Organizational Reality in Paradise:
A Team of Two
Ronald J. Stupack, Ph.D.
Executive Vice President
Katherine N. Stupak
is not a position, but a relationship."
line managers, executive leaders, and team-building consultants
in courts, in hospitals, in the public and private sectors,
and even in the military, academic, and not-for-profit arenas,
we have been searching for organizational effectiveness, quality
improvements, and best practices. More specifically, earlier
in our careers we actively encouraged judges and court executives
as well as physicians and hospital administrators to work together
as teams of two. However, back then, in the command/control
environment, our efforts to build teams, change behavior, and
share power remained more an academic exercise than an operational
reality in most of these organizations.
Imagine our surprise
that while taking a vacation on the sailing Yacht Phaedrus in the British
Virgin Islands in the Caribbean we discovered a "perfect example" of a team
of two. Every dynamic of developing a team of two was manifested in the
personal and professional relationships between Charles Swaim and Leslie Jones
as they turned the boat into a set of processes, procedures, and interpersonal
competencies that provided flawless service, immaculate accommodations, and
a value-added performance that could serve as a model for all types and sizes
of service organizations.
Remembering that what
gets celebrated gets repeated, we would like to share with you five behavioral
dynamics that were exhibited and practiced by these two individuals as they operated
as a high performing team of two.
Team Performance Factors
responsibility means shared gain and shared pain."
elements that can be identified in a high performing team of
two are numerous, and Charles and Leslie actively and symbolically
seemed to use them all. And yet, for this article, we
would like to highlight what we think are the critical, fundamental
anchors of an effective team of two and how these factors were
demonstrated by them and seen and experienced by us. Clearly,
in this article we are not just talking or conjuring up theory,
we saw it being done.
and Receiving Feedback
to understand, rather than to defend your position."
with Charles Swaim and Leslie Jones on Phaedrus and
you get two cooks for the price of one. Charles is the
gourmet chef and Leslie is the pastry chef and it was in the
context of these roles that an example of effective feedback
was most clearly and honestly demonstrated. While we
were feasting after dinner on a delicious cheesecake, Charles
turned to Leslie and said, "On a scale of 1 to 10 the cheesecake
tonight is an 8," and then he methodically and carefully explained
why from his perspective. Interestingly, part
of the evaluation was Charles' self-evaluation since he had
convinced Leslie to bake the cheesecake for an additional 10
minutes. Leslie listened intently and non-defensively
and after some dialogue concurred with Charles' evaluation. In
essence, the feedback was given as close to the event as possible;
it was offered graciously; it was under-girded with an "I"
statement; and, it was given with an emphasis on making good
even better. This feedback dynamic occurred over and
over again during the cruise.
and Interactive Communications
is a constant need to dissolve the barriers between myself
and the communication of myself."
two individuals communicate is determined not only by how well
the sender says things but also by how well one is understood
by the receiver. Throughout the week, Charles and Leslie
communicated by listening attentively to each other's words,
body movements, and facial expressions. As an example,
their silent communications and hand signals as they anchored
the boat in numerous coves were extraordinary. It may
sound corny, but their caring communications and relationships
with each other helped them to care for themselves and for
us, the customers, by staying aware of our words, emotions/feelings,
and body language. They demonstrate that you cannot divorce
commitment and caring from efficiency and effectiveness in
service organizations...and probably in all organizations. It
is clear that as a team of two they helped to mold both of
us into a complimentary team of two as we sailed in paradise. It
reminded us, as residents in Thomas Jefferson country in Virginia,
that Jefferson was absolutely on the mark when he said, "to
lead greatly, one must learn to listen greatly."
Meshing, and Kindred Spirits
rescues cynicism and can be parsed as another work for freedom."
Lewis H. Lapham
teams of two we have worked with had a vision; some had religion;
and others had professionalism. This was the first team
of two that had spirituality. The respect and compassion
that they demonstrated toward the sea, sailing, and each other,
created a blending of intellect, emotion, and commitment that
produced collaborative leadership (almost a form of servant
leadership) where love of each other, love of the boat, and
love of the sea gave each of them a mutually optimistic perspective
for turning what could have been, and was, difficult work into
a labor of love.
should be made by the people who are going to execute them."
organizations prize the individual, but great organizations
celebrate the team. The central challenge of most organizations
is to blend sometimes-conflicting individual perspectives into
responsible, interrelated practices, policies, and decisions
that best serve the organization, the business, and the customers. It
was Charles and Leslie's uniqueness as individuals, as well
as their respective roles as the crew, that defined their responsibilities,
but it was their collaborative and sophisticated interdependence
that produced their combined strength and outstanding performance
as a team of two. Coincidentally, during the cruise,
Ron was reading Jack Welch's book, Jack: Straight from the
Gut, and he noted as the days progressed that the concept
of boundaryless used by Welch to help make General Electric
the number one Fortune 500 corporation during the past decade
was demonstrated again and again on Phaedrus. Charles
and Leslie continually traded roles, made collaborative decisions,
shared power, and demonstrated an androgynous nexus that produced
a tight linkage between "head and heart" in their day-to-day
decision making and problem solving endeavors.
principle of focus is to exclude that which matters less, so
that we may give attention to what which matters most."
all organizations there are numerous tasks to be done, and
sadly, too many leaders, managers, and employees believe that
they all must be done. Too many times this leads to the
wasteful use of resources with an emphasis on marginalia that
detracts from core necessities. Becoming busy, staying
active, and "sweating the small stuff" at the expense of core
requirements, added-value actions, and customer driven satisfactions
are too often indicative of mediocre organizations. Total
quality does not develop because of latitudes, hyperactivity,
or superficiality; it is achieved by attitudes, focus, and
criticality. This approach to total quality was clearly
manifested on Phaedrus by a team of two who, though
they had to cater to the needs, desires, and appetites of us
vacationers, never took their "eye off the ball" by erroneously
equating service with servitude. They sailed safely;
they navigated professionally; and they constantly scanned
the environment strategically. They focused on the anchor
of what they do...sail safely and professionally. And only
then did they make certain that they took care of their customers'
wishes by building on their confidence, certitude, and capabilities
as masters of the sea.
let's make clear that we have seen many small family enterprises and "mom and
pop" businesses fail because they thought that small itself
was beautiful. Furthermore, we have seen too many large
organizations fail because they have squandered precious resources
on bureaucratic warfare and nonessential tasks. Charles
and Leslie as a focused team of two avoided both of these deadly
extremes by (1) knowing that small is not better...rather, demonstrating
that focused is better, and, (2) showing us that resourcefulness
in achieving core tasks is even more important than the total
is just another word for interdependence."
ultimate goal of a team of two is the overriding desire to
build, to serve, to perform, to grow, and to teach. At
its highest level, team-based leaders and team-led organizations
regardless of size, location, or context are followed, imitated,
and respected because of who they are and the values their
organizations represent. Servant leadership, within a
team framework, is becoming the preferred way of galvanizing
the workforce in the contemporary, service driven environment. Who
would have thought that we would find the team of two leadership
paradigm so finely honed and brilliantly polished in the Caribbean? Thank
you, Charles Swaim and Leslie Jones, for showing us organizational
reality in paradise...actions do speak louder than words.