Creating high-performing and faster-moving teams

It seems that every meeting I went to recently, and almost every person I spoke to, mentioned the new book, from the authors of How Google WorksThe Trillion Dollar Coach. I dutifully ordered it and once I had the chance, diligently read it. It is described as the “blueprint for forward-thinking business leaders and managers that will help them create high-performing and faster-moving teams and companies”. A sort of Tuesdays with Morrie for aspiring managers and leaders in the connected, digitized exponentially changing the world, making team coaching the new collaborative cultural norm. A book that deeply honours and unpacks the great impact of Bill Campbell on the digital giants of Silicon Valley, outlines his team coaching techniques that resulted in high-performing and faster-moving teams, within collaborative workplace cultures.

Three key business nutshells

Here are the three key nutshells I uncovered in a world where team coaching is the new collaborative cultural norm for aspiring managers and leaders towards creating high-performing and faster-moving teams.

  1. Leading innovative tech companies, no matter whether it was Google, Intuit, Microsoft or Apple, all benefited from coaching. By drawing on their coach to support, respect, trust and enable them to close the gaps between what they were currently doing, and what they needed to do to build and sustain their ultimate awesome successes.
  2. Many start-up founders and techno’s tend to be individualistic, passionate and often anti-conventional contrarian thinkers, misfits, and high achieving doers. Operating from intuition, being willing to experiment and learn from their failures, they often found themselves at odds with their boards, investors, and people. By drawing on the wisdom of their coach, they acquired the management (and leadership) fundamentals necessary to be flexible, adaptive and agile in knowing how to respond quickly and deal effectively with the range of challenges that emerged as they built their businesses by creating high-performing and faster-moving teams.
  3. Whilst digital and technical expertise, vision and passion, technology, strategy, creativity, and invention all co-exist and drive innovative start-ups, they all ultimately acknowledged that “it’s the people” who, who operate best as high-performing and faster-moving teams, who manage, lead, execute and deliver operational excellence and high-performance business outcomes. By drawing on the wisdom of their coach to help them manage and lead their people to be more effective in their jobs, and to grow and develop. By assuming that their people want to do well, they are capable of doing great things and come to work fired up to do them. By creating an environment that liberates and amplifies that energy.

What are the key learnings towards creating high-performing and faster-moving teams?

The top priority of any manager is the well-being and success of their people, and it takes deep attention, intention and (soft) skills to enact and embody this effectively by creating high-performing and faster-moving teams:

  • Within an environment that supports people to be successful by giving them the tools, information, training, and coaching to succeed.
  • Ensuring that people are respected, no matter where they are coming from and that their unique career goals are understood.
  • Being aware, sensitive and empathic to their life’s choices.
  • Trusting and freeing people up to do their jobs and make decisions, by knowing that people want to do well and believing that they will.

My own Bill Campbell Story

In the mid-1990s, Westpac, one of Australia’s big four banks, had a near-death experience, where poor investment decisions and board instability put them right on the edge of failure. Where they almost went to the wall, with the share price falling to around the $6.00 mark.

Bob Joss, “a builder, and not a wrecker” from Wells Fargo, was recruited to lead the way forward. Amongst a range of significant strategies, including raising the profile of women in the bank, he instituted a transformational leadership program branded ‘Making it Happen’. It involved the top 1200 managers globally, and I was fortunate to be a lead facilitator in delivering the program. Which focussed on building a leader’s capability to set and achieve key goals, and deliver specific financial and structural business outcomes, through their people.

It was where I met first encountered Robert, my “Bill Campbell”, not only as a contrarian and challenging participant (and there were many), he was also the new CIO of Westpac Financial Services.  During one of the workshops, I mentioned that we had a new approach towards Developing Top Teams in organisations, which focussed on building the leadership and collaborative capabilities in high-performing and faster-moving teams.

This heralded the beginning of what became a twenty-year professional win/win relationship because Robert intuitively knew that “it’s the people” who manage, lead, execute and deliver operational excellence and high-performance business outcomes. In his many manifestations, as the CIO in a diverse range of technology-based companies, he knew that people perform at their best, through collaboration, in teams. He also knew and diligently practiced “working the people, before solving the problem” despite some of the people involved, operating as misfits and renegades.

In many ways, up until today, Robert unconsciously acted as my coach, during my twenty-year professional development as a corporate consultant, trainer, facilitator, coach and even, as a start-up entrepreneur when I founded ImagineNation™. Every time he shifted to a more senior or different role, we always opened our minds and hearts towards boldly and courageously experimenting and advancing our methodologies in effecting team led strategic change. Constantly testing, validating, iterating and pivoting different, adaptive and innovative approaches toward designing and delivering the most effective, top team leadership and membership development programs, for current as well as for creating high-performing and faster-moving teams.

Three key nutshells in creating high-performing and faster-moving teams

Here are the three key nutshells I uncovered in a world where team coaching is the new collaborative cultural norm, in developing the trusted relationships, in high-performing and faster-moving teams, in the digital age:

  1. Every team needs clarity of purpose, whether it is a project-based team or a functional team, they need to share a creative conversation about why they exist and what they hope to achieve by working together. It needs to be inspirational (passionately purposeful to ignite people’s intrinsic motivation), achievable (as a measurable outcome) and meaningful (value-adding and making a difference).
  2. Every team member needs role clarity, again whether it is a project-based team or a functional team, they need to share a creative conversation about their individual contribution and accountability towards achieving the teams’ purpose. Each person’s role needs to be clearly defined, understood by everyone on the team so that they can support each other to achieve, and be mutually accountable for delivering the meta or high-level purpose. People need to be committed and convinced that their individual and collective strengths, will provide cohesion. To be mutually respectful of each other’s talent, knowledge, experience, and skills, and have the determination, and grit required for each other’s success.
  3. Every team needs a set of agreed core and agile processes, for effectively guiding their behaviours, communicating, solving problems and making decisions. People need to be willing to take personal responsibility for enacting and embodying the behaviours, following the communications (and meeting schedules and guidelines), as well as the decision making and problem-solving processes. Even when they may not agree with the team’s decision, they become committed to “team first” and become mutually accountable for enacting them.

With companies today, contending with new dimensions of competition– shaping malleable situations, adapting to uncertain ones, and surviving harsh ones – all require new approaches. Team coaching is one of the new collaborative cultural norms in creating high-performing and faster-moving teams, and within collaborative communities, to lead in the imagination age, in today’s fast-changing world.

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