What kind of team are you building?
It’s worth getting deliberate as a leader when you focus on the teams you are creating. Awareness of the different team types and identifying your players is a giant step towards a better culture and your ability to build the optimum team.
When we break it down into the four team types of Elite, Functional, Family, and Floundering, do you recognise what team you want to be a part of? And does that match your leadership style?
The key objective is to ensure that there’s a match between the way you lead, and the team players. You can run a great Functional team, if everyone is aligned to this goal. Family teams are heart-warming and supportive, where individuals are open to the added closeness assumed in the group. An Elite team is an immensely powerful group, but it is absolutely vital that the trust and expectations have been set clearly so that everyone knows what the team is aspiring to. And the Floundering Team? Well, no one really wants to be a part of that team.
Problems happen when there’s no match between your leadership style and the team you’ve created. Your best and brightest may want to be part of an elite team, but your leadership style is befitting to a family team. These best performers can get equally annoyed at the mechanical attitude that functional team players radiate. And family team players will be exhausted if your leadership style creates an unrelenting competitiveness, more suited to an elite team.
The key objective is to ensure that there’s a match between the way you lead, and the team players.
I prefer to be part of an elite team, because the games these teams play can be extraordinary. But it’s not for everyone. Tensions arise if you are not clear about who is on your team, your expectations of them and the scope of your own role as their leader.
Problems happen when there’s no match between your leadership style and the team you’ve created.
Let’s review the four teams.
A Functional Team gets the job done, but you won’t really miss each other once the project’s done or you move on. It's a polite, productive environment and as long as the work ticks all the relevant boxes; (convenient hours, close to home, OK money) people stay. This kind of team feels ordinary, and can exist for years simply getting things done. But don’t expect people to work back, and don’t ask them to come in early. Rather, it’s a place where a certain set of tasks get done in a certain set of time. Small increases in pay are expected and overall the return is that you don’t need to manage much. This kind of team attracts a certain personality type and has its place in the working landscape for now. But it’s at risk with automation.
A Family Team feels like home. You cut people slack, forgive fast and have each other’s back. Family teams are a place to grow, heal and spend time with each other, remember birthdays & go to the boss's for dinner. This kind of team feels safe and staff longevity is in abundance. In this kind of team, the leader invests considerable effort in improving the lives of those around them and people want to perform well to please the boss. The risk of this kind of team is that the dynamics present in your childhood may get triggered, resulting in people’s traumas playing out at work. Leaders can also find themselves investing so much into their team members that they limit their own ability to make an impact.
In Family teams the leader invests considerable effort in improving the lives of those around them and people want to perform well to please the boss.
An Elite Team feels very different. Run like a high performance A-grade football team, you get cut when your performance drops and the pressure is unrelenting. There is huge pride and status to being part of this team. You get amazing things done and being a part of this unit feels exhilarating. Members of these teams need to work with a high level of initiative, and can’t wait for the leader to give them every instruction. Leaders of these teams need to empower their staff to work autonomously, make decisions & take accountability. The risk of Elite teams is that good players can get left behind. If the expectations are higher than the quality of communication, then you’ll struggle to find and keep good team members.
Leaders of elite teams need to empower their staff to work autonomously, make decisions & take accountability.
The fourth kind of team is the Floundering Team. No one really knows what they are doing; they can’t seem to click and most projects are seriously delayed. Typically a team flounders when the team type is not explicit, the leader’s behaviour is not congruent to that type, or the rules of the game get muddled.
What kind of leader does each team need?
The thing is, as a leader, you need to know what kind of team you want. It talks to what kind of leader you will need to be.
If you ask yourself what the head of a Functional team feels like, the answer is Managerial; making sure the resources, systems and priorities are being followed.
The head of a Family team is parental in style. Lots of talking, lots of listening, helping people resolve their conflicts and making sure we all appreciate and value the differences in each other.
The head of an Elite team is focused, intense and pretty intolerant of excuses. They are driving ownership and accountability into every role and doing so from an evidence-based leadership perspective.
When someone feels like they are in a Family team, but the leader is driving an Elite performance, you get a clash.
When someone feels like they are in a Family team, but the leader is driving an Elite performance, you get a clash. When someone has a Functional attitude to their work and others have Family, relationship expectations get in the way.
The Rules of the game
The Functional business
- Let’s not get too emotional over this
- Fair day’s work for a fair day’s pay
- No surprises
- If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it
- That’s XYZ’s job – I'll let them know it came up
- Just keep things progressing
- Follow the rule book
- Play it safe
- Copy others in whenever you can [CC is your friend]
- Showing up is the job half done
- If in doubt, hold a meeting
- I don’t have to like you to work with you
The Family business
- Family first
- I have your back
- What we do here doesn’t matter as much as who we are being here
- You don’t sack family
- There is a time and a place for feedback
- The relationships at work are key to making work, work
- If you need someone to talk to, my door is always open
- If you drop the ball, I’ll cover for you
- Business is personal
- What happens at home affects work, and vice versa
- Your dog and child are welcome here
- Work is a way of funding your life
The Elite team
- It's not forever
- It's not for everyone
- Get your head in the game on game day
- Even if you are not playing, be at the game
- It’s OK to drop the ball. It's not OK to do nothing about that
- I'm not your friend who's bossy, I'm a friendly boss
- Just turning up or dialing in are not OK here
- Your talent got you here; it’s not enough to keep you here
- Going the extra mile is the cost of staying here
- When we meet, give me your performance review. Don’t wait for me to tell you what needs work.
- Own your role and care about it more than I do.
- Leave the team a day early; rather than a day too late
The Netflix manifesto has some interesting tonal qualities. Check out their culture document. Now compare that now to the equivalent from Tony Hsieg, CEO of Zappos, and with the famous managers manual from Vault.
Which of the three useful team cultures do each represent?
At Thought Leaders, my business partner Peter Cook and I are building a world-class education business, best practice. This conversation around teams is one of our most important and challenging.
As a leader, decide what kind of team you want, recruit explicitly for that, and be the kind of leader that is required for each team.
Note: It’s possible that pitch teams, creative teams and leadership teams operate in different models to these; every model is useful, until it’s not. Use this framework to plan an intentional team culture and get very explicit about what you want from the people on your team.