Failing Teams and Company Dysfunction: How HR Can Bridge the Gap

?????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????by Dr. Linda Sharkey
Global Managing Partner and
Director Talent and Leadership Practice

When individual employees work well together and form strong teams, they can be driving forces for a company’s success. Conversely, when you have a team that isn’t working together well, it can hold a company back and generate a contagiously negative attitude. It’s your job – and privilege – in human resources to create dynamic, strong teams that help move your company forward.

Telltale Signs of Poor Teamwork

You want employees who are organized as a team to function like a team! Any evidence that individuals see themselves as separate from the group effort is a bad sign.

Problems arise when employees start pointing fingers, complaining about others, acting as though their work is more important than others’ tasks in the organization, or stop being accountable for jobs they agreed to complete. These actions are all divisive and work against teamwork and collaboration.

You can also see signs of trouble in employees’ general attitudes toward work. Sometimes, people are apathetic — they only do what they’re told, without offering to help others grow. They may feel threatened by others’ successes. You may struggle to fill open positions because leaders don’t believe in the development of others. If you see this kind of thing around the office, you may need a full overhaul of your talent system, as well as a deep look at the culture that’s developed in your organization.

How to Recruit New Talent

I ensure that every leader I work with has a list of individuals who could be great for their teams. Getting to know talent outside your company, and in other areas of your company, is essential. Who are the industry people you should meet and know? Who are the people in the organization with a lot of potential? Even if you don’t have roles for them now, cultivating relationships with them early will make it easier to attract them when the time is right.

Get to know and understand people’s aspirations and strengths, and explore their ideas for improvement or change. A personal relationship with them, relative to their work and career goals, will make it easier to create appealing roles for them and for your organization. Most people don’t spend time getting to know emerging talent, but it’s important to form a relationship with high-potential employees.

Invite them to dinner or hold a roundtable discussion with several promising individuals. You will learn as much from them as they’ll learn from you. Explore what excites them and get ideas for innovation you may not have previously considered. This takes energy and may feel like extra work, but the payoff is great when you’re trying to recruit great talent.

How to Add New Team Members

When you’re looking to hire new team members, ensure that you have a firm understanding of the current culture of the team or group. Hiring someone who is completely countercultural to the group can cause tension.

However, if you want to change the current culture, and need different behaviors and thinking, another approach may be required. You may be looking for certain characteristics, rather than someone who just fits the team well. If this is the case, make sure to provide support for the new behaviors you’re introducing. If you don’t, your organization will reject the new cultural elements like antibodies fighting a virus.

In any hiring situation, ensure that you’re thinking ahead to what might be needed several years out. I see many leaders hire for a job as it is today, without thinking through what role an individual could play in the organization in the future – or thinking through how the job may stretch to meet changing customer needs. If talent does not see opportunities for career advancement or learning new skills, they’ll move on to other companies. Additionally, you will have talent that is good for today’s challenges, but people who may not be able to flex to new challenges.

How to Build a Strong Team

Many companies do team-building exercises that are simply fun games for people to play together. While this may get individuals interacting on a new level, the “bonds” that form are not always lasting. Adults need to see a real benefit and purpose behind working as a team. This can be accomplished using team-building strategies that align with the organization’s business strategy and purpose.

My best practices revolve around using reliable assessments of the current team’s performance, as well as the individual behaviors that optimize the team’s work. I often get data from subordinates that reveals the impact of great teamwork; it also demonstrates when the team is not working together effectively. Ask what this team is like at “peak performance,” and how the group can clone that behavior. You want to get a clear picture of what great teamwork looks like for that specific group.

This is not a question you simply ask once. Building great teams takes time and effort. A constant dialogue and a personal commitment to change are essential. Without them, the team will remain stagnant. You want real movement toward your goal of an effective team, not just good intentions. To keep team-building efforts alive, you must follow up on the initial efforts and build in coaching and reinforcement for behavioral changes.

Help the group get real experience working together to build for the future, understand the new behaviors required, and practice the new behaviors regularly. An environment must be created in which the team can give each other feedback on how they’re doing in supporting the team and advancing the group. Your organization must foster honest communication. This requires regular and consistent discussions, and it’s great for the HR leader who’s a member of the team to lead these talks and role model good communication and feedback. Finally, measurement of progress at the team and individual levels is essential. Without measurement and real tracking of progress, there is limited accountability for change.

