Transitions within teams

Should be seamless.

But they almost never happen. Reason? Lack of a formal succession plan and overreliance on that one top performer for an extended period of time. And of course, the top performer almost always turns out to be an individual contributor who is super good with getting things done but lacks people skills. Or at least the ability to influence a fellow colleague to a higher level of performance.

Perhaps that’s never a priority. At least for them. But for the team and it’s managers or key stakeholders, it absolutely should be.

I’m sorry if this sounds like a generalization but this is a pattern I’ve observed over the past two (almost) decades of working with and within teams. A top performer or two aren’t good enough to help the team survive. Ditto for a company with celebrity leaders but weaker management that just focuses on its key performance indicators.

A stronger team go through the ups and downs together.

The biggest mistake that managers and leaders (including myself) make is to let the individual contributor shine and take home all the accolades. Sure, there’s some mutual admiration and acknowledging of the “team effort” every now and then but that isn’t enough. As leaders, our biggest responsibility is to identify high performers at the earliest and develop them into team contributors instead of individual contributors.

It’s a minor tweak, I know, but updating their profile to that of a team contributor automatically changes their approach towards the team. It positions them as an authority, a subject-matter expert who’s responsibility is to ensure that the team feeds off and nurtures itself from his knowledge.

No, we aren’t asking them to lead the team (if they’re one of those who chooses to be an individual contributor) but simply share their knowledge and expertise with the team. This can also become one of the parameters against which their performance will be judged. This is win-win for both the managers and the team at large (big and small alike).

Teams with such systems in place are the ones that remain constant with their performance. Even during turbulent times. Or when the high performers moves away to seek greener pastures. Can you guess why? Because every single person is on the same page.

Building a winning team takes time and effort. The worst we can do is to let things be as they are because that’s a recipe to set ourselves up for failure.

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