As the external environment changes based on technology and globalization, it also forces the internal environment within companies to change. It must, for if companies don’t adapt they stop competing and become irrelevant.
It’s that simple — yet also that complex.
In order to remain competitive, companies are finally — FINALLY! — realizing that the hierarchy of yesteryear is too big, too slow, and too rigid to keep up with the flatter, more agile frameworks of the 21st century.
To facilitate this change and stay competitive, leaders and managers today are turning toward team-based structures for the simple fact that small teams have the agility and adaptability that their larger departments don’t.
“A new organizational model is on the rise: a ‘network of teams’ in which companies build and empower teams to work on specific business projects and challenges.”
- Global Human Capital Trends, Bersin by Deloitte
In fact one study revealed that “82 percent of companies employing more than 100 employees have turned to the use of groups to support organizational goals.” (Keep in mind that groups and teams are similar, but not the same).
What the hell does this mean? It means that in the majority of companies, people don’t work in isolation, but with other people — in groups and teams — and the one constant that shows up day to day — every day — is the manager.
Your Manager Has Superpowers
Nobody else has the same amount of daily interaction than the manager.
Nobody else has front line context like the manager.
Nobody else has insight into employee motivation, satisfaction, and fulfillment like the manager who manages (and leads) them.
Here’s where the manager’s power becomes a superpower…
If there’s a clear, guiding purpose that clarifies…
(A) Where the company is going
(B) Why the company is going there
…with daily strategic context (operational updates, intentions, and lessons learned) and trust, then that manager has a newfound superpower: decision making autonomy, authority and accountability. That’s why knowledge is not power.
Here’s what it looks like in mathematical terms (for all you “numbers people” out there):
Performance = (Potential + Development) — Interference
In other words, that manager’s performance depends upon:
- His potential to think and act, listen and learn.
- The frequency at which that potential is developed.
- The absence of interference in his way to grow his potential and to deliberately develop.
When you remove obstacles (i.e. interference) in his way — namely, bureaucracy and bullshit — he can move autonomously. He can keep momentum going, and momentum is a powerful force. Once you have momentum it actually takes more effort to reverse it (thank you Isaac Newton and the law of physics).
But Then There’s This…
Learning and development is a $130 billion a year industry. Unfortunately, the majority of leadership development training is reserved for the upper echelons of the organization— leaders who should already know what the f*ck they’re doing because they’re leaders.
The thing is, you don’t get promoted into the “leadership ranks” based off your capacity to lead — at least not for the most part. You get promoted based off how well you’ve demonstrated your capability to execute your job (here’s a conversation with a former Army Ranger on capacity vs capability), which has nothing to do with leading people.
We’ve all known leaders who were awesome managers but had no business in a leadership role. Hell, I saw it in the SEAL Teams time and time again — great team leads who were shitty troop chiefs, and fantastic troop chiefs who were terrible master chiefs (never mind the Navy rank lingo).
So, as managers are “raised” in an organization they’re expected to, well, manage and lead people, but the problem is this:
they’re never given the tools or the know-how for how to do it right.
Instead, they’re promoted on a Friday, for example, and expected to show up in their new role as manager on Monday.
And the worst part about it is this: this cycle of ineffectiveness is repeated over and over again which creates ripple effects not only with the people who that manager oversees but also throughout the organization.
The fact is, when managers assume a new position where they’re responsible for developing, growing, and coaching people, they’re expected to know what to do and how to do it, which means the people they coach, grow, and develop receive a watered-down version of what could be.
It’s a recipe for mediocrity, and mediocrity is the precursor to obsolescence.
How To Start Right
In the SEALs, leadership development started day one. Literally — day one. We gave new guys responsibilities they’d never had before; responsibilities that impacted not only the mission but each other. And just because you made it through BUD/S or any other training and selection, that didn’t mean you made it. If a SEAL didn’t fit the bill, he was gone. Period. There’s no place for mediocrity in war, and there’s no place for mediocrity at work.
Start with the fundamentals:
- Establish a clear purpose.
- Ask questions.
- Be candid yet courteous.
- Choose how you show up.
- Complain “up” to your boss, not “down” to direct reports.
- Be firm, but don’t be an asshole.
- Defer leadership to person with the greatest context.
- Focus on what only you can influence and what only you can control, and forget about the rest.
It’s that simple — yet also that complex.
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Jeff is a principal and senior advisor at N2 Growth specializing in team development. He’s also author, speaker, and leadership team coach, and former 13-year Navy SEAL. Visit his home online at www.jeff-boss.com