If you lead a team or are part of a senior leadership team I wonder how you are?
I am mean how you really are?
When I asked a senior manager this question last week, she took a long pause and a deep breath… “A little frayed around the edges with not much left in the tank!”
For those having to lead others, I am sure her words will resonate.
It has been the best of times and the worst of times and as we start to move into this period of recovery and creating the future world of work there is more change to come.
It is a good opportunity now more than ever to revise teams roles and responsibilities, establish new team norms, let go of old practices that no longer fit and continue to introduce improved ways of working that help people work smarter and create the balance that works for them.
Whether you are part of a senior management team, an executive board or a business owner leading others, you are going to need your people to perform at levels now that they may not have previously been required of them. If they don’t step up it could make the difference between success or failure for your enterprise.
Back in 1999, I was working for a large American corporate bank and was part of the Customer Services management team.
Adorned over the wall above my desk was one of the Bank’s mantras.
“Complacency is devastating.”
A reminder to every person, regardless of their role, the importance of never settling.
It stays etched in my mind to this day.
I clearly remember the day when I was called into the director’s office and was presented with one of those “career development opportunities.”
There was a team in the bank that had been underperforming for some time and despite several managers being drafted in over the previous 18 months to get them back on track, there had been little consistent improvement.
The team had earned the reputation for eating their managers up and then spitting them out and it seemed I was up next!
“They need a good talking to” was what I was told by one of the directors.
I didn’t agree.
I thought that was the last thing they needed.
My starting point was to ensure they had a good listening to.
Within a few months, I started to see small shifts in their behaviour and attitude. The “that won’t work” was replaced with “we could try this”.
I had to change some roles and responsibilities so individuals had clarity about what was expected of them and lobby for some departmental policy changes which didn’t make me very popular.
This provided the team with the flexibility to work differently.
However, that was very much the process I was influencing.
What made the real difference was the time I invested with the team. Understanding what was important to individuals about their work and being part of this particular team.
Listening and asking questions, inviting contribution, asking the team for solutions to their challenges, setting boundaries, making sure individuals felt they had some control over their work and at the same time having some tough, uncomfortable conversations. Recognising their efforts, playing to their strengths and calling out behaviours that weren’t acceptable. Some people left but most people stayed.
That year I was recognised for my efforts with a company award which I dedicated to them.
In my career to date, it has been one of the hardest yet most fulfilling roles.
I learned huge amounts about people and teams and even more about myself and my own leadership abilities. I realised only recently that what I had been doing all those years ago was Team Coaching.
The success of any business or organisation lies within the people in its teams and Team Coaching is one of the most effective ways to get teams to perform at levels they wouldn’t necessarily be able to do on their own or with their manager.
Back in the bank, I would have benefited from an external team coach to navigate some of those early-stage changes, to offer a different perspective, to provide challenge, to help me keep a focus on the impact of the wider system and hold a safe space for those uncomfortable conversations (so I could simply come up for air!)