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September 2019

October 2019

The 4 Components of Real Teams

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Working with organisations trying to motivate and level-up their teams, I would often ask the all important question: “Are you a group or are you a team?” I’m often met with a question in return: “What do you mean?” or “What’s the difference?”

 

The difference could not be more profound. A group of talented individuals, who are not really a team, will never perform as well, in the long run, as less talented individuals functioning as a team. A good example of this would be national football teams. The logic in assembling national teams is often that if we pick the best players from all the clubs, and put them together, their collective skill will add up to something. Of course, this is often not the case. The players are unused to working together. In fact, they have been actively competing with one another at every other juncture in their careers; so, they don’t gel as a unit, they don’t cooperate, they don’t have rapport and that kind of near-telepathic connection that well-functioning football teams exhibit (where one player makes a pass and another player moves into an unusual space on the pitch to perfectly intercept the pass, almost as if reading the mind of the other).

 

Looking at an example of a good team, we need only turn to the Gospels. Whether you are religious or accept the spiritual dimension to these manuscripts, it remains evident from a historical perspective that the Apostles must have been an incredible team, and Christ an incredible leader. In fact, so incredible was Christ’s leadership, that he was able to be absent! He created a vision for what he wanted, he conveyed that vision and mission to his team of twelve, and then those twelve delivered – spreading the message of Christianity to the whole world, even converting the Roman Empire from paganism, which was difficult indeed! Christ, notably, had already ‘ascended’ by this point, and was no longer in the picture. He left the Apostles to their mission, and trusted them to deliver, using their own resourcefulness and creativity (and his teachings) to overcome any obstacles. Think about how this contrasts sharply with how most managers go about their team-leadership: micro-managing, constantly checking in for updates, stressing over the fine-details and the ‘hows’. It’s clear from this example that leaders need to trust their team, if they are to effectively deliver.

 

However, looking at examples is one thing, but we need to break down the mechanics of how teams (versus groups) actually work. In my book Mapping Motivation for Leadership, co-authored with Jane Thomas, we outline four key components of a real team, and how these can be used by leaders for effective team-building. The four components are as follows:

 

1) Have a clear mission or remit

We already have a good example of this in Christ. But if that is slightly too religious, we might look at the team behind the moon landing. John F. Kennedy said imperatively that they had to put a man on the moon, even though they “didn’t know how to do it yet”. The vision was absolutely crystal clear. This galvanised virtually an entire nation to solving the problem of successfully putting a human being on the moon.

 

The flipside to having a clear mission or remit is of course ‘No clear mission, but job titles’. When people have what they believe to be an individually determined ‘role’, such as the ‘team manager’, or ‘sales rep’, then it directs them to act as individuals in pursuit of their individual goals. I’m not saying, of course, that we shouldn’t have job titles, but rather job titles should be superseded by something more powerful: a vision and objective.

 

There is a famous story about when President John F. Kennedy came to visit NASA. He met a janitor, sweeping the floor. The President cordially introduced himself and asked the janitor what he was doing. The janitor said: “I’m helping to put a man on the moon.” The janitor had such a clear sense of purpose, was so connected to the mission, that he knew even sweeping the floors was incredibly important to helping the astronauts, data analysts, scientists, and engineers do their thing.

 

2) Develop interdependency

We mentioned earlier the way that good football players, working as a team, can almost predict each others’ behaviours and act accordingly. They operate as an entity with many limbs rather than a group of separate entities. Great strikers – who play up front – don’t hunt for glory, going out on their own, but know they are reliant on the positioning and tactics of their fellow team mates to get them the ball, and to create the openings, that will allow them to score.

 

Many people resist interdependency and it is easy to see why. There is nothing worse than a feeling of powerlessness arising from bureaucracy. For example, you cannot do x until y person or department has “approved” it. However, there is a difference between bureaucracy and “process” without purpose, and learning how to rely and work with those around you.

 

3) Believe in the efficacy of teamwork

Belief is important in anything we do. But, when creating a team, every member of that team has to believe in the purpose and effectiveness of the team. If secretly one member of the team is harbouring doubts, thinking: “Well, I don’t want to be with these people, I’m better at x or y than them” this can create serious problems down the line. One need only turn again to the example of the Apostles and Jesus for a case-in-point. Judas harboured doubts about Jesus and his team-mates for all kinds of reasons.

 

One of the most notable examples of Judas expressing this doubt is during the Last Supper. Jesus is about to be lathered with perfume. Judas accosts Jesus saying: “Why wasn't this perfume sold and the money given to the poor? It was worth a year's wages” (John 12:5). He calls into question Jesus’ morality. If Jesus is prepared to have rich and expensive perfume lathered on him, is he really the person they thought he is? The important thing to bear in mind in relation to our topic is that it only takes one dissolute team-member to undermine the entire operation. Every person must wholly believe in the purpose and power of the team.

 

4) Practise accountability

Accountability is often something that managers ask for from their employees. We should note that this should not turn into a blame culture. Too often managers want their employees to “be more accountable” so that they themselves can relinquish responsibility. All must practise accountability equally and fairly.

 

True teams support their members. If a striker misses a goal-shot, they should be able to accept that they have squandered an opportunity, but equally, should not be blamed by their team-mates for doing so. Their own sense of responsibility is, most likely, punishing enough! Great teams help each other learn from these mistakes, of course, and develop new strategies to overcome obstacles and challenges.

 

If you want to take this further, I’d like to offer you a 30% discount on my book Mapping Motivation For Leadership, co-authored with Jane Thomas, so you can get the full experience! Simply use this code: ADS19 at check out to get your 30% off! You can purchase the book from the Routledge website here.

 

As always, thank you for reading. Stay motivated!

