Generally speaking when we are bought in to work with a client the maximum amount of consecutive time we have to work with them is two days. It’s not easy to convince a team of executives to take two days off for work that they often assume will be fluffy and soft. So imagine our surprise when we were invited to work with a team for five – yes five days!! Wasn’t even our idea. They were asking us and had already set aside the time.
So may be this was because it was a woman who was leading the company. Though after spending four hours with her before the event she was as tough and as focused as any male executive I have talked with. Was it because they were a Canadian headquartered company? Not likely, their target goal was 300% growth in revenue over three to five years – so just as aggressive as any US company. No it seemed as leaders they had the idea that they needed a week and were committed to making that happen. In our four hours prep it was clear, Shelley, the President, like all other clients, wanted a highly productive focus and not just A team-building experience. So really no different then any other leader in terms of wanting meat not fluff.
We just got back from the week, and I must say I am impressed with the team. They were amazingly willing to let us lead them through a process that wrapped team building into a very focused strategic effort. We left and they realized they still had their work cut out for them but they were communicating better and more committed to collective results than ever before. It was quite refreshing to work with a team that was not cynical. They shut down their computers, turned off their blackberries and really spent the week dealing with the hard issues and underlying dynamics that would otherwise undermine the efforts. Were they perfect – no! Of course there was resistance and disengagement at times, but they were willing to either hear our feedback or better yet, give each other feedback as the week went on and refocus.
One of their core values ended up being humble. They wrestled with the word because the dictionary definition is meek, modest, lowly in position and they were a Canadian based software company battling the giants and wanted a stronger word. However, they decided in the end that humble did indeed fit. Truth is for me – modest, unassuming and self-effacing not only fit but were words to be proud of in today’s business world.
I enjoyed working with this company that was aggressive, competitive yet humble. Sometimes I can start to get cynical myself when I am in the corporate world and listen to so many leaders avoid accountability and vulnerability by saying they don’t have time for the ‘soft stuff’ or anything touchy/feely. The ‘soft stuff’ they are avoiding is generally giving critical feedback to a team member or admitting they don’t know something or even saying “I made a mistake”. Not so soft really. I would call that courageous!
We all worked hard last week. I’d say that this team bought out the best in us as a result of their commitment and willingness. I believe they will be successful. Actually they already are! and humble to boot!!