Leading Multiple Teams

Leading Multiple Teams

TRANSCRIPT: This Short and Sweet session is about leadership. More specifically, it is about leading teams. Today’s session is really for general managers or anyone who manages multiple teams that have to interact with each other. For example, one team may be in operations and the other team in sales. They may need to sort of rely on each other to make sure that the product is ready for sale. There are a few things that both teams need. One is that these teams need consistent direction.

What does this mean?

It means that you cannot change the rules every time you think it makes sense. What you have to do is have some rules in place, and unless those rules become bad, or unless you truly have a better way to do it, you don’t want to change those rules.

See, you undermine your credibility every time you change direction because you give the teams a sense that this too shall pass. When you don’t give consistent direction, and you are changing rules all of the time, teams think, “Well, ok this is the flavor of the day, but we know it is just the flavor today. Tomorrow it is going to be something different.” It would be better to stick with a good plan. And I mean a good plan, not a great plan, but a good plan, rather than constantly try to reinvent the wheel hoping to come up with a great plan. Because the truth of the matter is that maybe none of the plans have been great, right? So you can start with a good plan, and then you can make refinements from there that make sense. In fact, most of these refinements are going to come from input from people on the team. Decide on a direction and then basically “Burn the Boats”. This means that you are committed to seeing a plan through to the end.

Also, teams need to be given the ball and be allowed to run with it. I see this happen all of the time. We tell teams, “Hey, it is your ball. You run with it.” Then, when they have eluded eleven tacklers and are on the two yard line about to cross the goal line, we stop them. We slam them. We tell them they are wrong. We change the direction to point them ninety eight yards the other way. We simply can’t do that. It would be better if to let your team make a few colossal failures because if you don’t, you will prevent them from having colossal successes. That’s what happens when you change direction all of the time. You stop people, and you don’t allow them to truly run with the ball. Another way to look at it is, “You know what? Shoot me enough times, and I’ll become a little gun-shy.”

Teams need to be allowed to keep their word to everyone. Do you understand what that means? When your team gives its word to someone, it may be an outside vendor, internal customer, external customer, it really doesn’t matter. You need to keep your word even when it costs you money. You also need to keep your team’s word because you undermine their credibility whenever you go back on their word. Their word is the company’s word.

Credibility and integrity don’t come cheap, but they can go very cheaply.

Teams need to be goal focused. Pick two to three goals…tops. Allow your team to weigh all of their decisions against these goals. Teach them something very, very simple. That is: Things that take you toward your goals are good. Things that take you away from your goals are bad. It’s very simple. Now you can hold them accountable, right? You can hold them accountable to the results. I am not against holding people accountable to the activities that drive the results as well, but you have to pick one. You either hold them accountable to the results or the activities. You can’t hold them accountable to both. It is just not fair.

As a business leader, you need to understand that not everybody can be focused on the big picture. That is your job. That is leadership’s job. You don’t want people on individual teams trying to think about how what they do affects the entire organization. It is not productive. Teams need to be allowed to be a little bit narrowly focused, and really not necessarily care how downstream folks deal with their creations. As long as you have given them good goals, and as long as you align those goals with the company’s goals, then everything should be fine. This is not to say that they should be allowed to produce shoddy work. To the contrary, as long as they are reaching their goals, they should not give a crap about what happens after that. They need to be a little bit selfish.

That is going to be what is most productive for your organization. If the team’s goals are misaligned then those can be adjusted. In order to perform at their best, all teams must stay in their lanes. All teams must work on what they are best at. By the way, downstream teams must never be allowed to point fingers upstream, and vise-versa. It is great if leaders of these teams want to brainstorm about the next interaction and how to make that better, but playing the blame game is never productive for either team. It is certainly not productive for your organization.

Let’s do a quick recap of this Short and Sweet training session:

What do teams need? Teams need consistency. They need consistent leadership and consistent direction. If you try to change the rules for changing the rules’ sake, you can’t do that. Although, if you need to change the rules because you are going in the wrong direction that is something completely different. Teams also need to be given freedom. They need to be given the ball and be allowed to run with it. They need to be allowed to make colossal failures because that is how you are going to get colossal successes. Third, teams need to be goal focused. Give them two to three goals and keep them focused on those. Teams also need to be narrowly focused. In other words, teams need to be selfish. They need to worry about their goals. They can’t worry about the goals up or downstream. Finally, teams need to be immune to the blame game. Your job as leaders is to make sure that that does not happen. It is very easy for people to point fingers upstream or downstream, but that is not productive for your organization.