Aligning a team in the four key areas goes well beyond capturing ideas on an easel, getting everyone around the table to nod in agreement, and then sitting back and waiting for behavior to change. There must be serious commitment to action and a willingness on the leader's part to hold colleagues accountable for honoring the contracts they have made.
When Chuck Nesbit assumed the top position at Bali Company, now Sara Lee Intimate Apparel, he knew that getting his management team to become less fragmented and more interdependent would require a serious commitment on everyone's part. He began by working with his senior team to clarify goals and roles and to establish the necessary protocols. As part of the team-development process, each member was sent off with a colleague to discuss disconnects in the working relationships, agree on a possible solution, and develop action plans. The focus was on priority issues and the futureon what could be changedrather than on reliving the past.
The agreements or contracts forged between each pair of executives were discussed with the entire senior team so everyone became accountable for success. Part of the contracting process involved encouraging the team to commit to a set of ground rules, similar to the ones already described, for dealing with conflicts that may arise during the issue-resolution process. These rules are periodically assessed and updated by the senior team to ensure their ongoing viability and to discuss the lessons learned.
As a result of this process, Nesbit's team began to function like owners of a company. Executives were given carte blanche to discuss problems that surfaced in one another's areas. Silos crumbled. Traditional rivalries gave way to a focus on what was best for the business. And, best of all, Nesbit extricated himself from the triangulation trap, which freed him to focus on issues of more strategic importance.
Teams like Nesbit's, which have achieved alignment in all four areas of the pyramid, are on their way to achieving high performance. Chapter 3 will explore the other attributes of high-performance teams and how to achieve them.