 


THE FIVE ELEMENTS MODEL ALL LEADERS NEED

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There has been something of a leadership take-over on the Motivational Memos site, but this is no bad thing, as leadership is intrinsically linked with motivation! We have looked at the four types of leader, the three critical mistakes leaders can make, the five key aspects of leadership from a motivational perspective, and how Maps advocates a different kind of leadership to the popular models today.

Today, I want to look at planning, and I want to give you some useful tools for planning and visioning. In my article the five key aspects of leadership from a motivational perspective, I identified “vision for those you lead” as one of those key aspects. Therefore, a vital role for a leader is to have a vision for their company and teams, and a plan of how to get there. All vision and no practical plan makes for simply ‘dreaming’ without action. Of course, dreaming, or to use a more business-like term ‘envisioning’, is important too – nothing can happen without first seeing it in the ‘mind’s eye’, to quote Hamlet. But for real change to occur, there has to be a plan of how to make this happen.

 

It is fitting that I have just referenced Hamlet, because in fact this was the eponymous character’s very problem. He saw in his mind’s eye what he needed to do: avenge his father by killing his uncle, but he had no real plan for doing it. And, when he did create a plan, it was so complex as to be entirely ineffective. Therefore, his story ends in tragedy and universal calamity, rather than victory. If only Hamlet had used Motivational Maps!

 

However, it must be said that if creating a practical plan to achieve our visions were easy, we’d all be doing it, and we wouldn’t see quite so many examples of organisations floundering because of directionless leadership. On a micro-level, we all set goals that we don’t have good plans for achieving. We want to lose weight so we decide to go to the gym every day, not realising that this is completely impractical from all kinds of stand-points (financial, time, competing demands, etc!).

 

So, let me introduce you to a five-step model, called the Five Elements, which can get you from dreaming and envisioning to completing your goal. The easiest way to look at the Five Elements model is through an example. I’m going to share the example used in Mapping Motivation for Leadership, my book co-authored with Jane Thomas, which is to deploy the Five Elements for planning a holiday, using five questions:

 

1. Where do I want to go, or what is my ideal destination?

 

2. How will I get there, or what’s my preferred mode of transport?

 

3. How much can I spend, or what will it cost?

 

4. What can I do when I get there, or what do I want to do?

 

5. Where did I go last year? Plus, how good was my holiday last year?

 

Now, you may already be able to see some business application to these questions, but for now let’s continue with the example and look at hypothetical answers to these questions:

 

1. My ideal destination is Sydney, Australia (and I am based in the UK)

 

2. By train; I hate flying

 

3. My bank account is currently £2K overdrawn and I have no savings

 

4. I love seeing Renaissance art and visiting Gothic churches

 

5. Bognor Regis – terrible; it rained so much that most of the time I stayed in

 

Now, amusing as this hodgepodge is – you will be looking for a long time to find Gothic churches in Sydney! – it sadly reflects the reality of how most organisations plan. They answer questions without reconciling the context of the other questions, and therefore create a vision that is unworkable. This can be due to people at the top not listening to more experienced or practically-minded people on the ground. Or perhaps simply over-ambition on the part of everyone in the organisation. Of course, in this example, it is obvious that we cannot realistically get to Sydney via train. However, if we view this in more business terms, it might not be quite as obvious that we cannot sell ten-thousand units through brick-and-mortar stores (perhaps due to supplier limitations).

 

There is an element of risk in pretty much all business, with perhaps one or two exceptions such as publicly funded organisations. Certainly I fully advocate experimenting, taking the initiative, seizing chances, and so forth. Many technological companies founded their success on taking bold innovative leaps. But equally, many technology companies also go bust taking bold innovative leaps. So, a balance is necessary here. We want to be ambitious, to tread new ground, but we must also have a firm plan of how to do it.

 

So, let’s go a little deeper into the Five Elements.

 

1. VISIONING

Where do we want to be?

This is the ‘dreaming’ stage. What is our aim? Where do we want to take the company, our team; what do we want to achieve?

 

2. PLANNING

How will we get there?

Given what we want to achieve, how can we get there? What is a realistic pathway? We might consult relative contemporary or historical examples to give us some clues here. In other words, X company did it this way, so how could I learn from this?

 

3. FACILITATING

What resources are necessary?

We have to be honest about the resources it will take. And I say honest because most of the time we grossly under-estimate costs. I recently read that the majority of musicians only ‘break even’ on their tours! The cost of travelling, looking after the lighting, sound, and tech crew, staying at hotels, eating out, to say nothing of the time invested, often outweighs ticket sales. This is tragic. Live music is a great gift, but if we are viewing it from a business perspective, it seems for most artists, this is becoming pointless activity – other than to generate hype and interest.

 

4. DOING

What actions happen?

What can we do when we get there? This is another way to view this question. What will we be doing to get to our vision-destination, and what can we do when we get there?

 

5. CHECKING

What results have we achieved, and so, where are we now?

What have we achieved in the past? How might that inform our vision? If we previously failed to sell 500 units last year, is it wise to aim to sell 2,000,000 this year? Again, it may seem obvious, but organisation tend to be swept up in the narrative of ‘growth’ that they do not consider mundane realities. This also applies to checking in on our progress towards out vision. What have we achieved so far? Are we on track? How can we course-correct?

 

This model connects to our motivations, learning style, past/present/future orientation, risk and change, and more in ways too abundant to document here. I hope, however, this has given you an interesting starting point for planning in your business or team!

 

If you want to take this further, I’d like to offer you a 30% discount on my book Mapping Motivation For Leadership, co-authored with Jane Thomas, so you can get the full experience! Simply use this code: ADS19 at check out to get your 30% off! You can purchase the book from the Routledge website here.

 

As always, thank you for reading. Stay motivated!