No one would argue that poor teamwork doesn’t damage a company. However, solving the problem can be difficult. There are always variables specific to your organization, but these guidelines can help you identify teams that aren’t functioning well so you can create stronger teams in the future. After all, your organization is only as strong as the teams it’s made of.

5 Behavioural Dimensions of Global Leaders

by Dr. Linda Sharkey
Global Managing Partner and
Director Talent and Leadership Practice

You may recognize great leaders when you see them, but can you pinpoint the behaviours that make them great? If you don’t have a firm understanding of why people are successful, it’s impossible to learn from them and emulate their success.

Through tireless research, we learned which qualities set great global leaders apart from the crowd. We fleshed out significant elements of a global leader, surveyed top leaders from Fortune 200 companies, compared them to a database of leaders who drive high-performance cultures and sustainable organizations, and finally found the “secret sauce” they all have in common.

1. Team Connectivity

The ability to connect talent around innovative ideas goes a long way. This means getting people excited about and engaged in the meaningful purpose of an organization, not just a number. It means communicating the message to everyone, no matter who or where they are, so they fully understand the direction of the company. It also includes providing opportunities for improvement through creative means.

Leaders who behave in this way are not constrained by hierarchy or traditional organizational structures. Rather, they create teams based on need, unleash them, and give them “air cover” so they can succeed.

2. Pragmatic Flexibility

Leaders who demonstrate this trait are clear and comfortable with their own values, while also respecting other ways of doing things. They are not shocked when people do things differently, and they do not insist that others do things “their way.” They understand the difference between standing firm with integrity and imposing their own biases on others.

A simple example would be when a leader is visiting a part of the world where they value building a relationship before talking business matters. A good “transglobal” leader would be flexible in her interactions, understand the importance of this, and respect the other party’s preference. She wouldn’t have a one-size-fits-all approach to working with other people. Instead, she has a strong moral compass and accepts and appreciates others’ values and ways of doing things.

3. Perceptive Responsiveness

Leaders with this ability are excellent at reading people, and they understand that not everyone will recognize the possibilities or even comprehend an idea immediately. They take the time to work with people until they are certain the group or individuals understand what is required of them. Rather than put someone on the spot in a negative way, they will make everyone feel comfortable as they sort through the issue. They understand that just because they had a meeting with others and explained a project or direction, there’s no guarantee that everyone is on the same page. They are alert to behavioral cues and body language and don’t assume that “everyone gets it.”

4. Talent Orientation

This refers to leaders who pay considerable personal attention to the talent in their organizations. Instead of delegating talent development to human resources, they take personal responsibility for this task and are deeply involved in career advancement, succession planning, and ensuring that people have the necessary support to do their jobs well. Transglobal leaders view developing local talent as part of their mission. They want successful and capable individuals to take over their roles when they leave. Transglobal leaders are “talent magnets” and seek out talent wherever they are.

5.  Uncertainty Resilience

Being resilient means a leader has the ability to make sense out of chaos. Today’s world is fast, complex, and ambiguous. Leaders can no longer take the time to sort through all the details.  They have to have the confidence to assess situations and adapt. They have to be able to make sense out of seeming chaos, create a coherent vision, and bring others along with that vision.

Leaders with resilience see the forest through the trees and help others see the way forward when things are unclear. They are not troubled by uncertainty, and they have an uncanny ability to sort through the details, shape a direction, and get the organization mobilized for action.

Do You Have What It Takes?

Even if you can’t spend large amounts of time abroad, you can still become a transglobal leader by learning about and embodying the qualities captured in the five dimensions above. Take risky assignments that cause you to think differently about how you approach the world. Put yourself in situations where you are not like everyone else in the room. Practice your abilities to adapt and understand the unique attributes of different types of people and cultures.

Learn about yourself: your weaknesses, strengths, biases, and unfounded opinions. Be curious, and embrace differences. Practice inclusion, not exclusion. Use the Transglobal Leadership 360 Assessment to test how you stack up in each dimension. Learn from the results and develop a personal action plan to develop these attributes. Get some coaching around your plan, attend the Transglobal Leadership Workshop and Retreat, and experience what it takes to lead globally firsthand.

Being a global leader is more than managing a company with offices or partnerships in a different company. It’s a mindset that results from building an action plan. Embody the behavioral traits of a transglobal leader — your new global consciousness and perspective will take your business to new borders.