From Myth to Reality - Creating A True Management Team

It's sad, but in modern organizations the idea of a "team" at the senior level is more myth than reality. People meet, but they don't really communicate. Things get agreed, when they aren't really agreed at all. And, over time, the organization stumbles along.

Case Study


The Asian management team of a multi-national company was in disarray, and the relationships were highly dysfunctional. Managers' time was being expended on nit-picking around e-mail communications, fighting over turf, and side conversations complaining about other team members. Increasingly, complaints were being made about the regional team head.

As with any dysfunctional organization, the group itself could not even recognize what was wrong. The members of the group all believed that their behavior was "normal". Only a major blow-up led to a breakthrough. After one very bad, extremely politicized meeting, in which everybody lost out in some way, Chris Lonsdale was called in to assist the group.

The Process

The process began, initially, with a one-day offsite meeting held in Singapore. This meeting was planned to be just one day in length, but even that seemed beyond the ability of the senior team - at least in the beginning. Several members of the team had booked early flights out at the end of the day, meaning they would leave the meeting one to two hours before it was due to finish. Others had booked client meetings in the middle of the day, overlapping with the management meeting.

The goal of the first few hours, therefore, was to create a level of dialogue that exceeded anything this group of people had ever achieved before. To someone who is used to very productive, creative, and effective meetings it would appear that the group did not achieve very much. They realized that they were in the same boat together, and that they could not achieve their goals if they continued with their old patterns. And they realized that they needed to do much more in order to really understand each other, and to operate as a team. Given their starting point, this was a massive shift.

Subsequently, the group met every quarter for a two-day offsite meeting. In addition, individual executive coaching for members of the management team helped to resolve individual patterns that were getting in the way of group effectiveness.

The Results

Within 9 months of beginning the process, the group had come together as a fully interdependent management team. Business goals were being exceeded on a regular basis, and many of the conflicts that had previously plagued the group had ceased to exist.

Members of the team had reached a point where they liked each other as people, and were able to work together across functional boundaries for the greater good of the business around the Asian region.

The journey from dysfunctional collective to integrated team was so powerful for team members that one was heard to say "this is the best group therapy that I have ever had the privilege of being involved with".

Another sign of just how effective the process had been was when the regional leader was due to move to a new position outside of Asia. On the last formal management team call there was a true sense of loss in the team, and nobody on the team wanted to end the call because they knew that the team would be different from then on.

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