January 2019 | Nano Tools | Leadership
Nano Tools for Leaders® are fast, effective leadership tools that you can learn and start using in less than 15 minutes — with the potential to significantly impact your success as a leader and the engagement and productivity of the people you lead.
Contributor: Lee A. Fleisher, MD, Chair of the Department of Anesthesiology and Critical Care, University of Pennsylvania Perelman School of Medicine; Beulah Trey, PhD, President, Vector Group Consulting
Develop teams that build greater cross-silo trust, and improve your budgeting and resource allocation decisions.
When resources like time and money are stretched thin in organizations, team meetings are likely to become competitive. The most aggressive members may vie to get in the last word, or team members may stay silent, fearing that if they speak up against an idea, or modify the idea in some way inconsistent with the original “owner,” someone will inevitably do the same to them. In either case, two important elements get lost: diversity of thought and focus on the good of the organization as a whole.
To ensure that both elements are present, especially during planning, prioritizing projects, or budgeting, leaders can try a new approach called the “shark tank” meeting. Designed explicitly to be used in zero-sum contexts in which team members are advocating for their own projects, this tool is based on the syndicated television series Shark Tank, in which budding entrepreneurs pitch their companies to “five titans of industry.” After an often grueling set of questions to determine the viability of the business and the character of the presenter, the sharks can decide to invest their own money and resources in the venture.
Similarly, the shark tank meeting asks each team member to imagine they are being asked to spend their own capital on their colleague’s pitch. The meeting becomes a safe and energizing forum for members to vigorously engage in analyzing and developing the strength of each other’s plans, goals, and ideas. Through modeling the desired behaviors, the team leader creates an environment of trust and psychological safety that focuses on the big picture and benefits from multiple perspectives. Additionally, the approach promotes better cross-silo understanding and cooperation and builds the next generation of leaders.
To see how the shark tank process could benefit your team, use the Action Steps below during your next round of budgeting or resources decisions.
At an academic institution, one departmental team member was attempting to get financing for new research initiatives. Some questioned why they should fund something that may never increase the department’s budget, and would decrease the funds available for other team members’ projects. As a part of the shark tank experience, the research lead passionately reminded the team that research was consistent with their core mission and distinguishes them as an academic department. As such, it should be a strong priority. Everyone knew this implicitly, but his persuasive argument and the questions and open conversation that followed engendered a willingness and enthusiasm to support his mission and produce new ideas, even if it meant other team members didn’t get everything they requested for their silo.
Nano Tools for Leaders® was conceived and developed by Deb Giffen, MCC, director of Custom Programs at Wharton Executive Education. Nano Tools for Leaders® is a collaboration between joint sponsors Wharton Executive Education and Wharton’s Center for Leadership and Change Management. This collaboration is led by Professors Michael Useem and John Paul MacDuffie.
Subscribe to the Wharton@Work RSS Feed