How Interdependent Teams Help You Blow Past Your Limits

I want to tell you about three friends who I believe will help underline just how important interdependent teams are to your growth, success, and capacity for breakthrough.

Meet Bob. Bob left his corporate position several years ago to start his own agency. He knows how to sell, produce, and manage the details successfully. But Bob is noticing every person on his team is asking him questions about the details of their work. Bob is spending a great deal of time getting so far into the details that it’s effecting his ability to work “on” the business and to build and maintain relationships outside the business.

Meet Kathy. Kathy is a successful real estate professional. She started with nothing and now leads a franchise office for a national brand. Kathy has more than 50 affiliate brokers working in her branch. She knows she needs to create efficiencies because each agent brings with him or her their preferred way to work together. It's creating confusion and complexity when onboarding new agents and makes it almost impossible for agents to help each other.

And meet Jeff. Jeff is a pastor of a thriving church in a fast-growing community. He didn’t plant the church but did come just a few years into its life. He’s been there 15 years now. They have thousands who come on the weekends with multiple locations across the city. From the outside in, everything seems to be going well. But in the past several years, Jeff doesn’t feel the synergy he once had with his leadership team. There’s been some turnover which is what he uses to explain the situation away. Jeff wonders if he’s missing something.


They have reached a point in time when their genius, their efforts, and their desire for success is limited by the people around them. I can attest from personal observation that each of these leaders is hard-working, engaged, and invested in the work they do, the outcomes they desire, and the people they lead. Nevertheless, they’re stuck, and they’re not sure what they need to do next.

It’s easy to judge Bob and say he just needs to do less directing and more coaching. And it’s easy to believe Kathy just needs to explain how teams can work together to elevate the capacity of everyone involved. And then it’s easy to simply tell Jeff he needs to plan some extended time with his leadership team to connect on a relational level and ensure everyone is in alignment.


Here is what I see:

·      Bob needs to align his desires with his behavior. If directing the details of his team is keeping him from his biggest goals, he must help his team grow in their leadership.

·      Kathy needs to create a team of long-time agents who are committed to the work, her office, and the success of the brand. That group will help her create an environment which will increase the entire office’s capacity to excel, lower attrition rate of new agents, and improve client service and brand equity.

·      Jeff needs to make space in his leadership for both he and his team to interact on a level far behind the tyranny of the urgent and start dreaming together. It’s easy to get sucked into producing at the expense of relating. You can make that compromise for a short period but not for long.

If it’s so obvious, why is it so hard?

·      It’s hard to see yourself clearly. This is why I believe mentorship will help you see things in yourself and your leadership that you wouldn't recognize on your own. A mentor can also help you contextualize tactics and best practices so that they fit your situation or circumstance.

·      Building teams requires a different skill set than being a rock star performer. It’s not uncommon for top performers to get promoted into leadership. That doesn’t mean the transition from a project champion to a people equipper is natural. In fact, it’s anything but that for most people.

·      You have to allow time for others to catch up with you. Time is your biggest enemy in building interdependent teams. You will always feel the push to compromise on your capacity to coach, let people try and fail, and give away things you feel like you’re at. But that’s what it takes.


·      For Bob, he gets to spend more time recruiting great talent, meeting with key clients, and building networking relationships in his industry.

·      For Kathy, she gets insights into what is going to boost productivity, retain great talent, and help new agents be successful faster.

·      For Jeff, he gets to hear more diverse observations about what’s working and what isn’t, encounters ideas he may never have considered before, and makes his team feel like they are co-creating the future.

It could be what is holding you back is not skill, talent, or desire. It could be you haven’t prioritized building teams and equipping leaders above your capacity to produce results. It's a critical shift you must make in your mind, your calendar, your decision-making, and your leadership. Otherwise, you will remain the lid on your growth and success, you'll have a hard time retaining great talent, and you'll always have this nagging sense you're missing something.

There is a lot of Bob, Kathy, and Jeff in every leader. Great leadership theories and ideas almost always break down when it comes to putting them into practice. It's not because those ideas are bad, inaccurate, or incomplete. It's hard for those principles to take root; you must become a different leader. It's likely you'll need to adjust your leadership approach, style, and expectations, so you can make room to equip leaders to form interdependent relationships that will allow you to elevate your organization and position you for breakthrough.

REFLECT: Are you effective at building leaders and teams? If not, why? If yes, why? What action steps are you taking today to increase interdependence among your leadership team? How will you know you're making progress in that area? What needs to change in you to be better at equipping people and building interdependent teams?