Functional Expertise is Insufficient in Teaming

One of my clients has a new, expansive role, and with that, a new team that is an amalgam of folks who have known each other over time but who have never worked together as a team. They’ve worked together to ‘get things done’ but see themselves as separate in probably too many ways. The leader is savvy and sees what is happening, after just two months overseeing this team. He is anxious to have the team feel as if it is “one team.” Work to do.

One of my client’s subteam leaders has a dual reporting relationship that he uses effectively to drive wedges between what he wants to do in his dotted-line relationship,and what my client would like him to do. The leader on the other side of this equation is not a people leader and would rather not ever have to deal with conflict, so when my client went to her with the intention of getting aligned over the team leader’s behaviors, the dotted-line leader demurred.

Where is the leverage? My leader client decided to expand the responsibilities of the team leader, to include tasks beyond just functional, deadline-meeting-at-all-costs. He added tasks that included managing to a budget, managing talent, AND, teaming. This is a very good step. In a culture that relishes amazing expertise, which the team leader has in spades, the leader has moved beyond functional expertise as the only reward. He has added people expertise as something to be developed.

The next step for the leader is to have what I call a ‘fierce conversation’ (per the handy book by Susan Scott) with the leader of the subteam. This is tricky. Many factions at play here, not to mention the subleader’s being accustomed to expecting reward for only functional accomplishments. A way my client will work to expand the team leader’s mindset is with recent 360 feedback, which shows the team leader’s amazing desire to achieve (yay), sometimes at the expense of relationships (nay). This should be a very good conversation. A next step for the uber-leader will be to hold the team leader accountable for building relationships. This will require regular meetings where the leader coaches as well as gives straight talk about what is working and what is not.

Next, the uber-leader will need to pull the entire team together and help everyone get to know each other as team members who are there to support each other, and who can start to adopt an enterprise-wide mindset, where the work is bigger than me, myself, and I.

In our work with teams, we often refer to the I4 model, where teams need to launch around these four concepts: Identity, Individual Goals, Integration, and Influence. These four aspects of pulling a team together REALLY matter to team members and help the team be more unified. Using these ideas in creative ways will help this team launch, and begin to work mindfully and purposefully for the good of the group.


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