I have recently had the wonderful opportunity to enter the workforce anew as the COO of an eye care practice. Although my checking account balance is most appreciative; the amount of time left to devote to my blog has been minimized. The good news is that I am beating the New Year’s Resolution rush, and making my first self-promise about nine weeks early. I hereby solemnly vow to write at least three new posts per week, during my lunch hour!
Coming into a new executive role, staff members are naturally suspicious; especially if your predecessor was ousted from the position. The group has only two questions weighing on their mind. “Who is this guy?” is the first thought as they brace themselves for possible job extinction. This is typically followed by “What is his agenda?” as parallel thoughts of polishing up the resume rush through their minds.
As a nine-time senior executive, my success has always been dictated by the strength of the teams that I lead. Coming into a new role, team-building is always my highest priority. There are more business advice books on this topic than any of us care to think about. I could also point you towards some very pricey seminars held at tropical resorts around the world. Instead, I will pay it forward by saving you some money.
A successful team is stronger than the sum of its components! Gee, if I had turned those simple eleven words into a 200-page book; I could be sitting at the top of the New York Times Bestseller List! The again, I am a to-the-point type of person and could not live with myself for having pulled one over on you!
The components of a successful team can only be meshed by a true leader. Wow, another fourteen words of wisdom there. Suddenly the book idea does not seem so bad! I could set my own hours, live where I wish, check the mailbox for those publisher royalty checks, and start a seminar series at pricey resorts all over the world!
Having been thrust into the leadership role many times, it has become painfully apparent that there is a major difference between an executive manager and a leader. The manager, regardless of his title, motivates his charges and manages their tasks. A leader, in contrast, inspires his charges and directs their aspirations. A manager creates today’s followers; a leader creates tomorrow’s leaders!
To lay down the essential cornerstones of a team, it is critical to first assemble the members of the group, so that they can hear a common message. Whether the group has been thrown together from disparate sources or has been working together for years; it will never cease to amaze me just how little they know about one another!
Why is knowledge of your teammates essential? The most successful teams know each member’s strengths and weaknesses, as individual members know their pluses and minuses. A team takes on a life of its own, as stronger members compensate for the weaker. In the process, a sharing phenomenon occurs and the weaker become stronger. Remember my original premise; stronger than the sum of its components.
Upon gathering my new team for the first time, I asked each member to share their answer to a simple question. “How do you like your eggs?” The resulting looks from around the room ranged from confused to amused. I suspect that not a one of them expected that question to be high on my priority list.
I cannot take full credit for this idea. The eggs concept was the result of having watched one too many Julia Roberts movies with my wife. In “Runaway Bride,” the lead character is annoyed that none of the men she has been involved with knew how she liked her eggs! I merely adapted a portion of that storyline to my professional bag of tricks!
One-by-one, each of my new charges answered how they liked their eggs. Was I looking to outcast those who favor runny yolks? Did I want to cull the herd by identifying those not strong enough to give a definitive answer? Honestly, I could care less what words they uttered in response to my silly question! That was not the point.
I then shared my answer with the group. That was quickly followed up with a revelation of why I had asked. Each of us had just learned something about everybody in the group that we had not known seconds earlier. I then charged the group to learn or share something previously unknown with each other at least weekly. The team is already starting to gel. How can the components sum up to something greater if they do not even know each other?
As for me, “I prefer my eggs scrambled, with cheese and chilis!”