I read an article last week asking if a business leadership background is essential for performing the job of the President. (If I could remember where, I would give the citation, but by now there are probably a few thousand expert opinions on the subject.) And, of course, my first thought was, hiring by resume? How will that tell you what kind of Teamability the applicant will demonstrate when they’re hired?
It got me thinking. How does the top leader of our nation need to team? With who? In what circumstances? Like any job in the leadership of an organization, there are three key teaming relationships:
(a) The senior executive team. For the President, that includes the Cabinet, the heads of the branches of the military, and leadership of the Senate, House, and Supreme Court, at a minimum.
(b) The rest of the organization. That includes all of the rest of us, we ordinary citizens. We may not be on speed dial, but we do need to hear from our President on a regular basis, and at times of crisis.
(c) The people outside the organization. This includes just about everyone else on the planet, especially the leadership of countries outside ours.
That is a lot of teaming, and there is no vacation from it. Even when you do get a few hours or days away with your loved ones.
So what’s required? If you aren’t familiar with the metrics of Teamability, just look at the header of my Teamability blog. We’re talking about Role, Coherence, and Teaming Characteristics.
Role: The next POTUS needs to be a Founder with a long term vision and the ability to inspire us to believe in it. A Founder will also respect other Founders – the heads of state of other countries. And if you think that isn’t important, remember that it’s much harder to go to war with someone you actually have a respectful relationship with. Bonus: A great Founder is likely to have a Communicator for a spouse, and isn’t that great for a FLOTUS. (What will they call the first woman president’s husband, I wonder. FHOTUS?)
Coherence: I can’t think of a more stressful job than being the leader of the free world. As Coherent as possible. Rigid may be ok for a hard driving business person, but demanding things be so will not make them that way.
Teaming Characteristics: I’ll just drop a few no-no’s here. For one, I want someone who is sensitive to how they are seen by others. Clueless is just not going to work, not at home and definitely not abroad. Anything that’s a red flag or serious caution is definitely a deal killer. And anything indicating any degree of unlikeableness is, in the end, going to present more challenges and the potential for risky foreign relations.
You may disagree with what I think is important and that’s fine. But please. Can we just agree that how our next President teams will be critical to our success as a nation?
It’s awesome to meet someone who talks about their life experience so clearly their true Role is unmistakable.
If you are used to thinking of ‘Role’ as a person’s job title or function, then let me explain. Every kind of organization has overarching needs – a reason for being, a plan for the future, a means for surviving and growing, and so on. Most people have within them a desire to contribute to their group – their ‘team’ – by serving one or more of these big-picture needs. Some people are not very much aware of it, but for those who are, it can feel very much like their mission in life. This is what I mean when I speak of Role with a capital ‘R’.
One of those Roles is called the Explorer. It’s somewhat unusual, because where most Roles are focused on what’s going on within the team, Explorers are always looking – and often traveling – away from the group, in search of assets that can be of value to their team. Think of someone you know who does this kind of thing. They could be search consultants, salespeople, business developers, or researchers. All are ‘treasure hunters’ of a sort.
Explorers can be very good with people, but their ‘mission’ makes them seem like loners. And because of their outward-bound experience, they are often more comfortable on their own than in the midst of group activity. So despite the fact that they serve a essential group need, Explorers often feel they are not a ‘team’ person. And, unfortunately, they can also be perceived that way by their own teammates, who may not show proper respect for what the Explorer ‘brings to the table.’
What happens then? They tend to go off in search of a more appreciative group! Many an organization has failed to see the great value of an effective Explorer until too late.
Here are three keys to ‘team’ well with an Explorer:
- Take note of what they bring back,
- Make an effort to understand its potential value to the organization, and,
- Take time to affirm that value, and to express appreciation for it.
When this happens, an Explorer will really ‘feel the love,’ and will redouble his or her efforts on behalf of the team.
A great modern-day Explorer, Matthew Lesko, was at my office today to interview me (as an entrepreneur) and Lynn Ozer, my SBA banker at Susquehanna Bank. You may know Matthew as the ‘Answer Man’ – the guy who’s been finding and telling people about sources of free and useful stuff for well over 30 years. He’s pretty unforgettable, even aside from his brightly-colored suits, which are covered with question marks. Fitting, since he brings answers with real educational and monetary value.
Need a school loan or scholarship? He can help. Starting a business? Matthew has a whole website for that. Trying to survive in a down economy with no job? Matthew feels your pain and supplies information about public and private sources of food, heat, shelter, education, and on and on. But he’s not going to sit by your side and hold your hand for hours. He serves his team by assembling and presenting his ‘finds’ in ways that help you make your own life, or business, better.
I’ll be posting the link to today’s interview as soon as it’s available, but in the meantime, you might want to check out www.lesko.com. Don’t think of it as a place where all of the exploring has already been done. That’s not the case at all! Matthew is such a *master* Explorer that he’s assembled a veritable treasure trove of information. It’s more than enough to keep a person of any Role busy – even a fledgling Explorer – wandering in fields of gold.
