Ep. 11 - How To Coordinate Your Three Teams

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In our previous three episodes, we looked at the three core teams businesses need in order to flourish: your Executive Team, your Trusted Advisors Team, and your Life After Ownership Team. In this episode, we illuminate keys to synergizing these three teams to generate superior results. We also address three challenges such teams face: flourishing in the hyper-transparent digital age, optimizing individual participation, and making meetings less dreadful.


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How To Coordinate Your Three Teams

Mastering Facilitation Synergy

In this episode, we're going to be talking about coordinating your three teams. If you remember our last three episodes, we're talking about the three essential teams to running a business. They're not the only teams, but they're the teams you can't live without. Those are your exit planning and life after ownership team, your advisory team, and the executive team within the business.

Now, we want to talk about how you coordinate those teams. How do you maximize the benefit? Once you've filled all of those team seats with the right people, how do you get the most out of them to drive your business and everyone within the business forward? We're going to talk about information that needs to be bridged across the three teams. We'll discuss how to bridge that information and disseminate out to other stakeholders and when to disseminate it beyond those three teams.

Finally, we'll dig into something that's super critical. We’ve touched on it in all three of the last episodes, but we're going to drive home why having a third-party facilitator is so important when you're trying to maximize the value of your three teams. For those of you who are joining us for the very first time, welcome. We're excited to have you reading this blog. My trusted companion, colleague, and mentor is co-host Dr. David Gruder, Blue Sky's Business Lifecycle, Exit Planning, and Post-acquisition Psychologist. I'm going to take a breath. Dr. G, take it away.

We’re going to dive into the three big challenges in coordinating your three core teams. Jason, you've already mentioned what those three core teams are. I don't think I need to repeat that here. Why don't you take it away in terms of stating what those three big challenges are that we're about to unpack?

The first challenge is somewhat of a new one. It's flourishing in this age of hyper-transparency and hyper-connectivity. The second challenge we'll discuss is how to optimize the participation within the team of the individual members so that you get the most out of having the right people in those seats and then avoiding the meeting suck trap or making meetings that are valuable, impactful, and worthwhile.

We're going to do that in a short period of time. We're going to cover all of this territory. The first challenge is in this age of hyper-transparency, expectations, and deciding what information needs to be shared across your three teams and the rest of your organization. First of all, what's propelled us into this age of hyper-transparency?

What's propelled us into this age is the cumulative detrimental impacts of opacity. Opacity or being opaque is the opposite of transparency. What's propelled us into hyper-transparency is that the younger generations will tolerate nothing short of transparency. In the presence of opacity, they'll bail. They leave or if they stay, they stay in profoundly disengaged ways that don't do anybody any good, don't do them any good, and certainly don't do the company any good. We are in an age of hyper-transparency, whether we want to be or not and my bias is that this is a good thing.

The other thing that's precipitated this is access. These younger generations are growing up with so much unbelievable information and access at their fingertips. It's become an expectation. When I was a kid, I had to go work for information. I had to go to a library or find an expert. I had to do some research and work to gain information. Information was a little bit more coveted. Now, because of all of that access, it's become more of an expectation. I'm on your side, doctor. I think that transparency is never a bad thing.

BBV 11 | Core Teams

No. Appropriate transparency and properly timed transparency. We're going to unpack that as we go through the solution to mastering the art of appropriate hyper-transparency. The one thing I'll add at the front while we're unpacking what these challenges are is there's an old saying from psychological circles and particularly 12-Step circles. We're only as sick as our secrets. So are companies. They're only as sick as their secrets.

In a couple of minutes where after we unpack what these three challenges are, we're going to unpack what to do about them and the solutions to these challenges. The first challenge is hyper-transparency and how to master the art of appropriate hyper-transparency. What's the second challenge, Jason?

Challenge number two is ensuring that every team member represents the necessary wisdom of their role and not representing their own ego and self. We spent a lot of time in the last few episodes talking about how titles, positions, and seats on a team exist to fulfill specific needs. We don't build a team just for fun or for somebody to play poker with. That's a different thing.

