Multiethnic group of business people joining their hands together

Patrick Lencioni stated it most clearly, “Not finance. Not strategy. Not technology.  It is teamwork that remains the ultimate competitive advantage, both because it is so powerful and so rare.” There are many tools and approaches used to create strong engagement and performance, and to integrate that into organizational culture.  Approaches may focus on organizational structure, HR strategy, or leadership development, among other initiatives.  But one of the most powerful ways to begin to shift an organization’s culture to one of high engagement and collaboration is through leadership team development, with successive development of other teams in the leadership and management pipeline, combined with other change initiatives, as appropriate.

Most organizations face increased leadership and management demands—to oversee and support larger program responsibilities, to utilize more expansive sets of data, to work within constrained budgets, and to leverage the skills and abilities of a diverse staff, many of whom come from different generations. Leadership and management teams often get stressed under these demands, and fall into habits and norms that inhibit growth in performance.

As Edgar Schein so beautifully demonstrated in his book Organizational Culture and Leadership, an organization’s culture originates from and is continually shaped by leadership. For that culture to shift, leaders must be willing to change their own behavior, and be willing to address “the anxiety that is unleashed when…

[cultural] assumptions are challenged.” In other words, they must be willing to take on their own work of change! In doing so, they powerfully start the process of developing renewed engagement, norms and expectations throughout the organization.

High performing teams create an environment of shared leadership in which members bring a high level of engagement and energy, integrating the skills, perspectives, ideas and resources of all members. In these teams, members develop and demonstrate skills in The Five Behaviors of a Cohesive Team™.  They:

  • Trust one another,
  • Work through difficult challenges, effectively engaging in productive conflict, and leveraging the creativity and innovation that can come out of it,
  • Focus on their overall mission and have a high commitment to decisions made by the team,
  • Hold one another accountable, and
  • Focus on results.

Successful teams also develop clear understandings of their different roles, norms around decision making, and processes for effective implementation.

How can organizations develop their leadership team, and other teams, to help create an organizational culture of high engagement? In our experience, 3rd party facilitation of a quality team building program, like Five Behaviors of a Cohesive Team™, is essential. It is also important to be sure the organizational context for teamwork is strong and clear. For example, do teams have a clear sense of purpose, and access to the information, resources and authority to fulfill that purpose? Do HR requirements and performance management programs encourage individuals to contribute their best efforts to team results?

Assessment of teamwork, and development activities to leverage the innovation and high performance potential therein, requires hard work of all involved. But the results are well-worth the organizational investment!


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This blog was written by Susan C. Hagood, MSOD. Ms. Hagood is an Organization Development Consultant with Evolution Management, Inc. Susan and the EMI team are energized about transforming human performance through the evolution of workplace culture. Contact EMI for more information about how we can assist your organization with team development or other consulting project, or call us at 770.587.9032.