First Team Mindset 101: Why You’re Prioritizing the Wrong People

First Team Mindset 101: Why You’re Prioritizing the Wrong People

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As an executive, it’s important to keep an open mind about different leadership styles and theories. The traditional concept of “leader + staff” is still an accepted model, but in today’s business world, other forms are being tried and tested in order to maximize employee engagement and more hands-on leadership. One such concept that can work for your company is the First Team Mindset, a management model focused on the combined efforts of a team of executive leaders. This article will examine what the First Team Mindset is, how to implement it, and how it’s not such a radical departure from the “traditional” executive model.

What is the First Team Mindset?

The First Team Mindset was defined by Patrick Lencioni, it’s often also called “Team Number One” and at first glance, the concept is simple: instead of prioritizing the people reporting to them, executives and leaders should prioritize setheir peers. By concentrating responsibility at the top of the board, results and impacts are much more focused on the team of executives, rather than stretched out from top to bottom. While your teams and the people reporting to you still have their goals and expectations, the First Team Mindset creates more accountability among executives. The goal is to have a concrete outline of results, the leadership model at the top, and a small, core group of leaders sharing suggestions. Everyone holds each other up with mutual standards, and strengthens leadership at the top so it transfers down to each leader’s respective reporting line.

Is the First Team Mindset too narrow?

At first glance, the concept appears to be too insular, too concentrated at the leadership level. Plus, you may worry that you’re abandoning your reports by prioritizing other leaders over them. However, it creates awareness and strengthens relationships among members of a leadership team and creates a stronger company overall, which benefits everyone. It’s not meant to be a divisive, cut-throat method, but instead, it’s an emphasis on results at the top of the leadership chain. If, as an executive, you’re reporting and checking in with your peers, it will tighten your drive to get results, and this level of responsibility will undoubtedly trickle down to the people who report to you.

What results can you expect?

The results of the First Team mindset will be a stronger working and personal relationship with your leadership peers. While the emphasis is on results, the mindset will lead to more open communication, better definitions of responsibility, and ultimately, a stronger core focus on company results. The goal of any company is to be successful, and refined, focused First Team relationships will have far-reaching effects throughout your business.

Who should lead the First Team?

While the First Team is a team, there may be some confusion about who’s ultimately in charge; if you’re the executive who has instituted the First Team mindset, you may be the de facto leader of the executive team. Ultimately, this is up to you and your First Team. If your workflow benefits from someone having final say, then it will be fine to have yourself as the leader among the executives. If the working relationship is strong enough to have an equal balance of power, that’s beneficial as well.

However, don’t lose sight of the Team aspect. Even if you’re the leader, be willing to engage and listen to other executives and their ideas, and be open to modifying your opinions and processes as your team gets more comfortable over time. A good leader admits mistakes and is willing to listen to people who have their best interests in mind, especially with a mutual goal of results.

Strengths and weaknesses

The First Team Mindset should be, as Jason Wong explains, modeled on help, both giving and receiving. While you’re in your executive role because of your leadership skills and results, it’s always good to remember that you might not have all the answers. There’s no shame in reaching out to other leaders on your team for guidance. They may have ideas and outlooks to help you in your responsibilities, and it’s a two way street: you’ll have your own opinions and suggestions that other leaders can use to better themselves, as well as the company.

However, while the responsibilities are concentrated at this high level, you want to be mindful and aware of people outside the First Team. You still have people reporting to you, and you still have goals and requirements to delegate.  As mentioned before, this First Team can be insular, but don’t confuse the close working relationships with tunnel vision. The company as a whole needs to prosper, and make sure the lessons you’re picking up from your First Team have positive benefits all the way down the chain.

Communication is Key

The most important aspect of the First Team is communication. You and your team need to have explicit, clearly outlined goals for each other, as well as personal goals for yourself. If results aren’t being met, consult with your First Team to refresh and possibly even rework the expected outcomes for your business. Whether through weekly meetings or digital communication, make sure that everyone on the First Team is continually aware of the goals, and that each executive’s mission and responsibilities are being discussed, met, and driven for results.

Overall, a strong First Team is open with each other about results, and through those expectations, productivity will be stronger, and the working and personal relationships between the executives will also be elevated. Yes, the results are important, but executives need to have others to keep them focused on the goals at hand, and through a diverse, functioning First Team, the leadership tactics will continually circulate to move your business forward. Never stop communicating, and never stop focusing on your executive growth as both an individual and as part of the First Team.

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