What does debt-ceiling brinkmanship have to do with team building?

Sometimes we learn more from bad behavior; it teaches us what not to do. That has been the case with the fight over the debt ceiling. There are oodles of leadership and team lessons as a result of watching the “team of government” come perilously close to default on the nation’s debt from each side unwilling to compromise. It’s been the classic “them” versus “us”.

What does debt-ceiling brinkmanship have to do with team building?

Many organizations face the same dilemma especially when the choices in a weak economy are so bleak: the team needs more people  to share the workload but the company holds off hiring because it can’t predict sales will be strong in a sputtering economy.  Engagement, cross-team conflict for limited resources and leaders mired in managing through these difficult times can hurt business performance. It’s easy to get polarized.

Harvard’s Rosabeth Moss Kanter shares great advice on how leaders can avoid the polarization in the “Four Leadership Lessons from Debt-Ceiling Brinkmanship (and Baseball)“:

Survival is more important than heroism. As a wise mentor once said, the first rule for change agents is “Stay alive.” That’s a lot more important than showing off. If you can’t force a major change or get the best possible deal, a lesser deal that keeps doors open for the future means living to fight another day. Baseball analytics show that getting on base is among the most important ways to win the game. If you strike out while trying to hit a home run, the whole side might go down. If you go for a lesser way to get on base, such as taking a walk, you keep the game alive. Sometimes backing down averts a major crisis and keeps the debate alive.

It takes good leadership to keep the team moving forward, manage emotions during times of change, keep engagement alive and focused on progressing toward a shared outcome. In tough times, good team leadership skills are needed even more.

Success Television offers a variety of DVD and online streaming video trainings to help trainers support their leaders and their teams through engaging videos that add credibility with world class leaders. These videos are not about having fun and singing Kumbayah, although fun is a great energizer for any team. These team building videos are designed to back up the learning concepts of building peak performance teams. Here are some of the leaders profiled and interviewed in The Wisdom of Teams video training:

Commitment to the Team (Dennis Conner- America’s Cup Winner 4 times!) – Hiring great attitude and effective communication.  

• Energizing the Team (Jack Welch) – Setting the bar for excellence and honest feedback.

• Competition (Bill Bradley) – Remembering the We versus “I”, especially with competitive peak performers.

• Consistency & Change (Steve Case) – Buffering your team through effective communication in good and bad times.

• Joy of Invention (Ben & Jerry) – Listening for the creativity and innovation.

The Wisdom of Teams is a sequel to The Wisdom of Caring Leaders, which focuses on five learning concepts with great leaders like Richard Branson, Anita Roddick and Stephen Covey. It is also available in our team building video library, a series of short video clips trainers use to back up a learning concept they’re teaching.  Please contact us for more information.

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