Leading a Game Changing Team – 4 Questions Leaders Ask

Some people dream about what could happen, some take steps to make things happen and when everything is said and done other people sit back and wonder what happened.

Great leaders understand that to build an innovating team they need both the creativity of those who dream and the strategy of those who do.

Innovating teams have a healthy combination of “Head in the Clouds” and “Feet on the Ground”. Without these: teams spend their time stalling, going through the motions and playing the game. With these: teams spend their time innovating, making progress and changing the game. 

I think of the stalling team like football players in the final minutes of a match who make the decision to run down the clock by passing the ball backwards and forwards between each other. There’s a lot of activity, and in all fairness they have had some success, but it’s boring to everyone else around them watching them play the game (unless of course it’s your team that’s winning). 

The innovating team however aren’t content to sit around on their accomplishments. They aren’t the ones out there just playing the game, they are changing it. While everyone else is reading the rulebook, they are the ones rewriting it and redefining what it means to win. 

Looking at four different team cultures “Working” “Dreaming” “Stalling” and “Innovating” it can be easy to identify the type of team you want to be a part of. But as a leader can you identify the culture in your team right now? Do you know what questions to ask that will create the team culture to change the game? 

THE WORKING TEAM

The working team has plenty of activity but it’s likely there isn’t a lot of creativity. They prefer to think in terms of practice over theory, give them a method over a mind-map any day of the week. As long as the team is operating and functioning the way things have always been done, there is plenty of outcomes achieved. This is the team that is more likely to ask the question “how can we make it happen” rather than to stopping to answer “why do we do it this way”. If you’re looking for a work-horse team that can get things done, then this is the team you go to but if you’re looking for people to think outside the box and take new unchartered territory, then it’s unlikely you will find it here first. This team thrives with feet on the ground and head down focusing on their next step. 

LEADERS ASK

The leader of a working team should ask the question What can we do different or better?”. This is a creativity question. Do we have people on our team that know how to look beyond the function and lift their perspective above the way things have always been done? Do we have out of the box thinkers? If we don’t, who can we find that can help bring that perspective?

THE DREAMING TEAM

The dreaming team in contrast to the working team likely has a lot of creativity but not a lot of activity. They are frustrated by doing things the way they have always been done and have plenty of ideas on how to do it different, they just don’t want to be the ones to do it. These teams have no issue in defining the finish line or the outcomes, they just struggle with knowing where to start. This team is energised by coming up with new or creative ways of doing things, the challenge is that its like that is all they ever do. There are a lot of team meetings, just not a lot of accountability, plenty of planning days, just not any planning outcomes. They live with their heads in the clouds which makes for a great view, but moving forward with their feet on the ground can prove to be difficult. 

LEADERS ASK

The leader of a dreaming team should ask the question What can we do next?. This is a strategy question. Great leaders know how to help their team identify the next step to turn idea into action. To move from ideation to implementation. They know how to keep their team thinking with their head in the clouds with the practicality of feet on the ground. Who is accountable for making this happen? What resources do they need to achieve this? What are the timeframes to achieve this?

THE STALLING TEAM

The stalling team knows how to play the game by going through the motions, passing the ball back and forth between players to give the illusion of progress. Sitting back on past accomplishments waiting to be given their next step to take or new creative idea passed down from the top. You will likely hear the words “thats outside of my scope” or “that’s not in my position description” coming out of the mouth of this team. It’s a 9-5 clock-on clock-off mentality that doesn’t lead to anywhere new. It has all the appearances of a car without an engine under the hood.

LEADERS ASK

The leader of a stalling team should ask the question What will help us get momentum?”. This is a leadership question. Anyone who drives a car knows it’s easier to turn the wheel of a moving vehicle than it is to turn one that is stationary. Great leaders are able to identify the most economic point of entry to gain momentum. That is, what will achieve the best results, for the lowest cost (time, energy, resource)? Perhaps it is a clear strategic action plan to get moving or an offsite brainstorming session to inspire team creativity.

THE INNOVATING TEAM

In contrast to a stalling team that knows how to play the game, the innovating team is one that is changing the game. While others are following the rules, this team is re-writing them. Innovating teams operate with a healthy balance of ‘head in the clouds’ and ‘feet on the ground’. They don’t just know how to think outside the box but they know how to turn those dreams into practical, workable strategy. Innovating teams require far less input from the leader to produce high value outcomes. Innovating teams are always looking for ways to do things different or better, but understand that creativity must also be coupled with strategy. 

LEADERS ASK

The leader of an innovating team should ask the question “What can we do with our momentum?”. This is a leverage question. Great leaders know how to leverage the momentum of an innovating team to pioneer in new territory. They know how to stretch and leverage the team with new problems to solve and higher level challenges (even those outside the scope of the their usual duties).

LEADING A GAME CHANGING TEAM – 4 QUESTIONS LEADERS ASK

  1. THE WORKING TEAM (Feet on the Ground) – What Can We Do Better/Different? (Creativity Question)
  2. THE DREAMING TEAM (Head in the Clouds) – What Can We Do Next? (Strategy Question)
  3. THE STALLING TEAM (Playing the Game) – What Will Help Us Get Momentum? (Leadership Question)
  4. THE INNOVATING TEAM (Changing the Game)  – What Can We Do With Our Momentum? (Leverage Question)

The goal of my practice is to help individuals and teams make progress, this means helping teams that are stalled move forward and become their innovative best. If you find yourself or your team stuck, let’s begin a conversation about your next step.