When I worked as a senior level executive for Macy’s – when it was a Fortune 100 – it was critical that I quickly learn how to build and create high performance teams. You cannot afford to micro-manage when your responsibility is to achieve the company’s overall initiatives with a coherent vision that motivates everyone to work as a team. Many leaders and organizations believe they have cohesive teams. But what they really have are individuals each aspiring to achieve their own personal career objectives or separate agendas. The result is dysfunctional corporate DNA. You can expend as much time, energy, and money as you want. But unless you strengthen the DNA with powerful, unifying leadership you’ll lack performance and productivity success.
Here are four leadership principles that can help you avoid this all-too-common pitfall.
1. Challenge, Delegate, and Hold Accountable
Everyone wants to excel and be their best at what they do. The problem is that they aren’t motivated, because they don’t feel sufficiently challenged, recognized, or rewarded. Give them that opportunity to grow. Be an innovator and thought leader who strategizes unique ways to develop organizational DNA. That will give your team the experiences they yearn for – ones that are out of the ordinary, tap into their creativity, and teach them the level of responsibility and cooperation required to produce something remarkable.
2. Articulate a Clear Vision and Purpose
The key to leadership success is teamwork. Without it your leadership is meaningless. You need to know that you are all on the same page, which is why cultural problems, low morale, poor performance, and a lack of productivity can all be traced back to weak organizational DNA. Scientists can identify people who are related to each other because they share common strands of DNA. When leaders create a common vision and purpose, that becomes the DNA that binds all of you together. But that requires outstanding communication skills and a passion for understanding what makes each member of your team valuable and essential. Then you need to paint a crystal clear picture of how all those pieces fit together as a unit, and convey that consistently with inspiring language and sharp focus, though all of your leadership messaging.
3. Focus on Symbiotic Relationships, Not Just Benchmarks
To avoid information silos and backbiting politics…which can destroy leadership results and organizational DNA…you need to prioritize the DNA strands of working relationships over metrics. Your teams should be rooted in dynamic, mutually-beneficial interactive partnerships. Similarly, your role as a leader should be that of a trusted, respected advisor and facilitator. Get to know your team. Match them up with others who compliment their strengths and help them shore-up their shortcomings. Productivity will be a natural byproduct because your team will be a healthy, high-functioning organism…not just a group of disjointed employees.
4. Actively Cultivate Inclusive Collaboration
One reason that team design with these mutually-beneficial relationships is so important is that it fosters collaboration. Otherwise, when members of a team don’t think their success depends on the others, it breeds isolationism – and instead of cooperation you get an unhealthy type of rivalry. But when talented people are working together, the cross-pollination of ideas can lead to significant, valuable innovations. That inspires the kind of positive competition that creates a winning mindset for everyone, and can spread throughout your division or organization to strengthen your company’s shared DNA
From my experience leading a variety of different teams, I learned that leaders are the greatest determinant in team outcomes. Your leadership is what distinguishes a productive team from a disjointed group of individuals who don’t share the same DNA. When you develop the mindset that we all win or lose together, that cohesive vision raises the bar higher. People reach higher and contribute their full value, to achieve extraordinary results.
What is your strategy to redesign your team to maximize the strands of DNA that are represented in that talent pool? I’d love to hear your insights.