100% focus on the finish line puts blinkers on teams and derails sustainable high performance

On Tuesday, Melbourne was gripped in Cup Fever with all eyes on the finish line in the race that stops a nation.

Teams with all eyes and focus on the finish line get results – they often win the race.

But the owners and trainers of the horses that have competed in the Melbourne Cup know that to treat their horses as pawns on the chessboard, whose only purpose is to win the race, would be foolhardy. The risk of damage to the horses themselves, their future ability to win again, or to run another race, would be high, resulting in no stakeholder delivery of prizes won.

The A Team are a highly productive team, they appear tireless in their focus on getting the job done. They are organised individuals, with each person clear about what they are working on. They run a personal race against themselves and their team members.

This is a team that is highly productive, they get results. The mantra of this team is “whatever it takes”. The culture of this team is: “if it’s too hot get out of the kitchen”. They believe that the results justify the means, running their race with blinkers on.

The problem with the A Team is that team members are:

  • Exhausted: They get sick: mentally, emotionally, physically, and spiritually.

  • Burned Out: They suffer burnout, which affects their long-term health and wellbeing, and the health and wellbeing of the team and the organisations they work for. Mistakes happen in the A Team due to the levels of exhaustion they experience. Innovation is a luxury they don’t have time for. They are always running the track and never observing from the stands.

  • Cautious: They are careful, watching their backs. It doesn’t feel safe to fail here; popping your head above trenches can result in getting shot. There is no psychological safety.

  • Siloed: Team members are self-focused, they operate in and create silos. Knowledge is currency and sold to the highest bidder, only when deemed valuable.

  • Transient: Turnover is high here, no one makes a career out of being in the A Team. They blow things up, including people when they get in the way, in order to achieve the goal. There is no succession planning or sharing of resources and knowledge. It’s a mercenary culture.

The A Team never take in a 360-degree viewpoint, nor do they look in the rear view mirror to see the impact they leave. They suspend fun and purpose for sometime in the future or file it away as a belief that this is a pipe dream of hippies.

Where do traits of the A Team show up in your team?

Pollyanna Lenkic