It was a beautiful day. The clouds were hiding the normally intense Arizona sun. The temperature was barely 80 degrees. My view from the top of the mountain was panoramic. As I am standing there, taking in the incredible breathtaking views, I looked down at the trails and noticed how busy they had become.
I could see people as far as the base of the mountain, heading in various directions. Some were running. Some walking. Some were standing around admiring the amazing views. While others were looking up to see how much further was left in the climb. There were people who hiked in groups, while others seemed to be alone.
As I stood there, it reminded me of organizational performance. In any given operation there are a ton of moving parts. A leader has to be able to see all levels of organizational performance to ensure that every player has what he or she needs to be successful. There are people who are at various levels and positions working towards both individual and collective goals. All set out to reach their potential and achieve results. Looking at all of the movement on the mountain, caused me to think about teamwork.
I went out with a group. It happened to be a workgroup. I was a tag along. We were scattered in various places on the mountain. I watched each member of the group as they made their way to the top. One man was an avid hiker. His wife told me he takes hiking seriously. At one point, he suggested that she goes in the opposite direction because it was less steep and tells her that both directions would lead to the top. We went the alternate route. He made it to the top first. She and I closely followed behind.
Glancing down, I see a teammate walking alongside another, as they made their way to the top. Looking at one of the men, I could tell that he was tired and a bit out of shape, but he had the desire to finish with his team. The other never left his side. When the teammate would stop and rest, the other stood right by his side to ensure that he was okay, kept him conversing, and when he was ready, they moved forward together.
Both moments are examples of teamwork. Here’s what this hike reminded me:
The same route might not produce the best results for the team. The avid hiker knew the trails. Either, he had been there before, had a map or he was skilled enough to see how the trails veered off. Either way, he shared what he knew, offering an alternate route that was best for his wife’s skill set. He could have easily said follow me and believed that because he could do it, everyone should be able to do the same. Instead, he gave her choices and let her make an informed decision with the information she had.
Being part of a team does not mean that everyone has to work the same way. Teams should recognize that there are many different ways to accomplish a task. By giving the team the information needed to make a well-informed decision, each member will begin to feel empowered and equipped to govern themselves accordingly. This removes the feelings of being micromanaged and stifled. Allowing your teammates to make decisions, gives them the ability to thrive while also producing an environment for creativity and innovation.
Are you looking for ways to foster intentional conversations amongst your team? If you want additional ideas regarding ways to break away from the status quo, here is an article I wrote for In Business Magazine, What is Your Perspective Costing You.
If the team moves forward together, then it becomes stronger with each step. Thomas Wolfe reminded us that “We are the sum of all of our parts. ”Organizational performance is dependent on the team working together. Sure it is easy for individuals to complete tasks and wait for others to finish their portion. Just like on the hike. It could have been easier for the athletic guy to run to the top and wait for the other guy to finish or not. But instead, he stayed by his side.
When you have workgroups that are interdependent and are willing to do what it takes to ensure that everyone is supported, they will become more effective and the organization will begin to maximize results. A supported team creates an environment where people begin talking through opportunities and challenges that would have normally been missed when working in silos. It creates a learning environment that is proactively making improvements instead of reactively adjusting to problems of poor performance. So…don't get so focused on the task that you forget to see the people.
Which brings me to my final point: Everyone may perform differently, but all have the ability to be successful. We have all worked in environments where people have seemingly pushed others aside when they are not meeting performance expectations. A great leader understands that each person on his or her team is vital to the success of the organization. It is just as much the responsibility of the leader as it is the individual to determine how he or she can ensure the team is successful. Meet each person where they are and equip them with the right tools and encouragement needed so they can reach their potential.
Objectively stand back to evaluate your organization and its performance as though you were standing on the mountain looking at the panoramic view of the organization. What do you see? Which areas need to be supported? Which teams are working in silos? Take note of areas where people are busy but not productive. By choosing to be intentional, you can begin to shift the climate of your organization one degree at a time.
Angela Garmon is founder and business strategist at ARG Coaching & Consulting Group. She uses her 20 years of change management experience to help her clients build organizational performance and increase profits by focusing on three key areas: enhancing leadership effectiveness, building team cohesion and improving processes.