(615) 656-0465 mark@markskenny.com

While it is critical for your executive leadership and other high-impact teams to be high-functioning and cohesive, it obviously shouldn’t stop there. Every team in the organization needs to be high-functioning and cohesive. The level of execution and cohesiveness of those individual teams has a direct bearing on the level of execution and cohesiveness of the entire organization.

However, it may be unrealistic from a cost and time perspective to implement the same level of effort for all of the other teams in the organization as you do for the executive leadership team. For one thing, there are probably a large number of teams both traditional and non-traditional, role-based and cross-functional. However, it’s still important—too often, these “other teams” are not given the resources needed to become cohesive themselves unless there is a teamwork problem that needs to be “fixed.”

The approach for the rest of the teams is five-fold: to establish teamwork behavior standards, teach them to your teams, expect teams to exhibit those behaviors, give leaders and managers exposure, and provide high-impact supporting resources. This is a reasonable, cost-effective approach to provide a strong context of teamwork throughout the entire organization.

Establish teamwork behavior standards

Set a clear standard for teamwork behaviors. This includes both the behaviors that teams should adopt as well as how individuals treat each other. This comes from the teamwork framework, as well as your expected behaviors of individuals, as adopted and practiced by the executive leadership team (if your executive leadership teams wants ideas or examples for a teamwork framework to use, or a framework to become cohesive itself, email me).

Teach the teamwork behavior standards

Naturally, you need to teach the behavior standards to your team. There are multiple methods of teaching the standards. When I conduct training workshops or webinars, the purpose is often to teach the teamwork framework to teams and team leaders throughout the organization. You could conduct book studies of a book that articulates the teamwork model or watch a series of videos. It is especially effective when senior executives take the time to share teamwork standards with team leaders—it lends credibility and importance, even if this is just for a few minutes at the beginning of a meeting or book study.

Expect teams to exhibit those behaviors

The teamwork behavioral standards are never broken—no exceptions. Alan Mulally called this “joyful accountability.” Hold your teams accountable to the standard. Of course, this only works if your executive leadership team sets the example and believes in the power of teams working together cohesively.

I recommend that you employ a “three-for-one” approach. When I coach basketball and plan practices, I look for drills that accomplish two or three objectives at once, such as ball handling, layups, passing, and offensive plays. Embrace the same approach. Set up debrief sessions with your teams or team leaders to report not just on the status of initiatives but on areas of teamwork on which they are working, how those teamwork areas are coming along, and the team’s Immediate Objective.

Give leaders and managers exposure to leading teams

When you coach a basketball team, you want to get as many practices in as you can before the first game. In reality, there are diminishing returns. Players have to play in games. They have to be exposed to game situations. That is where they—as well as coaches—really learn and improve.

Same thing with your leaders and managers. Josh Bersin, a leading researcher and adviser in enterprise learning and talent management, advocates for the benefits of exposure as a development method over traditional leadership development programs. Placing leaders and managers where they are exposed to different people, leadership, and team situations is placing them where they must learn and develop. Give them as much opportunity as possible to build the right behaviors to create highly functional teams.

Of course, many teams are matrix teams or cross-functional teams where there is not a hierarchical leader. It may be a program manager or a project manager with leadership responsibilities for the team but with no actual authority. The same principle and behaviors apply. Give those leaders exposure to leading teams and expect them to build in the organization’s foundational teamwork behaviors. It’s just as important in hybrid types of teams.

Next week, I will provide a list of high-impact supporting resources, the fifth element to strengthening teams throughout the organization.