Teams Unleashed: A book review by Bob Morris

Teams Unleashed: How to Release the Power and Human Potential of Work Teams
Phillip Sandahl and Alexis Phillips
Nicholas Brealey Publishers (October 2019)

Great Teams: Here’s a model and methodology to create one

According to Phillip Sandahl and Alexis Phillips, they wrote this book in order to provide a framework and process “that can consistently change the environment and support teams to work more effectively. The key, we believe, is to create a cycle of action and learning that enables teams to achieve outstanding results and create a [workplace] culture that is empowering and sustainable. This is a practical coaching approach based on years of experience and the results from thousands of teams worldwide.”

In Part 1, “How to Consistently Create High-Performing Teams,” they examine the qualities and characteristics that make great teams great. Then in Part 2, “Five Essential Competencies for Effective Work with Teams,” they focus on five key coaching competencies and explain how together they form a constellation of ways to work with a team. And then in Part 3, “”Final Questions,” they shift their reader’s attention to “special considerations” and explain “why this work is important” to organizational excellence.

As I worked my way through Sandahl and Phillips’ narrative, I was again reminded of so many great teams within the sports world (e.g. New York Yankees, Boston Celtics, Pittsburgh Steelers) as well as in the business world (e.g. Thomas Edison’s laboratory, Bell Labs, Lockheed’s “Skunk Works,” Disney’s animators, the Manhattan Project, Xerox PARC), teams that combined great talent with what Jim Collins characterizes as “BHAGs,” Big Hairy Audacious Goals.

According to Sandahl and Phillips, “almost without exception,” great teams are the result of “the right people, the right chemistry, the right time, and the right purpose,” as well as great leadership. “If it can happen once, randomly, surely there must be a way to create a repeatable process for that. Yes, there is most certainly a way, or we wouldn’t be writing this book.”

It is important to keep in mind that, in their judgment, great teams need both a coach and a leader who collaborate on the creation and supervision of the aforementioned “cycle of action and learning that enables teams to achieve outstanding results and create a [workplace] culture that is empowering and sustainable.” They, in turn, collaborate with team members in ways and to an extent the given task requires.

In their concluding remarks, Philip Sandahl and Alexis Phillips observe, “Every day, opportunities to learn and practice are present in the very nature of the work people do. Starting with teams is ideal because of the viable size of the team community, the obvious inherent value of collaboration, and the oppirtunity to practice new behavior and see visible success. In fact, we see this as our mission: to change the quality of life at work.”

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