Updated: Sep 7, 2019
If you’re like me, you’ve been on your fair share of teams with terrible managers. Hopefully, you’ve also experienced good teams as well. But I’m guessing that only a few teams have truly been great. Why? Teams are a fundamental way that we get things done so why is the experience of being on or leading a team so frustrating for so many?
I started to analyze this question first by examining what’s worked well on my best teams and what hasn’t on my worst. Then I went to the literature to correlate the patterns. What I’ve come to understand is that the ingredients are almost the same but in opposite proportion. Great teams that I’ve been on have had a seemingly perfect mix of talent, alignment, and direction. Bad teams, conversely, have lacked understanding of how to productively apply the existing talent, have lacked alignment, and have had no clear direction.
The unifying factor in both types of teams is the team leader. A great team leader has the uncanny ability to unlock each individual’s talents and align this collective talent at challenging (but attainable) objectives. So I next turned my attention to studying leaders to define what the best leaders do well and what others can learn from their example. I examined the bad, good, and great leaders I’d personally experienced and then compared their attributes to what my leadership gurus such as John C. Maxwell, Stephen R. Covey, Donald O. Clifton, Jim Collins, James C. Hunter, Patrick Lencioni, and Simon Sinek had to say on the subject,
I also learned from my own personal experience participating on bad, good, and great teams and then leading teams successfully in different cultural and business contexts. No matter where in the world I’ve worked, or in which business context - whether corporate or entrepreneurial, these team leadership principles (talent + alignment + direction) have held up. Still, it wasn’t until I became an enterprise leader (leading leaders of team leaders) that I felt the keen need for a systematic way to elevate the team leadership capabilities of all levels of leaders.
That’s why this book exists. I want leaders at all levels of organizations to aspire to facilitate great teams by unlocking their people’s talents, keeping everyone aligned, and setting direction that inspires great performance. Each of you reading this right now comes with your own natural leadership talents so your journey starts by elevating your skills, increasing your understanding of your strengths, and improving your ability to articulate vision and create winning processes. But first, you have to believe as I do that making these efforts is critical for today’s leaders.
I also wrote this book as an homage to the great leaders for whom I’ve been fortunate enough to work. They form the composite of the story’s protagonist, Sam “Coach” Lombardi who has to leverage a lifetime’s worth of learning and experience to achieve a signature career objective. I wanted to thank my great leaders and also tip my cap to all the leaders out there who leverage their passion for people into tremendous performance. These are the ghosts I’m forever chasing and I hope you will join me in this race to dramatically improve the state of teams and employee engagement by investing in this quick, but impactful, read.
Omar L. Harris is Associate Vice-President and Country Manager for Allergan PLC in Brazil. He is the author of the upcoming leadership book, Leader Board: The DNA of High-Performance Teams being published by TPC Books in June 2019. Please follow him on instagram, twitter, and/or his LinkedIn for more information and engagement.