While we all say we work on high-performing teams, statistics prove that this is simply not the case.  According to numerous studies, fewer than 20% of teams are considered “high performing”.  And as many as half of all teams are considered “dysfunctional”.  What is the problem with so many teams?  And why are so few teams truly high performing in this age of enlightened leadership?  One problem is that so many leaders have the mindset that their team’s main role is to satisfy their needs as the leader.  To build successful teams, leaders, you need to invert your org chart and begin to serve your team instead.

Why Teams?

Why are teams so important, yet still fail to meet expectations?  One reason is that almost everything we accomplish in our businesses is done via teams.  Think about it.  How often is a goal accomplished completely by an individual effort?  Very rarely.

Deloitte’s Global Human Capital trends survey from 2016 and 2017 identified organization design and teamwork as the number one issue for businesses.  In 2016 they coined the phrase “the Rise of Teams”.  They found that companies were essentially reorganizing themselves as a network of teams, removing traditional hierarchies and organizational structure.  Teamwork is thus crucial for the organization of the future to succeed.

A Network of Teams

When you understand your organization is no longer a hierarchical organizational structure, but yet a network of teams dedicated to helping each other succeed, you recognize the different leadership patterns that come into play.  Hierarchical organizations require a level of “command and control” structure that drives efficiencies.  Team networks require leaders who seek not to better themselves but to drive success for the entire team.

Team networks require a different model of leadership.  The leaders of teams are essentially dedicated to the success of the team.  And if the team’s success is dependent on the success of the entire network, then individual power struggles and power plays take the back seat. The success of the overall network is paramount.  The role of the team leader becomes that of a collaborator and encourager.

Invert Your Org Chart

If you invert your org chart, the role of the leader changes.  Skills like coaching, communicating, planning and collaborating become paramount.  In fact, a leader of an inverted organization cannot rely on the skills of the past.  Command and control is no longer the bellwether of success.  The leader has to understand the needs of his team and provide them with the support they need to be successful.

Leaders of teams in a networked organization learn to collaborate with one another, each one supporting their own team while also seeking to achieve the goals of the overall organization.  For some, this leadership style will not come naturally.  For others, this collaborative style will not only come natural but will be a refreshing change to the organizations of the past.

Successful team-based organizations operate cooperatively to achieve the overall organizations’ goals.  Among the traits of effective team-based organizations include: a mutual respect of teams, a clarity of vision, each team carries their own weight, each team member carries their own weight (teams tend to self-police performance issues), celebrate the successes of the team instead of the individual, and enjoy high levels of performance.

It’s harder than it looks

Recently I gave a presentation on “Servant Leadership” to a group of executives.  One of the teaching points was to “Invert Your Org Chart”.  The participants in this training were all essentially “presidents/CEOs” of their division within a much larger organization.  After my presentation, one of these leaders came up to me and said “John, this all makes sense.  But I just don’t think I can invert my org chart.  I believe that my team would pounce on that and take advantage of me”.

I asked him some clarifying questions, and I identified a few concerns.  First, he was new in the job.  It’s a lot harder to be vulnerable and transparent to a team when you are new in position.  More than likely, there was someone in that organization that either (a) wanted the job or (b) had an ideal candidate in mind.  Second, the previous leadership left a culture of silos.  And so the leaders under him were anything but servant leaders.  He needed to figure out a way to get them on board with this new way of thinking.  But had to do so in a way that advanced the goals of the organization first.

Getting from “here” to “there”

In his case, it came down to him needing to craft a vision for a new way of operating going forward.  I encouraged him to get at the root of their behaviors and motivators (utilizing an assessment tool such as DISC).  Second, he needed to have a strategic visioning session with his team members so they could unpack their baggage from the past, and prepare the way for their journey into a much more profitable and effective future.

Some teams can get there with the support and direction of an inspirational leader.  But some team members need to be coddled and coerced along the way.  And, unfortunately, some need to just find an exit path and make way for a new leader.  One of the role of the servant leader in serving his team is looking for the best solution for each member of his team.  And, yes, sometimes an exit path is the best solution for team members.  “How is that an example of servant leadership?”, you ask.  If someone’s attitude is getting in the way of the organization’s vision of the future, then they are a detriment to the team as a whole.  And as the servant leader, you are doing them a disservice keeping them in a role that doesn’t fit them.  And, you are doing the rest of your team a disservice by keeping them as a dysfunctional part of the team.

Flip The Chart and See What They Say

Try this exercise with your team.  Draw out the org chart.  Then ask where the customer goes.  Write “customer” at the top of the org chart.  But does that make sense?  It doesn’t.  The customer doesn’t typically have interaction with the CEO.  The customer has interaction with the bottom level of the org chart in most organizations.  So draw the customer at the bottom.  They won’t like this either.  It just doesn’t look right.  That’s when I rip off the page and turn it upside down.  I believe this visual exercise is one of the best ways to exhibit what being a servant leader means.  And it’s the best way to demonstrate the value a servant leader brings to their teams.

Think about it.  When you invert your org chart,  the servant leader is now serving the team above them on the org chart.  Doesn’t that make more sense?  And each team has an important role to fill.  If any level doesn’t do their part, the entire org chart collapses.  (Can you imagine a cheerleading squad trying an inverted pyramid like this?).  There are a ton of beautiful analogies you can come up with during this exercise.  And, hopefully, your team will see the value and importance of servant leadership, supporting their team and inverting the org chart.

If interested in learning how to demosntrate this, I’d love to tell you all about it.  This is a game-changing mindset to bring to your organization.