Will Bachman, Pam Fox Rollin
Will Bachman 00:01
Hello, and welcome to Unleashed. I’m your host will Bachman. And I’m so excited to be here today with Pam Fox, Ron, who is the co author of growing groups into teams, real life stories of people who get results and thrive together. Pam, welcome to the show.
Pam Fox Rollin 00:18
Thank you so much. Well, I’m really happy to be on.
Will Bachman 00:21
So Pam, first of all, let’s start with definitions. What is a team? Oh, I’m
Pam Fox Rollin 00:28
so glad you started with that. Because that’s where a lot of the problem lies. We tend to call things teams if they’re like a group of people, and certainly a group of people who all report to the same people, oh, that must be a team. But really, when we look at it, we find there are two things that you have to have for it to be a team and to get the benefits of it being a team. And those are one a shared promise. What is it we are all committed to accomplish for our customers, whoever they be, whether they’re internal to the company, or external customers, or investors or whoever you’ve made a promise to, but it has to be a shared promise for it to be a team. That means I’m not just doing my tasks, I’m also committed to the promise. And in a world where things change all the time, whether it’s technology, or a customer getting acquired, or a better way found to do things. When things change, your commitment is still to produce the value for the customer, not just say, Hey, I got my task done. Make sense?
Will Bachman 01:37
Okay. So shared promise, what else? Second
Pam Fox Rollin 01:41
is commitment to coordinate to fulfill that promise. So many teams are actually sort of basically contractors who are employed by the company like their task doers, and they actually don’t have a commitment to coordinate. And if you’ve ever been in a meeting, well, where people say, Yeah, well, I did my part, you know, you don’t have a team.
Will Bachman 02:08
So it sounds like by your definition, a group of people who, even if they have a shared promise, if they’re not coordinating, that’s not really a team. So for example, maybe you have five salespeople, and you’d say, That’s my sales team. But if they’re each independently going and pursuing, you know, I have Pennsylvania, you have New York State, I have the Southeast, and they’re not really collaborating, then that’s not really a team, that’s five individual contributors under the same boss.
Pam Fox Rollin 02:36
So what point if they’re not collaborating at all true, but if they’re putting in data that other people can look at and learn from? If they are giving each other some guidance, sharing product information, to help make each other successful, then yeah, you probably have a cheat.
Will Bachman 02:53
Okay, so what would some examples be of things that the ordinary person who hasn’t read the book might say? Yeah, that’s a team. But you would say no, that’s actually not really a team? What are some examples of not a team?
Pam Fox Rollin 03:05
So shockingly, will, most of the executive teams I work with are not a team? In fact, they’re often least a team. Then other levels of the organization?
Will Bachman 03:19
There, they’re stabbing each other, they’re fighting for political power or something? In what way? Are they
Pam Fox Rollin 03:25
just, or they’re just trying to, like, you know, don’t talk to me, marketing is doing fabulous. But okay, so production isn’t or market or engineering isn’t. And there’s no way we can succeed. And so it’s only the promise of the company, which is, of course, what you would want the executive team to hold together is the promise that we’ve made to our customers, investors, employees. And in the best teams that I work with, that are actually teams at an executive level, they’re all really clear on what that promises, and they will do what it takes to partner with each other to make that happen.
Will Bachman 04:05
All right, fantastic. Okay. Next topic area would be let’s imagine a Venn diagram of advice about teams or wisdom about teams. And there’s the the Venn diagram is there’s one circle is what kind of a lot of other people would say about teams. And there’s the other circle is what you and Kobe, say about teams. So there’s something that you and the conventional wisdom is in the center right? Like everybody would say this got it. I first want to explore what are the things that you might find in other articles, other books, other HBr things and and that you disagree with? What are some common common wisdom or that you do not agree with about teams?
