Wednesday, December 30, 2009

8 + Team Development Models

Team development refers to a process and activities for improving team performance. Team development activities can range from simple bonding exercises to intensive, multi-day team development retreats.

Team development is usually used when an interdependent team needs to improve the way they work together to achieve shared goals. If a team is facing challenges, dropping balls, blaming each other, etc., diagnostics and treatment are often necessary.

There are several proven, effective team development models available. A leader should pick one, learn it, and use it consistently. Organizations can also benefit from using a common model. As employees move from one team to another, a common framework and language exists to help the new employee assimilate faster.

Leaders will often use a team building facilitator to help them get started, until they can use the process on their own. It's important to select someone with experience and expertise - I'd recommend interviewing several and talking to references.

Here are 8 commonly used team development models, including links to learn more about each one. As an added bonus, I've also thrown in my own simple model.

1. The Five Dysfunctions of a Team
Developed by Patrick Lencioni, owner of The Table Group. The five dysfunctions are:
Absence of Trust, Fear of Conflict, Lack of Commitment, Avoidance of Accountability, and Inattention to Results.
I've used this model and would recommend it. It's fairly simple to understand and you can purchase a Field Guide with activities to support each stage of the model.

2. Tuckman’s Model
Many team development models use some variation of Bruce Tuckman’s classic 4 stages of team development: forming, storming, norming, and performing.
It's helpful to be able to anticipate the typical stages any team will go though and understand how to move them through each stage.

3. Glen Parker’s Model 
Based on his book, Team Players and Teamwork. I like the team survey that accompanies this one.

4. Drexler Sibbit model
Developed by Allan Drexler and David Sibbet (see picture). One of my favorites, and I've used it a lot.  The big disadvantage of this one is it requires certification, as it's mainly for OD consultants.

5. Katzenbach & Smith’s model

Based on the book “The Wisdom of Teams”. I've read the book - it's very good - and have used parts of the model.

I'm not as familiar with the next three models, but they are classics and came up a lot when researching this post:

6. Lafasto and Larson model
Based on the book “When Teams Work Best”.

7. Hackman model
Based on the book “Leading Teams”.

8. GRPI model
Stands for: Goals, Roles, Processes, and Interpersonal relationships.
Based on the book “Task Oriented Team Development”.

The Great Leadership model:
Quite honestly, I often wonder if we "professionals" make team development overly complicated for leaders. Many of the team assessments I've used seem to be self-serving, designed to sell team development products, services, and books.
Would a better approach be for a team to simply ask themselves to define what kind of a team they would like to be? Just define their own team behaviors and goals, then rate themselves and choose what they want to work on to improve? I’ve tried this, and it seems to create a lot buy-in and positive energy and gets to the point a lot faster. Then, when finished, go out for beers and pizza. (-:

These are the models I’m most familiar with, but I’m sure there are many more. What's your favorite approach to team development? Is there a team development model you like that’s not on this list?

Sunday, December 27, 2009

Management Best Practices or Just an Illusion?

Thanks to Marc Effron, from the Talent Management Network, for bring this to our attention:
Recent research may shake your faith in management gurus who claim that specific business practices cause high performance. In A Random Search for Excellence, researchers report that companies' sustained high performance may simply be luck.

Their research shows that luck alone can account for above average performance for many years. They conclude that many of the best selling management books of recent years aren't really identifying high performing companies but instead are studying firms "with performance profiles that are statistically indistinguishable from fortunate random walks."

I just read the report myself – here’s a summary:

 The genre of management research that we refer to as the “success study” is flawed, including In Search of Excellence, Good to Great, Breakthrough Company, What Really Works, Stall PointsBuilt to Last, and Profit from the Core.

 The reason they are flawed is because they measured the wrong things and set the bar too low. Deloitte backs this up with lots and lots of statistically analysis and explanation, most of which I found too complex to follow.

 Deloitte is currently conducting its own “success study”, but they’ll use a better algorithm that will better define “great performance” and demonstrate true cause and effect.

