Mediocre Team Leadership
In a strong economy, many professionals and businesses are “too busy” to improve communication techniques and approaches, including their team leadership style.
These professionals and executives see little value in or need for change. That’s why “don’t fix it if it ain’t broke,” “we’ve always done it that way,” and numerous other workplace superstitions are mistaken for business strategies
During hard times or significant competition, too many professionals, teams, and organizations ignore the possibility that they succeeded in boom times because business was plentiful, not because they were at their best. Many suffer the combined influence of mediocrity and an industry-wide need for improvement.
The first step from experience to expertise involves believing that, even when you are at your best, there is always room for improvement in every aspect of communication and, therefore, also the return on investment (ROI).
Next, comes the commitment to continually search out that improvement room and make the most of it for clients, teams, and yourself. That is, when you believe there is a better way, you’ll continually discover opportunities to communicate more effectively, efficiently, and with more innovation.
[The above is an excerpt from “What’s Your Point? Cut The Crap, Hit The Mark & Stick!” Chapter 1.2 What Is My Return on Improvement?]
Mars Rover & ET Team Leadership
Adam Steltzner, Leader and Chief Engineer of NASA’s current Mars 2020 Mission & Rover Perseverance, thinks beyond the confines of gravity and what exists now to hone his, and therefore NASA’s, view of the future. To get where he believes we can go—Mars in this case—Steltzner, author of The Right Kind of Crazy: A True Story of Teamwork, Leadership and High Stakes Innovation, knows he needs extraterrestrial- or ET-strength team work to get there.
Speaking at the Urban Land Institute Spring 2021 Meeting, Steltzner explained how he brings out the best in his team and he produced ET slides to prove his point. Pre-Covid, that complex team numbered over 6,000 working “shoulder to shoulder”; when Covid hit, the team scattered to remote work locations, leaving only a handful on site. An inspiring speaker, Steltzner laid out key simple facts and deliberate actions to illustrate what creates collaborative cultures.
Highlights from Steltzner’s ULI contribution that can improve your team leadership:
1. Sort fact from opinion: Find balance in a sea of differing perspectives.
Each part of a team knows what is important to it, but the team or its leader may not see the overview. Balancing perspectives involves understanding the challenges of others. Leadership integrates team perspectives and does not encourage teams to work in silos.
2. Make great teams and you will make great work.
Strong teams result in strong products and services. Leadership involves determining how to strengthen teamwork and, therefore, results. What approach do you use, not to push teams to do more under pressure, but to make them stronger as a unit so they naturally achieve more?
3. Find something to love in everyone you work with.
Look for the value in each team member and each team unit and you’ll discover how to lead that team to full value.
4. “My door is always open” policy and unstructured connections in hallways are hard to [replace virtually.]
Steltzner encourages adding 15-minute unstructured “meetings” to team member schedules. No agenda, no list of speaking topics, just “bump into you” clean slates to fill…or not.
5. As a leader, finally, I have been seeing the benefits of less is more. Talk less, listen more.
“We are programmed to want to do more by adding more—features, processes…. This pandemic is a teaching moment—to see how, with less, we can do more.”
An essential element of team leadership is an open mind.
Steltzner earned acclaim for leading the “breakthrough” team that imagined and built the ingenious “sky crane” landing system for the Rover Curiosity which landed on Mars in 2012. In 2021, after a 6-month, 200,000,000 miles flight, the Rover Perseverance landed safely and seemingly-effortlessly on Mars with the sky crane..
To solve the complexities of a safe Mars landing, every possible, and several impossible, solutions were examined. In developing the challenging mini-helicopter “sky crane,” a 2003 “solution,” which was originally labeled “least acceptable,” was dusted off and put under scrutiny. Only as the team dug into the idea, were all the features and potential it offered discovered. “All the attributes—which were amazing and we could leverage amazingly—were not evident when the idea first appeared.”
What potential improvements have you overlooked?
Times have changed dramatically in many respects. Have your systems, procedures, and policies kept up with these changes and our new futures?
More on improving communication…