Tag Archives: leadership

Fixing Teams That Don’t Work

Ever seen a plan that did not get executed because the team of implementors is dysfunctional? Well, it happens.

There are various tools that can be used to assess teams of people or individuals. These tools can help identify team dynamics that are holding back implementation of a strategy. Here is a summary of some tools that might help you. Credit for this should go to my expert colleagues, Greg and Anne.


This assesses people’s areas of interest and their organizational focus. For each member of a team, it can identify what they like to contribute to the team’s work, and what they need from the rest of the team to work most effectively. Birkman can be used to identify imbalances in the makeup of a team, and to identify causes of possible breakdowns in team working. It looks at a person’s preferences in the subjects of esteem, acceptance, structure, authority, advantage, activity, challenge, empathy, change, freedom and thought.

BPMT (Building Powerful Ministry Teams)

This is a team assessment tool based upon “The Performance Factor: Unlocking the Secrets of Teamwork“. This tool helps a team self assess six different aspects of team working (common purpose, clear roles, accepted leadership, effective processes, solid relationships and excellent communication). Teams can then see which aspects of team working are failing, and take steps to address them.


Stengthsfinder identifies the top 5 strengths that a person has out of a list of 34 possible strengths. This helps people determine what aspects of work they like the most. Teams can then use this information to help allocate tasks to play to the strengths and preferred working styles of their members. Hopefully this will save you allocating a detailed analysis task to someone who’s strength is blue sky thinking! One advantage of this tool is that it is positive – it focuses on strengths rather than weaknesses, so it create little negative conflict.

7Fs Personal Life Assessment

A simple self test that anyone can take to see if they have an appropriate life balance. This might help you identify people who are burned out because their overall life is out of whack. The assessee grades the strength of faith, fellowship, family, friendship, financial, fitness and fun in their life.

Job Description

Does everyone working on your project have a job description, and are they working according to it? This maybe a little obvious, but it maybe worth reviewing!! If there are no job descriptions, maybe that is a source of team conflict.

360 Review

This is a simple assessment that allows team members to see how they really perform in the eyes of their peers, supervisor and subordinates. This tests the team’s strengths and weaknesses in a more objective manner than self evaluation. Only use it with relatively self-confident people or people who really are not self-aware of major issues.


This is an assessment of the ability to succeed for individuals in a team. The complete explanation of the psychology behind the test is in the book The EQ Edge. EQ-i starts with creating self understanding, and then self regard, with the hope that it can help with other’s perceptions of team members. It grades self-perception, self-expression, interpersonal communication, decision making and stress management. This assessment tool can identify character and communication issues in team members that have been hindering a team’s ability to execute a strategy. If someone has some real issues, then assess them annually to cover those issues. If they do not have stand-out issues, then there is no need to assess them every year.

EQ-i 360

This is good for team members who have real blind spots that are bringing down a team’s ability to execute their plan. This uses the same assessment questions as EQ-i (above), but a person’s manager, peers, direct reports, family / friends and other people answer the questions as well as the person being assessed. You would certainly want to use it when you see EQ-i results that really don’t match up with your experience. When looking for work performance in a team, count the manager’s view with greater importance than the results of the other reviewers. When looking for character issues, count a team leader’s direct reports with greater importance than that of other reviewers. This tool could also be used with people who are doing well, but want to do better still.

Really Thought Provoking Definition of Strategy

Professor Henry Mintzberg defined strategy as “a pattern in a stream of decisions”. This helps us better understand how decisions relate to strategy. This phrase is easy to remember but it may take years to fully grasp its point. Mintzberg’s cryptic statement can be understood as an approach to decisions in two steps:

Firstly, there is the overall decision – the big choice – that guides all other decisions. To make a big choice, we need to decide who we focus on – our target client segment – and we need to decide how we offer unique value to the customers in our chosen segment. This is basic strategy stuff but, by formulating it this way, we can better understand the second part, the day-to-day decisions – the small choices – that get us closer to the finish line. When these small choices are in line with the big choice, you get a Mintzberg Pattern.

Condensed from Strategy Magazine, Issue 31 Page 31

So, we conclude that strategy is not just about deciding the important macro-direction to take, but a way of enabling all members of the organization to determine what they should or should not do. There are corollaries to this conclusion, so maybe further blog entries….

