In the world of leadership development, models replicate like rabbits. A new management technique, tool or tactic comes bouncing along every few months. I've certainly been guilty of chasing a theory until another one captures my attention.
Recently, though, in partnership with a client, we’ve developed a framework that might be a keeper. And I say that on account of client feedback--they keep finding new applications for it. We’ve since integrated this model into our TeamQuest programs. What makes it effective is that it is simple, research-based and metaphorical, i.e. easy to remember.
Presto! The Team Compass
A compass enables us to know where we are, provides a direction going forward and helps us stay on course. As individual contributors it's easier to keep track of all that, but when you are leading a team, the navigation becomes much more complex.
What the Research Shows
The Team Compass draws on high performance team research. Specifically the works of...
The Wisdom of Teams, by Jon Katzenbach and Douglas Smith,
Making Leadership Happen, by Cynthia McCauley at the Center for Creative Leadership.
Here’s the gist of what the research has revealed: team dysfunction primarily stems from lack of clarity around purpose and goals. If a compelling direction is established, alignment and commitment follow. In other words, focusing on resolving interpersonal conflict is treating the symptom, not the root cause.
The Four Directions
- The North Star is Purpose: Why do we exist as a team? Who makes up the team?
- Veering to the East, the next most crucial orientation is PerformanceChallenge: What is our shared work that will contribute the greatest value? What will success look like?
- Once the team is clear on their performance goal they look southward at Productivity: What are our ways of working together that leverage our strengths and promote efficiency?
- Finally, after the goal has been met, they turn West to assess Possibility: What went well? What do we want to do differently? What's next?
If a team starts to flounder, they can circle the compass, starting at North. Do we understand our larger purpose? Is our performance challenge crystal clear? What changes to our ways of working would most improve productivity? Is our work as a team complete or is there a new possibility ahead?
The Team Compass is useful to manage the life cycle of an ad hoc team that has been formed to accomplish a particular project; it can also be applied to multiple projects for a standing team.
So the next time you and your team feel lost in Wonderland chasing the White Rabbit, pause to get your bearings: articulate the why and the what and the rest will follow.
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