How much do you trust your team?

By Steve Moran

Stanley McChrystal was the opening session speaker at AHCA/NCAL. His big idea is that technology has radically changed how effective organizations need to operate . . . how effective leaders need to behave.

Old School

According to McChrystal the traditional leadership model was that at the top was a “Chess Master” who saw the big picture and orchestrated moves on the chessboard. The players had their roles; but those roles were very limited, with almost no decision making power and very limited opportunity to think and be creative.

This is problematic for at least 3 reasons:

  1. A single leader can only see so much and keep track of so much. As an organization grows in size and complexity, the ability to be an effective chessmaster diminishes.

  1. In real life, organizations are not flat like a chessboard but multilayered. This means information needs to flow up  from the bottommost parts of the organization to the chessmaster at the top. The chessmaseter then has to digest and filter that information. He then has to make decisions about which information to pass back down through other channels.  

    This system is slow and cumbersome. At a time when team members need information immediately it can take days or weeks for them to get it.   

  1. Because the information has been filtered and gone through many layers it is often wrong, incomplete or, too often, just plain never gets where it is needed most.

This is still largely how most organizations operate.

A Better Way

McChrystal believes that leaders should see themselves more as gardeners than chessmasters. He believes that their goal should be to create a fertile, effective ecosystem for individuals, teams and teams of teams to operate successfully. Here is what it might look like in Senior Living. The assumptions would be:

  1. That each team member — from the CEO to the frontline staff — is committed to the mission of the organization.

  2. That each team member has unique strengths that make the mission of the organization possible . . . or they should not be a part of the organization.

  3. That each team member knows how to do their particular job with their particular set of residents better than anyone else.

  4. That teams are always better than individuals, but that as organizations grow there needs to be teams of teams. This means that often a single individual will be a part of multiple teams.

  5. That it is imperative that individuals, teams, and teams of teams have immediate access to all of the information they might possibly need to be effective. This means information transfers directly between those who need (or might need) that information.  

  6. That within the context of their job duties and areas of influence teams and members of teams are allowed too . . . no, more accurately expected to act independently to further the mission of the organization.

The hardest part of all of this is that individuals and teams are allowed to make decisions independent of approval from above. They are empowered, even expected, to move rapidly to make all of this happen. It requires extreme trust in and by others in the organization.

What do you think? Will it work in Senior Living?