Pam Fox Rollin 04:54
It’s you have to like each other as people. Okay. It’s great. When that happens, it’s really cool that you have. So let me just drill down a speck on that, because I think it’s such a common misperception. All the research going back years and years and years, and I helped refresh the Stanford Business School class on leading diverse organizations, and doing a deep dive on the research, study after study, diverse teams do better than teams that are not diverse. Actually, they’ve helped hold both ends of the tale. They’re some of the worst teams, and they’re some of the best teams. And so, you know, my question is always, how do you get into the best collar, right. And that’s things like a shared promise and a commitment to coordinate their worst teams sometimes, because if they don’t have the conversations they need to have, I think almost all of us who, you know, did group projects as undergrads or in business school, or whatever, sort of grad school, you know, it was always the worst, a group group project, literally not a team project. And if you did not get along with them, you didn’t have a similar background. And you didn’t make an effort to say, Hey, this is great. We’ve got different skills, let’s figure out how to work across that. If you don’t make that effort. It’s like, Oh, crap, I don’t understand these people, they don’t understand me, I’m just going to do my part, right? And then the whole thing is like B or C. So if you will like each other that is, that’s fabulous, then you should check and say, Hey, are we diverse enough? And if not, whose perspectives? Are we missing? So if we’re all a bunch of engineers coming up this problem, and we have nobody who’s really close to what it takes for marketing or production, it’s not like we have to necessarily bring them on the team, but we need to go do some field trips to get their perspectives.
Will Bachman 06:56
Okay, so the team does not need to like one another, maybe respect and trust, but not necessarily like, and they need to be diverse enough. Let’s let’s meet let’s, let’s clarify that a little bit. So diverse, in what way? So we don’t want necessarily people that are smart, and people that are not smart, right? That’s not diverse, diverse, but you know, it’s not not very good. We don’t want people great to work with people who are jerks. Like we don’t that’s not the kind of No, we don’t need that what diversity? What diversity are we looking for?
Pam Fox Rollin 07:29
Yeah, and in fact, the research on teams is that having the smartest people like when they do research, for whatever you think of IQ is a measure. It actually beyond a certain point, it doesn’t really help at all. And in many cases, it’s worse because people who have especially PhDs and MDs, I love working with them. They’re fabulous. But as they will tell you, nothing has prepared them to work in teams, they have been evaluated as solo players. And I do a lot of work in healthcare, and a lot of MD PhDs. And they’re brilliant and fabulous. And often aren’t practiced at the moves of leading as a team, they’re sometimes they’ve worked with really great clinical teams, I’m not saying this is everybody. And they’re so smart, that was just a little bit of support, they can get there really fast. But the diversity that you’re looking for is diversity of thought. And that often comes from having different undergraduate majors having grown up in different locations and countries and cultures. And also there’s there’s cognitive diversity, whether you use Myers Briggs, or some other sort of little teams with more cognitive diversity, do better. But yeah, we don’t need jerks.
Will Bachman 08:56
So we’re not talking necessarily primarily about gender diversity, racial diversity, its diversity of perspective and skills. And you want to make sure you have you know, sales, marketing, customer service, engineering, whatever, represented different perspectives, people from different countries, perhaps it’s not. It’s not necessarily what you might hear in a, like a DI kind of session.
Pam Fox Rollin 09:25
Let me add to that, because having diversity of thought also means diversity of the culture in which you grew up in diversity of how you’ve been perceived. There’s actually a lot of studies that show that on average, women are more perceptive about the power system. People of color are more perceptive about the power system because they have to be and sometimes that’s really useful. So imagine you’re leading a product team, and you need to get things done through influence. You want to have people on the team who are perceptive about where Are the power structures in your company? So yeah, I think racial and gender diversity is in there.
Will Bachman 10:04
Okay. What are so we talked about? teams don’t like each other necessarily. We want diverse teams? And are there any other kind of common wisdom about teams that you would say? Well, we beg to differ.
Pam Fox Rollin 10:21
I think people get hung up on, you know, is it a two pizza team? Is it four people? Is it eight people? Is? Are they co located? Obviously, that’s a really big topic right now, can teams succeed? Hybrid or fully remote? And I have seen that the answer is very much yes, if they have a promise, and if they coordinate, what I’d also say is, it means a heck of a lot to remote teams to be able to get together in person from time to time. And the best people I know who lead remote teams, go, they travel themselves to the person’s location to go take a walk with them for a day, go, meet with them, have some meals, go to clients together, go visit the local operation together. There’s something that just can’t be replicated, about being together. But it doesn’t mean you have to be together five or even three days a week.
Will Bachman 11:27
All right. Let’s flip it. What are the other parts of in diagram? What are some things that you do believe about teams that you won’t find in the standard team? literature book?
