For the past month, I’ve been working with the CEO of a financial services company in Southern California. He’s four weeks into the job; three other CEOs preceded him in the last five years. As a result, the company has suffered a loss of trust, teamwork, and strategic direction. John, the CEO, hired me to help get things back on track. One of his first goals was to rebuild the leadership group into a team.
The group of 12 met for two days at a resort near San Diego. I facilitated. We talked about what it takes to be a real team. We talked about the “Five Habits of High Performing Teams.” We discussed the difference between groups and teams. We developed a clear understanding of the rules of team play. We agreed the team’s purpose would be to develop and monitor strategy, identify key organizational issues, improve efficiency, and build trust and communication throughout the company.
“This is hard to do,” one of the leaders said. “It takes time, it takes energy and a huge commitment from all of us. Are we really ready to commit to this?”
Another said: “We’ve got to sell this to our board of directors. We’ve been highly profitable. How is this going to pay off?”
John, the CEO, was firm and insistent. “We need to be a team. We are dependent on each other to achieve our goals. We need to meet regularly and we need to build the trust and communication here. Yes, we’ve been successful. But we can be assured of sustained success only if we do this.”
After we had discussed exactly how the team would operate, I asked each of the 12 to proclaim whether they were ready to commit to this new team. Most said yes. A few were ambivalent. One of them, Mike, said: “I’d like to sleep on it; this is a big change for us.”
The next morning, we went around the room again. Mike said: “My issue is this: I want to believe we can be a team. But we have yet to demonstrate the necessary commitment and focus to be a team. I want to hear John say exactly how committed he is.”
John spoke at length. He described the core values he wanted to instill in the company. He described his vision and strategy. He asked people for feedback – and the resulting discussion lasted several hours. I was delighted because I wanted them to experience what it felt like to be a team.
At the end of the day, I turned to Mike again. “What’s your sense now?” I asked. “Are you ready to commit?”
“I’m on board,” he said with a smile.
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