leaders lid. As the leader increases their leadership lid. Improves their ability to lead… so the room for effectiveness grows.
What is the number on my leadership lid?
Would others around me agree with my assessment? What is my plan to increase my leadership lid. What are the lid numbers of those who work with me? What is my plan to increase the leadership lid of others? How many of you have worked for a leader who’s leadership lid was low?
We all have, haven’t we? Very often, when I work with leaders in organizations on the leadership lid, they will tell me that their own boss should really be learning about this. Well that may be true. But what matters here and now, is that we consider your own leadership lid. Copyright © 2014 Dr John Kenworthy – All Rights Reserved 7|Page www.gapps5.com
But where’s the proof that leadership lid makes teams more effective?
Leadership Lid and Profitability
From the same research project,. We found that, as the Leaders lid (their ABILITY or COMPETENCY to lead) increased, then both revenue and profit increased (this was true for individuals AND for teams) The Leader’s Lid was measured using our GAPPS4 leadership assessment tool. The revenue and profitability increased significantly when the leader’s lid was 4 or higher, though between 6 and 9, there was less significant results… however, profitability was improved at the higher levels, albeit marginal in percentage terms, 2% is still better than the return from a bank… and that’s the ‘extra’ profit! And this is compared to the same computer generated competitor. So a quick challenge. Think of a leader you admire. Why do you admire them?
If your ability as a leader has an impact on team performance, what’s this flexibility all about?
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Leadership flexibility (or agility) is the single greatest differentiator between successful leaders and less successful leaders. To have flexibility of your style, learning, approach demands that you have: Good, high level leadership skills (competencies) and Depth of leadership character.
The most flexible successful leaders in Singapore are, incidently, leaders in the civil service and/or politics Please note that “Flexible leaders” does not necessarily mean ‘good’ leaders. A ‘good’ leader is one who’s approach and style at the time, in the context is the most appropriate. But without the full toolkit available (through continuous development), there will be times when you are forced to use a hammer when a velvet glove would be more appropriate. Let’s compare and contrast a “Flexible” and a “Stubborn” leader:
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Thus, you can see why leadership flexibility increase team effectiveness.
So when is team work a good thing and when is it not such a good thing?
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And the proof?
Based on the 22 thousand plus individual leaders in SEA in our database as of last year. We looked at the average salary of those leaders and the number of years between significant promotions through their career. Leaders with greater flexibility (and in order to have this, they must have a higher leadership lid too), are paid 50% more on average for every additional flexibility they score. Up to a flexibility of 7, each additional point for leadership flexibility reduced time between promotions by 9 months. Until a flexibility greater than 7, when promotions take longer. Largely because, these leaders are already near or at the top of their organizations… and there’s nowhere higher to go!
Teamwork increase profitability, efficiency and productivity
Be The Best You Can Be:
Team Leaders who have developed their leadership perform better than other leaders Team Leaders who are show greater leadership flexibility have more productive and efficient teams Highly flexible leaders are paid more and get promoted faster “synergy” does seem to exist in practice. Teams outperform individuals in profitability, efficiency and productivity. When the team leader is both more competent as a leader and shows the flexibility to change their style appropriately (they are flexible).
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But what is an effective team?
There are probably as many definitions of an effective team as there are teams. But there does seem to be commonality and this, I believe, distils to: An effective team has unity of cohesion and effort towards a common goal
The Five components of an effective team
These five components stem from research undertaken largely by the US Military (in particular, postGulf War I, when the number of “friendly fire” incidents became unacceptable). Only when all five components are present in a team is there the potential for true unity of cohesion and effort.
