One of the mistakes that managers often make is when they talk about the 'Team' being more important than the 'Individual', or about how 'We' is more important than 'I'. While this is true from a philosophical value perspective, and certainly very noble, very few people will actually buy these dictums even though they may seemingly accept it. The reason being that, in a corporate environment, unlike an ashram or a monastery, no one has come to 'surrender'. Instead, most people want to keep rising in the corporate hierarchy and become CEOs, or at least heads of functions as soon as possible. So also, 'team' is only a concept. You cannot touch the 'team'. What you can touch, and interact with is only the 'individual'. A group of individuals, aligned to a common goal and a common success, (2nd pillar of a natural team) with complete trust in each other's alignment (3rd pillar of a natural team), become a powerful Team.
Dr. Michael O'Connor is a recognized thought leader, executive coach and founder of Life Associates, Inc. He is also the co-author of "The Leadership Bridge Program (Situational Leadership II & DISC). In his article - CULTURE RULES !- he explains the need for alignment, very well. In fact he reinforces all the 3 pillars defined in my earlier post on Natural Teams.
"Organizations that do a poor job of uniting their people* to execute the business vision and mission tend to slow themselves down by strategizing like maniacs and dragging most of their people along for the ride. Companies that emphasize clear, strong, and effective culture don't have to pull their people along**. Their vitality energizes and re-energizes the people, who in turn, propel the company forward to continuing success. It can also be helpful to envision culture as the hub that holds the spokes of the wheel together. Strong cultures are those where people share a high level of commitment to the same clearly defined set of prioritised business values*** required for the ongoing success of their organization, and united to achieve their organization's vision and related strategies or goals . . . . "
Note how all the 3 pillars are covered in this statement:
* "uniting their people" - the 1st pillar. Bonding happens only when people experience each other beyond their roles, designations, seniority, and hierarchy. When we carry this baggage we are 'characters'. Characters, like characters in a play can be in intense conflict (like assassin and victim or generals at war) and have very clear cut and rigid hierachy (like king and slave). However, irrespective of the hierarchy or conflicting nature of their roles, at the level of the actor, there is no conflict or hierarchy. In fact each actor does their best to help the other actor to perform.
In a play that we are currently performing across the country, I play the role of a writer who goes to an Afghan hotel. The other characters in the hotel are locals, and some of them are obviously tough, rough, thieves, robbers, murderers. A beautiful dancer enters and entertains the gathering. The clientele is very excited and delighted by the performance and throw money to the dancer. The writer also wants to throw some money like the others but finds that he has been pickpocketed. He accuses the people around for having taken his wallet and violence erupts. Item by item, the writer is stripped and pushed and kicked around.
During the performance, the audience senses intense violence, aggression, fear. But as actors, each one is trying to make it look as real as possible and doing their best to make sure I am not hurt. On my part, I am doing my best to ensure that they do not have to pull their punches to the extent that it looks contrived. At that level, without losing the intensity of, or commitment to the individual conflicting roles, every actor is helping the other actor to perform as well as possible.
Organizations and Teams need functional hierarchy and even functional confrontation. But once bonded at the level of the actor, this does not become human hierarchy or conflict.
** "don't have to pull their people along . . " A manager who is able to create the 3 pillars of a natural team, moves from 'managing' - (making people work), to 'leading' - (making them WANT to perform), and from there to 'enabling' - (where the designated leader becomes the facilitator of excellence, and the team becomes the leader based on situational competence, clarity, creativity, and energy.)
*** " . . share a high level of commitment to the same clearly defined set of prioritized business values required for the ongoing success of their organization . . "- the 2nd & 3rd pillars- Everybody has clarity of same task and commitment to the same success, and complete trust in each other's clarity and commitment. In other words, everybody is aligned to the same goal and the same success. This alignment happens only when I know that if the organization/team wins, I win. If the organization/team does not win, I cannot win. As mentioned in the earlier posts, this is the primary challenge of the top management, along with the HR stakeholders - to clearly define and communcate across all levels, the common goals that will make the team/organization win, in the short term as well as the long term, and to create an appraisal and reward system which ensures that the individual's and team's concept of winning and success is in perfect alignment.
Given a culture where these 3 pillars exist, the human team, or 'pack' is programmed to win. Once they become a natural team, excellence and winning is its own reward, simply because no 'Team' wants to fail. No 'Team' wants to be second. Once this culture is experienced, the team will find new competencies, create the resources, manage time and change, and enjoy challenge. "The higher the mountain, the greater the celebration".