Archive for the ‘Teams’ Category

Team-building-prototype / hikingartist / CC BY-NC-ND 2.0

A friend and I were having a conversation about leadership while talking about how a new, grassroots organization would survive and thrive. We were specifically discussing whether this organization needs a charismatic leader to instill enthusiasm and energy within current members, as well as increase membership of community activists.

Our conversation broadened to discuss whether charisma is the secret ingredient in the leadership recipe. Is there a formula or algorithm to determine the amount of charisma needed to be a leader? Maybe eye of newt, wing of bat, and a tablespoon of charisma.

We inherently react positively to someone who has charm or personal magnetism – who smiles and has a positive attitude and energy, or a twinkle in the eyes. But charisma is more than charm. Charisma is a relationship skill (Rosabeth Moss Kanter, Why You Need Charisma, HBR Blog Network, September 11, 2012).

There is no one type of charisma [Got Charisma?], like effective leadership, charisma is situational. In this organization, it seems that the organization needs charisma (relationship building) so that “all feel that they are special and will have their particular needs met, yet also feeling that they are all in it together, drawing strength from association.” [Kanter]

Rather than searching for the one charismatic leader, I think that the organization should focus on the desired outcome as quoted from Kanter above. Charisma is the eye of the beholder, it is what one attributes to another. A charismatic leader for one organization may not be effective for another organization. Ask a Republican if Clinton has charisma, or a Democrat if George W. Bush has charisma.

There is an opportunity for the organization to use the strengths of its members. Perhaps there’s a relationship builder among the members who can step up to that role to raise and maintain enthusiasm and energy.

While enthusiasm and energy are key ingredients in the formation of an organization, as well as during its maintenance to a lesser extent, in order for the organization to be sustainable, its members need to internalize the vision, have a commitment to the mission, and feel as a significant, integral part of the team.

In addition to motivating members, the organization needs other leadership functions. One way to look at the organization’s leadership needs is from the view of eight leadership archetypes presented by Manfred F. R. Kets de Vries in The Eight Archetypes of Leadership in the HBR Blog Network, December 18, 2013.

  1. Strategist – provides vision, strategic direction and outside-the-box thinking to create new organization forms and generate future growth.
  2. Change-catalyst – re-engineers and creates new organizational “blueprints.”
  3. Transactor – identifies and tackles new opportunities, thrives on negotiations.
  4. Builder – creates something new and has the talent and determination to make it come true.
  5. Innovator – focuses on the new and solves extremely difficult problems.
  6. Processor – sets up structures and systems needed to support an organization’s objectives.
  7. Coach – gets the best out of people, creates high performance cultures.
  8. Communicator – great influencer, has considerable impact on the surroundings.

While working on its programs, the organization could work on leadership development of its members using their strengths to meet the various leadership and management needs of the organization.

“Working out which types of leaders you have on your team can work wonders for the effectiveness as a group. It helps you to recognize how you and your colleagues can individually make their best contributions. This will in turn create a culture of mutual support and trust, reduce team stress and conflict, and make for more creative problem solving. It also informs your search for new additions to the team: what kinds of personality and skills are you missing?”


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MC900078711In my last blog post, Can You Read My Mind, I wrote about providing autonomy and communicating clearly with employees about expected results.

One of the articles referenced in the blog post addresses the frustration employees have with supervisors who expect them to be able to read their minds. Another frustration that employees have is discussed by Vineet Nayar in The One Thing Your Team Wants You To Stop Doing on the HBR Blog Network on December 21, 2012.  Nayat provides advice:

  • Don’t obfuscate; tell it like it is.  I think that this is the most important advice.

That’s typical of Gen Y, which wants its leaders to call a spade a spade. “Tell it like it is, stop worrying about hurting people’s feelings,” said one response. The next was even more direct: “Stop being outwardly nice and be vocal about dissatisfaction with my efforts.” A third went a step further: “Let people know where they really stand. They know how to win if we tell them the score.”

  • Stop telling me what I know
  • Don’t stray; walk the talk
  • Stop playing favorites.
  • Don’t be a boss, be a leader

An important aspect of communicating with subordinates is having the insight to ask the right questions.

Chris Musselwhite and Tammie Plouffe, in To Have the Most Impact, Ask the Right Questions on the HBR Blog Network on November 12, 2012 address asking questions from the perspective of influencing.  However, asking the right questions is also important in basic communications with employees.

Questions give you the chance to hear what the other person is thinking, giving you more opportunity to accurately determine his or her influencing style. By really listening to the person’s response, you will know whether you can move on to your next point, or if you need to back up and readdress something in a way that helps the other person see your perspective and brings him or her closer to your position.

Musselwhite and Plouffe indicate that there are three different types of questions:

  1. Convergent questions
  2. Divergent or expansive questions
  3. Integrating questions

Perhaps most importantly, asking questions frames the entire conversation as an inquiry in which both sides are coming together to uncover the best solution. Not only are you communicating that you haven’t come with an immovable agenda, you are demonstrating that you care about and are open to the other person’s perspective, creating trust. This is intentional influence at its most effective. Not just a positive by product of intentional influence, a culture of trust is a trademark of high performing teams and organizations, and the benchmark of great leadership.

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While the bicycle races like the Tour de France don’t look like team sports events, they really are.  The best time to see the team work is during a team trial.  You can also see team work among opposing team members during a break away.

Likewise, good teamwork in an office setting is also sometimes invisible to the beholder.

Harvard Business Review (HBR) has an Insight Center webpage devoted to teams.  At the Secrets of Great Teams page, they describe that the Insight Center “highlights emerging thinking around the new science – and art – of building successful teams.”

A recent article on the page addresses virtual teams, Virtual Teams Can Outperform Traditional Teams.  The author, Keith Ferrazzi, claims that virtual teams can outperform traditional teams.  He refers to a study of that found that found this to be true if “they are managed to maximize the potential benefits while minimizing the disadvantages.”

The use of virtual teams might be of benefit for nonprofits who are looking to recruit boomer volunteers.  Many boomers are looking for project-based volunteer opportunities or working from home.

Since I worked on numerous teams that were virtual by necessity, I was intrigued to read further to find out what recommendations the author has to manage virtual teams.

  • Put processes in place
  • Communicate less – but in the right ways
  • Keep conflicts focused on tasks

The author provides specific guidance for each recommendation.

My common experience with both traditional and virtual teams is that team management and communication are crucial to producing an outcome.

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