Is Your Team Effectiveness Inspiring or Infecting Your Culture?

A scout leader was trying to lift a fallen tree from the path. His pack gathered around to watch him struggle.

“Are you using all your strength?” one of the scouts asked.

“Yes!” was the exhausted and exasperated response.

“No. You are not using all your strength”, the scout replied. “You haven’t asked us to help you.”

Years ago in their book, The Wisdom of Teams: Creating the High-Performance Organization, Jon Katzenbach and Douglas Smith, predicted:

“It is obvious that teams outperform individuals… teams will be the primary building blocks of company performance in the organization of the future… if there is new insight to be derived from the solid base of common sense about teams, it is the strange paradox of application. Many people simply do not apply what they already know about teams in any disciplined way, and thereby miss the team performance potential before them.”

As organizational complexity and speed has increased over the past few decades, many organizations use teams to increase effectiveness. Research consistently shows that highly effective teams dramatically boost levels of engagement, customer service, quality, safety, and productivity.

Effective teams meet frequently. At the senior management level, there’s often a correlation between how frequently a team meets and the amount of vertical management — departmentalism, territoriality, turfdom, etc., in that team. Some leadership teams rarely meet. The senior management group of a company we worked with hadn’t met since their last retreat two years prior. As we reviewed an internal survey they had just conducted, not surprisingly, one of their biggest organizational problems was poor communications. If senior management doesn’t frequently get together and talk to each other, how can they expect the rest of the organization to do anything but follow their lead?

Some teams reduce their meetings because it’s a waste of time. A central component of team effectiveness are meetings — either in person, electronically, or a combination of both. Meetings should re-energize and refocus. Most don’t. If your meetings are a chore, or have become a meeting of the bored, you’ve got a leadership skill problem.

With all the practical resource materials, workshops, and training now available there’s no excuse for poorly run meetings. This is where a modest investment in learning and skill development can pay incredible dividends in saved time and frustration. If your meetings were just ten percent better (25 – 40 percent improvements aren’t uncommon after good meeting leadership training), how long would it take to repay your learning and skill building time?

Skilled team leaders use meetings to transform a group from what they are into what they could be. This issue looks at common meeting problems and provides ten key components of effective meetings. We also look at the negative impact of whining, wallowing, and blame storming. These habits cause personal and team pain and suffering.

Tomorrow we publish my July blogs in our August issue of The Leader Letter. This issue looks at whining, wallowing, and “blame storming” and the need to move ourselves and our teams from groaning to growing. We also look further at the many problems of “binge meeting disorder” and outline ten “essential vitamins” to avoid meeting indigestion.

The humorist, Dave Barry, said, “If you had to identify, in one word, the reason why the human race has not achieved, and never will achieve, its full potential, that word would be ‘meetings.'”

Like any tool, in highly skilled hands meetings help teams soar to new heights. In unskilled hands, meetings sink teams in the swamp.