What would we do without our smartphones? Do you remember when you switched from a flip phone to a smartphone. What motivated your decision? Once you switched, how long did it take for you to come to appreciate the ‘intelligence’ of your new device? How often do you think now that you could never live without it?
Leadership teams have a bit in common with this phone upgrade experience. Phones and teams can be single-dimensional or multi-dimensional; have limited functionality or vast functionality; possess an awkward, clunky interface or an easy, friendly one.
One advantage teams have over phones is that they are made of people. This means that there is a certain x-factor involved in the upgrade process. It also means that you don’t need to toss or recycle anything to get the upgrade, you just need to remember that the potential for a smart team is already built in. Contrary to popular belief, you really don’t need to trade in your team (or members of your team) when it isn’t fully functional.
The classic pitfall is forgetting that your team is already smart.
Leading a ‘smart team’ requires you to trust the intelligence that lies within the group, even when it is operating unskillfully or being completely dysfunctional. This trust doesn’t come easily, but once you have it, a team’s journey from a flip-team to a smart-team is radically accelerated. Here are two initial steps on the upgrade journey that will bolster your confidence about the wisdom of your team.
Step One: Identity. Often all we see is differences. Start looking for what’s in common across the members. Teams need identities. They need a sense of themselves and what brings them together. Ask yourself this question and see if you can get to something that transcends all the individual agendas: What does this team stand for? If you don’t know, this is a good place to start the conversation. Ask the team, it innately knows.
Step Two: Atmosphere. Most of us don’t realize how much influence we actually have to create the culture we want. Or we justify not tending to it because we are too busy getting things done. But all teams have an atmosphere that is created when the team is together. Influencing a team’s culture may sound complicated, but it really just takes willful attention to it: What atmosphere would be optimal for your team’s current challenge? Is it sunny, warm, and breezy? Hot and muggy? Or does it need strong winds with threatening storms?
Remembering that human systems (teams) are intelligent may be the hardest part. Leaders who can do this – by standing for what connects the members, and for the declared atmosphere – eventually find themselves in the center of a Smart Team. And once a team gets smart and trusts its own intelligence, it’s like having that highly functional, uber-reliable and simply elegant device that you can’t imagine ever living without.
Are you ready for an upgrade? Start with these two questions:
1. What is your leadership team more like: a flip phone or a smartphone?
2. What will it take for you to trust the potential of your team’s collective intelligence?
I’d love to hear your answers in the comments section below.