LEAD|July 7, 2020
By: D.C. Alves M.Ed., Chief Leadership Officer, ExuLAB
Anyone who knows me knows that one of my favorite expressions is "let's build forward". I say it a lot... and I mean it! So many times I have coached leaders on being aware of how they are contributing to the team. The best teams, whether a board of directors, an internal scrum team, a working group, a committee etc. are always comprised of highly competent people with a builder mindset or attitude. They are benevolent builders---with a benevolent purpose. In fact, the entire team collectively is a "builder team". The entire team has a commitment to something larger than themselves- the purpose is wholesome and crystal clear. This purpose is what guides the team every step of the way- in every decision. Note that I mentioned that the purpose is guiding the team- and the best leaders are strong and hopeful builders... galvanized to the purpose and execute against it- no matter what- flawlessly committed to its objective.
So you have the magic formula here: a group of strong leaders, optimistic builders, forming a builder team, committed to building forward to execute against a positive purpose which is larger than themselves. Easy right? Not so much.
I have seen many leadership teams fail miserably because the wrong players are on the team. And, more than that, the succession of players, if the team is together for a long time, come on board as the wrong picks to sustain the progress forward toward the execution of the purpose. In some cases the leadership team can start out very very strong- a group of builders headed by a strong leader ready to enliven the organizational purpose. The team is in synch. There is a constant and consistent "building forward" and the team members will not allow for anything to compromise this- they are builders committed to building forward. And then the team fails over time because of feckless leadership or irresponsible succession planning or both and a consequent weakening of strength toward the purpose. Blockers slowly begin to overtake the team. Blockers are the opposite of builders. You can always spot a blocker because they seek power through intimidation. This can be overt or subtle. They talk about other people in a pejorative manner. They complain and are negative. They begin to deride the purpose. They are SWOT experts- taken to an ineffective extreme. They disagree or "block" ideas with an edge to "be right" or undermine. They put others down in public or private. They gossip. Blockers, if left unchecked, are cancer to success. Many times, they do it for their own power- usually and sadly to feel self-worth or relevance. Very sad---but very true.
Often, it is thought that the wrong players can be developed to perform at the level required for excellent performance. Unfortunately, this is rarely true. But there are exceptions. However, it has been my experience that the best leaders come embedded with this builder philosophy. These players can be developed, coached and further grow their builder strength. They are strong and committed. Optimistic and fair. They do not flip flop their actions when things get difficult or go on whims to appease those who seek to sabotage. They are not fearful but stand in their integrity to bring to light when such things occur and reposition the team to their original true north.
Now, it does not mean that these builders are sycophants, or that they don't have differing views, or that they never disagree, or are inflexible. They are and they do- and that is good- but- the differences never eclipse the commitment to the execution of purpose and in so doing the contribution of difference is presented and received in a positive "building forward " way that is palpable. As a result, the team continues toward the purpose.
Now, a team able to perform at this level is a very highly functioning team- this is real leadership in action. There is a commitment to building forward toward the purpose every step of the way where ego is in service to good faith action. These true leaders are rare and highly sought after.
A team made of such value will only win.