The study of management as a social science began just over 100 years ago. Organizations have inevitably changed - they are more complex and decentralized - but our definition of teams has not.
Typically, teams are conceptualized and studied as functional units. For example, our department (e.g., customer service) or a sub-unit of our department (e.g., enterprise-client customer service) is our stand-in for our team. This is outdated.
Organizations are systems - teams of teams - that have individuals in multiple teams, many of which are temporary. We all have our primary team, like our department, but we also have our secondary teams, tertiary teams, and sometimes many more.
Nowadays teamwork is primarily done as a one-time project team where a group of selected individuals come together for a finite amount of time to work on a specific initiative. This has several implications for employees that are currently being overlooked.
The idea of team building is no longer an organized, top-down approach. Because we’re on many teams without a designated leader, everyone is now responsible for engaging in “teaming” - behaviors that facilitate improved team interactions and team processes.
The idea that workloads can be evenly distributed across a defined team is no longer possible. Because we’re on many teams that are not coordinated at a higher level, it is now the responsibility of the individual to negotiate time and effort among all of their teams.
Organizations have become so complex that they have outpaced the traditional approach to team development. Thus, it’s becoming the individual team member’s responsibility to engage in better teaming and better team coordination.
A friend of mine has a very demanding position within a Fortune 500 company. His inbox is constantly overflowing. Nonetheless, he doesn’t work late or on weekends. I see him with his kids all the time, he volunteers, and he’s even got hobbies. How is this possible?
I think that this ability to set boundaries and work pre-defined, reasonable hours is two-fold.
First, you need to be so good at what you do that your organization doesn’t mind waiting more than 24 hours to get your opinion.
If you really are the best at what you do, they’re not going to let you go because you don’t respond to every inquiry within five minutes. Easier said than done, I know. But this highlights the newest incentives for being a high performer: autonomy and flexibility.
Second, you need to have enough confidence and self-control that you feel comfortable shutting down your system.
Stress management literature would suggest that taking a psychological break from the onslaught of complex stimuli will help us recenter. But we incorrectly believe that if we work through it, and chip away at the never-ending requests, that we’ll feel less stressed. It takes a very disciplined person to recognize the real solution to the problem.
Unfortunately, most organizations “reward” highly productive people with more work. It’s up to you to articulate your value and set boundaries.
When it comes to what we’re looking for in a leader, we’ve seen a major swing over the last three decades. At first we wanted confident and authoritative leaders, but now we are repulsed by narcissistic, bottom-line mentality leadership.
Hence the rise of the humble leader - someone who doesn’t pretend that they know everything and signals the importance of learning from others.
The problem, however, is that egregious displays of humility can backfire. Although employees want leaders that admit when they don’t know something, they also want leaders who know what they are doing.
Humility is good, but exhibiting an extreme amount of humility to come across as more “likable” is unnecessary. Employees want advice and direction just as much as they want open-mindedness.
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