Just when you thought you've forged a great teamBY ELIJAH LIM
Here in the Lion City, I speak to many Lions and Lionesses, and some Cougars and Pumas, who run their own businesses or are part of large organizations. We talk about many things under the sun, ideas, current affairs, vagaries of people and establishments, and, invariably at some point, the topic of “good help is so hard to find nowadays” crops up.
Some of the people mention that they do indeed have great teams, no complaints, and their greatest worry is how to keep their team members from jumping ship, citing characteristics of Gen Y, ad infinitum. I guess you know from that statement that I am no subscriber of the Gen X, Gen Y and whatever Gen comes along, it has always been an issue about relationships rather than generation gaps.
Do YOU have a great team? Can you, like the well-known Admiral Kirk, just say “Mr Sulu, set course for the Great Value Sector, Sustainable Profits Quadrant”, or something like that, and the whole Enterprise moves according to your command?
Well, congratulations on forging a great team! I’m sure you worked hard to get your team together, and you ignored advice about “Take two Panadols and see me in the morning”. No, you did it the right way, you got in a complementary mix of right people, and you worked both hard and smart to get them to where they are right now. Worried about keeping them? I suggest you don’t, and here’s why.
People are living things. Living things grow. People grow. Organizations grow. It’s obvious, but I still need to say it here – people become somewhat different as they grow. Ditto for organizations. Character and leadership qualities should grow and deepen all round, or you are in trouble anyway, but aspirations, dreams, visions and goals may change as well. Girls become mothers and boys become fathers.
Perhaps people would like a change in environment and displace geographically. Perhaps they would like to move elsewhere to be with family. To reach those goals, they might have to leave your team and/ or your company. That doesn’t mean they don’t want to be part of your team anymore or that your team has somehow become dysfunctional, it simply means that they have developed interests and inclinations the fulfilment of which cannot be attained if they stay on with you.
But take heart – as people grow, relationships ought to grow as well. Those of your team members who leave you can be very good referral sources for other great people to join your team down the road. So remember to treat them well, if you do need reminding, that is. Focus on the relationships.
Bruce Tuckman’s model of team formation includes Forming, Storming, Norming and Performing, and, some recently say, Re-forming. This is another reason why you need not worry about whether your dream team stays a dream and not a nightmare. Recognize that this is an ongoing iterative process, not a once-and-for-all thing, and relieve yourself of some unnecessary anxiety.
Here’s another way of reducing your worries about maintaining your team. One of the reasons why GE was so strong was because of Jack Welch’s having good bench strength (Reserves, to put it in other words).
Here, I find that Lions and Lionesses tend to look at this askance, while Cougars and Pumas are more receptive to the practice. Some perhaps “disguise” their bench strength as “Management Trainees”. Whether or not you maintain bench strength, it is always good to remember that your leadership pipeline needs constant attention, and that the best policies always upgrade from within.
Cross-pollination, bringing in “talent” from outside the organization, has its place, of course, but Lions and Lionesses tend to do it too much, from what I see. Growing your own talent is always best. If you have a robust leadership development culture, you need not worry about your team members leaving you at some point. They might very well rejoin you after gaining some other valuable experience elsewhere. This implies that your company is growing, of course.
So, have your dream team? Enjoy, and remember to maintain the systems that contribute to your having such nice dreams during the time when you’re awake.
Elijah Lim, Principal Consultant & Chief Optioneer, Shining Arrow Consulting Pte Ltd