Building HPTs Rule #2: Ask Only What You Need

Over the years, we have witnessed many excellent management concepts lose potency and currency once acceptance moves from the early adopters to the majority. This happens for two reasons:

  1. Once a concept starts to trend, many want to jump on the bandwagon.
  2. Although many want to join the fun, few want to do the hard work necessary to truly understand the concept and put it into practice. In an era of sound bites, instant gratification and quick fixes this problem becomes exacerbated.

In the 1970s we were introduced to the powerful leadership idea of MBWA (Management By Walking Around). As it gained wide acceptance, managers used the concept as an excuse to make “gossip-rounds” or to “check-up” on their folks to make to ensure they were busy working at their desks. In the 1980s the important management focus on quality often produced nothing more than increased layers of bureaucracy. Ironically, after Phillip Crosby’s book Quality is Free became a best seller, companies spent billions on consultants and programs to improve quality. In the 1990s folks used the concept of Empowerment as an excuse to act irresponsibly. More recently, we hear the term High-Performance Team (HPT) awarded as liberally as little league soccer trophies.

Just saying you have of a HPT does not make it so. One good indicator is how those outside the team view you. If outsiders see your team driven by a sense of purpose, enjoying your work, accomplishing a great deal with limited resources, and making it look easy in the process there is a good chance that you are part of a HPT.

It is important to understand that the nature of your team’s relationship with outsiders helps to predict their response to you. If they see themselves as your customer the most likely response is trust and admiration. If they see you as a competitor the most likely response is distrust and disdain. If they see you as a customer or partner their response becomes more dependent on how you treat them than how you perform as a team. If they feel your success benefits rather than threaten them they will likely view you as an ally.

Here are some tips for increasing your chances of being viewed as an ally.

  1. If you sincerely recognize that your success is due in part to their involvement, and share the rewards and accolades proportionally with them, you may be viewed as an ally.
  2. If their involvement with you makes them a better team, you may beviewed as an ally.
  3. If you never ask them to do something you would be unwilling to do, you may be viewed as an ally.
  4. If you never waste their time, you may be viewed as an ally.

Recently I had the privilege of leading a HPT. Feedback I received in a discussion with a fellow executive were very revealing. When asked how she viewed our team she said, “My team enjoys working with your team for three reasons. First, you always give us plenty of advance notice when you need a big project completed. Secondly, you never asked us to do anything that you do not use. Finally, the things you asked us to do for you often challenged us to stretch, making us become better at what we do.” Her feedback provided evidence that my team was performing at a high level.

This brings us to Rule # 2 for building HPTs: We will never ask anyone outside of the team to develop work, or provide support, for anything we do not fully intend to use.

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