- Examples of how leaders can work cross-functionally to achieve shared organizational goals. (3:00)
- How guidelines and guardrails can help you navigate friction points while also valuing each team’s expertise. (7:35)
- Navigating real-world scenarios, what happens when you face challenges working cross-functionally, and how can you remedy those and get back on track. (11:37)
Related Episodes: Listen to Episode 9 to learn how you as a leader can build a strong culture and accelerate your growth.
Listen to Episode 12
Episode 12 Transcript
Luis Wilson (00:35):
Hi, everyone. Welcome to Building Teams with TEAMES & CO. I'm Luis Wilson and I'm here with Tracy. Hey Tracy, how are you?
Tracy Eames (00:42):
I'm doing well, Louis. How are you today?
Luis Wilson (00:44):
I'm doing great, thanks. For today's episode. We'll be discussing the topic of how leaders can work across functions with other leaders to really grow their business, as well as navigate any challenges that come up. So, Tracy, what are some effective ways that leaders across functions can work well together?
Tracy Eames (01:02):
As we've spoken about previously, it's important when you think about teams to think about teams in that 360 view and that leadership level is part of that team. So you not only have the folks that are on your team, working with you day in and day out, you also have that broader cross-functional leadership team that you probably work with. In a functional organizational design, this might mean if you're the director of finance, that you're also working with the director of marketing and the director of sales and the director of IT, et cetera.
In more of a cross-functional relationship or regional, you might be working with GM's of different regions. So, if you're the general manager of one region, you might be working with the general manager of another region. As we think about working together, we want to think about how are we collaborating with our partners? This is really important because it'll help us all move faster as an organization. We’ve spoken about this previously, which is if you're working in the finance department and you're meeting with marketing or you're meeting with sales, having aligned goals across your team, and making sure that you're all pulling in the same direction is really important.
One of the first things I would do is to speak to leaders about, are they going through that step? With their counterparts, are they sharing their goals? And are they also understanding what their counterparts goals are? That will help you understand where each person needs to be going as you move forward together, and help you get there as a collaborative process versus always going into a meeting thinking, "These are my goals, and I need to achieve these things." Understanding where the other person is coming from will help you work better together.
Luis Wilson (02:49):
Thanks, Tracy. Really collaborating with those partners effectively - can you give us some examples of how these leaders across functions or divisions have worked well together to grow their business or accelerate their growth?
Tracy Eames (03:02):
Of course. This kind of check-in and this alignment on goals will help you do a few things. First and foremost, it'll help you ensure you are aligned. One of the best ways to help the organization move quickly and accelerate their growth, is making sure everybody has goals aligned to the strategy, that we're all working towards the same shared purpose. As a leader, if you're checking in with the other leaders across the different functions in the organization and making sure all of your goals are aligned, if you see a misalignment, you're able to raise that to your shared leadership and say, "So-and-so and I met, we reviewed our goals and we actually noticed that their team is working on X and we're working on Y. And we're not sure if those both meet the strategy or if they both reinforce our strategy."
And, it gives your senior leader the opportunity then to either kind of add light and add more detail around how both of those things do reinforce the strategy, do help you provide that exceptional customer experience, are going to help you reach your shared goals. Or it helps bring light to a fact of, "Oh yeah, we did miss something. We do have a misalignment of our goals." So this process first and foremost will help you understand those gaps or also help you and other leaders understand how your shared work together does reinforce that strategy.
The other thing it will do, is allow you to set a framework and we've spoken about guardrails and guidelines going forward, and this will help you do that at the leadership level. So, while your counterparts, so nobody's leading the other person you're working collaboratively together. If you're looking at your goals together and you say, "Okay, here's some places that we 100% have aligned strategy and goals." And we work together on certain projects, let's say we can then set a cadence of meetings. So, that gives us a guardrail. We're going to meet once a month. We know that once a month, we're going to give each other an update on what's going on in that project. We're going to be able to have time to troubleshoot together, et cetera.