In business teams, every single member has a cohort or a key piece of wisdom or knowledge that this individual is the steward of. Making sure that as you're working together as a team, that we're working as a team of stewards and not a team of self-propelling and promoting individuals is important.

In business teams, every single member has a key piece of knowledge that they are the steward of.

The third challenge we're going to unpack solutions to is the challenge that everyone is familiar with, dreading meetings. People don't dread meetings in my experience because they dread meetings. What they dread is the uselessness of meetings. In my experience, I have found that when meetings are truly useful, purposeful, forward, moving, empowering, motivating, etc., people look to them as long as the meetings aren't happening so frequently that they can't get their work done. Challenge number three that we're going to unpack for you is how to get out of the meeting suck trap.

Everybody can relate to those valueless meetings and the stress of having so many demands on your time and sitting in a room away from your hyper-connected self and having your time wasted. I'm excited about that one as well. People can relate to these challenges. They're critical and straightforward.

Let's go straightforward into solving these challenges and giving tools, ideas, and concepts to master them. I'll kick it off with this whole art of appropriate hyper-transparency. One of the things that I always like to say is, if I'm afraid of somebody knowing something about me, then I'm probably doing something wrong in that.

First and foremost, the idea is that if you're acting in a transparent way, if you're behaving with an expectation of transparency, you are almost forcing yourself to make better decisions. That mindset of transparency is a great mindset to have but there's another side to the coin. There is some information that isn't safe or appropriate to share. The two things that are at the heart of my perspective of mastering appropriate hyper-transparency, once you're in a transparent mindset, are time and that word appropriate.

Understanding what things, if made fully transparent, could put individuals or the organization at risk and when is it appropriate to share information. We've all had one of those friends that whatever comes up, comes out and they share everything fully transparently and it gets them into a lot of trouble. Thinking about that and I think that the key takeaway in being successful with hyper-transparency is understanding first and foremost what can and cannot be shared. I've said it a couple of times but understanding the only things that should not ever be made hyper-transparent are the things that put the organization or individuals at risk.

These are things that put the organization or individuals into inappropriate anxiety. It means to activate anxiety in them when it's premature because they're not yet empowered to do something about the anxiety. They sit in the not knowing because the information has been shared prematurely. To underscore what you were saying, a step even further, you and I, Jason, both believe that in this world because transparency is so important, it's now more important than ever to identify what can't be shared than what can and should be shared.

Anything that can and should be shared, should be shared. The clarity that's necessary is clarity about what's not appropriate to share, perhaps at all, or perhaps with specific people or at a specific time. There's such a thing as information that is crucial to be transparent about, but not now. For example, if you are an owner and you're thinking about selling your company. You're thinking that you want to sell your company or you're thinking that the time is approaching when you want to ramp up into that, but you haven't yet come to clarity about that, choice-making, and commitment around that.

You need clarity about what's appropriate and inappropriate to share with specific people or on a specific time within your team.

You don't yet have a plan for how to do that in a way that is going to be honorable to your company's culture, to your personnel, then yes, you're going to have to share that information that you want to sell the company. However, if you don't have the clarity I was describing, the time hasn't arrived yet to have that conversation with your personnel, but the time has come to have that conversation with your trusted advisor's team.

To put a fine point on that, if the information will cause more questions than you have answers to, then it's probably not ready to be shared unless you are exploring. If you're in an exploratory phase, having those questions and working together to form an answer is great. However, if you are in a critical decision, like your example of a business owner wanting to retire and exit their business, that's a critical piece of information that will cause a lot of fear and consternation in the hearts and minds of all the stakeholders of the organization. If you can't put their hearts and minds at ease with answers, then you're not ready to share that information.

What I think is relevant to spend a moment on having to do with this whole question of transparency is the difference between secrets and confidentiality. Confidentiality is something that one person shares with another in trust that it's going to remain private, not because of secret-keeping, but because the clarity is not yet in place or the timing is not yet in place.

The timing hasn't yet arrived so sharing that information would be helpful rather than harmful. Whereas secrecy, in contrast to confidentiality, is always about having power over other people. It's always about manipulation and power control. Confidentiality is not about manipulation and power control. It's about wisdom, but secrecy is dysfunctional.