 They say the flawed science behind these studies doesn’t mean you should ignore the advice from these authors and gurus. Sure the recommendations can be useful, more in the manner of “fables” than evidence-based advice. For example, no one would read “The Tortoise and the Hare” and go out and bet on a tortoise. Rather, people take from this tale the idea that there is merit in perseverance while arrogance can lead to a downfall.

This report reminds me of what Marshall Goldsmith calls “The Success Delusion”, which explains why it’s hard to convince successful leaders and companies to change. They often attribute their success to habits that have nothing to do with success – it’s closer to superstition than actual cause and effect.

I see the same thing with the “study a bunch of successful leaders and list the traits” genre of books and reports. I've gotten to the point where I won't even read them any more. Instead, I stick with what I believe to be research-based proven models (CCL, Lominder, DDI). But at the end of the day – who knows?

Red is gray and
Yellow white
But we decide
Which is right
Which is an Illusion?
From Nights in White Satin, by The Moody Blues.

BTW, can you see the hidden tiger in the picture above?

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Gambling on Leadership Potential

Why is it so hard to predict the success of leaders before we hire or promote them to the next level? We hear about the failure rate of new CEOs and senior leaders all the time, and hear from the “experts” how shortsighted and ignorant we are for not being able to get it right.

OK, now I’m one of those idiots responsible for identifying the next generation of leaders, so excuse me if I get a little defensive here. The reason our success rate is barely better than 50%, maybe worse depending on what study you’ve read, it that IT IS DAMN NEAR IMPOSSIBLE TO PREDICT THE FUTURE!

Sorry for shouting. I’ll give you two examples to make this point.

1. Drafting NFL quarterbacks.
Pro football has the most sophisticated succession planning and development system on the planet. Future quarterbacks are identified and groomed from the moment these little future stars play their first Pop Warner game. They are groomed and scouted through high school and college. The NFL spends millions on scouting departments, Wonderlic tests to measure intelligence, combines, and all sorts of ways to measure and assess a player’s ability. They watch hundreds of hours of tape, studying the player perform under pressure. You would think pure physical abilities would be WAY easier to assess than leadership ability, right?
Well, if it were so easy, how do you explain:
- Matt Leinhart
- Jamrcus Russell
- Ryan Leaf
- Akili Smith
- Art Schlichter
- Cade McNown
- Dan McGwire
- Steve Pisarkiewicz
- Todd Marinovich
- Jim Druckenmiller

Would anyone care to bet your mortgage on Colt McCoy or Tim Tebow?

These “can’t miss” quarterbacks were all taken in the first round and all turned out to be colossal busts! The failure rate of quarterbacks selected in the first round is so high that some teams are afraid to spend a first round pick on a quarterback.

2. Picking stocks.
Wall Street hires some of the best and brightest MBAs from the top schools and trains them to be stock market analysts. They spend millions on the more sophisticated modeling software, they study the industries and companies they are responsible for, and work their fingers to the bone on the behalf of their clients. Yet, some would say a blindfolded monkey throwing darts at a newspaper’s financial pages could select a portfolio that would do just as well as one carefully selected by experts.

When it comes to predicting the success of quarterbacks and stocks, it seems the best pickers in the world have about a 50.5% success rate. That’s just a little better than the odds of winning at roulette or blackjack at the casino.

Again – it’s impossible to predict the future. There are just too many variables. Call it chaos theory, call it whatever you want, but until someone invents a time machine, 50.5% may be the benchmark.

When it comes to leadership development, even the best companies don’t get it right all of the time. However, they do a better job at it than most of their competition and even a 20% improvement gives them a huge competitive advantage.

Before we turn to the blindfolded monkeys, are there some things we can do to stack the deck a bit in our favor? Sure – we can:

1. Cast a wider net and create an environment and infrastructure where everyone has the opportunity to reach their high highest potential. 50% of 1000 gives you a much larger pool of candidates than 50% of 100.

2. Improve our ability to recognize talent early and use all of the tools at our disposal to accelerate their development and prepare them for potential roles.

