Quick question: is your team at full potential?
We often ask this question to executives. When their market conditions are ‘so difficult’. When their shareholders are ‘so demanding’. When their bosses are ‘so unrealistic’.
Rare are the instances where the answer is “yes–my team is at full potential”… That’s why often follows an ‘a-ha moment’. Because the executives realize they hit on something. Bringing the team to full potential might not lead to a complete solution. But it will help.
The question is: where to start?
In our experience, teams ‘at full potential’ score well on 4 fundamentals. Less effective teams tend to under-perform on at least 1 of them. Here they are:
Strong teams set up clear goals & roles. Everybody knows who handles what. Responsibilities are defined. Yet there’s sufficient flexibility, allowing to react to specific circumstances. Like in a football team. The mission is clear-cut to everybody (win this game!). Nobody wonders who is the goalkeeper, who plays defense, who attacks,…. But, when necessary, players will briefly take on another role to help team members, or to leverage opportunities.
A second characteristic of strong teams is that they define explicit ‘operating principles’. Team members decide together how they’ll go about their challenge. They clarify the guiding principles as to how they will behave. Once the tactics are set, they commit to them. Again like in football. Before the game, the team defines the game plan. They decide to which extent they will attack, how they will defend etc. Without this, the trainer couldn’t empower the team, whereas now he can.
The power of a team multiplies when its members consider the team more important than the individuals. When team members follow the motto of the 3 musketeers: ‘one for all–all for one’. Let’s take the analogy of football again: a team with great players can beat a team with world-class players. Thanks to a fantastic team spirit and exceptional camaraderie. Remember AA Ghent 2 years ago (in Belgium), or Leicester last year (in the UK). That’s the power of true bonding.
The leaders of power teams pay attention to a fourth dimension as well: they prepare their team for the long term. They prepare the next generation of leaders. They make sure team members get ready for the next level of challenges. This not only provides a great ‘insurance policy’–but besides it helps team members grow and play to their personal full potential.
To summarize–let’s go back to our first question. How strong is your team? How well does your team score on structuring, unifying, bonding and perpetuating? If an item is below threshold–you now know where to act!