Thursday, November 21, 2013

On Leadership Teams (and teams in general) - The Haka Moment

The notion “team” over all these many years has become extremely widespread. Wherever you look you will see teams. Being it in manufacturing, in sales, in design, ... you name it ... teams are everywhere. And of course there are management teams and leadership teams. 

Unfortunately, the true meaning of “team” and the spirit behind it, within it, has become diluted, sometimes even completely lost. Often, in many organizations / corporations “teams” are even being ridiculed behind the scenes, and teamwork is only “on paper” important. 

Two insights:

  • Some years ago, while doing some research and was visiting about 100+ car dealerships, I could experience first hand how, in that case, sales teams were set up for failure. Each morning at the sales managers office the white board was updated with the latest numbers by sales person, and the degree of fulfillment of the monthly objective was determined. The sales manager delivered his usual speech “I have to kick some butts here...”. The result was that each “team member” was now fighting the other team members. In such an environment your fellow team member becomes your worst competitor / enemy / nightmare. Hence, they consistently missed their overall objective. Each one of these dealerships? No, there were three exceptions. At these three truly excellent dealerships team spirit was really lived beginning at the very top: The Leadership team. These three dealerships were thriving, consistently achieving or surpassing their objectives. Since there was no in-house fighting, the customers became the true center of their genuine attention. And the customers loved it. And interesting enough: At all three thriving dealerships there was at least one woman in the Leadership Team (while in the other dealerships there was none). Not empirical, I know, but quite a sign. 
  • It all starts on the top level, starts with the leadership team: Boards of Directors and Management Boards, where it seems being the sole purpose of its members to fight each other ... and often with “not so nice, often nasty” methods. There is an enormous amount of time spent in this game. I saw that happening in many Board meetings in different countries and it seemed to be always the same ... the methods might differ, but the fighting goes on. Even though these Boards were culturally different there was one common denominator I have to mention: the complete absence of women in these Boards. It was about domination and it was always a men’s game. Team spirit? Nope! Being united behind one cause doing whatever it takes to together achieve the objective? Nope! One for all and all for one? Never!

What does that mean:

Think about it: these very same “leadership teams” expect all other “teams” in their organization to work as such, to work as a team. I call that wishful thinking. In a complex environment the lonesome warriors of the past are lost. The uncertainty inherent in complex environments, the unpredictability of events, the ever changing circumstances altered by each component is demanding, not just requesting, teams of people trusting each other and working together “as one”. For that to happen you need true Leadership.

Fostering team spirit and team work, thus getting the best out of people, triggering genius, creating uncommon solutions, challenging the status quo and disrupting it, and reaching the common objective ... that’s another one of the key leadership tasks. that’s when the Leader clearly becomes the coach. In complex environments you need teams of true top players, each one an asset because of his / her unique personal experience, knowledge, skills, talents. And these top players demand true Leaders, otherwise they just leave. Period. 

How can you get there (The Haka Moment):

There is a reason great sports teams, for instance in football, rugby, soccer, are truly great. They are great and perform as a team, because they have great coaches as Leaders. It takes an enormous effort, takes passion, takes patience, takes energy, and takes mutual trust to coach these top players and finally forge a true team together. Each Leadership Team of any organization / corporation should have coaches, coaches able to form a winning team, able to create the spirit essential to achieving the objectives and winning the game. And always all starts at the top. 

Want to know how a real team looks like? Want to feel why it’s next to impossible to beat the power of a real team? Here are two examples:

That’s a very powerful demonstration of team spirit united in the Haka. You might say “Well, that’s now too far fetched! You cannot expect the leadership team of a corporation doing rituals and doing the Haka! We have more important things to do.” Well, that’s exactly what I expect from you as leaders you claim to be. Stop the excuses and begin to learn and understand the deeper meaning behind such an old tradition like the Haka. What can be more important than having a winning team? 

When you have only once seen live the All Blacks team of New Zealand, seeing them performing the Haka, and then seeing them playing, you understand what I mean. It deeply resonates with each one of the team. It does not mean that they will win each and every game. It means that they are prepared to bring about their top performance, to bring about their very best ... and they do ... consistently. It means dedication, power, and the will to always do whatever it takes. And it also means, and that’s what the Haka is about as well, that they always have deep respect for their competitors. 

Now compare that to your leadership team and your other teams you have in place ... and then ask yourself: would you like to compete against an “All Blacks” team like this one?

  • Some background explanation: The Haka is not just an ancient war dance of the Māori people. It is performed for various reasons, like honoring guests and (in the case of the All Blacks) opposing teams, acknowledging great achievements, and, of course, to really forge a team together ... to create that team spirit, that “one for all and all for one attitude” ... whatever we do and achieve, we do and achieve it together.

I think it’s time to create some Haka moments with your teams, beginning at the top: your Leadership Team. It will get you way out of your comfort zone and will definitely disrupt your cozy and cherished status quo at your organization, I promise you that

Have a look at the All Blacks Team: that distinguishes true professionals from the wannabes. They do whatever it takes to succeed , no matter what. They know the power of a true team led by a true Leader. ... And it has a lot to do with the ancient tradition of the Māori people ... 

Google+ Walter H Groth

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