It is perhaps one of the fastest growing areas in corporate human development—how to create high performing teams. And, I stress the word human, because the keys to success nowadays have less to do with IQ smarts and competence/skills, and more to do with the ways in which individuals trust, engage, communicate and execute together.
Today, there are numerous assessments and tools that measure problem solving, critical thinking, decision-making, etc. Yet, I often meet leaders who tell me that they have assembled a dream team to lead the company or division. On paper, they may indeed have this: smart, experienced and proven executives, who have a raft of achievement and deep knowledge. Yet, the leader then shakes their head and says, “I don’t fully understand; everything is in place but we’re not working effectively as a team, and this is impacting our achievement as a company and indeed my role as a leader.”
• The keys to success today are the ways in which individuals trust, engage, communicate and execute together.
• It is no longer acceptable for excellence and best practice to operate within a silo.
• Successful leaders today define themselves through their skills to help others see what they see, by translating their intuition and judgment into a language that can move others.
The new leadership paradigm
In the past, leadership was easier. Change was more incremental, more evolving and a hierarchy supported a structured way to manage. The leader was relied upon to steer the vision or company towards the future, and the team members were executors according to their specific expertise. Mastering convention was a strategy.
The new world is more complex and nuanced, with data constantly changing. The reaction time is exponentially shorter. What has really upset the apple cart is that it is no longer acceptable for excellence and best practice to operate within a silo. In our symbiotic and highly connected world, those who succeed must collaborate between areas, divisions and departments in a dynamic and highly interactive way. And this means people must effectively interact with each other—differently.
The human strains from this are becoming increasingly evident and companies are not necessarily fully prepared to either recognize the problem and/or know what needs to be done.
A case example is a New York-based divisional head of an international financial institution, who leads about 1,000 people. He has a leadership team of 10 direct reports, all seasoned executives, who manage the financial operations of this North American division. Like most large global financial firms, they are under the federal spotlight in fulfilling both regulation and compliance obligations.
We have three complicating factors here:
- These relatively new laws are subject to interpretation and judgment as to specifically how they apply to each financial institution.
- This company is a local division of an international firm, which is also grappling with EU/UK regulations at the same time, in response to which they have a ‘global strategy’ being designed in parallel.
- The leadership team, while highly talented and experienced, is made up of 50 percent legacy people and 50 percent brand new people to
The executive vice president sat down with me and sounded exasperated. “We have the best leadership talent in the country, and our depth of experience is truly world class. People are well treated and remunerated, and we are known for having a respectful culture. Yet, we are all, including me, working 12 to 16 hour days and weekends, are constantly in crisis mode, and seem to be consistently behind on the goals and deadlines we have committed to.”
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