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EP:06 – A Conversation with Dr. Ruth Wageman

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This show illuminates the conditions that are necessary for Team Effectiveness and discusses the nature of Authority Structures. Ruth Wageman is one of the foremost scholars and practitioners studying and working with teams, mostly senior leadership teams. She is the co-author of the book Senior Leadership Teams, what it takes to make them great. She designed the Team Diagnostic Survey with the late Richard Hackman and Erin Lehman. This is a powerful assessment that measures team effectiveness against the 6 conditions Ruth described on this podcast. Ruth is undoubtedly an authority on the work of teams and I was delighted as a fellow team coach to have her as a guest on my show.

Show Notes

Podcast episode summary: This conversation started by talking about collaboration and how important and critical it is for teams today. Most members want to collaborate and find they are stymied not by their behaviours, focus on their particular silos and or interpersonal relations but more because of a lack of attention to the structure and design of the team. 

Ruth described 3 essentials and 3 enablers that comprise the critical components for team success. 

  • Real Team –The need for the team to be bounded, stable and interdependent
  • Compelling Team Purpose– where the purpose is clear, compelling and consequential 
  • Right People– with the right mix of capabilities and diverse thinking to deliver on their purpose
  • Sound Structure– small number of people, explicit norms of behaviour and a few critical team tasks that only this team can complete together. 
  • Supportive Context– Where the team has the requisite resources, information in an accessible manner and appropriate materials and training to support their endeavour 
  • Team Coaching– Someone or some people who manage the process of the team 

Over the course of the conversation we opined how tough it is to not trip over some real power dynamics or power authority structures that exist on teams. There is often mixed expectations over the extent of responsibility a Leader shoulders or team members share. Team Coaches, especially external team coaches can be blind to their beliefs about shared responsibility and risk the very real chance of alienating the team leader or Chief Executive holding authority. 

Ruth discussed her passion for working with teams real self- governing teams, whose power and authority is distributed and who exist to solve complex wicked problems that have real consequence in the world. She described working in systems such as healthcare, business and social services whose purpose it is to transform their ecosystems for societal benefit. 


Quotable quotes: Ruth recommended that teams be mindful to create “norms with bite”. 


Resources: the following include the resources we alluded to over the course of our conversation

  1. Senior Leadership Teams, what it takes to make them great by Ruth Wageman, Debra A. Nunes, James A. Burrus and J.Richard Hackman
  2. The Team Diagnostic Survey by Ruth Wageman, J. Richard Hackman and Erin Lehaman
  3. Who’s in charge here? The Team Leadership Implications of Authority Structure, by Ruth Wageman and Colin Fisher
  4. An article written by Ruth Wageman and Krister Lowe on Authority Structures and teams
  5. and the Game of Teams Podcast Show available on itunes, Stitcher, Soundcloud and ….

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