Why Building a Team of Leaders Will Transform Your Organization

Excerpt from “A Team of Leaders: Empowering Every Member to Take Ownership, Demonstrate Initiative, and Deliver Results” by Paul Gustavson and Stewart Liff (AMACOM Books, March 2014).

Our book, A Team of Leaders: Empowering Every Member to Take Ownership, Demonstrate Initiative, and Deliver Results, explains that by carefully incorporating a number of different elements such as the Five-Stage Team Development Model, team systems and process design, a value creation model, knowledge management principles, and visual management (a.k.a., visual performance management), you can build teams of leaders that are highly energized, engaged and developed and produce outstanding performance.

While Paul (Gustavson) was growing up, his father worked as an engineer. Even as a young boy, he noticed that when things were good for his father at work, he came home in a good mood. On good days, he wanted to play catch or golf at Smiley’s golfing range. When things were bad, he would give Paul and other family members a hard time, asking, ‘Why didn’t you do this or that?’

When Paul’s dad liked working with the people at his company and they pulled their own weight, he came home happy. When work was meaningful, his father was motivated. When he was learning something new, he was energized. When work wasn’t enjoyable—when his father was doing the same old thing or supervisors were more interested in whether the I’s were dotted and the t’s were crossed—he was miserable. Paul came to realize that the work his father performed had a major impact on him and the family. He began to wonder why things couldn’t be better for his dad at work so that he could be happier and have a positive impact on Paul and the entire Gustavson family at home.

More than 50 years later, things haven’t changed all that much. According to Gallup’s 2013 State of the American Workplace Report, “Just 30 percent of employees are engaged and inspired at work… the rest … not so much. A little more than half of workers (52 percent) have a perpetual case of the Mondays—they’re present, but not particularly excited about their job.” Gallup further found that disengaged employees cost the United States as much as $550 billion per year in lost productivity (Kelli B. Grant, “Americans Hate Their Jobs, Even With Perks,” USA Today, June 30, 2013).

That is exactly why this book is so timely and important. The same ways of doing business simply won’t work in the 21st century. People want to be involved, challenged, and empowered. They want to be part of something that is bigger than them, and they want to make a difference. Moreover, they want to continue to grow and develop.

They don’t want to work for a boss who tells them to keep their mouths shut and do as they are told. They don’t want to do work that is boring and inconsequential, and they certainly don’t want to be merely spokes in a wheel that can be replaced at the drop of a hat. Unfortunately, the reality is that far too many people feel that way in the workplace.

The consequences of a work culture/environment where people are disengaged and can’t wait for the weekend are devastating, not only in terms of lost or reduced productivity, but also in higher turnover, lower organizational energy, and reduced employee commitment.

Fortunately, there is a better way of doing business. Turning everyone into a leader using the Five-Stage Team Development Model is a win-win situation for all concerned. Your employees will be more engaged, more involved, and more excited. They will work within a team design that is logical, efficient, and well aligned, and they will use processes that have relatively few downstream variances. In addition, they will develop far more skills than they currently have and understand the value they contribute to their team and the organization. Finally, they will work within an environment they are proud of, as well as one that helps people perform better, holds everyone accountable, and positively influences the outside world.

From a manager’s point of view, you will get better performance, greater productivity, increased profits, and higher customer and employee satisfaction. Furthermore, instead of trying to manage the employees, they will manage themselves—and with more energy and enthusiasm than you could ever hope to have under a traditional work arrangement.

These positive effects will, of course, free you up to do the work you always wanted to do but never seemed to have the time. Moreover, as word gets out about the cutting-edge changes you are making and your accompanying success, expect to be inundated with requests from the outside world to learn more about your new approach. That is not a bad position to be in, is it?

Creating a team/organization of leaders is not an easy thing to do—if so, everyone would have done it by now. However, it is the right thing to do for all of the reasons we describe throughout the book. A team of leaders will produce both the results you are looking for and make the work experience much more exciting and enjoyable for everybody…and now is the time to get started.

If you apply the various strategies, tools, and techniques you need to create high-performance teams, in the manner we describe, you will take your team/organization to a whole new level. We wish you the best of luck on your journey.

Excerpt from A Team of Leaders: Empowering Every Member to Take Ownership, Demonstrate Initiative, and Deliver Results by Paul Gustavson and Stewart Liff (AMACOM Books, March 2014).

Paul Gustavson is an organizational design consultant and the founder of Organization Planning & Design, Inc. (OPD), which helps companies around the world create and sustain high-performance teams. He is the co-author of The Power of Living by Design and Running into the Wind.

Stewart Liff is an HR and visual management expert, and the president and CEO of consulting company Stewart Liff & Associates. He is the author or co-author of six books, including Managing Government Employees and Seeing is Believing.


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