Commentary

Thoughts On 'The Team'

Team-speak can sound trite. We innately understand the value of collaboration, building teams, team players, taking one for the team -- and so on. But until we've been impacted by a team fractured or wowed by one's success, we may not get it. One thing is certain -- when it comes to team, with a capital T, you will know one when you see one.

During a recent panel discussion between David Verklin and Wenda Harris Millard, Verklin made a pointed remark about team, something to the effect of, "The Team is today's killer app." During other periods, this may have sounded obvious. But given the conversation's focus on fortifying to prevail in this market, it was an important thought.

This chat coincided with a new book I've begun reading, "The Five Dysfunctions of a Team," by Patrick Lencioni. Neatly distilled, these familiar dysfunctions are:
1. Absence of trust
2. Fear of conflict
3. Lack of commitment
4. Avoidance of accountability
5. Inattention to results

Not dealing with any number of these dysfunctions, particularly right now, creates deep risk. Ever since Verklin's remark and immersed in this timely read, I have been thinking about the Team and what's at stake -- as we build, serve and play within them. There are some situations especially reliant on killer teamwork and team quality that come to mind.

When the playing field reorganizes. In today's market, many of us are charting or managing within rorganization and consolidation scenarios: merging companies, reconstituted media practices, streamlined account teams, new disciplines to incorporate. Because it will always be true that people differ in their level of experience, comfort, and skillful footwork on reorgs -- getting the team to thrive in these situations can be very challenging. It is often hard for people to trust in a future that is not fully in sight. This can result in a more generalized mistrust of their peers and their leaders. Therefore, listening more intently, leading the crew by example through terrain that may not be as black-and-white as they wish, and generally keeping momentum are all important to team health when reorg dynamics are in play.

Enacting the ethos of accountability. At the same time, our clients and marketers -- even brand marketers -- are intensifying the focus on performance, conversion, and ROI; internal accountability has become a dominant theme in the workplace. At least, in the productive workplace, this ethic is clearly in play. A team can do itself a great service right now by establishing clear roles, relationships between those roles, and a shared sense of accountability -- to each other, the client, and the results. During stressful times, on the one hand, people may run the risk of being distracted. On the other hand, an opportunity exists to foster shared passion for accomplishing proud things as a team and sharing in the results.

Integration as an unnatural act.. Whether you work for a media publishing company, on the client side, or for an agency, you likely are seeing an increase in integrated marketing and media approaches. But that does not necessarily mean that your company has a handle on how to organize and build teams for integrated approaches. Leading by example with sound strategic models, busting silos and driving an imperative for excellence are all things that chief executives would advise for establishing and institutionalizing integration. But it will always take more than having a vision keeper on media and marketing integration at the top. Getting management teams to maturity on this factor is a work in progress across the board. And, for me, it certainly is one of those I will know it when I see it accomplishments.

The Team in many ways is an enigmatic being. When you factor in the variable paths and backgrounds; tableau of styles and personalities; biases and quirks; work ethics and motivators; and market contexts, it feels complicated. Yet when we think about the most hobbled or the most rockin' teams we have known -- it has always been very simple. The team either collectively believed in itself, or it did not. And, if it did, its members would become a force: a killer app.

3 comments about "Thoughts On 'The Team' ".
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  1. Kent Kirschner from MobileBits, January 26, 2009 at 1:28 p.m.

    I'd be interested to know if you or anyone reading this has experienced a good example of the silo busting behaviour you are describing, specifically within media environs. An integration of print/broadcast, web, MOBILE, and editorial/content where audiences and markerters simultaneously benefit is what I'm looking for. One offs are good, but it would be more instructive to see how these models are implemented consistently.

  2. Paula Lynn from Who Else Unlimited, January 26, 2009 at 2:42 p.m.

    Excellent advise and well constructed. How about adding when reorganization take place on any level for people to be place in positions or repositions in relation to their talents, experience, abilities including training, accomplishments and interests. It's not that all of the aforementioned will be met, but the goal for those will prove more productive than throwing a body into a position that may create more havoc than it is supposed to avoid.

  3. Kaila Colbin from Boma Global, January 28, 2009 at 4:51 p.m.

    I had read 'The Five Temptations of a CEO' by Lencioni a few years back, and just within the past month I read all his others, including this one. His philosophies are valuable and worth paying attention to, as are those of Dale Carnegie ('How to Win Friends and Influence People' is still one of my core reads).

    I find that the entire substance of the relationship changes if you keep the focus on team. You have a personal conflict -- how will you resolve it in a way that will better the team? You've got a disagreement about tactics -- what behavior will most further the team's interest? Team thinking is also powerful in personal relationships; the strongest couples are those who view themselves as a team.

    Thanks for a great post.

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