Everybody talks about teamwork and team-building and yet, in the real work world, achieving success with collaborative partnerships often seems hard-fought.
In fact, a study by Behnam Tabrizi, who teaches transformational leadership at Stanford University, found that 75 percent of cross-functional teams at leading businesses are dysfunctional. Any number of reasons were behind this, but at its heart was a lack of: specific goals, accountability and, in many ways, a lack of leadership.
Overcoming those barriers is a challenge that big businesses and entrepreneurial ventures share. To Robert Tallack’s way of thinking, though, it’s growing companies like his ConversionPoint Technologies that have a leg up. They are more nimble, with a less cumbersome structure for starters; but, as he’s found, their leadership can also be more directly involved in showing the way and setting the example for team members.
Based in Irvine, CA, ConversionPoint Technologies simplifies e-Commerce for its clients by providing technology that dynamically optimizes customer touchpoints in real time to increase conversions and customer engagement.
Robert Tallack credits strong teamwork with helping to drive ConversionPoint’s 600% growth in 2016. “Being a good leader means you strive to make teamwork an integral part of the culture,” Tallack explains. “It’s about creating the kind of workplace where people show up because you are providing a meaningful, collaborative community, not just a desk and a paycheck.”
In line with this train of thought, Google studied 180 members of its teams over two years, trying to better understand how to build the “best” teams and whether the assumptions of its executives were correct: Throw the “best” engineer in with an MBA and a PhD and you have yourself a winning combination. Except, as Google’s people analytics manager Julia Rosovsky put it: “We were dead wrong.”
In fact, Google discovered a variety of intangibles were more important than credentials. One finding? That structure and clarity were paramount for high performing teams, requiring clearly articulated goals and well-defined roles. Also important? That the work has meaning and personal significance to each team member, and that the work stands to positively impact the greater good.
Probably Google’s most significant finding, though, was the need to make it “safe” for team members to have opinions, take risks and, as a general rule, operate in a judgment-free zone.
It’s that kind of environment that Robert Tallack says is absolutely essential in a growing company.
“We have to trust that everyone is doing the best they can with the team’s goals as their priority,” he says. “Second-guessing isn’t an option, and, as a result, we are able to keep office politics to a minimum.”
Tallack says this means that leadership must empower people, and not just to make collaborative decisions, but to provide the thinking that leads to these types of decisions. It doesn’t take a title to have important insights that can add to the conversation in a brainstorming session, for example. As Tallack notes: “We want people to add value, not just noise.”
Especially for organizations that are moving at a fast pace, he adds, perhaps the best thing leaders can do after establishing the environment and ground rules that will drive team success is to get out of the way and not pose as a bottleneck to decisions.
“When you’re leading a business, you simply can’t hit your goals if you are not able to focus on the task at hand and trust your teams,” Tallack adds.