Volume 10, Number 4
Myths of Effective Teams
Robbins, of Robbins & Robbins (www.harveyrobbins.com),
consults on team development, leadership effectiveness and
interpersonal influence. Mr.
Finley is a writer, focusing on change (www.mfinley.com). They published The New Why Teams Don’t Work (Berrett-Koehler,
San Francisco, 2000), from which this article is adapted.
is the vessel for many of the worst team myths, for a logical
reason. As keepers of
the team vision, leaders must make up a lot of stuff. Here are some of the worst illusions foisted on us by leaders
Myth of Senior Teams
there is the seriously mistaken notion that senior teams function
like other teams, just in a more senior way.
That teams at the top—teams comprised of board members,
CEOs, presidents, vice presidents and other senior-level
execs—roll up their sleeves and collaborate in the same way that
grunt teams do. They
who has been on a senior team knows how rare true camaraderie is.
The senior team table more closely resembles a play from
the Renaissance, with dukes and earls and grand viziers jockeying
for advantage, than the kind of team we have been talking about.
At the top levels, politics reigns supreme, and “team
members” are there less to cooperate on joint action than to
pursue constituent agendas.
is partly because of the personality type that tends to rise to
the top of organizations—Drivers with a bullet.
Hard-charging executives prefer disposing to proposing, and
they are typically rewarded for superior top-down,
Except perhaps for the Vatican, large organizations do not
turn to pastoral types for leadership.
let’s imagine that a generation of powerful,
collaborative-minded managers rose suddenly to the top—people
who share information, swap skill sets, and set their egos aside
to achieve common objectives.
In fact, this will happen someday, and not far in the
Xers and Yers are much more prone to team action than their Baby
today’s corporations will not welcome these generations, and
will throw up powerful resistance to them.
Today’s organizations are modeled after patriarchal
organizations established centuries ago, when leadership was
envisioned in a singular, Driver-driven, masculine, competitive,
Machiavellian way. Intrigue
and manipulation are built into the charters of these
organizations. To expect companies like IBM or Daimler-Chrysler or Harvard
University to lead the way in describing a new kind of leadership
by team, is to ask these organizations to go against their own
teams are “teams” in names only.
They don’t act like real teams because they are really
parallel teams of one, each with their own constituents. Real
teams share roles and responsibilities, whereas senior teams
typically have parallel accountabilities.
They are never able to prioritize goals since each member
feels that his niche’s goals are the most deserving.
it is sad and hypocritical. While top management encourages teamwork among the rank and
file, they have no clue about it themselves.
They can’t. They
are constitutionally prohibited from engaging in it. When top management cannot practice what it preaches, why
should the rest of us take the preaching seriously?
ever, look to top management for team leadership.