BBV 11 | Core Teams

I think that all the business owners that read this, all the trusted advisors, and probably everybody that reads this has their own confidentiality agreement and has signed multiple NDAs or confidentiality agreements in the course of their professional life. Those are there protecting an individual or an organization from risk. Another example of both confidentiality and timing is what we go through in an M&A process.

We'll tell business owners very early on when we're talking about running an M&A transaction process, especially on the sell side, “Here's the list of all this confidential and sensitive information that you're going to need to turn over before the transaction closes. However, here's the process and the timing and the staging by which we share that information.”

We'll share financial information, income statements, and balance sheets very early on, but we won't share client information until we're in due diligence and we’ve exclusive with one buyer that we feel comfortable with. We won't share employee information or sensitive like key Blue star clients that could be stolen until we're already comfortable with the purchase agreement.

We know that barring something unforeseen and consequential, this transaction's going to close. The closer we get to close and the more of the pieces that are in place, the easier it is for us to share very sensitive employee information with a buyer without putting the organization at risk of having this just be a tire kicker who's trying to poach technically skilled staff.

The thing I want to emphasize about this is that as a business owner or as an executive if you are not sure if you're not really clear inside yourself about whether a piece of information should or shouldn't be shared at this time, should or shouldn't be shared with this person versus that person, that's who your advisors are for.

If you’re not sure whether information should or shouldn't be shared at a certain person or on a specific time, talk to your advisors.

Talk to your trusted advisors. Check with them. Run that past them so that you take the burden off of yourself for having to always know what's appropriate to share with whom and when. If you know that, you know that. Cool, great but if you have questions about that, then that's what you have your advisors for. Don't underutilize them.

I want to give a financial example of something that gets into that gray space because this is an important concept and there are a lot of different facets, angles, and areas where this hyper-transparency can become in question. When I started working, the wage was a don't ask don't tell element. You never knew. There was a lot of wage disparity even within core positional groups in organizations.

It all came down to how well a prospective employee could negotiate. Almost buyer beware and that lack of transparency of wages was a protection against the business owner or the hiring manager because they're squeezing some employees that are being paid less than they deserve, while other employees are being paid more than they deserve, but they're all being expected to perform at the same level. That's unhealthy.

That's engagement, productivity, collaboration, and a culture killer.

However, telling everybody what everybody else makes is too far in the other direction. Full and complete transparency of what individuals make creates an unhealthy form of competitiveness. This is one of those areas where both ends of the spectrum are unhealthy for similar but different reasons. However, having a very transparent wage structure where you say, “Each of these positions, these are the ranges that we will pay. These are the criterion and the key metrics that are used to determine 1) Promotion and advancement, but 2) Where somebody falls within that scale.”

That type of performance-based transparency is extremely healthy. It will protect against the side of the spectrum where some employees are being squeezed and others are being overpaid. It will protect against the unhealthy competition of full-wage transparency. That's what we're talking about when we're talking about navigating hyper-transparency. How do you get to a healthy point of clarity so that everybody can understand how to perform well and succeed within an environment without creating a sense of so much information that it's unhealthy for the culture?

What you're talking about so eloquently is the transparency Goldilocks Zone.

Yes. My porridge is perfect.

Shall we go on to challenge number two?

Please do.

The second challenge is ensuring that every team member represents necessary wisdom, not their own ego. Each person on your team is on your team or should be on your team because they look at your business through a necessary and important lens that you need to benefit from in your decision-making and they generally don't see the whole picture. They don't see all of the lenses that need to be looked through to make prudent decisions.

That process of prudent decision-making gets to occur when all of your team members, all of your experts, all of your executives or advisors, etc., have weighed in with their perspective, with the lens that they are there to offer, so that you're combining the wisdom of all lenses. However, for that to work, you need to be sure that the people that are on your teams are operating through their wisdom and the genius of their particular expertise areas, not from a place of territorial, siloed, protective egotism.

