Leadership Skills: Building Collaborative Teams
Teams are the backbone of a collaborative culture. In the contribution that follows, John Reddish, succession planning expert, speaker, author, and consultant, discusses the characteristics of effective teams in the new business landscape.
Effective Teams for Today’s Business Landscape
Work teams can be very effective. They can also be a disaster, as anyone with even a passing knowledge of organizational dynamics understands. In today’s world of instant information, many of these impediments to real team performance are being overcome, while new challenges are emerging. New teams must be highly communicative, collaborative, mutually supportive, multitalented, and quick to respond, often without having a complete picture of the “facts.” New teams must be able to act with relative autonomy, demanding higher levels of accountability, unparalleled access to information, and commensurate authority. Team leadership can shift as demands for expertise change, although accountability remains with the titular team leader. The new team leader, therefore, must be both highly talented and politically savvy to survive and thrive as organizations adapt to new models. He or she must either have the stature or authority to withstand great pressure to avoid producing the “same old stuff,” which is tantamount to team failure.
In organizations with traditional structures and loyalties, teams are easily compromised by the often divergent pull from multiple constituencies that provide lip service to team success while providing minimum support or even actively working to sabotage team efforts. Teams that cannot pull themselves loose through the efforts of a strong, grounded leader or who have a patron high up in the organization often are teams in name only.
Organizations that want to embrace the increasing demands of emerging world market dynamics must become “flat.” New teams flourish in flat organizations, but leaders must be willing to embrace the transparency that accompanies increased initiative and accountability where disparate, often remote teams, including ones with members operating from multiple locations and communicating largely electronically, take almost instantaneous action in the furtherance of organizational goals. Through convergence, the technology is developing to more fully support such remote collaboration and control. Management and team members/leaders must be willing to embrace this new dimension of work.
A current definition for successful team leadership might be:
As I see it, leadership is goal oriented, and effective. My leadership skills help me to release my own creative potential and the potential of individuals around me (both on my team and in support of our team efforts). These skills also help to tap the productive capacity of group actions, whether I’m the “active” leader or not.
11 Ways to Avoid Failure with Collaborative Teams
The following list details 11 reasons for team failure in traditional organizations and how they are avoided in collaborative organizations.
1. Failure to delegate is being replaced by multitalented peer-level team members with spunk and access to the same information as the team leader and/or organization.
2. Conflict with and among the team is being replaced by greater acceptance of the role of psychology and soft skills in organizations large and small.
3. Conflict with organizational, customer, and/or stakeholder leadership is being handled by increased transparency and clarity at all informational levels.
4. Excessive detail orientation is being replaced by a growing acceptance of pattern recognition (still being resisted in many quarters) as a viable alternative to detailed fact analysis.
5. Lack of meaningful management controls (responsibility/authority) is being replaced by the use of online tools for project management and collaboration in real time for organizations of all sizes.
6. Decision avoidance is being replaced by peer-level participants in teams.
7. Failure to embrace new technology and methods is diminishing as Gen X, Gen Y, and New Millenniums are playing increasingly important roles in teams.
8. Noninclusion (ignoring the ideas and feelings of other team members and/or stakeholders) is being replaced by peer-level participation in teams and a breakdown in the perceived value of selective “loyalty.”
9. Hoarding information is being replaced by technologically astute team members and open systems that make hoarding more difficult.
10. Emphasis on process rather than people is being replaced by the growing recognition that, as teams become more democratized and populated by more peers, collaboration yields stronger results.
11. Failure to share credit is being replaced by the acknowledgment and acceptance of shared contributions.
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