Team Dynamics is still one of the key differentiators between performing and failing organisations. Yet because it is so easy to get right, it always surprises me how often it is allowed to get out of hand.
Understanding the individuals in a team, where they are coming from and where they aspire to be, is key to getting team performance. Sounds easy, because it is, yet just this basic first step is often skipped.
To do this, you don’t need to go away as a team on away-days, climbing mountains and crossing streams, but you do need to get to grips with the essentials.
I recently talked to the CEO of a major engineering contractor in the offshore oil and gas sector. His company had formed from the merger of two very successful and very respected businesses, and that’s where and why his headaches began. The inability to deliver post-merger benefits was critical.
The individuals at the senior management level were stuck in their pre-merger paradigms, with legacy brand loyalty proving to be a real barrier to progress. Given their unshared histories and their own views of how the integration of the businesses should work, and their individual aspirations for their career progression there was little foundation for developing a performing team.
Dismantling this legacy brand loyalty was to prove to be critical.
The CEO literally had to ‘re-boot’ the organisation’s split personality and struggling culture.
He needed to create a new company, eliminating any reference to either of the merged businesses, getting rid of the composite name, purging any legacy links anywhere in the organisation, especially in the marketing material or internal labelling, effectively destroying any links with the past.
The critical state of the business created a simple and unifying imperative.
All the senior managers understood the need to make a success of the merger. A fresh start and the lack of links to the past created a unifying environment for focusing on the future.
By declaring “We are not a merged business, but we are now NewCo,” he gave the executives their individual space to break with the past and reassess their own emotions going forward. This personal space was the necessary pre-cursor to team alignment. With the subsequent developing alignment and inter-reliance, the CEO felt he could allow the executives the freedom to get on with their roles in their own way.
The CEO’s most difficult decision was dismantling the joint heritages, but in so doing he created the environment for highly-successful individuals to come together with more alignment and fewer hidden agendas.
As the CEO said, it was team work and team dynamics, more than technology and rationalisation that were going to deliver the successful company.