News & Blog

Which Team Are You On?

Mingyu is a highly competent, high potential Managing Director in a financial services firm who sought coaching to help her step into her new role. She was recently promoted to lead the group that has responsibility for connecting corporate clients with potential investors.  This role puts her in contact with a wide range of business CEOs, and multiple groups within the investment bank, giving her insight into multiple aspects of the bank’s operations.  She has a well-established group of 10 direct reports, each of whom connects to a business unit within the bank.  At the same time, her manager wants to involve her in many of the projects he is taking on, and needs her to focus on the other divisions and leaders in his organization.  As a result, Mingyu feels pulled in different directions and is unsure how to manage these competing demands.

So, which team is she on?

Every business manager, from the moment he or she moves out of an individual contributor role, is the member of (at least) two teams.  She is a member of her manager’s team, a key contributor to the larger organization that sets the mission and strategy.  I call this her First Team, because she has to put her manager first. She is also the manager of the people who report to her, or the organization that is under her. I call this her Main Team, because this is her main area of focus on a day-to-day basis.

The most effective managers divide their attention between their First Team and their Main Team, and contribute to each based on the needs of the teams and their own needs. This balancing act may be obvious, but I am often surprised by how many managers over-focus on one or the other.

Focusing too much on your Main Team may deliver results and help your people to develop, but it can make your peers and manager see you as tactical, parochial, or limited in scope.  Too much attention to your Main Team will make you a valuable contributor to the business strategy and organization, but can reduce your own team’s trust in you, distract you from your execution responsibilities, and limit the growth of your team beyond its current state.

How do you balance your focus on these two teams? How do you know where you should be focusing your attention and effort?

  1. In the beginning, build relationships with peers and with direct reports – make sure you do both.
  2. Create a stakeholder map with a plan for how often you interact with those on your Main team and those on your First Team.  You have limited bandwidth, so it is important to know who and what to focus on.
  3. The more your Main Team’s success depends on other teams or leaders, the more you need to focus on the First Team (see my 8/15/2016 blog).  The more your Main Team is
    an independent entity, largely reliant on itself for success, the less time you need to spend on your First Team.
  4. Unless, of course, your manager sees you as having a significant contribution to the larger business. In this case, you do have to focus more attention on the needs of the First Team.
  5. If you operate in a highly political organization where resources are in short supply and you have to spend a great deal of time fighting to hold on to funds, projects and people, you may need to allocate more time to your First Team.