Pam Fox Rollin 11:39
Yeah, so I think the perspective that we bring on responsibility and accountability is, is quite different. And there are many good thinkers whose shoulders we stand on, and we acknowledge them in the book. So so it’s not that we invented this out of whole cloth. But responsibility is you taking that promise seriously. So well, if you’re part of a team that’s planning an event, you see yourself as responsible for the whole event going well, okay, what is it that success looks like for this event, everybody on the team should know that be able to recite it. And when it changes, if it changes, everybody should be able to say, Okay, here’s now what success looks like. But let’s say you’re responsible for the guest speakers. And if you’re responsible, then somebody else maybe who’s like food and Brett beverage or logistics, you’re like, wait a minute, one of our speakers has an allergy, I need to talk to the food and Bev person, and then support them with that. Or, you know, you take this broader view, because you’re responsible for that successful achievement of the event, not just getting the guest speakers. And then accountability is when you make a promise to somebody else to do it. And are you fulfilling promises you’ve made? And there’s often a couple big problems with that in teams that we see. One is that you can’t be accountable to a promise you never made. And often, people just said, Hey, we’ll you’re in charge of student beds, or guest speakers go do that. Right? And it was you were never checked in with to say, actually, what’s your commitment? What’s your promise? What are you willing to do? What is the success look like for you? Okay, that adds up? Oh, hey, that doesn’t add up. Could you also consider logistics for the guest speakers? Could you also make sure that you’re coordinating? Well, without whatever it is. The other problem with accountability is, my goodness, people are so shy to call other people I don’t want like, I don’t want to point out that I don’t have a roster yet for guest speakers. And it’s two weeks before the event, and it’s holding up publicity. But if you really are responsible to the overall success of the event, like I would go to you well and say, Well haven’t seen the guest speaker list yet. And I’m concerned because we need to get this stuff out. And you might say, oh, yeah, and you know, it’s coming and whatever. So we build our plans, on your promise to get it to us by this date. What can we do to recover the promise? What can we do? How can we support you to recover the promise so that you’re accountable, but when people shy away from those conversations about accountability, then projects fall through and get delayed and like the number one thing that feels good is success, and most people are willing to have feedback and hard conversations. If at the end of it, the team is successful.
Will Bachman 14:58
I’d love to hear you talk a bit about that. chapter in your book, when the team you need doesn’t exist. Tell us tell us about what you should do in that case.
Pam Fox Rollin 15:08
Yeah. So this, this case really pushes the edge of what can be considered a team. And I absolutely love this chapter. It’s written by my wonderful colleague, Jerry Miller, with support. And the whole book is, you know, we support each other in the chapters because we’re a team writing a book about teams, which is crazy and meta. So Jan, Irene, was in Africa, and wound up being asked to take leadership on electrifying a rural village. And there was no team and the, the way she talks about building an understanding of what success looks like really slowing down to go fast, really making sure that everybody is clear on the success. And then he has to get people on the team who can’t even come to the village, right, who are at the electrical company who are at grantees who are at different places. And she can either treat them as a, go get this thing for me, or she can pull them together as a team, even if they don’t get to talk to each other directly. And she chose that latter option. And part of that is led for having a decade or so complicated software teams at Silicon Graphics and Silicon Graphics was at its height. And so she knows what it takes to build teams to run things that are complex. And the way she described how she went about doing that, at that village in Africa, to me is generalizable to any complex project that you’re doing, where you have to go get people’s help cross functionally. So I’m excited that people are gonna get to see that chapter.
Will Bachman 17:03
I’d love to hear a bit about the work about your firm at ultimate Growth Partners. And maybe we can bring in some stories of how you have worked with teams diagnosed some issue and help them help them get better. sanitized, of course, but but tell us tell us a bit about autist reporters
Pam Fox Rollin 17:21
store. Sure. So you this, I’ll share the story because it may be similar for many of your listeners. I have been an independent consultant for 24 years. I started. I started my career
Will Bachman 17:39
Early on this Wow. 25 years.
Pam Fox Rollin 17:42
Yeah, I started my career at Bain and Company. And that was, you know, a great place for a sociology major is Business boot camp. It was awesome. Got a Stanford MBA, met the people almost accidentally at Accenture is healthcare Strategy Group fell in love with that group of people. And they are still to this day, some of them are coming to the book launch party. Like there’s by best referral sources and, and contacts and just people in my life. So all things were going well fast track to associate partner, but I met the guy wanted to marry and I did what Sheryl Sandberg said not to do. Because I didn’t want to be on the road all the time. I wanted to be, you know, at home and my husband had and I had some hard conversations. And he’s like, is it gonna be like this? Where it like I need to at Chicago O’Hare every couple of days. That’s crazy.
