It is surprising to me that the development of high performing leadership teams is a relatively new area in Australia. If you Google ‘leadership team development’ you won’t get much in terms of companies in Australia that actually develop teams as teams. What you do get is companies that are working on leadership development and/or team building. Neither of those things are the same as leadership team development.
A surprising finding from our research is that teams do not improve markedly even if all their members receive individual coaching to develop their personal capabilities. Individual coaching can indeed help executives become better leaders in their own right, but the team does not necessarily improve. Team development is not an additive function of individuals becoming more effective team players, but rather an entirely different capability. (WAGEMAN ET AL, 2008: 161)
My conclusion is that there is a lack of understanding of the performance power that comes from tapping into and honing the relationships that team members have with one another and with their stakeholders. If a team truly is a team, i.e. it is necessary for them to work together in order for critical results to get produced, then the quality of their interdependence is crucial.
Katzenbach and Smith (1993b) define a high-performing team as ‘a small group of people so committed to something larger than themselves that they will not be denied’. The characteristics they say a high-performing team exhibit are:
1. Exceptional performance – ‘outperform all reasonable expectations of the group, including those of the team members themselves’.
2. High levels of enthusiasm and energy.
3. Personal commitment that is willing to go the extra mile.
4. Great stories of ‘galvanising event’ – turning points in their history where they overcame the odds.
5. More fun and humour than ordinary teams.
What gets in the way of points 2, 3 and 5 – which inevitably impacts 1 and 4 – is the ‘stuff’ that happens between people, and wherever there are people working together there is ‘stuff’.
Senior leadership teams, like other teams, need expert help in learning how to become better at working together over time. Coaching such teams is often more challenging than coaching front-line teams. High spirited, independent minded thoroughbreds are often convinced of the rightness of their ways and are not responsive to correction – even by the lead horse.
(WAGEMAN ET AL, 2008: 159)