The transformation of a management team into a management team
When teams are not performing optimally, team organization and cooperation among team members are invariably examined. According to Peter Turien, the founder of the consulting firm Towson, the cause may also be largely the relationship and cooperation between the management team and the organization.
Because the cause is first sought in the supplier teams themselves, team coaching is used. Coaches then work with these teams with, for example, the Lencioni pyramid to achieve results based on confidence. Now I’m a big fan of using team coaching (and also Lencioni), but it only fixes the problem when the root cause of the problem is actually in the teams.
When team coaching isn’t yielding the desired results, it’s time to take a close interest in an organization’s leaders and how they manage. Because the cause of unpredictable teams and shoddy delivery can also be a leadership problem, as the leaders of an organization form a leadership team instead of a leadership team.
Management vs leadership
To indicate how I see the difference between a leadership team and a leadership team: A leadership team seeks an outcome, shares that goal, and tells the organization what contribution it expects. The contribution is measured to see if the organization is actually achieving the result, and adjustments are made as necessary.
A leadership team strives for a result, asks the organization what contribution it can make to it and what is needed to achieve the goal together.
The difference lies in the art of letting go and giving leaders the right space. It is only when the leaders of an organization give employees the right space that employees will take responsibility and be able to commit to an outcome.
In my example of a leadership team, this team takes full responsibility for the outcome and the rest of the organization joins in almost automatically on a “best effort” basis. Teams and employees cannot take ownership of commitments described by others.
In my leadership team example, teams are asked to take joint responsibility. Teams can indicate what they consider feasible and therefore can take responsibility for their work as well. As a result, the goal that an organization is trying to achieve becomes a common goal. This means that organizations with leadership teams where accountability for results is low in the organization are, in my opinion, more effective in the long run than organizations where a management team takes responsibility for results.
In short, investing in self-managed teams is good, but not enough. Organizations also need to invest in transforming leadership teams into leadership teams. The art of letting go becomes a way to take advantage of the predictability and quality of the products to be delivered.
To become a management team like a management team, the Lencioni Pyramid is an effective guideline to redefine the relationship with the teams. However, instead of starting with “confidence” and working your way up to the “result”, in this case it is more effective to start at the results level.
By articulating properly as a leadership team what the organization’s mission and vision are and what results are to be achieved, organizational teams know what to focus on. The conversation between the leadership team and the organization can then focus on how we recognize that results are being achieved. Driving the conversation along the axis of clearly stated goals and desired outcomes is the basis for leadership teams to ask what contribution teams can make. By allowing the extent of the contribution to be determined by the teams, the teams have the space to take responsibility.
The cynical manager now says: “If I leave it to the teams, I will never get what I want”. However, practice has shown that people in an organization who are not managers come to work to make the best contribution.
It is of course possible that the ambition of the organization is not up to what the teams can assume. And this is precisely the crucial time when leadership teams distinguish themselves from leadership teams and show commitment to teams.
On the one hand, this can be done by asking the teams if support is possible with which the teams can take responsibility for the ambition expressed by the management team. And then on the other side accept it when the teams indicate that, despite the offer of help, they cannot take more responsibility.
It certainly takes some getting used to at first, but if the leadership teams can and dare to take it, there is a huge gift for the organization hidden in this point. An organization knows very early on that a certain ambition cannot be achieved or cannot be achieved later.
As a result, active management of expectations can be done very early on and possible alternatives can be explored; unlike organizations where the goal is nevertheless imposed and the moment of not being able to achieve the ambitions only becomes clear late in the process. The only option left for the management team is damage control.
When the relationship between the leadership team and the teams is already so healthy that there is room for the teams to take responsibility, and the leadership teams no longer worry about the “how” question, then the groundwork has been laid for open dialogue and even conversation. The organization is already reaching the level of “constructive conflicts”.
This is very valuable because management teams that reach this level receive relevant information in a timely manner. These are the means to make adjustments and to effectively manage expectations and stakeholders, in short: the means to be able to take ownership of the situation as a management team and to be reliable vis-à-vis the parties stakeholders.
What remains then is the level of “trust”. This happens, strangely enough, in the very short term based on previous levels. The degree and ability to maintain trust is determined by staying stable as a management team and continuing to facilitate the organization, and not always thinking on behalf of the teams when the going is more difficult.
Especially the management teams which do not fall back into old habits, give a huge boost to the confidence of the teams, and therefore a great incentive for the teams to do everything possible to remain efficient and predictable.
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