Our Top 10 Insights – Teams and Executions

One of my reflections was that I have now been working with leaders and teams for two decades now. And in that time, I have worked with literally 100s of teams across different industries and contexts.

And I have learnt a lot…

And with this breadth and depth of experience, I have noticed similar patterns, trends and challenges – independent of the type of organisation or industry.

So I wanted to kick off 2015 by sharing some of these insights with you.

So here are my ‘Top 10 Insights’ about teams, team leadership and getting results.


1. Team Leadership is Challenging – despite teams being found in all organisations and at all levels, stand-out management and leadership of teams is, unfortunately, the exception rather than the rule (something I call the ‘leadership gap’). This doesn’t, by-the-way, mean that leaders of these teams are poor leaders, it just means that it entails a specific approach and skillset that can be difficult to master.

2. Active Management is Required – teams require active management. A ‘set and forget’ approach rarely, if ever, works. You need to treat a team like any relationship – they don’t run on autopilot for very long.

3. Performance and Health – a focus on performance alone is not enough. Performance is often seen as the panacea to the exclusion of everything else. A team (or organisation) that isn’t ‘healthy’ (e.g. dynamics, culture, climate) will eventually fragment and become dysfunctional, thereby ultimately compromising performance anyway.

4. ‘Senior’ Doesn’t Equal ‘Better’ – there is no correlation between the seniority of team members and being a more effective, high performing team. Boards are just as functional/dysfunctional as junior teams (sometimes more problematic because they can be set in their ways!).

5. Different Skills – being an awesome manager, leader or technician of your craftdoesn’t guarantee that you’ll be able to lead a team well. Great team leadership requires similar but different skills and approach.

6. It’s All About Results – a team that fails to execute the plan and implement effectively is really just a group of people who hang out together and waste of lot of valuable time and energy. There are many groups of people who call themselves a team but fail to harness the benefits of being a true team.

7. It’s Not Personal – people in teams usually use narrow and limited ‘lenses’ to understand how the team works and their place in it. This leads to a strong bias towards seeing everything as ‘personal’ rather than as actors in an ever-changing system.

8. Successful Teams Build Support Mechanisms – the most successful teams methodically build support mechanisms within and outside of the team. These can be as simple as structuring team meetings so they serve the purpose they were set up for through to actively creating a network of support in the business.

9. The Vision Thing – despite protestations from many leaders, I usually find that the vision, strategy and tactical roadmap aren’t as clear as they could be – leading to confusion and conflict. Accountability and results usually suffer as as a result.

10. It’s All About the Soft Stuff to Get the Hard Stuff Done – yes, sorry folks, theengine room of effective teams are the things that many managers struggle with – having courageous conversations; building (real) trust; attending to relationships; being skilled at managing group dialogue, providing feedback, managing conflict and stretching/developing people everyday.

I hope you found these useful and help you with your own reflections. Whether you lead a team, or are responsible for helping develop teams in your organisation, some (or all) of the insights may ring true for you.

We know that teams can benefit from an approach that addresses the discussion points above because we have enjoyed a lot of success in helping teams address them.

Trackback from your site.

Phillip Ralph

Phillip’s capability and passion is working with senior leaders and teams to achieve high levels of individual, team and organisational performance. Phillip works with many large Australian and international organisations including tier one professional service firms, several large Australian banks and many large hospitals and healthcare groups. He supports CEOs and executives as a coach and mentor and is on various global coaching panels. He has also worked with McKinsey & Co in delivering leadership programs to a global firm. He is sought out by some of Australia’s most senior leaders to guide and support them.

Connect with Phil

The Office

Phillip Ralph
Level 2, GPO Building
350 Bourke Street, Melbourne
Office: 8:30am - 5:30pm
Ph: 1300 100 857