Management vs Leadership – Which Produces Collaborative Teams?
by guest contributor, Corinna Martinez
A bad manager can take good staff and destroy their motivation and morale, causing the best to flee and the rest to cower should they decide to stay in place. A good manager is an example for the team. This type of manager helps set the team’s sights for goals and instructs how to accomplish them, or better yet, motivates the team the team to accomplish goals and letting the team determine how. This sort of selflessness is perhaps strange to those who have climbed the managerial ladder and are looking for affirmation of their knowledge, expertise and managerial prowess. Instead, in the most collaborative of organizations, the manager must let the team succeed by letting go of the reins and sitting back a bit. By letting the team lead the way, the manager stops becoming a hindrance to those higher performing teams that do not need much direction.
I dislike talking about teams when teams are comprised of individuals who act in very individualistic ways, some unique and colorful and others very disturbing, all of which become homogenized when we start discussing team behavior. The road to becoming a high performing team requires expertise and a dedication to improvement, as well as the paving of honesty and trust between each team member over numerous interactions. It is also vital for this team to have an environment that is safe for discourse, disagreement and challenge of the status quo. Providing this safe environment and support in the form of tools, techniques and mentoring to help the team navigate problem areas…this is where the manager needs to step up and excel. This is where the manager is invaluable – in developing these high-functioning teams who thrive on collaboration and make all outcomes so much better than any directed or “managed” effort.
An important factor is the ability of each individual to work with others as well as the needed and varied experiences of team members to collaborate. They must view collaboration as better than the lesser of two evils; rather they should view collaboration as the very lifeblood to keeping the team, and thus the organization, vibrant and functioning. This kind of high-functioning collaborative team fills gaps instead of blaming others for dropped balls. This kind of team also develops its own leaders by each team member stepping up when there are gaps and where they see coverage is needed. They hold each other accountable and to the highest standard because they see the team as an extension of self. The manager on occasion is included in the team definition but more often is viewed as a bit of an outsider, a necessary evil to help prevent outside sources from interrupting the team’s work and functioning.
Leaders are not by title and can be both outside and within the team. Managers are titled folks who help teams perform better and bring together the best that any organization might have to offer to accomplish goals and longer-term objectives. Team members are expected to learn up and become accomplished experts and to review data, products and processes to determine what provides the best outcomes in accomplishing set goals and objectives. Collaborative teams are comprised of each of these and are greater than the sum of these.