Friday, December 28, 2007

Develop Teams, Not Just Individuals

Fortune recently published an article on how great companies develop future leaders. While the article did not provide any earth-shattering new insights, it did point out some key practices that are often discussed, but not always put into practice. One technique that warrants a great deal of attention has to to with team development. The article suggests that companies should "develop teams, not just individuals." They point out that General Electric now sends entire management teams to Crotonville, and each team goes through a developmental experience in which they apply what they are learning to their business. Given that many leadership development programs seek to address topics such as team dynamics, communication, decision-making, and the like, it makes sense for intact teams to experience these programs together.

Of course, organizations must not allow the intact teams to isolate themselves in these types of leadership development experiences. One key benefit of leadership development programs is that emerging leaders have the time to network with their peers in other parts of the organization. Often, these peers work in far-flung parts of the world, and they don't know one another quite well at all. The leadership development program offers them time to get to know one another, share best practices, and explore collaboration opportunities to advance the business. If intact teams attend these leadership development programs, one has to be careful that managers don't spend all their time with their own team, thus spending far too little time networking, sharing, and learning from their peers in other parts of the business.