On The Edge worked with a leadership team from Boeing to activate the group’s leadership skills in the midst of significant business challenges. Particularly, our work focused on more effective communication and how to engage everybody on the team despite differing agendas and diverse leadership styles.
Ineffective communication and competing motives were preventing this team from working towards a common mission and goal. As a result, overall productivity of the division suffered, which enabled ongoing dysfunction in how members of the team related.
This leadership team needed to think outside the box and identify new ways of effectively working together in a rapidly changing business context. On The Edge provided a forum for authentic discussion relating to the obstacles faced by these leaders. This forum unlocked for the team how best to move forward given the current business challenges and realities. Put another way: setting aside differences to focus on one common mission and goal.
What was the team’s Leadership Development challenge?
This group of leaders was faced with the challenge of elevating leadership skills in the midst of unexpected business challenges. While some members of the team were looking to think outside of the box to find solutions to these dramatic business changes, other leaders and team members preferred to maintain the status quo.
However, maintaining the status quo in this case wouldn’t be a sufficient response to the critical issues at hand. Despite the urgency of needing to come up with and implement solutions, disagreements about the best path forward led to internal friction and lack of alignment. This distracted the team from focusing on the most pressing challenges facing the organization.
Ultimately, the lack of alignment within the leadership team was holding the whole division back from addressing key issues in a timely and effective manner. The team realized that they needed to up their overall leadership skills to rise up to the challenges they faced. Particularly, the leadership team needed development in the following areas: leading and supporting team members in new business contexts, building trust by leading vs. managing, and enabling problem solving and effective decision making.
In essence, the team was looking to build a better culture. One where all team members would be encouraged to step forward with their best ideas. Contrast this with the existing culture, which centered around a handful of “task masters” getting everything done but not including others on the team. This approach did make sales and get planes out the door (and in the skies). However, it left many team members feeling like their voice wasn’t being heard. This resulted in many within the team showing up as uninspired and disengaged, diminishing their overall productivity.
At this time, the leadership team considered themselves to be a healthy and high-functioning unit when...but only when everything was stable and running as expected. Whenever issues or challenges would arise, this facade would quickly crumble, giving way to finger pointing and lack of accountability.
Boeing brought in On The Edge to provide a forum and structured Leadership Program to resolve the unproductive group dynamics within this team.
What was the process to address this challenge?
On The Edge began our work with this leadership team by conducting anonymous discovery interviews and surveys to better understand the unique leadership challenges the team was facing. These interviews and surveys helped us gain a more comprehensive view and appreciation of the different team members’ perspectives and mindsets.
Because there was existing tension on this team, our staff took an empathetic approach to better understand the group dynamics that were causing some of the conflicts and dysfunctions within the current team structure and day-to-day operations.
Our discovery interviews and surveys illuminated that what this team needed most was a forum to connect its leaders to the rest of the team. Therefore, On The Edge custom-designed a program that would have maximum impact in two key areas.
The first focus would be resolving some of the existing differences and conflicts between different team members. The second focus would be introducing leadership and team models to demonstrate the personal and bottom-line benefits of a supportive team culture and appreciating the diverse leadership and work styles on the team.
This Leadership Development program, at its core, focused on building a more cohesive leadership team. Getting the team back on the same page and focusing on the team’s common mission and goal would be the biggest challenge, but would also serve as the biggest opportunity to co-develop a strategy that would successfully address the current challenges and the new business realities.
First, On The Edge introduced common leadership models with a focus on how leaders deal with significant change and get themselves and their team to think outside of the box. In this case, we made a distinction between leading vs. managing.
While managing can be rigid and hierarchical, leading elevates managing to another level with engaged problem solving that creates buy-in from employees up and down the org chart. Put another way, good leaders look to collaborate while managers can often assume an adversarial position.
Our staff supported the discussion of leadership models by facilitating an activity that helped all team members understand their unique leadership styles. Through this framework, the team began to see the value of functional collaboration and working to utilize all of the diverse members on the leadership team.
