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A tale of two teams

Average reading time: 3 minutes 30 seconds

If you are in any sort of leadership position, you will almost certainly be part of two teams.

There is the team that you lead and the team that you are a member of. The latter is the one led by your boss and made up of a number of your peers.

But which team is the most important?

If I said that in order to improve the overall performance of your organisation significantly, you had to split your time, attention and energy un-equally between these two teams, which would you choose?

I’ve asked this question to hundreds of leaders over the last five years and they always struggle to answer.

The main challenge with answering this question is that we have an intuitive sense that both teams are equally important, so we fight against making a choice.

Let’s make it a little easier by clarifying the question.

Accepting that both teams are important, the question now changes: if you had to allocate 55% of your energy, focus and time to one team and the remaining 45% to the other, how would you split it?

Would the team that you lead get 55% or 45%?

Now for the answer.

I believe that your peer group team is marginally more important. Here’s why.

If you are part of a genuine team, as opposed to a work-group, then your ability to deliver the results you are responsible for will be impacted by your peers. There will be a degree of inter-dependence, meaning that what your peers do affects your ability to do what you need to do and vice versa. The same will be true of those that work for you.

So, if you have healthy and effective working relationships with your peers, those that work for you will see this and be more likely to collaborate cross-functionally themselves. When you have strong, trusting relationships with your peers that are free from personal agendas and politics, you will naturally create a better working environment for your team.

The flip side is when there is low trust between you and your peers. This creates an environment where individuals seek to advance their own career or, make themselves and their teams look good, often at the expense of others.

Husband or Father?

My own family provides a great analogy to further explain my point.

My wife Jo and I have been married for nearly 14 years and we have a wonderful seven-year-old daughter. You could consider me and my wife to be members of two teams.

Together we form a “peer-group team”, which is the original and longest standing team in the Morton Family Ltd.

We also both lead a team with one incredibly high potential “direct report” who is destined to be the future CEO. That direct report is our daughter… and I admit I may be a little biased about her ‘potential’.

So, let’s consider my question again.

Should I allocate 55% of my energy, focus and time to our daughter or Jo?

And we can get to the answer by asking two further questions:

  • What will have the greatest impact on my daughter’s well-being and happiness?
  • What will have the greatest impact on the family (business) as a whole?

I’m convinced that I should place marginally more attention on me and Jo. If we have a fantastically strong relationship, that enables us to work together to support our daughter, then everything gets better.

When we are tight, we are better able to role model the same behaviours, communicate in a consistent manner and provide a great example for our daughter to follow.

But this isn’t easy at home or at work. The tendency is always to place more focus on the team that we lead. I’ve spent three years trying to ensure that I’m as good a husband as I am a father and to be honest, I think I come up short a lot of the time.

Even when we have the insight that I’ve shared with you, it’s still hard to focus on doing all that we can to ensure the team that we’re a member of is rock solid. But that’s why there are so few world-class teams out there. If it was easy, everyone would be world-class.

How is your team doing?

Grab a copy of my Four Levels of Team Performance one-pager here to get an instant snap-shot of how your team is behaving and then drop me a line if you’d like to chat.

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