3. Use consistent, reliable criteria to select for potential, instead of strictly relying on past performance or meaningless criteria.

4. Support our high potentials once they are promoted and give them a better chance to succeed (give them a mentor, a coach, feedback, etc…)

Do these things, and do them well, and then roll the dice. Hopefully we’ll get it right slightly more than half the time, and be able to admit it when we get it wrong and minimize the damage.

What do you think? When it comes to assessing leadership potential and leadership selection, is 50.5% a realistic expectation, or can we do better?

Saturday, December 12, 2009

Using “Deliberate Practice” as a Coaching Technique

In 2008, Geoff Colvin wrote the bestselling book "Talent Is Overrated: What Really Separates World-Class Performers from Everybody Else".

If you haven’t read it, I’d recommend it, although in my opinion, the original article first published in Fortune gets to the point a lot quicker and gives you all you need to know about the concept.

Colvin’s main point is that people are not born with all the natural talent and abilities that will make them great it life. Other than some physical attributes that may give an athlete an advantage in a particular sport, everyone can achieve world-class performance through “deliberate practice” in his or her chosen field - business, music, sports, etc.

Colvin explains, drawing several research-based conclusions, that the secret – deliberate practice – is designed, can be repeated a lot, requires constant feedback, is highly demanding mentally, and isn’t much fun.

He goes on to say, “If it seems a bit depressing that the most important thing you can do to improve performance is no fun, take consolation in this fact: It must be so. If the activities that lead to greatness were easy and fun, then everyone would do them and they would not distinguish the best from the rest. The reality that deliberate practice is hard can even be seen as good news. It means that most people won’t do it. So your willingness to do it will distinguish you all the more.”

Although the concept of deliberate practice sounds good in theory, he doesn’t go into a lot of detail on how to implement it.

Also, if there’s a training program out there on how to implement the concepts, I couldn’t find it.

So how can a leader use deliberate practice as a coaching technique to help their employees improve their performance?

First of all, we need to start with the assumption that the employee really wants to be great at what they do. In other words, the motivation must come from within; the leader can’t force this desire on someone.

Let’s assume most employees really do want to be the best at what they do, and are willing to work for it (I know, that’s a BIG if, but hang in there with me).

Try this step-by-step approach to implementing the concepts of deliberate practice as a coaching technique:

1. Identify 3-4 critical activities that separate great performers from the rest. For example, for a salesperson, it might be the ability to get an appointment, listen, and close. There may be more than 3-4, that’s OK, this is just a place to start. If you don’t know what they are, you might need to interview and study some high performers, read a book, or find some other way to learn from the best.

For each activity:

2. Identity someone who does it really well. Write down exactly how that person performs the activity. Again, you might need to interview or observe them. Identify what they do, their thought process, any anything else that differentiates how they perform the activity from average performers. Using the same sales example, for closing skills, it might be the repeated use of trial closes.

3. Figure out how the activity can be learned. In most cases, according to the theory, there is a “teacher” involved. In the business world, this person could be a trainer, coach, mentor, manager, or expert. In the salesperson example, this could be a sales trainer or the sales manager.

4. Determine how the activity can be practiced repeatedly. Practice activities could include role plays, simulations, and rehearsals. In the sales example, it might include role playing trial closes with the manager or a sales trainer.

5. Set up a feedback mechanism. The person needs to have a way to know how well they did. In the sales example, this could include observing the sales rep with a client and providing feedback after the call.

6. Repeat process for each critical activity.

The coaching discussion:

1. Have the employee read the article ahead of time in order to prepare them for the discussion.

2. Check for motivation and commitment.

For each activity:

3. Describe the activity in detail.

4. Ask the employee to self-assess themselves (scale of 1-10) for the activity. Provide your assessment as well.

5. Ask the employee to set an improvement goal. For example, they see themselves as a “6” in closing, ask them how much better they want to get (7-10).

6. Explain how the activity can be learned and practiced. This becomes your deliberate practice plan (really just another way to get at an IDP).

