What represents the first critical waypoint in a Top Team’s journey is the articulation of a uniting common purpose and a clear and agreed vision of a desired future—in other words, what the team is truly FOR.
There is always a beginning. Even for experienced teams that have worked together for years, there are those times when the team must step back and re-ask the fundamental and significant questions about their direction—where they are headed.
This is not an uncommon practice on the surface as virtually every team and organization has a “vision” and strategic plan. What is uncommon, however, and what represents the first critical waypoint in a Top Team’s journey, is the articulation of a uniting common purpose and a clear and agreed vision of a desired future—in other words, what the team is truly FOR.
This is the key aligning principle of a Top Team and the start of its journey as it begins to define the intersection of leadership direction, organizational concern, and current reality. To be sure, this is a very different process from writing a typical vision or mission statement, which often becomes more of a slogan than a deep source of gravity, focus, and commitment.
To go through a process of defining what a Top Team is FOR requires honest, deep, and ongoing dialogue among the members of a senior team and throughout the organization about current realities, real possibilities, and what must and must not change in order to secure the future of the organization.
Everything must be on the table as teams redefine success and survival. As Mickey Connolly writes, “The source of teamwork is a common future.” (Connolly and Rionoshek 2002, 145)
We began a “Leadership Advance” with a solid team by asking them what they were really FOR. This sounds like a simple question, yet the dialogue lasted four hours. We revisited strategy. We talked about what had changed, what was changing, and their ability to control their own destinies. We looked at the business while wearing an “enterprise hat.” And they asked themselves whether they should, or even could, raise the bar of their performance as an executive team.
In the course of the dialogue, something broke open—and the team began to define what the future could and should look like. Again, this was happening within a company that prided itself in hitting its numbers and operating with the reliability and operational excellence that would make a Six-Sigma black belt proud. This was a different dialogue that redefined the future. It was not an “either/or” but a “both/and” dialogue that spoke to how the company could dramatically make the changes that would allow it to realize a competitive difference and a different future. This would allow it to not only survive, but also to prevail in the marketplace while not missing a beat in its core business.
And as they began to align during the session, they stated that:
“We realized that we had to do more than just make our numbers and build the best product every moment of every day. We became very clear that we were a “growth engine” of this firm, that we are FOR 30 percent growth, integrating all our global businesses and collaborating across geographies, developing the next generation(s) of leaders, and continuing to drive operational excellence and safety within all our plants. We are FOR building this team and those that report to us and creating the culture, behaviors, and individual commitment to significantly change our approach to our business.”
This became the foundation of building a Top Team from a good team. Stay tuned.