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A couple of models for team membership assessment

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Individual commitment to a group effort – that is what makes a team work, a company work, a society work, a civilization work.   –Vince Lombardi

Companies are only as good as their leaders and leaders are only as good as the teams they create.  Some team gel and some teams don’t.  A collection of clever individuals does not necessary make a high performance clever team.  If fact, sometimes the opposite is true.  An assembly of clever people may be less clever than any single team member individually due to mis-matched personalities and the inability to get along and collaborate.  In many cases, a diverse set of complementary-skilled clevers is what is needed along with a clever leader that can orchestrate the collaboration to produce measurable results against a clarity of vision, mission, and goals.  It also requires the clever team leader to make changes to team membership as needed – without gettting caught in work avoidance (read What Makes Men)

Here is a start on making an assessment of each individual team member.  Many folks never take the time to make an objective, and perhaps brutal, assessment of who they have as team members and make adjustments as needed.  If you never do this, and wonder why the team or organization under performs against similar organizations, an industry benchmark, or some other criteria  then the answer could be as close as the composition of the team that you lead.

The model below is based on the work of  Howard M. Guttman. 

The Questions

Take a look around you and see who is on your team.  Ask yourself these two questions

  1. To what degree does the individual agree with the teams mission and/or what you are trying to accomplish?
  2. To what extent will this person support you as the leader and the other team members on the accomplishment of the teams mission and goals?

For each of these questions rank each team member on a scale  from 0-10.  Zero is low (or none) and 10 is high.

The Assessment

Based on your assessment, the individuals will fall into these categories along the dimensions of agreement and support.  Obviously, low agreement and low support – why do you have them on your team?  High agreement and high support – these are keepers.  But what about those who don’t fall at these extremes?  How would you describe or classify these team members?  What action do you need to take to ensure the mission and goals of the team, group, or organization are successful?  A team leaders, you take the blame for failure and share the rewards for success.

Double-dealer.  These folks agree with the team’s mission and goals but, for whatever reason, will not support you or the effort.  Don’t waste your time explaining the goals to these folks – they are already converted.  The key challenge is to win their support.  What are their concerns? Listen carefully.  Listen to what they do not say as well as to what they do say.  Look for hidden agendas.  As a team leader, this person will not advance your goals or the mission or goals of the team or organization that you represent unless you can gain their committment and support.

Foe.  Treat them as immovable forces in the work environment.  They neither agree with your goals, nor will they support you.  These folks, like the Double-dealer will not advance your goals or the mission or goals of the team or organization that you represent.  These folks might even try to actively undermine you or the teams efforts.  The diagram to the upper left does not show negative values but it’s possible – watch out.

The Loyal Opposition.  These individuals will support you but disagree with the goals or mission.  They trust you but are at odds with you or the ultimate goals or mission of the team or organization that you represent.  Unlike the double-dealers, you need to make a case for the validity of the ultimate goal or mission that you represent in order to gain their full committment.

Middle of the Roaders.  These folks are stuck in the middle.  They are ambivalent about the value of what is to be accomplished and ambivalent as to whether they will support you. These are the folks that would answer “no opinion” to your pitch.  If you see an opportunity in these folks you must understand their concerns regarding the ultimate goals to be achieved and their concerns regarding their committment of support.

Partners.  Finally.  These are the people who agree with you and will support you, the team, or organization.

The Concentric Circles Model

You can compare this to the concentric circles analogy by Joseph S. Nye, Jr in a recent posting ( read )
(If you can abstract the model from the specific reference to Adolf Hitler)

From the inner circle on out –

  1. The True Believers (Partners)
  2. Good Soldiers that will support you out of “crushing conformity” but are not true believers (The Loyal Opposition)
  3. An outer circle of complicit bystanders ( Middle of the Roaders)
  4. Passive bystanders who make no effort to know what is going on or how they fit in  (Middle of the Roaders)
  5. Those that refuse to follow and actively resist (Foes)

What to do?

The higher you go in the corporate food chain in high performance organizations you will observe how easy it is for executives to make tough decisions about getting rid of people who are not  “true believers” to the mission and goals of the organization and/or do not show full support in terms of committment to achieve measurable results.  The lower in the corporate food chain the more middle managers and below struggle with these decisions. 

At some point folks in these decision-making capacities have to realize that they have a choice regarding two groups of people, and perhaps a higher goal.  On the one hand, you may have under-performing team members.  On the other hand, you have the stakeholders in the organization – the investors, the customers, or in general, those that receive a benefit from whatever is the mission and goals of the organization.  So what is your judgement?  Do you put the organizational stakeholders at risk – which could be from hundreds to tens of thousands of people – to save yourself from making a tough decision about team members?  Choosing wrong will end your career in organizations where mediocrity is not tolerated.  High performace organizations jealously guard against mediocrity ( read about Googles Bozo-free Zone )

What Jim Collins thinks …

Collins’ theory on people is this: The bus is a metaphor for your business, and you are the bus driver. Your job is to get the right people on the bus, get the wrong people off the bus, and get everyone in the right seats. People first. Strategy second. Mediocre people will execute a great strategy, in a mediocre way. Nothing matters more than the people.

Collins also uses the metaphor of the flywheel.  Great team members start the flywheel tuning and each great team member added pushes the flywheel a little more to build up organizational momentum to achieve its mission.

Here are a couple of quotes:

GOOD IS THE ENEMY OF GREAT. And that  is one of the key reasons why we have so little that becomes great. We don’t have great schools, principally because we have good schools. We don’t have great government, principally because we have good government. Few people attain great lives, in large part because it is just so easy to settle for a good life. The vast majority of organizations never become great, precisely because the vast majority become quite good-and that is the main problem.

If I were running a company today, I would have one priority above all others: to acquire as many of the best people as I could. I’d put off everything else to fill my bus. Because things are going to come back. My flywheel is going to start to turn. And the single biggest constraint on the success of my organization is the ability to get and to hang on to enough of the right people.

— Jim Collins

What Jack Welch thinks …

Read some more suggestions from Jack Welch, former CEO of General Electric

Jack Welch – On Differentiation: Or, making winners out of everyone

Jack Welch on Candor – It just unnerves people… the biggest change for the better

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Written by frrl

October 25, 2010 at 7:04 pm

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