banking in Europe and the United States. When RBS bought
Nat West and migrated the new acquisition’s technology platform to RBS’s, the speed and success of the GBI teams confounded many market analysts.
BP has made another sort of signature investment. Because its employees are located all over the world, with relatively few at headquarters, the company aims to build social
networks by moving employees across functions, businesses,
and countries as part of their career development. When BP
integrates an acquisition (it has grown by buying numerous
smaller oil companies), the leadership development committee deliberately rotates employees from the acquired firm
through positions across the corporation. Though the easier
and cheaper call would be to leave the executives in their
own units – where, after all, they know the business – BP
instead trains them to take on new roles. As a consequence
any senior team today is likely to be made up of people from
multiple heritages. Changing roles frequently – it would not
be uncommon for a senior leader at BP to have worked in
four businesses and three geographic locations over the past
decade – forces executives to become very good at meeting
new people and building relationships with them.
Modeling collaborative behavior. In companies with
many thousands of employees, relatively few have the opportunity to observe the behavior of the senior team on a
day-to-day basis. Nonetheless, we found that the perceived
behavior of senior executives plays a significant role in determining how cooperative teams are prepared to be.
Executives at Standard Chartered Bank are exceptionally
good role models when it comes to cooperation, a strength
that many attribute to the firm’s global trading heritage.
The Chartered Bank received its remit from Queen Victoria in 1853. The bank’s traditional business was in cotton
from Bombay (now Mumbai), indigo and tea from Calcutta,
rice from Burma, sugar from Java, tobacco from Sumatra,
hemp from Manila, and silk from Yokohama. The Standard
Bank was founded in the Cape Province of South Africa in
1863 and was prominent in financing the development of
the diamond fields and later gold mines. Standard Chartered
was formed in 1969 through a merger of the two banks, and
today the firm has 57 operating groups in 57 countries, with
no home market.
It’s widely accepted at Standard Chartered that members
of the general management committee will frequently serve
as substitutes for one another. The executives all know and
understand the entire business and can fill in for each other
easily on almost any task, whether it’s leading a regional celebration, representing the company at a key external event,
or kicking off an internal dialogue with employees.
While the behavior of the executive team is crucial to supporting a culture of collaboration, the challenge is to make
executives’ behavior visible. At Standard Chartered the
senior team travels extensively; the norm is to travel even
That Lead to Success
1Investing in signature relationship practices.
Executives can encourage collaborative behavior by
making highly visible investments – in facilities with
open floor plans to foster communication, for example –
that demonstrate their commitment to collaboration.
2Modeling collaborative behavior. At companies
where the senior executives demonstrate highly collaborative behavior themselves, teams collaborate well.
3Creating a “gift culture.” Mentoring and coaching – especially on an informal basis – help people
build the networks they need to work across corporate
4Ensuring the requisite skills. Human resources
departments that teach employees how to build
relationships, communicate well, and resolve conflicts
creatively can have a major impact on team collaboration.
5Supporting a strong sense of community.
When people feel a sense of community, they are more
comfortable reaching out to others and more likely to
6Assigning team leaders that are both task- and
relationship-oriented. The debate has traditionally
focused on whether a task or a relationship orientation
creates better leadership, but in fact both are key to successfully leading a team. Typically, leaning more heavily on a task
orientation at the outset of a project and shifting toward a
relationship orientation once the work is in full swing
7Building on heritage relationships. When too
many team members are strangers, people may be
reluctant to share knowledge. The best practice is to
put at least a few people who know one another on the team.
8Understanding role clarity and task ambiguity.
Cooperation increases when the roles of individual
team members are sharply defined yet the team is given
latitude on how to achieve the task.