7. Repeat process for each activity.

8. Agree on next steps.

That’s it! The process may sound deceptively simple – yes, it’s not brain surgery, and probably nothing that you haven’t already been doing in a less structured way. However, in practice, it’s going to require a lot of discipline, hard work, and support from the leader. Oh, and it’s not fun.

Try it out, and let me know what you think.

Thursday, December 10, 2009

Top 10 Talent Resolutions for 2010

DDI asked me to contribute to their Top 10 Talent Resolutions for 2010.

They are counting them down on their Talent Management Intelligence blog and will publish all of them in an upcoming client newsletter in January.

Mine was just published today. I'm looking forward to reading the rest!

From Talent Management Intelligence:

Have you made your resolutions yet? To wrap up 2009, DDI asked 10 thought leaders in management, human resources and training and development what talent resolution they think organizations should make.

Throughout the month of December and through January 4, DDI will count down 10 nuggets of wisdom from:

#10 - Barry Stern, Vice President Consulting Services and Delivery at DDI—“Live in the crisis mindset”

#9 - Ellen McGirt, Senior Writer for Fast Company magazine—“Be the love.”

#8 - Dan McCarthy, Blogger and Leadership Development Manager—“Repair the reputation of leadership” :

#7 - Peter Cappelli, George W. Taylor Professor of Management at The Wharton School— “Pull your head out of the sand”

#6 - John Hollon, Editor of Workforce magazine—“Walk the talk “

#5 - Matt Paese, Vice President, Executive Solutions at DDI—“Vaccinate: for growth”

#4 - Alexandra Levit, author and Wall Street Journal columnist—“Manage your millenials”

#3 - Heather Daigle, blogger and human capital specialist—“Ask more, tell less”

#2 - Mike Hoban, Senior Consultant, DDI—“Quit sacrificing talent”

#1 - Josh Bersin, CEO and President, Bersin & Associates—“Expand succession management to talent mobility”

Saturday, December 5, 2009

The Cowardly Manager’s Guide to Dealing with Poor Performers

Dealing with a poor performer has to be one of the hardest responsibilities of a leader. Great leaders confront performance issues head on. They provide feedback, coaching, counseling, and if all else fails, real leaders fire underperformers. It’s all part of earning your scars as a leader.

Cowardly managers come up with all kind of creative ways to avoid dealing with performance issues. Here is a summary of many of the actual methods I’ve encountered:

1. Teambuilding.
Instead of dealing with the the one bad apple, drag the entire work group through “teambuilding” sessions with the hope that the poor performer will be “outed” and fixed.

2. Assessments.
Instead of simply confronting the employee, have the employee take a battery of assessments in the hope that they will figure it out for themselves.

3. Call HR.
Hire an HR person to take care of all employee disciplinary problems so managers don’t have to bother.

4. Transfer the poor performer.
Pass the poor performer off to some other sucker.

5. Training.
Ask the training department to fix the poor performer.

6. Hire someone else to do their job.
I’m not making this up – I happens all the time. But wait, there’s even a more ludicrous option, you can…..

7. Promote them.
Really. It happens. Shocker.

8. Delegate it to another employee.
Ask someone else on your team to “mentor” the problem performer. It would be a good “development opportunity”, thus killing two birds with one stone.

9. Delegate up.
Have Mom or Dad deal with it.

10. Work around the performance issues.
Otherwise known as “playing to their strengths”. In other words, strip all the hard parts of the job away until the poor performer can handle it.

11. Wait for retirement.
Either yours or the poor performers.

And when all else fails, just stick your head in the sand and hope it all goes away. It won’t, but while you’re waiting, the moral and performance of your entire team will be dragged down like an anchor. When that happens, give a copy of this guide to your own manager, and hope you have a coward for a manager and not a real leader.

What are some other ways you've seen wimp managers avoid dealing with performance issues?

