01 02 03 "CorporateTheatre": The Wisdom of Teams - 11: Transforming the Work Culture - Role of Leadership 04 05 15 16 19 20 21 22 23 24 25 26 27 28 31 32 33

The Wisdom of Teams - 11: Transforming the Work Culture - Role of Leadership

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(In this series of posts offering excerpts from the book, 'The Wisdom of Teams' by Jon Katzenbach and Douglas Smith (Harvard Business School Press), the excerpts are in bold.)




Because of the all-important link between teams and performance, companies with weak performance ethics will always breed resistance to teams themselves.


Teams, for example, do demand a merging of individual accountability with mutual accountability. Teams also do. require lots of time together; indeed, it is folly to assume that teams can perform without investing time to shape and agree upon a common purpose, set of goals, and working approach. Moreover, few groups become real teams without taking risks to overcome constraints imposed by individual, functional, and hierarchical boundaries. And team members do depend on one another in pursuit of common performance.




Each man . . . .  earned his spot on the team every day. None relied on his formal designation or job title. Their roles were a function of their basic skills relative to team needs at the time.

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One of the questions that frequently pops up while planning for a “CorporateTheatre” workshop is:


“How do we take this learning back to the workplace and make it part of our sustainable work culture?”


The answer is always the same:


“the workshop will ensure that participants behaviourally experience their immense power and possibility as individuals and as teams to ENJOY delivering excellence under constantly changing and increasingly challenging conditions.  To sustain it at the workplace there are three essential requirements:


The top manangement or the primary stakeholders of the objectives and work culture have to be full time participants.


They should be willing to critically and objectively evaluate the existing work culture and their own leadership styles


They need to be willing to redefine some of their paradigms, including team definitions, goal setting, and appraisal and reward policies."


Without these conditions it would be like enabling people to experience that they are excellent swimmers and enjoy swimming together, and then refusing to build a pool for them to swim together in.  Unless there is the willingness to build that pool on the part of the people who have the authority and the resources, their people may not swim together again, and some may even go looking for a pool elsewhere.


It requires a very secure leadership to be willing to earn their leadership day to day without relying unduly on designation and hierarchy.  ‘Leaders’ who are insecure resist change and the risk of mutual accountability.  When those who are keen to take the learning forward attempt to make the changes, such ‘leaders’ often quote policy and precedent and do their best to make the change seem dangerous or at best, impractical.


Those who are willing to take that risk often gain the undiluted commitment and calibre of their teams and end up being loved and respected as far more powerful and effective leaders than those who prefer the illusory security of their shields of hierarchy, designation, and precedent.  More interestingly, they as well as their teams also have more fun in the process.

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