Wednesday, July 28, 2010

Teams and Leaders

I usually write in this blog things that interest me in the news, my industry, or other random thoughts.   Today is a post about an important observation about my last job. 

It has been a week or so since ITP has shut it's doors.   I have been doing my part to help our team find a home and continue the great work they have done so far.   It is such a nice thing to see in the business world a situation where a team is created that does truly remarkable things.   Even if things don't work out exactly as planned.  

Thousands of books have been written about teams and leadership.   I am sure I will not cover any new ground.   But it is sometimes good to reflect on a real life situation you have experienced and relate it what you have read.

Great teams can do anything.   The ITP team was excellent at developing and operating financial software.  The team has good leadership, strong technical standards, a passion for excellence, and the commitment to deliver.   The team has the mix of skills, personalities, strengths, and weaknesses that compliment and inspire.  Its members have a respect for each other.   It members often fight with each other over things they are passionate about.   All in the pursuit of excellence.  But it never becomes personal.   At the end of the day, it is a lunch, a beer, or a hallway conversation, that brings the spirit of the team back together, with no animosity, and often times generates good feelings that the pain they may have felt has made them stronger, closer, and more sure of themselves and their teammates that they can truly do wonderful things.

Great  teams have a way of looking at the strengths and weaknesses of its members.   Truly appreciating what each brings to the team, and often times overlooking and neutralizing the inevitable weaknesses.   This I find to be most incredible.     It seems to me that this characteristic is so much motivated by self and team preservation.   The recognition of of the universal truth of human nature.. there is good and bad in all of us and that great teams, made up of average people,  are willing to adapt in ways that take the best in spite of the worst.  

How many teams have we seen that broke apart?   Mostly because of ego and selfish reasons, I would suspect.

Great teams go beyond business obviously.   Baseball, marriages, music groups, religious affiliations.   What are the essential ingredients?   A few that come to mind.

  • Respect for each other  
  • Respect for yourself
  • Commitment to the cause
  • Each member plays a necessary role, and does it with competence
  • Leaders and members, with the roles understood, accepted, and sometimes challenged.
  • Diversity in thought, talent, and temperament

It sounds like a formula, and that anyone can put together a great team.   Maybe great leaders are defined as those that can inspire and build great teams.   Maybe they have the subtle skill to recognize talent and the necessary mix of it to succeed; the ability to manage diverse personalities; can inspire; not afraid to reprimand, and provide the courage to lead through the inevitable challenges that lie ahead.   They have the vision of why the team exists and what truly is their mission.   And can articulate it day in and day out.

Great teams are such a special and elusive thing.    And often times, you may not even know you are part of one.

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