Building teams

In this article I reflect on an insightful interview with Sir Clive Woodward that reinforced for me the significance of well-defined lines of accountability in businesses.

In the interview he contrasted the rugby model, where the coach reigns supreme, with cricket's structure, where the selectors appoint both the coach and the captain, potentially leading to clashes.

In the article I reinforce the need for clear hierarchies and delegation, recognising that micromanagement from above erodes accountability and performance expectations whilst also recognising the value of subtle and overt influence, understanding that compromise and collaboration are crucial for success.

Building a great team?

I have had the privilege of hearing many many great speakers in my lifetime.  Two in particular spoke about your behaviours as leaders and the importance of the leader really working to build the team around them.  

Nigel Risner

Nigel commented on the amount of damage one individual can do to an organisation. He called them internal terrorists and psychic vampires.  Draining the lifeblood from the organisation. Or to use the Harry Potter metaphor, Dementors sucking the energy out of everyone.

You may have one or, if you are really unlucky, more than one in your team.  It is the person who always seems to be challenging decisions, coming up with reasons not to move forward, inciting unrest among the other members of the team. They may be underperformers or maybe just people who emit vibes of negativity.

Nigel suggested one useful way of classifying people.  He suggested you consider who in your team you:



Trust AND like?

Then decide who is holding you back and how to put it right.

Notice that Nigel didn't mention skills.  Clearly skills to do the job are essential, but that is normally well understood and if skills are lacking they can in most cases be trained.  What is more problematic to the leader is the relationships.

Jeff Grout

On another occasion heard an equally great speaker called Jeff Grout make a similar point with a different metaphor. 

He said imagine a fire alarm goes off in your office.  Fortunately everyone escapes to the car park but half the office has been destroyed.  The fire service say you can return to work but you only have room for half the staff.  You have to send the rest home. The question you need to ask yourself is which people do you invite in to continue working?  Chances are you'll be able to identify people that between them will get most, if not all of the work done! Leaving you with a leadership question to address about the rest!

(Working from home was not normal in those days so please go with the analogy!)

He went on to provide an alternative model based on two slightly different questions. HE suggested you should ask:

Who has the skill to be outstanding in the job? And who has the will to be so?

And then consider the two together.

Skill and will

Your stars.  Support tem and reward them well.

Skill but no will

Invest time to understand why they are not motivated and put it right, redeploy to something they are motivated by or don't have them there.

Will but no skill

Your primary focus.  This is the real opportunity for improving performance.  Invest to give these people the ability to do what they and you want.

No will no skill 

Why are they there!

Critical to your thoughts is that your challenge as the leader is to inspire and if you can't do that sadly perhaps you have to fire them.  Ethically and with humanity after appropriate support and training, the subject of other articles, of course.  The bottom line though is that to succeed you need a team of at least broadly positive people who inspire each other and who encourage each other to feel positive and energised.