31st May 2019

Teams are the Windows to your Organisation’s Culture

Just as ‘the eyes are the windows to the soul’, teams are the way to see the truths of your organisational culture.  So why do organisations spend inordinately more time looking at individual performance and development than team performance and development?

Only focusing on ‘high potential employees’ may negatively impact teams.

Since the term ‘Talent Management’ came into vogue sometime in the late 90’s, consultants and academics have argued that Talent Management is the driver of human capital-based value creation in organisations.  It is a compelling argument.  Focus on recruiting, compensating and developing high talent individuals and you will be rewarded by superior value creation in your organisation. As former heads of Talent and Human Resources, the partners in our firm have led efforts to differentiate highly talented people and establish programs to reward and develop them as “high potential” employees.  And in the past, we may have done so at the expense of allocating resources to the development of teams.

Develop high potential employees; but don’t forget about building high performance teams.

It’s now a paradox CEO’s and HR leaders need to address. Organisations devote time, energy and money to attract, develop and retain key individuals. But, a high performing team can maintain the momentum of organisational performance with the loss of one or more members, which is after all, the main game.

Your teams hold the truth of what’s going on in your organisation. When you look into your teams you will see the true values and behaviours of your organisation at play. When you look into your teams you can see if there’s trust. You can see if the leader can set direction and truly delegate and empower. You can see the ability of team members to influence each other, to support each other, to step up to responsibility beyond their job description. You see the willingness for members of the team to work towards mutual goals above personal gain.

Beware, the cult of leaders.

Now, we don’t assert that individual capability and leadership development practices aren’t important. We’re suggesting that to solely focus on one side of the talent equation will result in you building a cult of leaders, potentially alienating the people who don’t get talked about behind closed doors in Talent Review Sessions. What’s more, if you alienate those who don’t get the special treatment you can in turn, create a risk, because 75% of all work is done in teams*, most of by the people who aren’t in the high potential category.

Instead, develop a ‘leadership’ culture within teams.

If you want to develop a leadership culture, then you need to understand and develop teams and team member performance.  What’s more, we believe investments in team development are far more cost effective and the payoff is realised much faster than investments in individual development.

We are in a ‘war for leaders’ – of that there is no doubt and, like many consultants, we can assess your leaders and help you build development plans for them. Likewise we can help you establish a perspective on whether you have enough people who can reach the top of your organisation. However, if you want to understand your leadership culture we say first look into your teams to see the real soul of your organisation, to see what’s really going on.  You’ll soon discover what is great about your organisation and, as importantly, you will see where things could get better.

Need some help with teams?

We’re currently working with ten or more organisations in helping to build the capabilities of their team, to accelerate their performance and to create better alignment of people within teams.  Usually starting with the senior most team in the organisation, they have bought in to the ideal that teams are the basis of their organisation, and that they’ll create value and deliver the best outcomes through higher performing teams. Learn more here

If you need some advice on teams, we’re here to help.


*Is it really 75%.  Honestly who knows the exact number?  The research we canvassed for this article has numbers between 70% and 90% and it likely varies from organisation to organisation.  In any case whatever the figure, it’s the lion’s share, and will only increase with the proliferation of agile and other team-based methods of organising.

Categories: Aligning Talent

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