Will Bachman 18:39
So lounges, there’s nothing wrong with
Pam Fox Rollin 18:42
Yeah, right. But not a place to have a marriage and family. Well. So I was thinking, Okay, what could I do, where I get to work with really smart people on their hardest problems. And somebody, a friend of a friend had told me about executive coaching and said, you’d be a great executive coach. So while I was still at Accenture, I went into training for that, because I figured, oh, that’ll help me with my consulting anyway. And when I decided that I wanted to go because I really wanted to get off the road. She called me back out of the blue. And she said, I don’t know that you’ll remember me. But a year ago, I told you to become an executive coach, did you do that? Well, actually, I did. She said, Great. Because I’ve just become Head of Marketing here at Blue Shield of California, right here in your where you live in San Francisco. And I’d like you to come work with me and my team. And it was just at the absolute perfect moment. So that was 24 years ago. Fast forward. You know, so many companies get in contact and say we want you to be our West Coast Regional lead for leadership development and organizational development or whatever. And I said, No, thank you. Thank you. I’m doing fine on my own. Wouldn’t a nice very partner up with various things and it’s fine I, I really love my work. But this particular group of people that we wound up forming Altis out of we had all done about 10 years ago, a three year program in organizational development, and organizational coaching with a fella named Bob Dunham out of Institute for generous leadership. And Bob was a great mentor, we loved the program, and we thought each other was absolutely the bomb. So when Koba got the idea of, hey, let’s put this together. I said, Yes, so I still have my videotape business. But I do most of my work with all tests. And here’s the interesting part that relates to teams is, we had all been individual practitioners. And we had habits of playing solo. So now we’re on a team, and we’re working together with clients as a team, we’re talking with them about potential opportunities and how we could support their business. And we’re used to oh, I’ll just do the doc, myself, oh, I’ll just do this myself, Oh, well, design, you can decide on Tuesday or Wednesday. And we actually have to become a team. And we have to have a commitment to coordinate. And that process we write about in the last chapter of the book. And it has been such an absolute delight. And now, I don’t want to go back, I want to I want to do this as a team.
Will Bachman 21:31
That’s very cool. Tell me about the typical engagement that your firm runs.
Pam Fox Rollin 21:38
Yeah, so there’s a few different sorts. We do a lot of exec team work. And for me, and this is to probably going back a dozen years, that much of my work happens when there is a big change to the business, whether it’s an acquisition, or very commonly, a new CEO, either stepping up from the organization or coming in from outside. And it’s a great opportunity to restructure how the executive team is working, set new guidance for the organization. Usually, there’s new strategy, and they need a culture, that’s going to make sense with a new strategy. So the practical work looks like working with the executive team as their coach, often working directly with the CEO. Making sure that other people on the team have coaches, because it’s not easy to learn how to lead in a new way, as we discovered, it’s taken us you know, we’re in year six of transforming from solo practitioners to a team at alters Growth Partners. So it’s not going to be easy for an SVP of engineering to make some changes overnight in how they partner and share information, all that. So we do that we also do things like installing OKRs. And doing it in a way that really helps the business move together. Working on decision making processes has been absolutely huge for our clients, and helping people get on track with a really simple bottle. That makes it very clear who’s gonna make quick decision. And of course, the model is different depending on the companies, but just having a decision making model enables scaling in a way that is really, really powerful. Now we do work around culture, we do work around building teams, at the top, but at a variety of levels, key initiatives, etc. So it’s really about were very bright people with very big promises that they’ve made to the world are working together and figuring out how to get results.
Will Bachman 23:50
Could you walk me through a case example? sanitized? Where your firm has, you know, worked with an executive team? And what were some of the things that you encountered maybe what was the inciting incident that they brought you in? And what sorts of interventions or coaching or advice did you give them? And what was the impact?
Pam Fox Rollin 24:11
Yeah, sure. So with a client, that’s, I’ll just say a healthcare organization, about 1200 people. And there’s a new CEO coming in. And he saw that the team while it had great people, and he, he kept most of most of the people on the team, and they were great people, but they weren’t running the company together in a way that he saw that they could. And so I first worked with him on coming up with his new sort of rules of the road and really being able to articulate how he wanted this organization, especially his senior team to operate. Then I worked with the senior team as their team coach and I would come to their team meetings and Help them see where they were on pattern for the new way of doing things and where they weren’t there yet. And then work individually in spot coaching with some of the team members to get them there. Some of the team members also had individual coaches to help them lead in a much faster pace organization than they had been used to. Some of them had been with the organization for 25 years, and they were fabulous. But they weren’t used to the pace of decision making, that this new CEO was putting into place. So we have coaching for that. And then I did cohorts, I did three cohorts of kind of junior vice presidents and senior vice presidents, where they were learners over eight sessions each and just learn, you know, great people, many of whom had fabulous leadership experience, but they didn’t have common language and common models for how they were going to lead together. So we work together on leading change, we work together, like how do you make a good request? How do you use feedback in a way that’s likely to be heard. And most importantly, and this is why I love doing leadership development with senior leaders as a cohort, they built their connections across the organization, because the organization had grown through mergers as so many have. And there was still a lot of us in them. So for them to be partnered together on leadership development was really, really important. So they were able to make the changes that they wanted to make in the company, and create more value for their customers for their investors. And their assessment was that would not have happened if we hadn’t taken some of the steps we did.
