One of my bolted on beliefs is great teams fight. All teams, in fact, fight. This is true for couples, communities, and companies. Conflict is as common as the cold. Fact.
Great teams fight to improve performance.
Normal ones fight to prove a point. Let’s look at a obvious example. Apple. At last check (January 2022) Apple is the most valuable company in the world at over 2.7 trillion. The iPhone is the biggest reason why. Nothing to argue about here. Steve Jobs gets credited with his vision and insight to invent the iPhone and forever change communications. The truth is somewhat different.
Back in 2004 when his engineers brought the idea to him to morph the iPod into a phone his response was some ccd magic – “Why the f&%$ would we want to do that?” Damn. In most companies this kinda CEO clarity would send engineers scattering. Not the case at Apple. They fought. It wasn’t pretty. Feelings were hurt. Ego’s too. The aim was to improve performance and Apple engineers were unwilling to cower and run for cover. So, a six month fight ensued. It was not easy to change Jobs mind. Hopefully it’s not easy to change your leaders either. Compelling arguments, creative insights, and courageous teammates are required for any company to change from good to great. Nobody is as smart as everybody. Fact. Your company needs to change. You know this, leader. Your team does too. The problem is your playing nice, believing you’ll muster up the courage when it’s a necessity, and mostly fighting to maintain the status quo, you know.
Let me make the suggestion I offered to a really good leadership team recently. Why don’t you get together around a campfire or your outdoor/rooftop bar of choice. Pour a few drinks and shoot the shit for awhile. Get curious. Talk about what’s working and what’s not. Be open to ideas especially ones that are not your own. Be real and raw. Argue. Challenge. Make it safe and make it a little scary too. You see, most innovations come when teammates get away from work and get after it. Kinda like those Apple engineers, you’ll get your stuff together over a few beers, sodas, or whatever is your beverage of choice. Hanging out together, you’ll discover the courage and conviction to fight to improve performance, not prove a point.
Collins was right – Good is the enemy of great. Good teams have a good idea or two and stick to their knitting. Great ones change, rethink, evolve, and oftentimes have to fight more amongst themselves than against competitors. Great teams fight the status quo. Great leaders oftentimes start the fights with curious questions and an open mind (even if they drop an f bomb or two along the way).
Great teams fight to improve performance, not prove a point. How ‘bout your team? Are you valuing false harmony over good, productive fights? Are you stirring the pot yourselves or waiting for the market to make it a necessity? Slow down. Reflect. Maybe it’s time you started a fire – a campfire.
Live hard. Love harder. Fight for it…