Corner Stone

Corner Stone by Dr. Robert Gerwig

Photo by Author

We gathered together at my house to discuss year—end results and goals and objectives for the following year. … It had been a great year, the best in the history of the organization! The metrics demonstrated, proved if you will, it had been a phenomenal year. The organizational scorecard clearly showed marked improvement over recent years. No one argued whether or not it had been a great year. The only question was, “how did we achieve it.”

As we enjoyed a cup of coffee and Krispy Kreme doughnuts (and mango and pineapple to counteract the doughnuts), I asked the group, my team, what had changed. What had we done differently this year? Why the significant improvement?

To a person, everyone said the same thing, in different ways, using different words. But everyone agreed that the improvement had been caused by the team, the members, the way we worked together, the uniqueness we each brought, the ability we had to hold frank conversations while demonstrating respect, the strong communication ability of the team, and the “chemistry” amongst the team members.

I’ll be frank. Getting the right team in place hadn’t been easy. It required change. It required moving some players around. I added team members. I took away team members. This is the “heavy-lifting.” It’s not easy. And it’s not fun. But if you are willing to do the hard work, it will pay continual dividends.

By putting together the right team, we enjoyed better communication, stronger accountability, and increased focus. By putting together the right team, we took away distractions, excuses, and negative attitudes. By putting together the right team, we built momentum, created energy, and gained the respect of the organization at large.

This last item cannot be overemphasized. Almost always, the organization knows when a leadership team is dysfunctional at worst or mediocre at best. People are smart and the workers are generally smarter than their bosses give them credit for. They can see when there’s not alignment. They know when the team isn’t working well together. They can sense when there are divisions. The opposite is true as well. They know when there’s harmony. When there’s respect. When there’s good teamwork.

So, why do so many “bosses” refuse to put together the right team? Well, it’s hard. There is heavy-lifting involved. You may have to dismiss people. Move people into a new role. Or bring someone new into the team. Finally, you may have to do all the above. It requires hard work, tough conversations, and looking for the right “match.” It could require going outside the organization and recruiting someone. It could require a new organization structure.

Building a team from scratch or honing an existing team is definitely not easy. I’ve done it several times. There have nights without sleep. There have been tears (of sadness and joy). There have been moments of 2nd guessing decisions.

Yet each time I have helped put the right team in place, it has been worth it. The results are amazing! The teamwork is inspiring! The environment is energizing! Yes, the work can be (and usually is) hard, but the benefits are always worth it. Once the “right” team is in place, good things begin to happen and it permeates throughout the entire organization. There is a trickle-down effect (and yes, I voted for Reagan).

As our team discussed taking a boat “cruise” to enjoy our year-end performance, I couldn’t help but be proud. The right team was in place. We were hitting on all cylinders. We were achieving phenomenal results. The hard work had been done and we were now enjoying the benefits. It wasn’t perfect, but it was certainly great. A new leadership team, with the right people, had resulted in better chemistry, results, communication, trust, transparency, and more fun. I was proud of the team. They were proud to be on the team and proud of their results.

Having the right team makeup is really the Corner Stone of excellence. The right team doesn’t mean the work wont’ be challenging, but it means a high level of sustained performance is achievable. It means that the work can be fun and rewarding, while adding value. Without this Corner Stone, it’s impossible to achieve optimal results.

How is your team? Do you have the right people in place? Are you enjoying the fruits of world-class teamwork or afraid to do the “heavy-lifting?”

As always, the floor is open to your comments, suggestions, thoughts, and feedback.

2 thoughts on “Corner Stone

  1. Robert,

    We have had several discussions about the issues of putting together good teams. I think it would be helpful to share with our readers your thoughts, too, on how to deal with the inevitable problem that during the lifecycle of a team’s existence there will be some slumps and problems.

    How does an effective leader monitor and deal with this?

    Thanks my friend!

    • Scott – I’ll share a few thoughts that hopefully will help some. These are not exhaustive. Team dynamcis, as you know, is a BIG topic.

      1. Recognize that people, and teams, go through slumps. A great leader uses both metrics and good emotional intelligence to alert him there is a problem (or potential problem) within the team.
      2. Apply situational leadership. Look at each situation individually to understand the issue and environmental factors at play (family issues, health issues, etc.). The better you know your team, the easier this is to accomplish.
      3. Put those coaching skills to work. Talk to the team member immediately if you sense a problem. Have a dialogue. Probe. Demonstrate empathy. Seek understanding. … The key here is not to delay.
      4. Once, and if, a problem is uncovered, work with the individual to develop a plan of correction. This, of course, assumes they acknowledge there is a problem and want it solved.
      5. The desired outcome is “restoration.” You want the team member to perform at acceptable levels and be part of the team. You want them to be a good team member, etc. However, there may come a time where it’s clear he’s not a good match for the team. If so, let him go (with dignity, etc.).

      A great leader knows himself. He also knows his team. He looks at the metrics. He watches the team dynamics. A great leader has a high level of self-awareness and team-awareness. If a gap starts to develops, the leader probes, listens, and engages the team (collectively and individually depending on the situation). A corrective action plan is developed and implemented. Restoration is the goal. If this isn’t possible, move on (with dignity and respect).

      I hope this helps friend.

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