- Teams at the Top: Resurrection is Much Harder than Birth
- Keys to accelerating the transition of a new leadership team
- Talent Due Diligence
- Avoiding nasty talent surprises in acquisitions
- Six Impossible Things
- Leadership lessons from Alice on making the insurmountable seem possible
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Teams at the Top: Resurrection is Much Harder than Birth
Restructuring abounds in the new economy. The result: completely new leadership teams, teams with new players in new roles, or, at least, existing teams with new challenges. These can be significant events in the life cycle of an organization and can introduce risks to the business if not handled well. To make matters worse, change is happening at an ever-increasing rate meaning that the teams must transition quickly and not just slowly evolve.
Starting a brand new team from scratch (birth) is often easier than transitioning an existing team (resurrection) with some new players and responsibilities. The change must be intentional and must consider some key factors for the transition to be accelerated, without hampering the team and causing the business to falter.
- Be Very Clear About The Purpose Of The Team. A team is a small group of people with complimentary skills that hold each other mutually accountable for a unique work-product or result. The unique work product should be discussed and confirmed among the new team. Why does this team exist? What would not get accomplished if this team did not exist?
- Establish A Team Operating Agreement. Beside the purpose, the team should agree upon some team basics such as how decisions will be made, how the team will communicate, what will comprise the agenda for meetings and how success will be measured. The agreement should be regularly reviewed to make sure that the team is on track.
- Clarify Roles And Responsibilities. For each major decision or issue the team will address, clearly establish who is in the lead role, who needs to be involved, who will make the decision and who needs to be informed.
- Create A Communications Plan. Every team has stakeholders that are key to their mutual success (other teams, employees, Boards, etc.). Transitioning teams should identify their stakeholders, what role they play with the team, and what information needs to be regularly communicated to the stakeholders, by what method, by who and when.
- Use A Facilitator. The processes a team follows to hold discussions, solve problems and make decisions are just as important as the content a team addresses. A non-team member facilitator can stay out of the content and assure that the team achieves meaningful results, quickly and effectively.
The results of a resurrected team:
- Increased capacity of the team to handle work
- Accelerated movement from forming to storming to norming to performing
- Enhanced environment for innovation
- Improved cross-functional collaboration
- Faster decision making
Talent Due Diligence
Two quotes from Mergers & Acquisition magazine dealing with the role that talent plays in a successful acquisition caught my attention:
- "Don't overlook human capital due diligence. If you're M&A team doesn't have employee assessment capability, get it." Roger Kohl, January 2011
- "...under allocating resources and lack of effective leadership are the chief causes of underperforming potential." Margaret Reynolds, March 2011.
So what is the best way to assess the talent of a recent or potential acquisition?
We know that existing performance reviews are often skewed and tend to focus on past performance, not potential. 360° multi-rater assessments, if the target company used them, are great for development but are tough to roll-up into a picture of overall organization capability. Using them post-acquisition would create a situation where the results are also skewed. Testing and assessments are valid and reliable but are tough to organize into a total picture of the organization's talent.
To me, the best alternative is to use what we have learned from candid, objective and robust discussions of talent that occur in Talent Reviews. (Click here to read more about the process.) The challenge in due diligence is determining who can provide the talent insights. That's why the due diligence team from the seller's side should include leaders that know the talent, not just the legal and financial folks. HR may play a role but executives who know the impact that top talent has had on the business are key.
If there is not the opportunity to do a Talent Review during due diligence, then the new leader of the business and his team should complete a review very soon after the deal is closed. Observing a leadership team during a Talent Review is a great way to quickly learn about the team itself as well as the talent at other levels in the organization.
In either case, the discussion should be facilitated by a neutral third party (not the buyer or the seller) to keep the discussion objective and focused on talent competencies that can make a difference to the business.
With a talent review process, the buyer can quickly and effectively get a total picture of the capability of the new company, the potential talent risks, and what additional investment might be needed to improve the organization's capability.
Six Impossible Things
By Patrick Ogburn
Founder & President, FullTilt Leadership
Leading up to the final climactic scene of Tim Burton's Alice in Wonderland, an on-screen adaptation of Lewis Carroll's famous tale, Alice is preparing to face the Jabberwocky. Alice, seeing the monster, says, "This is impossible." The Hatter's reply: "Only if you believe it is." Alice quips: "Sometimes, I believe as many as six impossible things before breakfast," to which the Hatter replies, "That is an excellent practice."
Sometimes, as leaders, we find ourselves in the role of making the insurmountable seem possible — not only for others, but for ourselves as well. Let's look at six things we can learn from Alice's story.
- "There's a potion that can make you shrink…"
I can remember wondering what it would be like to shrink to a microscopic size. Imagine what you could learn about the inner workings of the world around us. It would be a leap to say that early inventors of the microscope were thinking of a "potion that could make you shrink" when developing a tool that gave us insight at the microscopic level. However, it's the kind of curiosity stimulated by imagining such things that can lead to new discoveries. Just read up on recent advances in nanotechnology – it will stretch your mind.
- "...and a cake that can make you grow."
My youngest son has a way of stretching my imagination, often at bedtime as we lay staring at the bottom of the top bunk. On one such occasion, he asked with a distant look in his eyes and dreamy smile playing at the edges of his mouth, "what if I was so big that I could hold the world in my hand?" I don't remember my answer, but I ask you, what if you applied the same thinking to your business or your career? Do the answers excite you?
It's popular to talk about growing your business in terms of what it would take to make it happen: grow market share, increase top-line revenue, profits, etc., but have you thought about it in terms of "what if?" Generally, with a phase-change level of growth comes an entirely new set of challenges, demands, and expectations. Many times, we know the answers to the "how" questions, but our fear of the answers to the "what if" questions keeps us from moving forward.
- "Animals can talk."
OK, not really. Sometimes, however, there are assumptions that we make which may not be true. In our way of thinking, it looks as impossible as animals talking. Assumptions are natural, sensible, and often useful shortcuts that allow us to make sense of our world. We know, because it has always been that way. Where are you or others in your organization limiting your view of what is possible based on history? One simple question can help you look beyond this: What if (animals could talk)? What would then be possible? What would we be able to accomplish?
What is the equivalent of animals talking in your business? Who or what are you underestimating based on your history? Have you considered what would be possible if that were not an obstacle?