March Madness has been ruling TV’s everywhere; people are talking about their brackets, which has provided a little break from talking about the economy, the financial industry, and the auto industry. I was watching an interview with Michigan State University’s Men’s Basketball Coach Izzo, he talked about how one of his players, in the middle of the game, suggested a shift in strategy that would give them strategic edge to win the game; not just any game, but a critical game that put MSU into the Final Four of the NCAA Tournament. Coach Izzo said, “A player-coached team is better than a coach-coached team.” He then added, “When you have a player-coached team, you listen to them.”
As often happens, that one statement got me thinking broadly about teams.In life, I’m a team member on a variety of teams — my family, my tennis team, my volleyball team, I’m on a team with my friends, with my clients, with associations, etc… We are all “team members” of any variety of groups, associations, work teams, families, and so forth. In the variety of teams we are associated with, are we on player-led teams or coach-led teams?
Some people don’t buy into the concept of teams being teams outside of a sports environment; so I decided to look up some definitions of a team. Here’s a sampling of what I found:
- a cooperative unit (wordnet.Princeton.edu)
- a team comprises of a group of people or animals linked in a common purpose (Wikipedia.com)
- A team is a small number of people with complimentary skills who are committed to a common purpose, performance goals, and approach for which they are mutually accountable (Katzenbach & Smith, 1993)
Quite a few years ago, I led a team working on a cost reduction project. I was the least senior person on the team, so it was a real honor for me to be the leader of that team. It was a great experience and really taught me quite a bit about how teams can achieve tremendous results. Our rapid and tremendous results included over $260M in cost savings. The team knew I had the most knowledge and experience in cost-reduction projects, which was why they appointed team leadership to me. I knew that as much as I knew, collectively, we, as team knew more. I constantly sought their input, their views, and at times, I needed other people to step into the leadership role.It was that bit of “humbleness” that allowed us to grow as a team and propelled us to not only achieve our initial goals, but to go far beyond even our own expectations.
Leaders: As a team leader, whatever your title, you have certain roles that you must play. It is your responsibility to provide the team with a clear vision. It is your responsibility to clearly communicate goals and expectations. It is your responsibility to create an environment oriented to trust, open communication, creative thinking, and cohesive team work. Leaders are also responsible for developing, coaching, and mentoring team members.
Leaders, how are you leading?Do you, at appropriate times, step out of a leadership role to allow your teams to be team-coached or team-led? Do you encourage 2-way communication to ensure goals and expectations are clearly understood? Do you value the knowledge, expertise, and experience within your team? Do you have a humble element in your leadership? Are you able and willing to let your team do some of the leading while you follow? Are you listening to your team just as Coach Izzo did to gain a strategic edge for a winning a critical game?
Team members: As team members, you also have certain roles to play. You need to be committed to the organization’s purpose and vision. Team members need to establish rapport and trust with each other. Team members need to share knowledge and expertise. Team members need to be able to ask questions and have open communication.
As team members, are you asking questions? Are you letting your knowledge and expertise shine? Are you committed to the purpose and vision of the team? Are you supporting leadership with suggestions for improving effectiveness or sharing new ideas for delivering team goals? Are you ready and willing to step into a leadership role?
Families are teams too; each family member brings skills, personality, and roles to the family just as team members and players do in organizations and sports teams. Families have an identity that makes them unique in design and purpose. The family identity is important so the family-team can achieve its goals and accomplish its purpose.As family leaders, are you holding your team accountable for their actions? As a parent, are you and your children working toward the same goals?
Teams and team leaders need alignment to achieve team goals, to live the vision and to achieve its purpose.Identify all of the teams you are actively involved with; then work through the following questions:
- Does the team have a clear goal, vision, purpose? If so, does each team member understand the goal, vision, purpose? If not, work together to establish the goals, vision, and purpose of the team.
- How is team work recognized and/or rewarded?
- Is there open and honest 2-way communication between the team and team leader?
- Does everyone on the team understand the strengths and weaknesses of each team member? How are you using and developing those strengths?
- Does each team have a balance between leader-led and team-led teams?