In the first part of the series last week (, we explored malady of silos in our teams and the necessity for team members to be aware of which cap, primary team or divisional team, they need to wear. This week I thought we would explore these ideas a little further.

The first thing that we should remember is that no person or team operates in isolation. They are always a part of a system – a team member belongs to a team that belongs to a division that belongs to an organisation that belongs to their market and the environment and so on. The point of this is twofold: firstly, as we said last week, we need to wear the cap of our primary stakeholder – a team member shouldn’t wear his personal cap but the cap of the entity he belongs to.

The second point is that systems are not so much about their parts; they are more about the connections to the parts. Barry Oshry, in his delightful book Seeing Systems, says we are all Tops and/or (normally “and”) Middles and/or Bottoms. For example, the CEO of the organisation is a Top in relation to those that report to him, but in some circumstances she is also a Bottom (in her relationship with the Chairman of the Board) and in others she is also a Middle when she is conveying the message or instructions of the Board to her reports or the organisation. These systems replicate themselves throughout the organisation. For now, we will just focus on the CEO as a Top and her team members who are Bottoms in their relationship to him.

In a system where silos prevail, the system connecting a Top and Bottom always serves to create a situation where the Bottoms push responsibility upwards to the CEO who then is overburdened – for example, the team members don’t hold each other accountable for performance; this is left to the CEO (or other team leaders if we are looking at the rest of the organisation). As he or she takes on more, and more responsibility is pushed up to them, they become overburdened – until he or she pushes it back down again!

When this happens, when the team members start taking back responsibility, these team members start wearing the cap of their primary team and consequently increasingly take on collective responsibility for the team’s performance and delivery. At the same time, the greater the sense of genuine partnership that grows between the team leader and the team members, the greater the potential for effective collective or shared leadership.

And with collective leadership comes the demise of silos, hero (and not-so-hero) leadership, and the hub-and-spoke model.

Although the process is anything but linear, if you are a team leader at whatever level, try the following this week:

  1. Push responsibility back to the team members – stop collecting their monkeys;
  2. Start treating them as full partners with shared responsibility for the team’s progress by collaborating and co-creating (eg “how are we going to resolve this?”).

I think you will find that this is a great start!

Kind Regards,|

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