Team versus Group

The label 'team' is often used interchangeably with 'group' and yet as we understand it, it has a very specific meaning. The difference very largely lies in the direction of action. A group can exist and yet not achieve much. A team, on the other hand, is action-orientated. It has a clear purpose and it is a purpose that is shared by its members.

In an effective team, members share a high level of commitment to achieving the common objective and have a high level of satisfaction from being part of and working with the team.

Effective teams have members who work well together in an integrated way, with high levels of awareness and appreciation of each others' strengths. This gives them a high capability for solving their own problems. The skills exist and there is a willingness to act. Of prime importance, from the business adventurer's point of view, is that an effective team is one producing high-quality results. These, it could be reasonably argued, are the outcome from the other characteristics of the effective team. The qualities of an effective work team are, therefore, identifiable, and are quite specific and measurable.

Although any group can possess any or all of these characteristics, an effective team must display them all.

Leadership versus Management

There is no universally accepted definition of leadership; not least as it is not at all easy to define. But what is clear is that leadership is an essential element of management. There are many definitions of management, but put simply, it is the direction, coordination and control of assets. The exercise of management includes the process by which a manager makes decisions, impresses will on team members, and transmits intentions.

Management can be seen as consisting of three core elements; authority, responsibility and accountability.

Authority involves the legal right to enforce disciplinary measures. A manager may delegate authority, but not ultimate responsibility. This is liability and an obligation to answer to senior management/board members for the use of delegated responsibility, authority and resources. This includes the duty to act. The manager who delegates responsibility should grant sufficient authority to enable the individual to fulfill the role; while the individual remains accountable for his actions. 

If we now look at the roles of managers we can identify three essential components namely decision-making, control and leadership.

For the effective manager the art of effective and timely decision-making is a key role, particularly with regard to major decisions that impact on organisational strategy. Minor decision-making should be delegated as far along the chain as possible, in line with the requisite experience, capability and capacity of the more junior manager.

Managers must also have continuing oversight, direction and coordination of their resources, although the detailed activity is often not undertaken directly and is a province of their team. Most activities within this area of responsibility should be delegated; however the reality is that many managers spend more time than they should undertaking control functions.

Leadership is the art of motivating and directing individuals into action to accomplish outputs. Leadership is ultimately based on interpersonal relations. It is natural and a learned ability, a skill, and a set of personal characteristics that influence people to take desired actions. 

In simpler terms, you lead people; you manage things.


Managing Conflict in Your Team

One of the skills of a leader is the ability to deal with conflict. This may be conflict within a team, conflict between the leader and a team member, or conflict between the leader and several team members! 
Conflict is extremely likely in the early stages of a team's development when team members are establishing themselves, and during periods of change when team members may be experiencing uncertainty at being asked to adapt to new systems or procedures which they find initially difficult. Other occasions include when the team is operating in a high intensity environment - pressure to meet a deadline, dealing with a crisis situation or working to overcome a major setback.
When conflict does occur it needs to be dealt with head on. If it is left unchecked it risks undermining team cohesion and creating divisions. This can result in team members efforts becoming more aligned to 'self preservation' than towards the team goal. In the worst scenario it could cause irreparable damage to a team forcing individual members to leave, or in the worst case the disbandment of the entire team.
Conflict can happen at any time, come from areas least expected and erupt without warning. The effective leader needs to remain alert for signs of conflict and when conflicts arise employ the following tips:
  • Defuse - If a conflict is getting heated, immediately defuse the frustration and anger.
  • Focus - Focus on thinking on the problem/cause at hand.
  • Pick - Pick the problem/cause apart using the salami-slicing tactic to deconstruct the conflict to all of its parts.
  • Compromise - Pushing compromise allows all involved parties to walk away with something rather than nothing.
  • Defer - Some conflicts just won’t get solved at this exact moment - move them out for another day.


An Appetite for Risk

When you wake in the morning and the blizzard is howling outside and the temperature is 40 degrees below zero do you venture outside and start hauling your sledge? When you encounter the crevasse fields do you get out the ropes and tie everyone together so that if one person falls in the others can help pull him out again? In both of these scenarios, which I have encountered many times, the answer is always different. It’s about qualifying and managing the risk.

In business taking and managing risk is part of what we must do every day to create profits and shareholder value. There's no such thing as a safe risk. None of it is safe. Rather, it is about reviewing the various scenarios, going into areas others are less likely to go and making decisions.

Decisions should be made by the leader responsible for the task. Prudence, experience, judgement, intuition and situational awareness of leaders directly involved in the planning and execution of the task are the critical elements in making effective risk management decisions

But the sudden and cataclysmic corporate meltdowns of recent years suggest that many companies neither manage risk well nor fully understand the risks they are taking. “Who dares Wins” is the SAS motto however, as with the SAS, the risk needs to be qualified and managed. We are not talking here of betting the company or taking unsubstantiated risks.

What's a stupid risk and what's a calculated risk (i.e. a good one)?

We can all come up with daily life examples. Taking your entire pay cheque and betting it on a roulette table in Las Vegas is dumb risk. Investing your retirement savings in mutual funds in the stock market when you’re young is a smart risk.

But what is risk in business? When it comes to your business and/or career, ultimately only you can determine that. People and books can only give you advice about various directions. With risk we always get in the question of risk appetite. Clearly, a standout employee, entrepreneur, and a leader all need a healthy appetite for risk and a hearty helping of self-confidence to overcome all that.

But how much is enough? Is there a point at which confidence and risk tolerance become liabilities? And though it's common to mix the two (after all, you need confidence to take risks), do they really go hand in hand?

Here are some tips for helping you manage risk...

Accept the risk
Risk is related to gain; the greater the potential gain, the greater the risk. To evaluate risk maximise the likelihood of success.

Take no unnecessary risk
Accept only risks necessary to achieve goals.

Anticipate and plan for the risk
Risks are more easily controlled when they are identified early in the planning process.

Appropriate decision-making
Decisions should be made by those responsible for the task. There judgement, intuition and experience with the task is critical.

Trust in Yourself and Others

I have noticed a significant difference between the levels of self-trust in the world of exploration and in the world of business. In the world of adventure, leaders have a strong and unshakeable belief in their ability to complete a challenging assignment. It’s not arrogance, but a quiet self-confidence.

In my work with business leaders, I have been surprised just how many senior managers and leaders find it difficult to trust themselves and their ability to deliver. Encouraging people to trust you requires positive action. It is not something an organisation can mandate a person to do. Commit yourself to being trustworthy and make sure your actions reflect this.

You may have been surprised in the past by how difficult it is to earn people’s respect and trust. Maybe you were shocked, and even insulted, that your expertise and track record didn’t speak for themselves. To fix this dilemma you need to demonstrate your character - the intention to do the right thing. This is of particular importance to subordinates, who tend to analyse every statement and non-verbal gesture for signs of the new boss’s motives. Such scrutiny can be unnerving.

Trust is difficult to describe or define. We know when it’s there and when it’s not. We trust people who are predictable – not in the dull, plodding sense – but because we will receive a consistent response. Trust provides the motivation and energy that makes it possible for high performance teams to work.
Here are some tips on how to generate trust
  • Be Consistent - Be consistent in what you do as a business adventurer. Carry out your own task effectively both internally and to the wider environment.
  • Be Committed - Demonstrate your commitment through repeated observable actions.
  • Be Compassionate - Empathise with your teams by understanding how they feel and view the world.