High performing, high performance, peak performance – who cares? Those last two words are the most important in that sentence. There is a danger that, in getting too focussed on what teams do and how they should work together to create great teamwork we forget that the value of a team is measured not by them but by the outside world. Although recent sporting events have brought teams and individuals into sharp focus and won well deserved praise it’s only because they met (or exceeded) their supporters’ expectations.
Business teams, in particular, only exist because there is support for them in terms of money and resources from the organisation, stakeholders and customers. Without that support there is no team – no matter how many team events they’ve been on to make them work better together. In the study of leadership we spent far too many years – and far too many billions of dollars- trying to work out what makes the great leader and what skills he or she should possess to emulate previous greatness in that field of leading others. Never in the field of academic study has so much been written by so many to so little effect.
It was the simple and profound realisation that leaders simply do not exist unless there are followers that changed all informed thinking (there are some who are still trying to develop leadership competencies meanwhile) and turned our attention to what makes people want to follow not what makes people leaders.
So it is with teams. We have been mostly looking in the wrong place. There is certainly value in improving the way teams work together. But unless someone wants that improved performance and is prepared to invest in its promise of more output then it’s of no value – and the team is no more. It’s time to turn our attention to the sponsors, supporters, stakeholders and customers who want (or do not want) what is being offered.
Value is entirely in the minds (and pockets) of the investors. What they get out of the deal is how they measure whether they’ve made a good investment. Value can be logical and rational – the accountants calculate that part with ROI. The more complex human perception of value is much more difficult to quantify and is unlikely to exist in spreadsheets. In any investment or purchase there are complex emotional factors that play a vital part in our decision and behaviour. How it makes us feel, how easy it is to achieve, what it says about us, how much it matches our view of the world, how it helps us win and how much we trust it to give us what we want in the future may all be explicit or implicit considerations.
The study of teams must now focus on what value they provide to others – not how well they are getting along. Not high performing or high performance teams but high value teams – what stakeholders want and are willing to invest in.
Clive is co-owner of ClearWorth , a company specialising in bespoke manager, leader and team development for major organisations around the world. Clive lives in the UK and France and works all over the world from Ohio to Oman, London to Lagos, Surrey to Syria. Clive thinks, teaches and writes about teams, leaders, negotiation, influence, interpersonal relationships and cross cultural communication.