Teams, Teams, Teams: My Answer To “Jeff, What Is It You Guys Actually Do?”

I often get asked the question, “Jeff, what is it you actually do?” After realizing our marketing message apparently sucks, here’s what I say:

Me: “Are you part of a team at work, such as a marketing team, a project team, or an executive team?”

Them: “Yes.”

Me: “Is it really a team, or would you consider it to be more of a group?”

Them: “What’s the difference?”

Me: “Exactly.”

In my experience in coaching business teams to actually think and act like a team (as opposed to just calling themselves a team), what I’ve found as some of the initial obstacles to moving ahead and creating real results—I mean, the type of results that real teams are capable of—are the following:

1. No formal knowledge of teams.

More often than not (in fact, pretty much all the time), nobody on the team has ever received any formal instruction on what it means to team and to be a team. The general understanding of teamwork is passed down from one team to another. Now, that experience may have been good, it may have been bad, but there’s no strong basis for what good teams look like which means there’s nothing to role model.

If you don’t know what success looks like you’ll never know A) when you get there or B) in what direction you need to go to get there.

2. Misaligned incentives.

Silos, turf wars and the toxic “me, me, me” mindset exist because that’s what gets rewarded. You can’t have a strong team if members are rewarded individually. That’s not the definition of a team. True teams share a common purpose, hold each other and the team mutually accountable, and share the same fate. Meaning, that if the team fails in achieving its mission, so does everybody. That’s the difference (well, one of them) between groups and teams.

3. Uncertainty about where to start.

The biggest takeaway from the 2016 Global Human Capital report by Deloitte was the fact that the number one priority for organizations was organizational redesign, and specifically, redesigning through teams.

In the 2017 Global Human Capital report Deloitte cites that 90 percent of its respondents are “companies [who] race to replace structural hierarchies with networks of teams empowered to take action” in order to adapt to change and stay competitive.

Hmm, sounds like not much has changed. You know why? I’ll give you a hint: it looks a lot like #1 above.

It’s no secret that smaller groups and teams of people can adapt faster than large ones. When you multiply this phenomenon across an organization, what you get is an organization that can adapt to change as a whole, and that’s a competitive advantage.

Thirteen years as a SEAL taught me many things (one of which was to Duck!), and teams was definitely one of them. The best part, however, is this: how we worked together as a team and how businesses can work as a team are exactly the same.

Team performance drives business performance.

Contact us today to learn how.

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