“If you take out the team in teamwork, it’s just work. Now who wants that?”
Matthew Woodring Stover – Author
As a leader, alongside providing direction in your business, one of your most important roles is to build strong, cohesive teams and empower and embed accountability within them. This provides the solid foundations needed to successfully implement a winning strategy, whether for a company, division, brand, or function.
Authentic leadership is essential to creating a successful team — inspiring individuals to join forces and work towards a common goal. When leaders foster a culture of innovation and teamwork, they unlock the full potential of their team members. By equipping them with the right resources and support, leaders establish an environment of growth and progress that allows individuals to shine in their positions. Effective leadership goes beyond achieving outcomes; it’s also about forging solid connections and cultivating a sense of camaraderie within the team.
The Role of Trust in Building Strong Relationships
Trust is essential when creating solid relationships within a team. By prioritising open communication, trust, and mutual respect, leaders create a positive and supportive work environment that encourages individuals to bring their A-game daily. Leaders build trust by genuinely connecting with their team, finding common ground, and consistently delivering on their promises. And once trust is established, team members become more productive and greater advocates for their teammates and the changes required to make them more effective.
Charles H. Green developed the ‘Trust Equation’ model, which is frequently used in coaching practices worldwide. The equation has three numerators: Credibility, Reliability, and Intimacy, and one denominator (the single most important score) Self–orientation. The more self-centered and self-focused you are, the less trustworthy you appear to others.
As the saying goes: There is no I in team!
Leadership Lessons: From the field to the boardroom!
The All Blacks, the champion New Zealand Rugby Union team and one of the most successful teams of all time in any sport, with a win rate of almost 80% going back to 1903 (according to The New York Times), has developed an enviable approach to building trust and creating first-class leaders.
In his article ‘7 Lessons for the Corporate World from the greatest team in the World’, Mark Thomas highlights the keys to their outstanding record:
- forge a powerful sense of purpose and identity
- use symbols to guide behaviours
- always subordinate ego to the team
- build an atmosphere of trust and cohesion
- create a team where everyone is the leader
- focus on the ‘tenths’ to create a culture of success – leave no stone unturned to improve performance and harness conflict as a force for learning and growth
- change or lose – consistently learn and evolve.
Even the best sides have their struggles, though. The All Blacks won the inaugural Rugby World Cup in 1987 and then had a dry spell until 2011 when they won it for the second time. During this 24-year gap, the All Blacks were the dominant team in world rugby, but there was always some reason for failure when it came to the World Cup. They were unlucky on occasion and lost at crucial times due to underlying flaws in their strategy and implementation.
There was a brutal World Cup disaster in 2007 when NZ thrashed everyone in the pool play, but (for the first time) they didn’t make it past the quarterfinals – losing to France.
The three fronts they faltered on:
Ego: They’d won in the pool rounds too easily; they’d beaten France so many times before they took winning using their typical tactics for granted.
Leadership: The team came under immense pressure with a change in French tactics. Leadership wasn’t agile and didn’t know how to respond and adapt.
Stepping up: The whole team didn’t take responsibility for making the changes required. The reliance on the captain and coaches to do so was too high.
Following this humbling experience, significant change was implemented, embedding the lessons Mark Thomas highlights above. This change included establishing a leadership team of experienced players, with the coaching staff engaged in instilling the ‘Everyone’s a leader’ ethos’. The players had to make the decisions on the field, take risks, play to their style, and back each other. This was the platform for the tight win in the final … against France, and they continued this ethos by winning again in 2015, the first country in history to win back-to-back.
In essence – it all comes down to trust – trust in yourself and trust in your team. This applies equally in business as on a playing field. It’s also crucial when mobilising large numbers of people in a business or industry make things happen!
Capturing Hearts and Minds
You need to capture the hearts and minds of your strategic population to win their emotional and intellectual commitment. We define a strategic population as a critical mass of the people who will make or break successful implementation. They usually represent a cross-section of different functions and levels across the business. They could also include stakeholders outside the organisation.
One of the reasons that 67% of strategies fail to be implemented effectively (according to Ron Carucci ‘Executives Fail to Execute Strategy Because They’re Too Internally Focused’, Harvard Business Review, 13 November 2017) is that businesses don’t successfully mobilise people. If you don’t have a significant proportion of people engaged and onboard, working towards a mutual goal, you’re not setting yourself and your business up to win!
XPOTENTIAL MOBILISATION MODEL
In our Mobilisation Model – The first (and arguably most important stage), is to ‘Understand the Strategic Population’: Who they are, what motivates them, what is their current mindset. They are critical to breaking the current paradigm and allowing and facilitating the change to happen.
Understanding the Strategic Population also means identifying and being aware of the people we term ‘the squeaky wheels’ as you move through implementation. This is stage number 6 in our model. The squeaky wheels are the people who are not committed, not willing to commit, or may have some capability gaps that prevent them from putting their best foot forward. As you move forward with implementation, understand who the potential barriers to success are and why. These ‘squeaky wheels’ can infect the whole organisation if they are not quickly greased, aligned, or replaced.