Leadership Notes #31 – Team Assessments

(This series of “notes” first appeared in the YahooGroup “VenturingList” and are written by Michael Brown. I thought that they were worth sharing with the Commissioner Corps.)

We are all part of groups of people working together, whether at work, in our units, in other levels of this and other organizations. But is that group a team? And how good of a team is it? How can you assess that team? Here are a couple of different, but similar models.

Blanchard et al (authors of the various situational leadership concepts we’ve touched on in past Notes) uses the PERFORM model, and this used to be used in Wood Badge (if it still is, I have no idea). PERFORM is:

• Purpose and Values
• Empowerment
• Relationships and Communication
• Flexibility
• Optimal Productivity
• Recognition and Appreciation
• Morale

PERFORM is covered in several of their works. It was first put forth in “High Five: The Magic of Working Together” and is also covered in Blanchard’s “Leading at a Higher Level”. The idea of PERFORM is that these 7 characteristics are key for a successful team, what Blanchard calls a ‘high performing team’, which he sees as a result of using situational team leadership (see the Note on that topic). Basically, the characteristics are:

• Purpose & Value- what is keeping the team together and moving forward? Members need to have a goal in mind (purpose) and shared values.
• Empowerment- members need to be empowered to be able to achieve that common goal. Basically, the authority to act and make decisions.
• Relationships & Communications- the members of the team need to communicate together, not just with or only with, the leader. Only then does the team come together as a team.
• Flexibility- members of the team need to be able to adapt to changes. This is necessary as each member brings something different to the task at hand.
• Optimal productivity- this is what happens when you have a `high performing team’. When you have a team dedicated to the goal and committed to high standards, they will use problem solving and decision making to achieve that goal.
• Recognition & Appreciation- members are responsible for and deserve recognition and appreciation for achieving both individual and team accomplishments.
• Morale- is about a sense of pride and satisfaction in a job well done as a team. We all understand that high morale helps achieve success.

While most of these concepts seem obvious, too often we have to be reminded of them.

Another, different but similar, concept I found is enunciated in the recent book “Extraordinary Groups: How Ordinary Team Achieve Amazing Results” (www.extraordinarygroups.com). I first read about it in an article in “Toastmasters Magazine” (March 2011) in the article “What Makes an Exceptional Team?” (you can read that article here: http://magazines.toastmasters.org/publication/?i=72188)

The authors of that book have set down 8 traits of “Extraordinary Work Groups”:

* Compelling Purpose: we are inspired and stretched in making this group’s work our top priority.
* Shared Leadership: we readily step forward to lead by demonstrating our mutual responsibility for moving our group toward success.
* Just Enough Structure: we create the minimal structure (systems, plans, roles, tasks) necessary to move our work forward.
* Full Engagement: we dive into our work with focus, enthusiasm and passion.
* Embracing Differences: we value the creative alternatives that result from engaging differing points of view.
* Unexpected Learning: we are excited by what we learn here and how it applies to other work, other groups and our lives outside of work/organization.
* Strengthened Relationships: our work leads us to greater trust, interdependence and friendship
* Great Results: we work toward and highly value the tangible and intangible outcomes of our work together.

The article touched on some of those traits. I though this list was interesting. Several of them match up with the PERFORM model. Others are additions.

So, let’s get to the heart of the matter, assessing teams. Are the teams you are a part of achieve these points, whether it’s the PERFORM or the Extraordinary Group? As I read thru both of them, and thought about the many groups, large & small, that I’ve been on at work, in various orgs, etc, I find that those groups that have most or all those traits were more successful, and those that lacked many of them not so much. A lot of this is due to the leadership and vision of the leader (or lack there of). But also the others in the group and how they are involved also have an effect. When most people in the group took on those traits, the more successful the group was, even in spite of the leader.

I have seen groups that existed because the leader had a vision. He either recruited others who shared that vision, recruited others who had necessary skills and got them to buy in to the vision, and others who agreed with the vision sought out and joined that leader. These groups were almost always successful. A variant of this is the group in which all the members have a shared vision, and due to this vision they came together to achieve it. Usually one among them became the leader, tho sometimes the vision was so strong within the group, that this “leader” was more of a spokesperson for the group then a true leader. These groups also are almost always successful.

Less successful are the groups where, tho the leader had a vision, didn’t feel that the other characteristics listed above were important. They might have succeeded, more due to the fact that the members wanted things to succeed, but they weren’t as successful as they could have been, and it’s certainly wasn’t as much fun (indicated low morale) as it could have been.

I don’t know, but it seems to me that groups in the BSA almost have a systematic issue with following some of these traits.

Purpose & Values/Compelling Purpose & Full Engagement is difficult when you have leaders (and members) who aren’t committed to what the group is about, and are only there as a reward for past work. (I always say a job is a job, not an award. There should be an expectation of doing the work.) It’s like they are there as a ego boast and not to accomplish things.

Empowerment/Shared Leadership is difficult, when the leader refuses to recruit additional members of the team (or have any team at all), or share leadership (power to a degree, responsibility would be a better idea, which is really what empowerment is) with others on the team. Empowerment is all about the members having the power to act and make decisions. But many leaders, fearing a loss of power, refuse to allow this.

Just Enough Structure is difficult when the leader refuses to recruit others to the team and tries to run it a one-person operation, or the group refuses to setup the structure. You need some structure to get things done, and in absence of any structure, nothing gets done (except by individuals on their own). Of course, too much structure can also be a problem, when you have leaders who build a huge organization of people (with titles), all of whom do nothing and get in the way.

Flexibility/Embracing Differences is difficult when the leader refuses to recruit people who may have a contrarian view of things and may challenge the leader with different views/ideas. Too often the desire to have people of like mind means that those with differing views/ideas are shutout. People should be recruited for their skills and knowledge, not for being “yes” men. Obviously, you don’t want people who are totally against the vision of the group, but someone with a different take on it, or see a different path to that vision is good.

Relationships & Communications/Strengthened Relationships doesn’t happen if the leader doesn’t allow the team to really come together as a team. Again, it could be that fear of losing power. If the team comes together, they may feel they don’t need the leader (or perhaps feel a different leader would be better).

All this then short circuits any chance of getting Great Results/Optimal Productivity. The goal will get done, because there will be members of the group who will want to ensure that stuff is done, but think of how more successful the group could be with better leadership in place? And how much more fun? The work may be hard, but it could be enjoyable hard work.

And when it comes to Recognition & Appreciation, do the members of the team get any, or does it all go to the leader for their own glory? This is especially true, again, when you have “leaders” who often times took on a role mainly for the recognition they would receive. How many people have we seen who took on a role mainly because it would get them a Silver Beaver or similar award?

So take a look at some of the groups and teams you are involved in. See how many of these characteristics they exhibit. How might you do something to change it?