This discussion opened the door for the group to see all the different leadership styles on their team and how bringing out the best in each of these styles could help facilitate cohesive teamwork. It answered questions like “Which styles don’t do well in a crisis?” and “Which styles don’t perform well when the old ways of doing business are thrown out?”.
Looking at these questions through the lens of leadership allowed the leadership team to step into a growth mindset and think holistically regarding their current business challenges and opportunities.
Concepts in Practice
Once the team had a better understanding of how different leadership styles show up in the workplace, On The Edge led the group through several relevant activities simulating real business challenges the team was facing to build trust and understanding. These group activities and simulations were designed to be intentionally adversarial and allowed team members to confront the polarizing behaviors and leadership styles that had hurt or hindered them in relationship to the overall team culture and dynamic.
When guided by On The Edge through the debrief of this Leadership Development program, each team member fully understood the importance of working in a different manner than they had been before. This shared experience impacted the team and changed their behaviors to elevate to a whole new way of working together, bringing the team into a new paradigm of leadership success.
What was the outcome of this process?
The team now possessed an improved awareness and understanding of how current business challenges were affecting everyone on the team based on their unique leadership styles. They rallied around this newfound team cohesion and put differences aside to focus on a common mission and the task at hand. In this case, that task was dealing effectively with changing business realities and finding a way to best lead in a new industry paradigm.
Now that the team had resolved long-standing tensions and found common ground, they were able to ideate new solutions and think outside of the box by stepping into uncharted territory as a team.
When the leadership culture became more positive, collaboration became more cohesive. Consequently, the team began working much more effectively and productively with each other, leading to a total transformation within this division.
Changing the Game
The team worked together powerfully to get the company out of the challenge that it was experiencing. After completing the Leadership Development program, all members of the team became increasingly aligned, resulting in a collaborative and adaptable team workflow.
Together, the leadership team was now able to answer questions like: “What is our shared leadership vision?” and “What do we need to do to lead our company through a really challenging time?”. The answers to these questions coalesced into common solutions that everybody aligned behind.
The team that was once polarized came together with the help of On The Edge. Challenges were now addressed with consensus and quickly solved. Put one way, the leadership team had completely changed the game in their team efficacy and collaboration skills.
How did On The Edge ensure lasting success with this leadership team?
Despite the great work done as a result of the Leadership Development program, this team knew that their current leadership skills would not be conducive to sustaining this change long term. The leadership team realized that they didn’t possess a lot of the skills necessary to develop other people into this new way of thinking and working.
Consequently, they would need a much stronger focus on practicing their newfound people development skills and ongoing coaching on how to best work with different leadership styles.
To support their ongoing growth and leadership development, On The Edge helped each leader establish an implementation plan that focused on developing and practicing newfound leadership skills. This implementation plan sought to build a more collaborative and trusting organizational culture while improving communication skills and employee engagement.
The group was now equipped with the resources to continue building a collaborative and trusting team. With an awareness of how diverse leadership styles can affect team cohesion and performance, the leadership team then was led through a process of creating a communication to the rest of the organization.
Communicating New Ways of Leading
This communication articulated the new ways of relating and leading in a much more productive and positive manner. This communication created clear expectations of the behaviors and actions for the rest of the organization.
As a result of this co-created communication and the leaders being more cognizant of ensuring their leadership behaviors had a positive impact, the entire organization became much more engaged and motivated to carry out organizational strategies in response to any and all business challenges ahead.
It’s a tale as old as time: a company goes along, successful for years, then suddenly something drastically changes in their industry or in their business. This leadership team was suddenly faced with an urgent need to pivot their leadership to address business challenges the company was facing. What this team needed most was to get trust and collaboration back and to let go of the way things had “always been done”.
In the end, they came up with a strategy and a completely new way of working together, which had a significant positive impact on the team dynamic and the overall company.
On The Edge not only provided a forum for this team to resolve interpersonal issues to move past the present dysfunctional team dynamic, but also provided the guidance and ongoing coaching for the team to begin working collaboratively towards a shared team mission and goal — the REAL business challenge at hand.