Recognize whom you get information from when you're in an ideation or preparation phase. It's important to identify who those people are. If you're in ideation and preparation, you are essentially pre-strategy. You're not likely to be talking to your tacticians at that phase because that's not their lens. You want to talk to the visionaries that are on your team. You want to talk to strategists who are high-level enough in their strategic thinking to span the gap between visionary and strategy.

Recognize whom you get information from during ideation and preparation. Recognize whose needs the steward of, as decisions are being made. In other words, each of your team members, in order to not operate from ego, needs to have clarity about what they are the voice for. Your chief financial officer should be the voice for stability. Your chief R&D person, for example, should be the voice for innovation. Your chief financial officer should not be the voice for innovation. It's not their wheelhouse. They're all about stability.

BBV 11 | Core Teams

The R&D person is all about transformation and magic. Recognize whose needs each of your team members are the steward of as decisions are being made. Recognize who you're responsible for disseminating information to, and recognize what you need to be clear about before leaving a meeting and disseminating that information. That's not on your shoulders as the owner or the CEO. That's on the shoulders of every team member that's participating in a particular meeting.

That's a lot to take in, but it's important stuff. One of the things that you'll notice as your team gets better at recognizing the charge of their stewardship and acting as that advocate and steward for their charge instead of acting as individual leaders, is that it makes decision-making so much clearer. Even if you have leaders on your team who are of a personality where they like to have the last word and they like to win, it will be easier for the team to say, “We appreciate your input. We've taken and understood it, but this particular decision is the responsibility of this leader over here. We're going to take everybody's feedback and input, but ultimately, this steward is responsible for the decision because it's their charge that will be directly impacted by this.”

Knowing that helps balance that decision-making piece. Also, I wanted to touch on your ideation example. It’s fantastic but prior to ideation, talking to the tacticians and finding out what's broken. What's not working as they tactically implement is how we get to what we're going to ideate about. Everybody gets a voice at the right time and the right place. I love the way that you broke that down because this clarifies the difference between a group of individual leaders and a fully functioning team.

I'm glad you brought that in. The one last thing I want to say about this before I'm ready at least to move on to challenge number three is the interplay, the balance between having lens clarity. Being clear about what you are able to see through the lens, you look through as a team member versus the humility that says, “I know I don't see the whole picture because that's not my purview. I'm not supposed to see the whole picture all by myself. I will come to clarity about the whole picture as I listen to the input that everyone else offers through the lens that they're on the team in order to provide clarity about.”

BBV 11 | Core Teams

It's that combination. It's that beautiful alchemy between the confidence that we have about the lens we look through, and the value we can provide through that lens combined with the humility that says, “I know I don't see the whole picture all by myself.” It's that mindset that when everyone on a team is operating from that mindset, magic happens.

That is a great way to close out the success steps to that challenge. Now, we'll walk into everybody's favorite which is the meeting suck trap. There are a lot of things that go into determining whether a meeting's going to be good or a waste of time. There are a lot of bad, simple, easy traps that we all fall into that cause us, even if we're well-intentioned to lead bad meetings. The very first thing is how well-prepared are we. If you go into a meeting thinking, “I'll get to the meeting. I'll read the agenda and I'll wing it,” the meeting's not going to be valuable.

A lot of the preparation comes into perspective. If you don't trust your team and the concept of a meeting, if you feel like you have important things to do and you're being forced to go to a meeting, you're not going to be in a good head space to be prepared or to bring your best self. However, if you look at meetings as what they are, which is a pause to regroup, refocus, and make meaningful steps toward progress, then you can start to get excited about meetings.

It’s like, “I've been head down for so long churning away at my specific area of focus. I relish the break to step back, lift my head, and get perspective from everybody else around me. I can go back to my work refreshed, refocused, and ready. Not only that, I might have a chance to share some of the successes or struggles my particular group, and the charge of my stewardship is facing, and get more input, feedback, and help.”

If you're thinking about meetings in the right way as a positive pause to refocus, recharge, and make meaningful progress toward success, then it makes sense that you would be excited about the meeting. You would take the time to understand what the objectives of the meeting are and to come prepared to achieve those objectives. It starts with preparation and understanding the purpose and the structure of the meeting and doing your own diligence to come and contribute.

