I thought it might be useful to readers if I focused on the leadership within all teams, not just leadership teams themselves during the month of November. Today, I would like to focus on what is perhaps the most prevalent malady teams seem to face. In fact, in my experience over four decades of working in and with teams, the vast majority of teams display this questionable characteristic, I am speaking about silos, where team members focus almost exclusively on their separate divisions when working within the team rather than on the function of the (governing / management / leadership) team. Typically, these teams, wittingly or unwittingly, use a hub-and-spoke structure or model where the leader is the hub in the middle and the team members, representing their areas, are the spokes.

This all looks good and well but the problem is that this group hardly ever works together as a team. A team has a common goal that they strive for collectively. A team works together to achieve this common goal so that it can be more than the some of its parts. Silos create individuals who are interested mainly or only in their functional areas.

For example, an executive “team” normally consists of the CEO, business unit heads and at least some functional heads (eg CFO, HRD etc). As a group, they would focus their attention on their respective areas – eg the CEO would ask what is in the best interests of the business? The others would ask “what is in the best interests of my area ?” This ultimately leads to conflict of interest and people fighting for or defending their areas at the expense of the business.

An interesting phenomenon is that these patterns are replicated all the way down an organisation.

So, how do we ensure our groups become teams and become more than the sum of their parts? I believe it’s about being conscious of what “cap” you are wearing and what “cap” you are required to wear. Clearly, when a business unit head walks into the executive team meeting, he or she needs to take their business unit “cap” off at the door and put their exco “cap” on. Exco is their primary team, their business unit team is their secondary team – and they need to act accordingly wherever they are in the business! Their function, therefore, is always to ask what is in the best interests of the executive team – that is, what is in the best interests of the business. This principle can be replicated no matter what team you are in and wherever the team sits in the organisation.

Next week we will discuss what we can replace silos and hub-and-spoke models with. I look forward to sharing my ideas with you. I also hope you will raise any queries you may have with me on these issues.

Kind regards,
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