chief executive officer
This Week in Leadership
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Gary Burnison is CEO of Korn Ferry and the author of Leadership U: Accelerating Through the Crisis Curve.
The choreographed dance. The wheel that turns without friction. The rowing crew in unison.
When I asked our leadership team this week for their thoughts on teams and how they must function today, these evocative images jumped out at me. In these times, everything and everyone must be in motion—generating collective energy, one propelling the other.
I saw this among my own children several years ago, while on vacation. On our last day, as all seven of us scrambled to pack and get to the airport on time, in our rush somebody knocked over a fruit smoothie and sent it flying. Standing at the door, luggage in each hand, I watched as that pink lava, as if in slow motion, shot into the air and landed with a splat—right on a white rug, of course.
We all sprang into action. It was orchestrated chaos, and everyone had a role. Someone grabbed bath towels to sop up the mess. Someone else squirted shampoo (the only “cleaner” we had) to avoid a stain. Another person doused it with water. After a lot of rubbing and scrubbing, somebody pulled out the hairdryer—and nearly burned the rug. We felt like the Keystone Kops.
Then it was time to go. But there was our daughter Emily, giving the barely visible pink spot one last scrub with a toothbrush. When I asked Emily why she was still working, she shrugged and smiled. “We’re having fun.”
In the same way, out of today’s chaos a new order is emerging. Teams must come together quickly, with little pre-planning, to get things done. As Jean-Marc Laouchez, President of the Korn Ferry Institute, observed: teams thrive when they have the right members, shared purpose, clear goals, active commitment, candid dialogue, openness, and, yes, even fun. (The alternative is a poor-performing team that’s closed, siloed, territorial, has no shared purpose or common objectives, and with members who are afraid to speak up.)
Korn Ferry research into team effectiveness has found that the seeds of change, planted a few years ago, are now growing at an exponential rate. Different work needs to get done, and work needs to get done differently. As such, roles are morphing, and responsibilities are broadening. Teams are coming together fluidly and in multiple combinations. Org charts need to be invisible, and hierarchy thrown out the window.
To create this kind of dynamic, virtual team environment, leaders need to ADAPT—our model based on extensive analysis of 150,000 profiles of leaders worldwide to identify what it takes to lead organizations right now. More than ever, leaders and teams must:
Here are some thoughts:
“Teamwork starts with a common purpose and trust in one another.”
“Creating collective muscle, mutual commitment and trust, and willingness to support others.”
“Sisterhood/brotherhood, having a heightened sense of others and not leaving anybody behind.”
“Collective wisdom and knowledge to achieve superior results.”
“Collaboration—each person having a role in which strengths complement weaknesses in producing greatness.”
“Diverse people with diverse ideas working toward a shared goal.”
“Any two people working together must know that, without working together, neither could achieve their goals separately.”
“Selfless. I know that when I involve team members, the decisions I make are better than when I go it alone.”
“One word: trust. Two words: trust and interdependence. Three words: trust, interdependence, and communication.”
We are at the beginning of a long journey, a journey of change. A journey in which we will feel more connected, yet at times more isolated. A journey of not only endurance, but also of discovering meaning. A journey of traveling with others—as a team—toward a beacon of purpose.
That’s the starting point for tomorrow’s team.