Wednesday, December 2, 2009

2009 Global Top Companies for Leaders

Hewitt Associates, The RBL Group and FORTUNE just announced their 2009 Global Top Companies for Leaders (not to be confused with the annual Hay Group CEO Magazine Best Companies for Leaders).

Here's the press release from Hewitt:

November 19, 2009
Global Leadership Study Finds Top Companies Remain Committed to Developing Strong Leaders Regardless of Economic Conditions

LINCOLNSHIRE, Ill. — IBM, Procter & Gamble and General Mills head the 2009 list of Global Top Companies for Leaders, the most comprehensive study of organizational leadership in the world. The Global Top Companies for Leaders study is conducted by Hewitt Associates, a global consulting and outsourcing company, in partnership with The RBL Group, a strategic HR and leadership systems advisory firm, and FORTUNE. This year's winners were selected and ranked by an expert panel of independent judges based on criteria including strength of leadership practices and culture, examples of leader development on a global scale, impact of leadership in communities in which they operate, business performance, and company reputation. The 2009 list, attached below, can be found on today and will appear in the December 7 issue of FORTUNE, on newsstands November 23.

When comparing the Global Top Companies with more than 500 companies around the world, Hewitt identified one distinguishing characteristic that sets them apart from their peers — even during the economic downturn, Global Top Companies remained committed to building leadership capability within their organizations. In other words, tighter budgets and fewer resources forced these organizations to think and act smarter and more creatively about what really mattered when it came to leadership — but they didn't lose focus.

"Strong leadership is a critical element in helping global companies successfully compete, yet many organizations lack the know-how and infrastructure to create a robust pipeline of leaders for future success. Simply put, they lack the discipline to build leaders," said Robert Gandossy, global practice leader of Leadership Consulting at Hewitt. "Our research and experience tells us that while leadership talent is in short supply around the world, the Global Top Companies for Leaders are still able to groom a near-constant supply of world-class leaders . . . year after year and regardless of economic conditions. This capability gives them a unique advantage over their competitors and will poise them to emerge stronger — and more quickly — out of the economic downturn."

"The quality of the leadership within a company helps meet the expectations of investors, customers and employees, and sets the stage for growth," said Norm Smallwood, co-founder of The RBL Group. "So developing the next generation of effective leaders is perhaps the most important undertaking of a forward-thinking company. The Global Top Companies for Leaders understand the urgency of a robust leadership culture and are learning to master how to build and sustain one."

Since the study's inception in 2002, Hewitt has identified a set of standard leadership characteristics embodied by companies that possess a winning leadership culture, including the 2009 Global Top Companies for Leaders. Leaders at these organizations are passionate and committed. Their leadership programs are practical, relevant and aligned with business goals. Top Companies have an intense focus on talent, and they are deliberate about who they hire, who they coach, who they promote, and who they reward. Finally, leadership development at these organizations is an institutionalized practice and mindset.

In addition to this standard set of leadership traits, Hewitt's research identified four other critical areas that set the 2009 Global Top Companies apart from other companies around the world:

Leadership remains a critical priority — in good or bad economic times. According to Hewitt's research, all companies ranked cost pressure as the single most pressing challenge over the next three years. Stabilizing cash and debt positions and balancing immediate cost pressures with long-term growth were key priorities in 2009, and they will remain a top priority as the global economy begins to recover. However, Global Top Companies also plan to have an intense focus on ensuring they do not abandon key leadership and talent efforts in favor of shortsighted goals. As A.G. Lafley, chairman of the board at Global Top Companies winner Procter & Gamble, explains, "All the value we create comes from our people — that doesn't change if we are in a recession or if we are growing rapidly."

Succession planning is deliberate and consistent. All Global Top Companies have a formal succession planning process in place, compared to only 72 percent of all other companies. Almost all (95 percent) have developed succession plans specific to the CEO or an emergency plan, compared to just under two-thirds (63 percent) of all other companies. Succession plans at Global Top Companies are also more likely to offer specific elements to ensure the capabilities and depth of their pipelines are strong. Eighty-four percent of Global Top Companies identify a leader's current performance against his/her future potential, compared to just 64 percent of all other companies. In addition, 88 percent offer 360-degree feedback, compared to just over half (56 percent) of all other companies.

