Tag: Balance

The Myth of the Alpha Dog

The Myth of the Alpha Dog

My wife and I have adopted two puppies this year, and as I was researching how to potty train our younger dog, I came across the headline, “The Myth of the Alpha Dog.” The article discussed how our belief that dog packs structures are based on an alpha dog or dominant dog is false. And that dogs have a more cooperative approach to pack structure.

This same myth is pervasive throughout our discussions on leadership. In the west, we have mythologized the single person as the saver of the world. The man on the white horse who comes in to save the day. When we talk about great discoveries, we talk about them as if a single person made the discovery. Admiral Peary had over 50 people with him as he tried to reach the North Pole in 1909 but the names of the other people have all been forgotten. We talk about great inventions; we talk as if a single person invented the light bulb. However, Thomas Edison had a team of “young muckers” working with him at Menlo Park. In the world of leadership, we talk of Steve Jobs and Bill Gates, both who are famous for the companies they started. However both had strong partners working with them; Steve Jobs had Steve Wozniak, Bill Gates had Paul Allen. This isn’t to say that Bill Gates and Steve Jobs are not brilliant men, it is just to say that rarely do we do anything in isolation.

My research and experience have led me to the conclusion that the leadership team is more important than the single leader of an organization. In his book, Good to Great, Jim Collins talks about the importance of having the right people on the bus. This is even more important the closer you get to the top of any organization.

 

Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world; indeed, it’s the only thing that ever has.

Margaret Mead

 

Why are leadership teams more valuable than a single leader?

  1. They provide a greater level of experience.
  2. They provide balance against a singular strength or limitation
  3. They offer diversity of thought.
  4. They provide the ability to delegate work
  5. They provide increased touch points to an organization

This does not mean that a leader can abdicate her responsibility for the team. It means that she has more resources to make the best decisions, create the best strategic vision and build the best team.

When I work to improve leadership teams, I ask myself the following questions:

  • Are the right individuals on the leadership team?
  • What behavioral changes will make them a better leadership team?
  • What is their level of motivation to improve the working dynamics?
  • How do they discuss different points of views?
  • Are they focused on the same vision of the organization?

Always start with an assessment of the team’s strengths and limitations. This gives a good understanding of what is working well together and what is not. I usually use an assessment tool, followed up with individual interviews. This provides an excellent groundwork to start working with the team to improve their team dynamic. Working with the leader and the team, we create a path to developing the leadership team dynamic. The goal is to understand the strengths and limitations of each member and that of the team. If you can create positive connections and a desire to move the organization forward, the team dynamic will improve.

The goal here is not to remove the leader or to dismiss the leader. The goal here is to provide a team of individuals working together to assist the leader in their challenges of running a large organization.  To create a cooperative approach to the team structure.

 

Together we are stronger than we are alone.

Walter Payton

 

 

The Leadership Team

The Leadership Team

Donald Trump has been elected 45th President of the United States of America. The moment Hilary Clinton conceded, his transition team started working in overdrive to figure out who would serve on his Leadership Team.

In his Book Good to Great, Jim Collins talks about how important it is to have the right people on the bus as you lead an organization to greatness. Mr. Collins stresses, and I whole heartily agree, it is not about having one genius and a thousand soldiers. It is about having a team of equals working together to achieve greatness. In his cabinet, Abraham Lincoln had a team of rivals because he wanted to get best people for his team.

 

“We” multiplies the power of “I”.”
― Aniekee Tochukwu Ezekiel

 

Below is a crucial list of items to consider when building your leadership team;

Diversity of thought: One person, no matter his/her experience, cannot have as great of perspective as a group of individuals. Having a diversity of thought allows old ideas to be challenged and for new ideas to be advanced. In one instance, I was working with a group of leaders to discuss the potential of a major reorganization of the broadcasting division of a major electronic retailer. We stood in a conference room, talking, arguing, challenging and finally agreeing on the best organizational structure for the department. It was not easy work, but by having a group of individuals, we got to see and hear from a greater perspective than if one person made the decision.

Balance of Strengths: All of us have strengths that we offer to the world, we also have limitations that hold us back. By creating a balance of strengths in a team, we can offset the limitations and build on our individual’s strengths. Working with a small manufacturing company, I noticed that the leadership team was a diverse group of people who had various strengths and limitations. One member was good at communicating and getting messages across; one was an idea generator; one was process driven; one as good at working with people. Separately they could not have succeeded, but together they did some amazing things.  When you are looking to build a team, consider the following strengths: Social + Emotional Intelligence, Communication, Systemic Thinking, Operational and Process Excellence, Technical Expertise, Problem Solving and idea generator. What other strengths should be on your team?

Trust: Trust among team members is crucial to the success of the team. Will the individuals on the team trust each other? Trust is multifaceted. There is trust that each can and will do their job to the best of their ability. Trust that when a team member has limitations they will ask for assistance. Trust that each is working for the betterment of the team and objective. Trust that although we may disagree, we will continue together to find the best solution. Trust that we can share our concerns and not hear them on the nightly news. Trust happens not by expecting it but by building it. By showing you are trustworthy and in return trusting others.

Work Ethic: Have you ever worked on a project and one individual did a lot less work than all of the others? This lack of work ethic or more precisely this unequal work ethic can negatively impact the team. Work ethic is not just about the amount of time; it is about the amount of effort an individual is willing to dedicate to reaching success for the team. This may mean working long hours. It also may be sacrificing other corporate activities to support the team. When you become a member of a President’s Administration, there is a lot of challenging work to accomplished; you cannot expect to work only forty hours each week.

Common Vision: This may challenge the notion of diversity of thought but when you are working together, a shared vision of a better future is necessary so the team is working toward a single objective. For instance, I served on a non-profit board, and we had the goal of improving our infrastructure. In all of our meetings, we were able to keep this as a focus. However, we had spirit discussion on how best to do this. The shared vision grounds the team on what they are working towards and what they will accomplish.

Level of Expertise: This may be challenging because it is easy to use this as the first measurement for the team. They must have a certain degree of competence in a particular area. And if this is use, you may eliminate diversity of thought, the balance of strengths and trust. However, I do agree that some level of expertise needs to be considered when building a team. In general, you would not want a middle school footballer on a college level team. However, at times, we hold individuals back because they don’t have a level of expertise but we could use their strengths in communication or emotional intelligence to balance out the team. In this case, knowing this person limitation as a subject matter expert helps you balance out the team with other subject matter experts.

 

“The strength of the team is each individual member. The strength of each member is the team.”
― Phil Jackson

 

Building a leadership team is critical to the success of an organization. My research and experiences have shown me that a leadership team has more impact on an organization than a single leader. When leaders surround themselves with other excellent leaders, the team can achieve great things. There is a trend in the NFL to hire ex-head coaches as assistant coaches, not only can the head coach tap into their skill level and knowledge of the ex-head coach but can also tap into their experience and shorten their learning curve.

Is your leadership team set? Or do you need help building your leadership team?