First Class Coach

By kennett, miranda | Management Today, June 2001 | Go to article overview

First Class Coach


kennett, miranda, Management Today


I've moved to a new company at senior management level and am amazed to find the 'team' I've joined is completely dysfunctional. People spend more time on turf wars than on driving the business forward. Is there anything I can do? In my work I've encountered many groups of managers who are individually talented but together add up to less than the sum of the parts. As one of my clients lamented at our briefing session: 'Team meetings are the least productive time any of us spend.'

A contributory factor seems to be that the drive and ambition that propelled these individuals to senior positions is the very quality that gets in the way of their becoming effective team members. Teams can struggle for years with internal competition and poor communication hampering output. It becomes the norm and is not really noticed by those within the pattern, only by newcomers like you.

Before you wade in and try to improve things, it is important to be clear whether the team really is dysfunctional or just more aggressive in style than you are used to but nevertheless effective.

A starting point for your assessment could be the categorisations identified by Gareth Lloyd Jones (late of the BBC) and Rob Goffee, of London Business School, in their recent book The Character of a Corporation. They point to two divergent dynamics in company behaviour: sociability and solidarity. These are present to differing degrees in different organisations and in different teams. In some businesses -- for example, management consultancies -- there is considerable solidarity for the life of a project between those engaged in it, but not very much sociability in an essentially temporary team. In other businesses, such as start-ups with active founding partners, sociability and solidarity can both be high, with tightly knit team members spending a lot of time together, at work and socially.

The team you have joined is there for a purpose and that might not require close teamwork to be effective, even though this may be the way you personally prefer to work. However, having done your analysis, you may still decide that the team is under performing and needs attention. One problem I foresee is that, if the team has become set in its ways, members may be reluctant to change and your intervention will be unwelcome, casting you as someone who 'doesn't understand the way we do things'. …

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