The End of Fierce Individualism: Why Teams Matter More Than Ever (and What You Need to Know About Them)
Bruce Piasecki Explains What a Well-run Team Looks Like and Why Now More Than Ever the Power of Teams Should Trump the Appeal of the Rugged Individualist
BALLSTON SPA, N.Y., April 16, 2013 /PRNewswire/ -- America loves a fierce individualist. And there is something inspiring about the image of the lone enterpriser blazing a path into the future. Yet Bruce Piasecki insists that in a world growing more complex by the day—where "command and control" has given way to employee engagement—the team trumps the individual every time. The near future will be all about innovation for sustainable value creation, led by teams.
"The days when a larger-than-life personality is allowed to steamroll over the rest of the company are over," says Piasecki, author of the new book Doing More with Teams: The New Way to Winning (Wiley, March 2013, ISBN: 978-1-1184849-5-1, $25.00, www.brucepiasecki.com). "This destroys morale, which destroys results. Teams, not individuals, drive performance."
In a global economy, companies that excel at collaboration and innovation will prosper, he explains. This requires teams that can leverage their combined skills and hold themselves mutually accountable.
Managing teams, with their web of hidden politics and complex interplay of human differences, is very different from managing individuals, says Piasecki. Just a few of his insights:
Great teams are led by captains. It takes a special type of leader—a captain—to turn a loose affiliation of individuals into a true team with shared values and a focus on a common goal.
"Captains are quick to recognize the key capabilities of their team members, including strengths and weaknesses, and to build the plan around those capabilities," Piasecki says.
Fierce individualism has no place in teams. Captains need to ensure that "the MVP syndrome" doesn't define their teams, and also to be alert for individuals who might be losing sight of the team that gave them an identity.
"Seek to hire 'coachable' individuals rather than individualist-minded high performers," Piasecki advises. "Do everything possible to promote and reward teamwork rather than individualism."
Teams hold the bar high for everyone (especially the superstars). In all teams there is an inherent desire to protect our superstars and keep them winning—even when, in the process, we enable workplace ills like favoritism, sexism, and even criminal activity like embezzlement.
"We must be willing to ferret out corruption in the highest echelons, to bench the MVP, even to fire the superstar for the good of the team and the sake of integrity," says Piasecki.
Teams have to be willing to lose sometimes or they will eventually self-destruct. When teams keep winning, they can become addicted to victory—feel entitled to it even—and thus become easy prey for the "dark side." (Consider how Lance Armstrong's teams went to illicit extremes to keep winning.)
"Teams become great because they keep things in perspective and understand the broader context of competition; namely, that there is always a larger league and a set of better players out there, no matter what you've achieved or what rung on a ladder you've just hit," says Piasecki.
Great teams revel in the pleasure of persistence and the sheer thrill of striving. "Life can be a tough slog, and victories are sporadic at best," says Piasecki. "Maybe we can't win but we can keep going. This striving brings with it its own unique rewards. It is up to us to learn to appreciate them."
Successful teams share values, integrity, and a commitment to one another. In preparing for a team event, a transformation occurs: Team members end their individual associations and create a team identity through sharing with others the experience of that process. (This is how basic training works in the military.) Once the team is created, a strong bond is already in place from that preparation, from the obstacles everyone had to overcome to get there.
For more of Piasecki's thoughts on successful teams, see this two-minute TV interview.
Teams must feel "at home" with uncertainty and complexity. In other words, they must resist the temptation to pay it safe. They must be willing to take risks.
"Teams must work on instinct, often at a moment's notice, and constantly move forward," says Piasecki. "Effective teams learn by doing and stay focused on results; they are not bound by method or processes. And that gives them the flexibility and resiliency they need to thrive in the midst of flux."
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SOURCE Dr. Bruce Piasecki
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