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What Differentiates a Great Team From a Good One During Times of Crisis

What Differentiates a Great Team From a Good One During Times of Crisis
Photo Credit: Stocksy
By Rebecca Homkes

 Inflation. Wars. A pandemic that prompted a rapid shift to virtual work. Executives have been forced to lead through upheaval, whether they like it or not. No one is sure what’s next — for the workplace or the globe. The only thing that’s clear: Uncertainty is here to stay, and the key to success is to expect the unexpected.

That’s why executive advisor and London Business School lecturer Rebecca Homkes says there’s no better time than now, when everything seems unknown, for executives to hit reset on how they lead their teams. In her forthcoming book “Survive, Reset, Thrive: Leading Breakthrough Growth Strategy in Volatile Times,” Homkes shares how instead of viewing uncertainty as an obstacle to your company’s growth, leaders should view it as an opportunity to build new systems and teams that will help them thrive under any circumstance.

In this exclusive excerpt, she details what differentiates high-performing companies from average ones during moments of crisis, and explains how leaders can develop a decision-making strategy for their team that will lead them to success in tough times.

— Courtney Connley

Photo Credit: Kogan Page

Excerpt from “Survive, Reset, Thrive: Leading Breakthrough Growth Strategy in Volatile Times.” Available for pre-order today.

Management literature, articles, and business school lectures stress a consistent theme: to do well in external uncertainty, you need to be outside-in and market focused. This is true but incomplete. There is a more powerful distinguisher, and it’s internal. Speed is a competitive advantage in most markets, but aligned speed provides true differentiation. This happens when leaders around the organization are making good decisions quickly and acting in a way that aligns with other leaders in different parts of the company.

What differentiates high-performing companies facing uncertainty is they have internal predictability. The external market will continue to throw things at you, and new shocks and opportunities mean people across all levels of the organization will find themselves in situations where they must exercise independent thinking and action. They can only do so if the organization has provided them with the information they need to make decisions without fear of consequences, so they know how to react and how others will as well. This occurs in companies with internal predictability.

You have internal predictability when people in your company can say yes to the following:

  1. I know what we are trying to achieve and why it matters.
  2. I know where critical decisions take place.
  3. I can rely on others to do what they say they will do.
  4. When I do adapt, within the boundaries of strategy, it is recognized and rewarded.

As each depends on the one before, the order of these four principles matters. First, team members need clear context of the strategy, why it matters, and what their role in executing it is. Second, as they are executing strategy, when they encounter decision points they must know if they are empowered to make them, and, if not, where to quickly route the decisions. Third, organizations are networks of commitments or promises, and for fast execution to work, these networks need to be reliable — that is, people can trust the work will be done. When reliance is high, team members are freed to execute their commitments without worry or concern about others not being met.

For all the speeches and town halls CEOs give on the fast-changing and complex environment, they spend considerably less time speaking about how to operate within it, and less still recognizing and rewarding leaders who do. This is what makes point four so important. As most organizational means of recognizing performance focus on hitting numbers on time, this means leaders are rarely praised for stopping or changing something even if new information was learned. But thriving leaders are the ones who can adapt and make fast decisions that stay within boundaries, especially when the plan is challenged by market uncertainties. As such, they should be celebrated.

Building internal predictability and the ability to move with aligned speed is an important part of becoming a thriving organization. It is the critical linkage that takes a wider team from strategic insights to concrete action when executing growth strategies during uncertain times.

This extract from “Survive, Reset, Thrive” by Rebecca Homkes ©2024 is reproduced with permission from Kogan Page Ltd.