The topic of team cohesion, team performance, and team ‘fit’ has been a key talking point this week. One such conversation was with a good friend, who - approaching the end of year-end reporting season - had literally been working around the clock. We know that the year-end crunch time involves long hours, but for him this was exacerbated by the fact that one of his team had left during year-end. He’d started the recruiting process already, and we were discussing the viability of a certain candidate.
The company he works at is high paced, innovative and has a highly collaborative culture and is currently going through an immense amount of growth. So when we were talking about this particular role, cultural fit for the organisation would be critical, along with the financial reporting and team leadership capabilities specific to the role. The particular candidate we were discussing was highly technical and really good at problem solving - in fact, we both independently had solid evidence of that. He just wasn’t sure the cultural fit would be quite there.
Reflecting on his current working hours and resulting fatigue, I asked him, ‘What’s the most important thing you need from the role?’. And he said, ‘I need a steady pair of hands that can get in and just take care of the financial reporting and regulatory work so I can step out of the detail.’ We agreed that due to their reputation of being highly technical, this candidate would likely be excellent. Perhaps that’s it, we mused…maybe this candidate was the solution, ‘the rock’ that he needed right now. As a financial reporting role, there wasn’t that much interaction with the business that my friend couldn’t manage. Starting to now sound perhaps less than ideal, I pressed on: ‘Will this role have direct reports and how do you think this candidate would work with the team?’. Hmmm. That was the clincher. From what we knew of the candidate the hesitation as he tried to answer this question was profound.
The role of 'perspecticles’
I wrote a recent article on a similar topic for women in finance, and what’s relevant about that is my reference to something I call ‘perspecticles’. It’s putting on a metaphoric pair of glass that allows you to see an issue from various perspectives: and can provide clarity in on the perspective that serves you in that moment.
How to apply this concept to your finance teams
Take the following definition of a team:
"A group of people with a full set of complementary skills required to complete a task, job, or project.
Team members (1) operate with a high degree of interdependence, (2) share authority and responsibility for self-management, (3) are accountable for the collective performance, and (4) work toward a common goal and shared rewards(s). A team becomes more than just a collection of people when a strong sense of mutual commitment creates synergy, thus generating performance greater than the sum of the performance of its individual members.”
I think one of the key words that is really relevant here, is the word, ’synergy’. It speaks to the intangible magic of a team which directly influences the very tangible and measurable benefit of leverage that comes with a high performing team.
Leaders are aware when they have synergy in their team. However, they always know when there isn’t. Whether it’s a gut feel, or an issue of visible underperformance, a good leader will spot a loss of synergy in an instant. The question becomes one of timing: how long will you be willing to live with the loss of synergy - and the consequences - within the team?
Put on your perspecticles
Being the leader of the team, you are also a team member and therefore have a vested interest in solving the synergy issue. However, you are usually the one that needs to sort out the issue (identify the core issue, the right solution, then plan and execute the solution..engaging all sorts of additional people along the way), therefore adding to your already full workload. So it is tempting to ’settle’ with 'less than the best’ because of the extra effort involved in doing the work to reestablish the synergy within the team.
This is not always the right answer. Putting on your perspecticles and taking yourself through the following questions can be extremely useful in helping you identify what you need to do and by when.
If you have lost synergy within your team, ask yourself:
What is going on?
What is causing the loss of synergy?
What specific capabilities do you have?
What specific capability do you think you are missing?
How easy is it to ‘learn or leverage' similar capabilities to the ones that are needed in this situation?
What else is going on?
Who is involved?
How would you describe the situation to your team?
How would you describe the situation to someone outside your company?
How would the situation reflect your leadership brand?
What do you need to do?
Ask yourself these questions in order, write down your responses, and be specific. It is then the course of action will become clear.
We only tend to find ourselves compromising - trying to fit a square peg into a round hole - when we think that fixing a problem 'properly' is too hard. Throwing it in the too hard basket is not a perspective that serves you or your team, and using a set of self-coaching questions like the ones I’ve asked above can help you bring the objectivity you need to make the right decision.
Strive for synergy
Trust your gut
Put on your perspecticles