As you were saying, and I want to underline this, also, in addition to purpose and structure is a mindset. Coming in with a useful mindset for a meeting.

I've never seen a person come into a meeting saying, “This meeting is going to suck. It's a waste of my time,” and then witness that person transform and contribute. It doesn't happen. That's all very important. Thank you for underlining that. We then go into how you execute against objectives and deliverables versus ticking off boxes of agenda. If you start running your meetings in that way, the meeting will naturally conclude when your objectives and deliverables have been satisfied.

You don’t have to be, “We have an hour on the calendar, but we got done in 45 minutes. It’s great. We got 15 minutes of our lives back.” Understanding that not only that, everybody will walk away with the feeling that something was accomplished. They knew what they came to the meeting to do. The meeting ended when that was done. We can all walk away saying, “That was worth it.”

Before we go on to the next one, I'm going to be totally blunt. Dump your agendas. Agendas are the enemy of productive meetings. Replace them with objectives and deliverables. When I say dump agendas, I'm not saying to make meetings even more chaotic. However, the problem with an agenda versus a deliverable is agendas are invitations for ceaseless yammering, for conversations and debates that go on without end because nobody has clarity and is on the same page about what the outcome is that's being sought from the thing that's being discussed. Agendas are the enemy of meetings.

A bad agenda can distract you completely from what you're trying to achieve. The next thing is, as you're working towards these objectives and deliverables, we want to talk about the outcomes. We always want to close the meeting with, “These were the objectives and deliverables. These are the outcomes and who's in charge of that?” Before we walk away from that meeting, we know that the leader, the facilitator, or the person and group that are accountable to execute those objectives and deliverables that were decided upon are capable.

Being capable doesn't only mean a skillset. It means skills, resources, and bandwidth. Making sure that everybody understands what's expected to implement those objectives and deliverables, and we all agree that the accountable party is capable, is crucial to making sure that we planned ahead. We had a good meeting. We made decisions and we were efficient with our time but now, progress gets made after the meeting was adjourned. That's where the outcomes come in.

Finally, the implementation piece. We talked at length about the difference between the S-Suite, the strategic, and the big-picture leaders. The T-Suite, the tactical people that then go and make things happen day in and day out. Also, understand that as you're implementing, those two suites still have to communicate with one another. We always find out from the tacticians what's broken and what opportunities exist.

The strategic team is working on how we make an umbrella that overcomes those struggles and maximizes the potential of the opportunities. They have to be working in synergy at all times in communication, but they also are different skillset and different groups of individuals with different accountabilities. Making sure that all of that is understood is how the meeting drives progress in the operation.

Are you ready to move on to the final one?

Yes, sir.

This has to do with what you were saying early on in this episode, Jason, about the importance of an executive team development consultant. Productive collaborative meetings usually require facilitation by an outside person or an independent person or someone more specifically whose role it is to facilitate. The reason is that it's virtually impossible to wear the following two hats at the same time.

Productive collaborative meetings usually require facilitation by an outside, independent person.

If I am wearing the hat of being an advocate or a provider of lens clarity, and I'm trying to facilitate a meeting, I am at odds with myself energetically. Advocacy and facilitation are both very important functions. They can't be fulfilled by an individual simultaneously. Someone needs to be the one who is an expert at facilitating flow and process while all of the team members in the meeting get to be focused on content and voicing their wisdom.

If you've ever tried to wear both of those hats, the facilitation hat and the voice in your wisdom hat at the same time, you know it's not viable. Make peace with that and make sure you've got an expert facilitator to do the facilitation who's got no dog in the hunt, isn't invested in a particular solution, outcome, or decision, but is invested in making sure that the way things are talked about leads to the best decision or outcome.

You said it another way. We talked about every member of the team is a steward of a group of knowledge or a group of people. They have to be focused on that during a meeting. We need somebody whose stewardship is making sure that all the voices that are appropriate are heard and that there is clarity before decision-making. It's so important and we've all been there, but I can tell you personally that I've led meetings where I also am responsible for advocating for a party in the meeting and it's a nightmare.

