Leadership and Effective Teams

Source: United Benefit Advisors
By: Peter Freska

There are companies that seem to “get it.”  GE for example (positively) has been called “a CEO factory,” and with names like Edison, Coffin, Cordiner, Borch, Jones – to Jack Welch and now Jeff Immelt, GE has produced what many may consider great CEOs for more than 100 years.  In fact, Charles Coffin – the man who succeeded Thomas Edison – was called “the greatest CEO of all time” by Fortune Magazine.  But as leaders know, building the right team can be difficult.

When asked “Can you give me an example of a team?”, many spout out – The Lakers or the Celtics, or some other professional or college sports team.  But are these really effective teams?  In his book “Leading Teams” (HBS, 2002),J. Richard Hackman outlined five conditions that enable team effectiveness.  By putting these conditions in place leaders can make their teams more effective as a unit.

Real Team

  • Works collectively on a task
  • Has clear boundaries to membership
  • Has the authority to execute, monitor and manage, designs the work, and sets the direction
  • Has stability of the members over tim

Compelling Direction

  • Is challenging to energize and enhance motivation
  • Is clear to orient and align performance strategy
  • Is consequential to engage and foster full utilization of knowledge and skill

An Enabling Structure

  • Consists of team composition that should be small and diverse
  • Has design of work that should utilize a variety of skills
  • Has norms of conduct that should be placed to shape behavior

Supportive Context

  • The organization should allow members to identify and easily access information and education
  • Has an appropriately structured reward system to complement the team structure

Expert Coaching

  • Needs to be available and the focus of the team leader’s activities.

Leaders of organizations large and small are getting pulled in many different directions.  It is easy to see how a leader can focus on shareholder returns or profitability instead of what really matters – the people.  So, what is your Total Human Capital Strategy?  Are you developing great leaders in your organization that know how to build effective teams?  Or is your organization still more worried about profitability than the people?  As you look forward into the coming years, consider companies like Southwest Airlines and Whole Foods, which make statements about treating their employee right (and that leads to treating the customer right).  It seems that the old saying “…90 percent of your assets walk out the door each day.  What are you doing to bring them back the next day?” still rings true – perhaps today more than ever.  Employers currently have a slew of regulatory and compliance issues, and the list keeps on growing.  To manage this onslaught, make sure you are investing in the right assets internally and externally to ensure that your business survives and thrives for many years to come.  As Jack Welch has said…his most important job, the one that he devotes more time than anything else, is to motivating and assessing GE’s employees.



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