Leaders clearly understand what is expected of them as leaders. Leaders at the Global Top Companies understand what is expected of them and are held accountable for their actions. Seventy-two percent of Global Top Companies rate the ability to effectively develop other leaders as one of the top five leadership skills most critical to their firm's success, compared to just 39 percent of other companies. More than three-quarters (76 percent) also rate "demonstrating company missions and values" as one of the top five most important factors in determining strong leadership performance, compared to 57 percent of all other companies.

"We are a company that has succeeded in having its leaders take responsibility for assessing talent, engaging talent in 'what's next' conversations and looking at moving talent across lines, businesses, geographies, and functions. We think deeply about our leaders of tomorrow," said Ted Hoff, vice president, IBM Center for Learning and Development.

Developing the next generation of leaders is a priority. Hewitt's research shows that Global Top Companies recognize that the ability to attract, assess and develop leaders across roles, functions and geographies is a necessary and differentiating strategy. All Global Top Companies formally identify high-potential talent, compared to 68 percent for all other companies. All of them also have formal processes for developing leaders, (compared to 77 percent of other companies) and use leaders as teachers and mentors (compared to 55 percent of all other companies) in these efforts. As a result, 96 percent of Global Top Companies say they are attracting the quality leadership talent they need to be successful, compared to just 65 percent of all other companies. As Dr. John C. Lechleiter, chief executive officer of Global Top Companies for Leaders winner Eli Lilly, notes, "There were a lot of people here to help us win the last war, but we need to develop people to win the next war — all the while continuing to ground ourselves in the company's values. We take the long view in respect to people development; we still talk to people about building careers here."

About Hewitt Associates

Hewitt Associates (NYSE: HEW) provides leading organizations around the world with expert human resources consulting and outsourcing solutions to help them anticipate and solve their most complex benefits, talent, and related financial challenges. Hewitt works with companies to design, implement, communicate, and administer a wide range of human resources, retirement, investment management, health care, compensation, and talent management strategies. With a history of exceptional client service since 1940, Hewitt has offices in more than 30 countries and employs approximately 23,000 associates who are helping make the world a better place to work. For more information, please visit

About The RBL Group

The RBL Group is a strategic HR and leadership systems advisory firm. For over 25 years, its principals have collaborated with leading global organizations to strategically align corporate and business strategy to ensure sustainable high performance through the integration of theory, applied research, and practice. The RBL Group has trained and redesigned some of the best-managed companies in the world, helping them achieve significant improvements in bottom-line results. It is recognized internationally for innovative research and publications on Leadership, Intangible Assets and Strategic HR, including hundreds of articles, more than 400,000 books sold, numerous industry awards, and recognition as outstanding educators and advisors by leading business publications. For additional information about The RBL Group, its principals and expertise, visit

Global Top Companies for Leaders

Featured below is the list of Top 25 Global Companies for Leaders, announced today on Conducted by Hewitt Associates in partnership with The RBL Group and FORTUNE, this list was selected by an independent judges panel, consisting of world-renowned authors, professors, business executives and executive coaches:

1. IBM
2. The Procter & Gamble Company
3. General Mills, Inc.
4. McKinsey & Company
5. ICICI Bank Ltd.
6. McDonald's Corporation
7. General Electric Company
8. Titan Cement Company S.A.
9. China Mobile Communications Corporation - Shanghai Ltd.
10. Hindustan Unilever
11. Natura Cosmeticos S.A.
12. Colgate Palmolive
13. TNT N.V.
14. Deere & Company
15. Whirlpool Corporation
16. 3M Company
17. Cargill, Incorporated
18. Olam International
19. Eli Lilly and Company
20. PepsiCo, Inc.
21. American Express Company
22. Lockheed Martin Corporation
23. Intel Corporation
24. Infosys Technology
25. FedEx Corporation

John Yocca for The RBL Group, x214,