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Stage 1: The Accidental Management team. The team is composed by whoever reports to the top. You are in that place, at that time? You are part of the management team. Period. Well, not quite a team but a juxtaposition of direct reports to the boss. The team members don’t talk to each other much (other than in meetings) because they don’t have to. The team is managed via one-one-ones, which the boss sort of likes. The team is a collection of binary relationships with the boss.

Stage 2: The Utilitarian Management Team: As above, but some alliances are formed and two or three members work together when needed, if needed, if they feel like it. That excludes the more useless members who are still consoled by the monthly one-one-one. Collaboration does exist, don’t get me wrong, but as long as I can benefit from somebody else.

Stage 3: The Maturing Management Team, SPAMETO model. The dynamics of the members are in all directions; cross collaboration takes place; all starts looking like a proper team. Small detail, everybody is equal but Some People Are More Equal Than Others (SPAMETO). Yes, Finance, Sales and Marketing dominate the airtime in meetings, whilst HR, IT and R&D look at emails in monastic silence. And I am committing here the sin I hate most. I am equating team and meeting. But, frankly, in the Stage 3, most activity is ‘in meetings.’

Stage 4: The Balanced Management Team. Cross collaboration and fertilization takes place. Performance is the focus. Everybody is contributing. everybody counts and everybody accounts. They may be ‘high performance’ or not depending on what you call performance. Well-balanced and high performance, is not a bad place to be.

Stage 5: The Leadership Team. There is a bit of jump here. Maybe more than a bit. The team leads the organization. The functional, operational and business representation is clear: as in Stage 4, there may be a CEO, CFO, COO, Head of R& D etc. But they have switched the ‘direction of the representational arrow’. They don’t represent anymore their areas into the company, they represent the company into the areas, the functions, business units, operations. No switch of ‘the direction of the arrow’ (in mind and heart), no Leadership Team, no Stage 5.

Stage 6: Collective Leadership. As above but members share the collective drive. They are interchangeable, with the only limitation of their skill base, not the area of ‘expertise’. The Head of HR may not be able to run Finance, but must be able to present to the entire company, if needed, the financial results or the budget. The Head of Finance may not be able to run HR, but must be able to stand up and articulate the Human Capital Plan for the company in full detail, etc. One of the tests for this stage is The Empty Chair Test. Mr or Mrs X, member of the team, has disappeared for 3 month to run an acquisition, or to look deep into a project, but nobody has noticed. The empty chair (functional, operational, or otherwise) is largely invisible outside the team itself. Mr or Mrs X job has been naturally absorbed by others, temporarily, and the sky is not falling at all. If this has happened, it is not because the CEO said so, but because the reallocation was spontaneous, natural, and with no fuss.

Not all management teams reach high levels. Not reaching high levels does not mean poor performance. How far to progress, what speed, where to target, are choices. But the conversation must take place.

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