Get Your Team in Better Shape

At one time or another, most of us have told ourselves we should get in better shape. So we set out to get more exercise. We have one great workout with a trainer and voila, we’re done!

If only it were that easy. It takes training, ongoing work, and constant ‘bar-raising’ to get stronger and healthier; to achieve better performance.  That’s true for the human body and for a body of humans—leaders, teams and entire organizations.

Yet some leaders approach improving the effectiveness of their teams with the equivalent of one magical workout with a trainer. A leader sees a team issue—perhaps team members are at odds and not meeting targets. So the leader orders up a team-building workshop and figures the problem will be solved.

Again, it doesn’t work like that. A long-term organization development program and ongoing work is necessary to make demonstrable, lasting improvements to leadership and team performance.

We often encourage clients to read an article from the New Yorker, “Better All the Time.” The author, James Surowiecki, uses compelling examples from sports, chess, music and teaching to show that it takes customized, continual training and relentless hard work to achieve stellar results. Not just innate ability, not a round of training. But an ongoing program aimed at continuous improvement.

“Today, in sports, what you are is what you make yourself into. Innate athletic ability matters, but it’s taken to be the base from which you have to ascend,” says Surowiecki. “High performance isn’t, ultimately, about running faster, throwing harder, or leaping farther. It’s about something much simpler: getting better at getting better.”

For leaders and teams in companies, “getting better at getting better” requires ongoing learning and real-world application of that learning.  With our clients, we use an experiential approach that helps leaders and teams discover new ways of working together with real projects, not training scenarios. This yields meaningful results while increasing employee engagement—the organization gets better at getting better.

Surowiecki’s discussion of where “innate ability” fits into the picture of sports performance is noteworthy. Years ago, innate athletic ability got you by, but no longer. The game is tougher and more competitive. Sound familiar? The same is true in business. That’s why the concept of continuous improvement—in your people, your processes, and your products and services—is essential to stay at the top of the game.