This morning I was on the panel for the opening session of the Society for Information Management’s CIO Forum & Executive IT Summit, near Philadelphia. There was a whole lot of IT talent in one big room – but more importantly, I’ll bet there were a lot of leadership team members in the crowd who aren’t appreciated nearly as much as they should be.
It may seem odd, but even at the ‘C-level’, some executives are ‘insiders’ and some are not. During the past decade or two, many IT leaders (along with HR leaders) have found themselves left out of key decisions, even when they clearly could have provided relevant—even essential—business insights. Finding that this is still true gave me a ‘flashback’ to the time when getting ‘seat at the table’ was something I really craved. Happily for me, I get to pick where I sit these days, and my special chair (petite, like me) is usually at the head. But it isn’t about ‘the table’ any more. It’s about the team.
I like IT, and I value IT people a lot. Years ago, before we developed the interlocking behavioral simulators that generate our product (TGI Role-Based Assessment reports), it would take us about 11 hours to produce a single report. Today, the reports are ready almost instantly, and they are delivered automatically to boot! The fact is, we wouldn’t even have a marketable product today were it not for the truly gifted developer who created the simulators from my very crude design. That project alone took 8½ years.
Then there are the IT teams that created business blogging, eBusiness technology, and lately, provided a self-service environment for social networking. Thanks to these anonymous tech heroes, TGI has recruited over 130 agents worldwide, and we recently logged our 75th customer—some of which are IT companies and departments. And all of that activity has happened in less than 18 months, on a shoestring budget!
Equally important, IT has sped up the process of differentiating ‘RBA’ from other forms of assessment. Every day, more and more executives and business owners are learning that the ability to measure how people team together is a big value-add when hiring, selecting teams, promoting, and coaching or managing people.
The opportunity to utilize offshore IT has worked well for us, too. Our technology partner in India has done a great job of developing the online business system that handles both internal and customer transactions. So in a way, we have two CIOs, one domestic and one outsourced. And their most important job is to team together because if one side isn’t talking to the other, there’s going to be business trouble.
In business, all sides need to be ‘connecting’ with each other, so in order to be a successful IT leader—or any kind of leader—you need to be a good team player. This is not just my opinion…it comes from years of in-depth research on executive behavior. The one thing you need throughout the executive suite is a measure that we call Coherence. People who are Coherent have a positive orientation to working with others to achieve common goals. In other words, they are top quality team players.
The second thing that makes a good IT leader is a good fit between the person’s mode or style of contributing to their team, and the actual job responsibilities that they are expected to fulfill. One of the things we learned during 25-years of R&D is that different people have very different levels of attraction to serving the needs of their organization or team. This attraction is measurable, and we call it Role, with a capital R to distinguish it from the more common use.
The demands on an IT leader can range all over the map. Consider how utterly different the CIO job is in a fast-growing firm that is implementing a cutting-edge eBusiness solution, as compared to the CIO’s responsibilities in an old-line firm that is primarily focused on maintaining reliable mainframe-style systems.
The job title may be the same, but the Role (the capital-R Role) best suited to the job will be completely different. Not just because of the technology, but because the nature of ‘teaming’ is so different in those two environments.
On an executive team, the CEO is the leader – but ‘leader’ has a lot of different meanings. If you have one who truly believes that leadership is a team sport, and they lead by inspiration, with implicit trust in their teammates, then there will be plenty of seats at the table, to be filled by people who have something to offer that moves the company’s vision into reality—regardless of whether or not their title starts with a ‘C’.
If all of the people on the team are Coherent (another thing that RBA measures), some really great team synergy will happen. But Coherence isn’t everything. When you have high Coherence, and correct Role-fit throughout the teams in an organization, you are on your way to creating what we call a Coherent Human Infrastructure.
We have a fabulous team, and yet things don’t always work perfectly. That’s where I take the blame. In the language of Role-Based Assessment, my dual Roles are Founder and Vision Mover. Both of those Roles work at a very high level of abstraction. I’ve learned that I need to really think through and communicate what I want to happen, and then trust my IT team to make it work. Where I haven’t, that’s where we falter. Fortunately, the team has learned to remind me to come out of the clouds whenever they need me down on the ground.
I think that the rapid pace of change – economic, technological, demographic, and so on – is finally causing people to realize that all of business is a team sport.
The more IT leaders recognize that their function is essential to the human infrastructure of the entire organization, and not just the IT infrastructure, the better they will ‘connect’ with their mission, and with their colleagues. You can’t outsource that!
As long as I know I’m working with IT people who are good team players, and who have expertise and vision, they will be ‘insiders’ in getting us where we want to go.
Dear IT leaders, and future leaders: Your star is rising again. All you need to do is to play IT as a team sport!