I’m guessing that many, many times you have heard the expression “The whole is greater than the sum of the parts”. It has always sounded like a positive outlook to me and a wonderful benefit … especially as I approach coaching the leaders in organizations. When The Third Zone is hired to work with a team of leaders, there are definitely times when we are impressed with the talent that exists within that group … both individually and collectively. We get to witness the individual contributions each brings to the company and how these contributions move the company toward its vision. So is this commonplace? Unfortunately, anything but.
The above, ideal situation is not the norm we encounter. The technical skill is often apparent and we ‘get’ why someone has been put into a certain position because of what they can offer. However, more than technical skill, industry expertise or company longevity is needed when someone also has the added responsibility of leading the charge. And here is where the person or persons can throw the team … can throw the company … off its track. As such, the sum of the parts risks being the cause of an outcome that is ‘less’ than the whole. In this situation, the ‘whole’ misses the intended mark and few, if any, are happy or satisfied.
Figuring out what each person on the team does that gets in their way of being a strong and effective leader is the starting point. Why? Typically, we’re simply not self-aware enough to grasp our own shortcomings.
- Some of us are really poor, unclear communicators and thus, our reports don’t question or think they understood. Yet that doesn’t mean they will go off a do a task as you ‘thought’ you explained it.
- Some are control freaks (don’t know a better way to say it). We dole out the task, give the needs of it and manage to retain one key element that then requires us to come along and provide the last piece of the puzzle. Or, we micromanage it to death. Not effective and it doesn’t help me feel important.
- Still others of us may just be poor listeners. We’re in such a rush that we don’t provide the opportunity for reports to ask questions along the way. Thus, decisions are made that are off track and lead to completing a task or project that is also off the track from the needed outcome.
The fix as we interpret it, is two parts. Work with the team … yes. As a team, they align behind the created vision and mission. They make a commitment to the full team. They trust that each can count on the other to provide what’s needed. And they are interested in helping the team members overcome any obstacles & pot holes. No silos here.
The second part of the fix is to work with the individual team member. In doing so, we get to help them identify the personal obstacles to their success both as a company leader or as an leadership team member. We help them to see the link between their contribution and the company’s success in reaching its goal. It’s really not difficult to do and still, to ignore the personal improvement that elevates each leader to one that is very effective is to jeopardize and impact the achievement and success of the company. With this approach the expression about the “whole greater than. . . “ becomes realistic more than ever.