Typically, those are meetings that run way too long. Those are meetings where there ends up with some misunderstanding or consternation because there's not that person that's clarifying. I get caught up in the weeds of advocating for my responsible party, and I can't then step back and say, “Tuzinkewich, you are getting too emotionally invested in your advocacy. Take a step back and let somebody else speak.” That's when things go off the rails.

If you've ever tried to wear both of those hats simultaneously and you failed, it's not because there's something wrong with you or because you are insufficient. It's because it's not possible to wear both hats simultaneously. There's nothing wrong with you.

Maybe not because of that.

You’re right. Thank you for that clarity.

I don't know that you could make that statement carte blanche.

We better move to takeaways pretty quickly. Let's go quick.

The big takeaway for me and the number one when we were talking about this that popped up in my mind is this. Once you've started developing these teams, structuring them, and filling the seats the right way with an understanding of stewardship, knowledge, S-Suite versus T-Suite, and all these things, meetings begin to take on a whole new light regarding vision and accomplishment. I'm going to go back to my perspective. A good meeting is a pause in operation to regroup, refocus, and drive success forward.

The second takeaway we have for you is about hyper-transparency. Hyper-transparency requires new skills and up-leveled psychological sophistication that frankly, most executives haven't been exposed to, which is a whole different story than most executives can't rise to. In my experience, most executives can rise to skilled hyper-transparency, and it requires training. It requires some skills and psychological sophistication, as I said. Don’t be bashful about seeking that kind of expertise to uplevel not only your skills and psychological sophistication around hyper-transparency but to elevate your entire team's skills and psychological sophistication around transparency.

We talk a lot about a lot of dark horse subjects. We talk about a lot of hard work elements of good leadership that we don't hear people talking about in normal circles. I will tell you and I know you'll agree that experientially, entrenched executives and long-tenured executives get nervous when you start to talk about hyper-transparency.

Once they wrap their arms around it and start executing in a hyper-transparent way, it's a relief. It's like a burden has been lifted. This is one of those dark horse subjects that will beat the drum on a lot but it's largely because it does improve life for everybody when you can be more comfortable with appropriate hyper-transparency.

The next big takeaway is the idea that as a member of a highly functional operational team or advisory team, you are on that team for a specific reason. You are filling a specific seat and you are the steward of a very clearly defined element of a successful operation. Whether that's stewarding knowledge and expertise, stewarding vision, a team, or a division of the organization, remember that when you sit down as a leader in a team, you are leaving your ego somewhere else. You are now a representative of an important subset of the organization.

There are two more takeaways. The first of those two more has to do with meetings. Make sure you end each meeting with accountability-capable deliverables. In other words, with clarity about who is on point for delivering certain outcomes that have been agreed upon during that meeting. Are they the ones that are going to be accountable because they have the skills? They have the resources and they have the bandwidth to get it done so that everyone walks out of the meeting with their own accountability-capable deliverables relevant to their area of expertise and focus in the company.

That's the only way that meetings end up driving value. It’s super important. Finally, I'll hit this drum one more time during this episode and that is to make sure you've got a facilitator. I've seen some organizations very successfully develop a facilitator within the organization that has that one core responsibility inside of meetings.

For those who do not have one, even if you want to identify one and develop them, bring in an expert facilitator, a coach, or somebody that can take that responsibility. 9 times out of 10, if it's within your company's charter to bring that internal, that person can help train your internal advocate but there needs to be somebody at that meeting facilitating the meeting, and that needs to be their only responsibility within the meeting.

Any other final comments before I wrap this up for us?

I think we've done it.

We unpacked a whole lot in a short time.

It's like Christmas.

The gifts keep on coming. We thank you once again for reading this, and we do look forward to reading your thoughts, questions, topic suggestions, and other requests in the comments section. Please make use of that because we look at those things and we take them seriously. We want to be of service to you. In addition, we want to re-invite you if you haven't already done this to click the subscribe button so that you are notified immediately whenever we release a next future episode.

Thank you all and have a great day.

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