Will Bachman 26:54
See? How did you coach, someone you mentioned about, you need to help coach them for faster decision making? How do you get someone you know, with the skills or the comfort level for that higher pace?
Pam Fox Rollin 27:10
Yeah, so this is where rigor and a model really helps. And also, you know, a huge topic, and we do to chapter two, on trust and teams. There’s a saying in organizational development, low trust, slow change. Because if people are doing something new, and especially if they’re making decisions at a higher velocity, they need to have trusting relationships with other people. Because it’s scary to do things that are new, like, we haven’t tried that before, we haven’t gone after that market. We don’t want to look embarrassed, we don’t want to look like we just let down the company in this way, or we didn’t have the skills for it or whatever. So we have to believe that our partners in this are the people leading us are being honest with us, have our back have respect, are going to talk with us when there’s issues going on. Right? So building trust is critical for decision making. And the place to start is always with yourself. Where am I worthy of trust? And where are the edges where I am losing trust with other people? And you know, pretty much everybody sees themselves as a good person. Great, fabulous. But are you a good person who’s actually not communicating enough? And so people find out from other departments that you’ve made a big change in your own department, right? So absolutely critical to build trust to increase decision velocity, and then having some clear, simple models and language like who has the D? Right out of Bain? Right? Where I started all that long time ago? Who has the deed? Who gets to make the decision on this? And what input do they have? And then how does it get communicated out?
Will Bachman 29:09
Can you tell me about another chapter in the book that says our CEO is blocking team success? And I’m the CEO. Tell us about that chapter.
Pam Fox Rollin 29:20
No, it’s written by a few of the chapters are written by our dear friends and colleagues who are not part of autists but who we enjoy very much, and came out of that same group of people. And Andrea is just a dri of Ortega, CEO of two companies at the time now she’s back with one. One is the company she took over from her father, which is a medical equipment company, and another is actually the Institute for generative leadership that I mentioned. And when she took over that the equipment company, she thought She had to like, make decisions, like we’ve got this image about what a CEO is. And for her, it was also wound up with what the image was of her father. And we see this so much in, in family businesses that we work with, because we work with a variety of large family businesses, as well as like P venture backed public companies. Anyway. So she’s got this image of making decisions, and like scrambling to learn things really, really fast, and then saying, here’s what you should do, here’s what you should do. And it just bombed, right, because there were so many people in the company who actually do. And what she discovered is her job is to make sure that everybody’s on the same page as to the promise, where they’re going, what they’re part of the promises, what they’re accountable for, and making sure that the questions get to the right people who are having the right conversations. But pretending is such a common SEO trap to pretend you know, more than you know, instead of saying, That’s a great question, we actually have to design that. Let’s see, who should we have in the room when we design that?
Will Bachman 31:09
Pam Fox Rollin 31:12
delegating, but also getting people on a path to a common promise. And not pretending that we’ve already designed and know things that we haven’t designed yet.
Will Bachman 31:24
Amazing. Pam, for listeners who want to find out more about your firm, we will include a link to the book in the show notes, what other links should people check out?
Pam Fox Rollin 31:38
Yeah, those are great. The book in our website, alta scripts.com. is perfect. And I am glad to connect with any of your listeners on LinkedIn. Please put in your note that that you know me through through the Unleashed or Umbrex podcast, because I think we all get in with I think now there’s word AI generated like spammy sort of requests. But I’m very glad to connect with your listeners on
Will Bachman 32:09
LinkedIn. Fantastic. Well, we will include those links in the show notes and do not use your chat bot to write a connection request to fix it. Bam, bam, thanks so much for being on the show, talking about your new book about teams. And the book again, is growing groups into teams, real life stories of people who get results and thrive together. Fantastic. It’s so great speaking with you.
Pam Fox Rollin 32:34
Absolutely. Well, thank you so much.