The Leadership Blog
Chief Human Resources Officers
Building Highly Effective Teams
What We Heard — Discussion Highlights
Egon Zehnder’s Istanbul office recently convened a group of Turkey-based HR leaders from various sectors for a series of breakfast discussions focused on the importance of team building. Accompanied by the Office Leader Murat Yesildere’s presentation on “Building Highly Effective Leadership Teams”, the participants were very forthcoming creating an open dialogue where they shared their experiences and perspectives on team effectiveness. As one of the greatest benefits of working in a team is the inspiration and ideas that can result from team discussions, in this document, we are delighted to share a brief summary of what we heard.
Team effectiveness is a crucial theme in concurrent international HR today where many HR leaders are reaching out to capture the benefits of a strong cohesive team with right competencies. “The importance of work teams appears to be gaining in strength as jobs get bigger, organizational structures get more complex, and more and more companies become multi-national in scope (Naquin & Tynan, 2003).” Even though many multi-national corporate companies are aware that the team, not the individual holds the key to success, Turkish HR Leaders see that there is still a lot to be done to excel on the ideal combination of balance, efficiency, openness, alignment, resilience and energy.
This does not mean, however, that ambition is lacking. In order to increase team efficiency and drive growth for the business, there are strong motivations among Turkish HR leaders to integrate new initiatives into their field.
“Curiosity is one of the key aspects that forms the potential of an individual in any organization. That drive, that unstoppable urge to stretch, links individuals to their lifelong learning capacity, which is a major indicator of success both in and out of workplace. We should cultivate organizational curiosity where each individual strives to be a “Learn it all” instead of “ Know it all” as per quoted by Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella.”
Office Manager at Egon Zehnder Istanbul
“Each team has a different motivational drive. The key is to determine what it is and set the goal accordingly. And to keep the collaboration in team, members should recognize that we all make mistakes. The important thing is how to overcome them and never give up as a team”
Human Resources Director at Oyak Renault
“We’ve been shifting the competency paradigm to the “strengths and potential view” which boost performance. In other words we are looking for and investing in people’s own best qualities, and try to compensate their less favorable sides, with others who are strong there. Additionally, the way we choose our words determines and alters our conception; a weakness may indeed be a strength in other circumstances. This approach helps the employee to utilize existing strong sides, understand his/her contribution to team and feels supported by an organization which understands his/her disposition, and improves performance.”
Vice President of Human Resources, Corporate Responsibility & Sustainability at Boyner Group
Setting the Stage for Great Performances
The guests at our breakfast series all agreed that hiring the best talent in the market and building a team solely with these individuals does not amount to a “perfect” team. When looking at the six dimensions of team effectiveness, there is a misconception that for each individual, the higher the bar in each dimension, the better fit that person is. However determinant factor is the necessities and dynamics of the organization, which is subject to change. This leads companies to seek the solution on how to maximize the right competencies for different situations in a business environment that is in a constant state of flux. As Murat Yesildere elaborated on the six pillars of team effectiveness with real life examples, HR leaders also participated with their own experiences and situations they faced in their teams. The topics ranged from motivation, curiosity, performance to setting the right corporate culture.
“Even though we do not solely point out “women” when it comes to diversity, I cannot emphasize more the importance of fostering women presence in board level. I believe the only obstacle women have that hinders them from being successful is the glass ceiling they have created for themselves. This Team Effectiveness model is indeed eye-opening when taking decisions as a leader and will foster women to be more aware of their own skills.”
Elif Sezgin Di Sessa
Head of Human Resources Eurasia & Middle East at Sanofi
“In Xerox we used to operate on the Lean 6 Sigma model which is constructed on the idea of improving both individuals and processes. The tone, communication model of the board is set and we try to circulate this in every part of the corporation. The motto was “Make every connection matter”. We rewarded the mistakes and built a strongly connected team where the idea of team, not individual was always present.”
Human Resources Professional
When Teams Work Best: Embracing Diversity and Fostering Self-Realization
As all leaders agree, developing a high performing team align with corporate attributes takes time and effort. The teams who can steer their energy and sources collaboratively towards the same goal succeed. The point to which this energy & sources is correctly governed determines the success rate.
Diversity is also one of the aspects discussed. One way of fostering the diversity in the team is to demonstrate that individuals with diverse backgrounds have different perspectives on the same situation, which is a crucial factor to solve a problem.
Weak Link vs Strong Link Organizations
Having discussed all six dimensions (Alignment, Resilience, Energy, Balance, Openness and Efficiency) that build teams, Murat Yesildere also elaborated on the concepts of “weak and strong link” of teams (a concept introduced by Malcolm Gladwell). As an initial example, Yeşildere commented that football is a weak link game versus basketball being a strong link game. On a different dimension, in business world, professional services is a strong link game where rainmakers create value, difference and consequently are able to alter the result. On the contrary, in big sales organizations where the whole team has to contribute in order to deliver results instead of one rainmaker, we observe a weak link game. In a weak link game, team’s success depends on the performance level of the weakest member (link) in the team. The more organizations invest in weakest link(s), the higher teams’ performance grows.
Relative to this, the way we define the organization, as a weak or strong link organization, which can be altered depending on the dynamics of the industry, company and even the time, demonstrates the way we perceive and structure our teams in the first place. So it is an important starting point to answer the question every leader should ask themselves, whether they play a weak or strong link game in their organization.
Today, the world is moving towards a stage where many companies embody a weak link structure, inside which each and every team members’ contribution is increasing in various aspects and altogether, as a team, they deliver the results. Therefore it is vital for the senior executive team to maximize the effectiveness of teams in every organization structure.
“In order to achieve success, passion and eagerness should be present in each team member.”
General Manager at Estee Lauder
“Looking at start-ups, we see an increased sense of accountability and owner mentality which indisputably adds to the speed, effectiveness and eventually success of the team. We strive to obtain the same mind-set in our big corporate environment which indeed requires a unique approach at defining teams.”
Birsen Çevik Akgünlü
Human Resources Senior Director at PepsiCo
“The motivation to create a success story, to which extent this passion is penetrating into each member defines success.”
Seda Kayrak Kızıltan
Human Resources Director at Flormar
“Because of the volatile environment in Turkey, openness has decreased and emphasis on efficiency has increased which certainly distorts the balance of the organizations. Energy flows into a wrong direction and I believe resilience is profoundly crucial at times like these.”
Senior Human Resources Director at Adidas
“As our teams operate efficiently and deliver successful results, we tend to neglect the basis of what forms our team pyramid in the first place. Leaders should not cease to work on trust, engagement and energy of their teams.”
Senior Director Human Resources and Quality at DHL
In Summary, the rapid development of new business models in the face of a global world requires new skills for both individuals and even more for the teams to succeed. To be able to configure the team, Team Effectiveness methodology offers a foundation for a dynamic talent management that is capable of delivering a new service and solutions model that will benefit both employees and the teams, consequently maximizing business results overall.
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