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Shared values define the team. Without common values, everyone on the team has a different opinion about what’s important. Values put people on the same page. Just as personal values influence and guide an individual’s behaviour, organizational values set the standard for a team’s performance. Too often, the values of a team are prepared by a marketing consultant, discussed and pasted on walls. Yet these are not the underlying true values of the individual’s within the team. Rarely does one see a team’s values statement include payment for their contribution, nor do we often see values pertaining to providing a safe and secure home for our families. When we ask our clients why they work, the number 1 response is unsurprisingly, money. Joint second is providing for a family home and education for children, third is God. I liken shared values to the image of an iceberg. The 10% above the water is what we see of the values that a person or the team holds – it represents the behaviours that are manifest. The 90% below the water is the character of the individual or team – which is defined by the values that the team members hold. It’s the 90% below the surface that sinks the ship. The leader who neglects the real shared values of the team may find that the team: Stagnates or fails to grow Avoids obstacles Loses achievement-oriented employees Encourages team members to focus on their own careers and individual goals Is easily distracted
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Clear Command Instruction
Clear command instruction gives team members direction and confidence. If you lead your team, then you are responsible for identifying a worthy and compelling vision and articulating it to the team. People continually need to be shown the team’s compass clearly and creatively so that their actions align and they stay motivated by a captivating picture of the future. Each team member should be able to make decisions readily and rapidly based on the clarity of the command instruction. Clarity is critical. Often we see the use of delightful, yet nebulous words used to describe the goal and provide the direction. The word excellence (or excellent) is one example. Like values statements, the intentions are good, but what does excellence mean? We each have our own definition, all perfectly valid, of what excellence means.
In “Made to Stick”, the Heath Brothers refer to this as ‘Commanders Intent’ and recommend that leaders strip down the goal to the core message. The Combat Manoeuvre Training Centre, the unit in charge of military simulations in the US recommends that officers arrive at the Commander’s Intent by asking themselves two questions: 1. If we do nothing else during tomorrow’s mission we must 2. The single most important thing that we do tomorrow is . .
In this way, any team member who faces a decision can make that decision in line with the command instruction. Establishing this takes time. Sometimes it is easy – when there are specific standards laid down by an industry body such as a Ministry of Health, the Inland Revenue or a professional body – then the goal of achieving those standards makes command instruction comparatively straightforward: Achieve these standards. But what happens once those standards are achieved? The leader then needs to create the new standards and articulate these to the team. And like any goal you want to achieve it has to be SMART, sensory and compelling, and of course, it must satisfy the values. Leaders who are unable to articulate clarity of command instruction often find that the team fails to commit and:
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This creates ambiguity among the team about direction and priorities Team member’s watch windows of opportunity close due to excessive analysis and unnecessary delay It also breeds lack of confidence and fear of failure Team’s revisit discussions and decisions again and again And also encourages second-guessing among team members
Having clarity of direction that will satisfy shared values is only the beginning of effectiveness for the team. Shared experienced is the ‘how the team will do this’. What skills and knowledge are needed to achieve this? Teams are of course, filled with individuals. And each individual brings with them their own set of skills, knowledge and abilities. And all players in a team have a place where they add the most value. Winning teams require more than the right people. You may have a group of talented individuals, but if each person is out of position, then the team won’t reach its potential. Leading a successful team involves putting people in spots where they can excel.
The leader can think of team members as resources and fill the spots like playing checkers, or the leader can recognize the particular strengths and abilities of each individual. Using their strengths work together as a team – like a chess player. When the leader fails to use the right strengths and abilities… This creates resentment among team members who have different standards of performance Encourages mediocrity The team misses deadlines and key deliverables And places an undue burden on the team leader as the sole source of discipline
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Shared Situational Awareness
The most neglected component of developing effective teams is shared situational awareness. Shared Situational Awareness is when all team members’ continuous perceptions of themselves and their peers in relation to the dynamic environment of business, competition, goals and the ability to predict, and then execute based on shared perception. This is often neglected because it is so difficult to pin down. And the moment that you do pin down that you are fully aware of the current situation, the situation has already changed. Further, in circumstances where an individual’s situational awareness is well developed, much of the processing is unconscious. Take, for example, driving a vehicle: When you first learned to drive you were acutely aware of the very many things that required your attention. All of which had an impact or potential impact on your response. You have to steer, change gear, accelerate, break, and watch what is behind you, beside you, in front of you. You have to predict the behaviour of every other road user and make decisions based on a common set of rules. All on the basis of trust. Trust that the other road users will obey the rules, trust that the brake pedal will work, and trust in your own judgment call about what each other road user will or will not do. Now imagine attempting to instruct another person remotely how to do that, in real time. You would need to know that person’s knowledge and experience, where they were, what vehicle they were driving and all the other information. Impossible. To enable this to work, the leader and each team member needs to be sure that every team member will perform their role effectively and how each will respond to given, known (and unknown) situations (following the command instruction based on known shared values using their known abilities and experience). It also means that team members look out for each other in the interests of the team. When shared situational awareness is poor, teams: Conceal their weaknesses and mistakes from one another Hesitate to ask for help or provide constructive feedback Hesitate to offer help outside their own areas of responsibility
