When Ben & Jerry launched their ice cream company, they had a big problem. Ben Cohen had a diminished sense of smell and taste. Jerry could have taken a dismissive attitude and ignored Ben. Hey, the pressure was on, they had to move fast, competition was all around. But, instead Jerry decided to listen to Ben and, in fact, created ice-cream to appeal to Ben’s diminished sense of taste and smell. The result –big, chunky delicious ice-cream, something no other company was doing at the time.
Probably the biggest lever a company has to compete and win is its team.
Well-functioning teams are the best route to building customer loyalty, shareholder value, and employee satisfaction. Winning teams have a direction, a mission to produce a specific result that contributes to an organization’s success. But, for a team to become successful, it must overcome bureaucratic inertia, managerial biases, confusion about what makes a true team, negative past experiences with other teams, fear of failure, and individual resistance to shared accountability.
The last characteristic of shared accountability – when each individual exchanges his or her own accountability of individual performance for that of the group – is naturally the most difficult to do. It takes a lot of belief and trust in the organization and the team. In a high performance team, members develop a deep personal commitment to each other. They respect and care for each other and hold themselves and their colleagues to a high bar through team effort that produces high quality results for the organization. However, to rise to that level, team members must make the critical choice to invest themselves in the team and its mission. It takes continued vigilance as obstacles: politics, disappointments, external factors can threaten the team’s cohesiveness.
This is where high quality team leadership is necessary.
Successful teams need quality leaders who help focus the group on the mission, endorse a philosophy of shared accountability even when sometimes the choices can be tough (letting go of a team member or replacing one), and foster a climate of courage, communication and success. Leaders need to buffer the team from external factors so they can focus; they also need to listen and include the team in solutions that can lead to innovation and good decision-making. (Example: Ben & Jerry)
Need to build a high performance team that can innovate and produce during times of change? Is your team productive or is infighting and inertia getting in the way? The Wisdom of Teams E-Learning video course shows six engaging successful leaders who help your managers gain insight and skills to manage peak performing teams: Jack Welch, Bill Bradley, Dennis Conner, Steve Case and Ben & Jerry.
Sign up for a free preview of the Wisdom of Teams E-Learning course.