Comments welcome.

Real Simple Definition of Good Leadership

There are just two things that a leader needs to do:

  1. Ensure the people following / working for him / her know what their objectives are.
  2. Provide those people with the resources to achieve their objectives.

It is that simple. Really, it is that simple.

I’ve worked for a lot of different people over the decades in multiple cultures across many countries and socio-economic groups. I’ve worked with all types, from micro-managers to absentee managers. I’ve observed that what the good leaders did boiled down to just these two things. Now, there’s detail behind these things.

“Ensure the people following him / her or working for him / her know what their objectives are” means that the objectives are:

  • defined unambiguously;
  • described as outcomes (or deliverables);
  • SMART – Specific, Measureable, Attainable, Realistic, Timely;
  • agreed with the staff member / follower.

“Provide those people with the resources to achieve their objectives” could include:

  • financial and material resources (the agreed budget must be funded);
  • human resources (the people with whom they need to work to achieve the objectives are made available);
  • skill resources (the staff member / follower has access to all the skills necessary to achieve the objectives);
  • processes that they need to or could use.

Leadership all seems to boil down to something as simple as this. Note that this definition is independent of the management / leadership style (e.g. command and control / benevolent / servant) provided by the manager / leader. It is also independent of culture and distance over which leadership is provided.

One note. Personally I’ve noticed that the very best managers / leaders for whom I have worked have always done the above in the context of helping me progress towards my life and career goals. I think that this was because they recognized that they were leading me for only a small portion of my career / life. By developing me as part of achieving the current organizational goals they gave my next leader the opportunity to have me contribute further towards to goals of the organization. I thought that this was a good thing to attempt to do.

There’s a reason why you’ve never read a management book that makes leadership this simple: because you can’t sell a book with only one page.

Doing the Right Thing Or Doing Something Right?

How many times have you done something incredibly well only to discover that it was the wrong thing to have done in the first place?

Strategic Leadership is about causing an organization to do the right thing, rather than tactical leadership, which focusses on doing whatever you are doing the best way.

The engineers with whom I worked at Pirelli were collectively the brightest engineers with whom I worked anywhere. They all had doctoral degrees, and worked hand in hand with the primary researchers at Milan’s prestigious technical university. However, they sometimes invented products that used the most incredible technology, but that no-one was ever going to buy for other reasons. When this happens, millions of dollars of R & D expense can be wasted. This happened even though the accountants made sure that no-one overspent their budgets and the quality controllers ensured that the product always worked perfectly even though no-one would ever buy it.

Strategic leadership would have caused them to never have wasted their effort in the first place.

Do you know what the Vision and Mission of your organization are?

Given that Mission, are you doing the right thing to achieve the Vision, or are you just doing the wrong thing incredibly well?

Strategic Leadership and Leading With Information

Strategic Leadership causes and organization to most effectively accomplish a vision. This can only be achieved if all of the alternative routes to accomplishing the vision are assessed and the one that would achieve the vision with the best use of resources is pursued.

The best use of resources can only be determined if the resource usage of the alternatives are compared, which implies that models for each of the alternatives are developed and assessed.

These models can only be developed using information about the resource usage and outcomes of the alternatives. A leader cannot lead strategically without having access to likely costs and outcomes of alternative strategies for accomplishing the mission. To pretend that this can happen otherwise would be like trying to drive a car most economically without a way to measure fuel usage or distance travelled.

Any organization that cannot access detailed information about its resource usage or outcomes is not leading strategically.

“No” Indicates a Strategy

Having a strategy enables you to say “no” to pursing ideas that do not get you to the end goal that you want to achieve in the best possible manner. Being a servant and wanting to please others are not reasons for doing everything that anyone wants you to do.

I’ve observed that there is a correlation between having a strategy and saying “no” to pursuinging new ideas. More specifically, there seems to be a strong correlation between not having a strategy and not saying “no” to pursuing new ideas.

How often do you say “no” to ideas that are put before you because you know that they really are not the best thing for you to do?

To be the bset servant that you can, you need to know what the best contribution is that you can make towards the work of others, and pursue that with as few distractions as possible.