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Are We on the Same Team or Not?

Are We on the Same Team or Not?

Where do your team boundaries start and stop? Frequently, we see our team as the people that are contained within our hierarchal areas of responsibility. For most managers, this is “their team.” However, everyone is part of divisional structures and an overall organization. This is the wider team environment that we belong to but many people are not as invested in the broader scope of the team. This is an underlying condition that leads corporate cultures down the path of “us versus them.”

Senior leadership tends to think of the larger organization as the team. Upper management and middle-management often see teams through the lens of their respective lines of authority. This is the wrong view when looking at talent management. A few days ago, Harvard Business Review published an article confirming that excellent employees do leave good bosses. I responded about the importance of encouraging people to explore other departments rather than exit to a competing organization. Intellectually this is logical and sound business judgment. However, people are usually not that sensible.

I had a great discussion on this topic the other night with a friend and mentor of mine that is a senior leader in a public firm. He agrees that having employees go across the organization is highly preferred and a sign of good leadership. In practice, he felt that it is rarely executed so cleanly. Many managers see other divisions as competition rather than part of the larger joint team. In his opinion, many leaders see other internal groups in the same ways as they do an external organization when competing for talent. A loss of real talent is to be avoided. This view operates at the expense of the organization as a whole. The myopic position stifles innovation and drains an organization of highly qualified and exceptional talent.

Losing someone to another department is not the same as losing them from the team.

I stress my position, as leaders, we need to prepare and encourage our people to take on challenging assignments in new areas of the business. The firm becomes more innovative and resilient as we build greater cross-functional knowledge in the organization. It is only the incorrect definition of “the team” that leads us down the wrong path. We must encourage our team members to explore new opportunities throughout the organization before they decide to explore the possibilities of continued growth in our competitors.

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