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Jump to conclusions about the intentions and aptitudes of others without attempting to clarify them Fail to recognize and tap into one another’s skills and experiences Waste time and energy managing their behaviours for effect Hold grudges Dread meetings and find reasons to avoid spending time together
The fifth component of an effective team is in their communications. Communication brings to light disagreements so that teammates can hammer out their differences and move forward in unison. Communication also spreads information, which eliminates redundancies and prevents teammates from working at cross‐purposes. Communication within the team must continuously reinforce and support each of the other four components. Openly and candidly. And critically, communication is the response you get. If a team member does not understand what their teammate is saying, the teammate is responsible for getting their message across. The culture within the team is created, reinforced or undermined by the communication within the team. Consider communication as a family virus. The virus spreads rapidly and easily because the family stays close together and has members who are similar. The more virulent the virus, the quicker it spreads… and for communication, nothing spreads faster than gossip, cynicism and untruths. A wise leader ensures that they inoculate every team member with their chosen contagion that supports the desired team culture and prevents the spread of any malicious or damaging chatter. Teams that have poor communication: Have boring meetings Create environments where back-channel politics and personal attacks thrive Ignore controversial topics that are critical to team success Fail to tap into all the opinions and perspectives of team members Waste time and energy with posturing and interpersonal risk management
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Team dysfunctions and issues
In our work with hundreds of work teams, we have found that the lack of Shared Situational Awareness is always the number one cause of issues in teams. Even in teams that are high performing. It is most often manifest in the apparent lack of trust in the team. Lack of trust is the fruit of behaviours that good SSA would overcome. The second dysfunction of teams is communication – often brought about because of a lack of shared situational awareness or, as most people think of it, trust. Clarity of command instruction is most often the third issue teams face, though in competitive business organizations the third issue is frequently shared values.
Diagnosing the Issues in the team
In our work and research with organization teams across industries and across the globe we have identified the symptoms of team dysfunction and how frequently each occur within a team. By surveying team members we have been able to identify the frequency of dysfunction symptoms and thereby identify the key component issue.
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What does the leader need to do?
Law 4 in John Maxwell’s 17 Indisputable Laws of Teamwork is the Law of Mount Everest As the challenge escalates, the need for teamwork elevates. As the journey grows in difficulty, you can no longer cruise along with ordinary talent and average cooperation. To climb past the obstacles to your dream, you need to have a team of peak performers working in unison and clicking on all cylinders. If your team is facing challenges or you want it to perform better, then the first task is to recognize that it is your responsibility as the leader. It is not the team members’ responsibility nor is it an external consultant’s responsibility to “fix” the team. It starts with you. In each area, there are common key symptoms. This is not meant to be an exhaustive list, just an overview of the top and most frequently uncovered issues in our work with teams: Observe the symptoms of dysfunction that may be present and raise each issue with the whole team. Now is the time you can ask the team to help you fix the issues. Knowing your goals, having the right experience and resources and working together towards satisfying shared values are well known to be important in effective team performance. Shared Situational Awareness and clear communication though is the glue for teams: How you understand my context and situation and we adapt to each new situation as it arises - collaborating to gain those synergies everyone promises. And the key to SSA is open and candid communication. It's the leader’s job to inoculate all team members with the positive communication virus.
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About the author Dr John Kenworthy
To be a lighthouse for others that they are guided and encouraged to go beyond self and challenged to enjoy remarkably good success. I am a Professional Leadership Caddy for leaders who want to achieve greater success in your career, business and life. I enable and support you with the right tools and techniques at the right time so that you can align your skills, mindset and behaviour to realize your goals and dreams. I use the approach that works best for you whether as coach, mentor, teacher, trainer, expert or shepherd so that you are truly empowered. Leadership is the difference maker and the deal breaker. It’s how we grow organizations. It’s how we impact lives. But, as you also know, leadership cannot be an idea we simply talk about. Leadership is the action we must live out. As a Certified Leadership Coach, Trainer and Speaker, I can offer you workshops, seminars, keynote speaking, and coaching, aiding your personal and professional growth through study and practical application of John’s proven leadership methods. Working together, I will move you and/or your team or organization in the desired direction to reach your goals.
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