In Blog Articles, Monday Memo


Perhaps the thing that strikes me most often when engaging with a team is the silos the team members live in. This happened again recently when conducting interviews with the team members of a team I had started to work with. The give away? They each answered questions about the team egocentrically and were almost unable to think in terms of the team. In fact, several answered that they had “never thought of it that way!” and “I don’t know!”

To put it another way, it’s as if they had their individual divisional hat on instead of their team hat. As a fellow coach said the other day, “We have to decide that the leadership team we are in is our primary team and that the team that reports to us is our secondary team.” In practice, the opposite is normally true.

Whilst that shift is an extremely significant one to make, there is another one. We need to understand that, within the primary team, leadership does not reside only in the leader or the follower but in the relationship between them. It is in this relationship that we are able to gain traction to move, to change. As Margaret Wheatley has said, “In organisations, the real power and energy is generated through relationships…the patterns of relationships and the capacities to form them are more important than tasks, functions, roles and positions.”

These relationships, in turn, create multiple touchpoints of connection between the leader and those whom she aspires to lead. These are points of connection across ‘difference’: different personalities, functions, loyalties, teams, divisions, growth and added value, as long as the leadership behaviour enables this.

Of course, bringing diversity into discourse creates complexity, something we often shy away from in our day-to-day lives, perhaps because we fear that we are unable to deal with the complexity, but perhaps more often because we feel we don’t have the time to stop and think. However, when we do stop and think, we find firstly that it doesn’t take as much time as we thought, and secondly we realise that the investment brings great returns.

So, observe your team this week and see which hat the members are wearing. Ask them to commit to wearing the hat of the primary team, a team that asks, “What is in the best interests of the business?” – not “What is in the best interests of the department or division I head up?” Then apply the glue: work on building on diversity in all relationships, internal relationships between team members and, significantly, external relationships with critical stakeholders.

Have a great week!


I am indebted to the work of Peter Hawkins, of Renewal Associates, especially his book, Leadership Team Coaching, as well as the methodology of Integral Coaching Canada, which I have integrated for purposes of this series and in developing my Systemic Leadership Team Coaching process.

Some of the other books that form a foundation for this series are:

Systemic Team Coaching by John Leary-Joyce and Hilary Lines

The Five Dysfunctions of a Team by Patrick Lencioni

Team of Teams by S McChrystal et al

Seeing Systems by Barry Oshry

Flawless Consulting by Peter Block

The Fifth Discipline Fieldbook by Peter Senge et al)

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