There also might be other times that there's natural tensions between teams based on the work that we do, and these are okay. They're there for a reason, but by reviewing your goals, you understand what the expectations of both teams are and how you can navigate those tensions together. And, I'll give you an example. So again, as everybody on this show is very familiar with, I spent a lot of my career in marketing and in marketing, what you often do is you work closely with finance, around setting up marketing plans. You have to talk through the ROI, the return on investment of any kind of marketing campaigns and finance helps you build out those financial models and helps you track your budgets, et cetera.
And so the natural tension point there, is finance has the fiduciary responsibility to make sure that the investments of the company are meeting the strategy and meeting the goals and expectations of leadership. Then marketing has a similar goal, which is meeting the expectations of leadership around reaching our customers, having relevant conversations, sharing information. That obviously costs money, so in that discussion, I now know if I'm speaking to my counterpart, their expectations of what I'm bringing to that meeting. So we, through going through our goals, we recognize, "Okay, yeah, your goal is to make sure that we're making responsible investments. My goal is to make sure that we're reaching our customers. So what information do you need for me each month to show you that why I think this would be a good investment?"
And then, likewise, what information are you going to give me around how we might be making these decisions again, so I can continuously improve our process. If we do that upfront, then every time we're meeting, I'm bringing the relevant information, they're bringing the relevant information and our conversations are much more productive versus a little bit more of a friction point. Hopefully that helps kind of add some light to what I mean about that, but I'm happy to follow up into dig into more details if necessary.
Luis Wilson (07:19):
No, absolutely. It sounds like really working on alignment and then when you do find those natural points of tension, working with your counterpart, as well as your leadership to set up guard rails and guidelines at that level. When you do have those points of tension you can really use those guidelines and guard rails, perhaps a meeting cadence, like you said, you're meeting once a month and really exchanging relevant information, which both of those really add up to being able to effectively navigate those points.
Tracy Eames (07:51):
Those tension points are really valuable to an organization. The reason we have different functional areas in different functional leaders is because we want people bringing their expertise to the table and we want certain leaders to be leading certain initiatives. So, those are really great to have in an organization and for everybody to be fulfilling their roles as the leader of whatever functional area they're leading.
I think to your point, it's making sure that those natural tension points don't become friction points, and don't slow us down as an organization. You want those to build dialogue. You want those to give us an opportunity to pressure-test different ideas and have lots of opinions around, "This is why this might be really good. This might be why maybe it won't be successful. Well, how about if we tweak it or change it like this?" Those are amazing conversations to be having as a leadership team, so you don't want to take that away. You just want to build that dialogue between leaders, so that way those conversations are moving us forward versus bogging us down and slowing down the process.
And, if we can kind of all agree what our expectations are upfront and what information we need to be bringing to those meetings to make them most effective, it'll help us all move faster together.
Luis Wilson (09:06):
That's great. Thank you, Tracy. Do you have any other best practices or key things to focus on when working with other leaders and counterparts for our listeners?
Tracy Eames (09:16):
Yes. I think we've mentioned this one before, but I'll just re-highlight it in case somebody missed that episode, which is when you're thinking about building your team cadence of meetings, don't forget your cross-functional teams. So, your leader probably has a team meeting amongst the leaders that report to that person. So if you're on the commercial side of the business, you're VP of commercial or customer facing activities might include the director of sales, the director of marketing, et cetera.
Also, make sure that you have a cadence with the functional leaders or the leaders that have an influence within your team or when you think again, we've talked about the RACI model. Maybe they're not accountable or responsible for something, but they're a good inform. So, you want to think about if you're sales, are you having a regular check-in with operations? Because, our operations obviously needs to know if you're going to be placing a big order, they need to have the proper stock on hand. They need to be able to get that order fulfilled for you.
Similarly, if you’re operations, and there's an out of stock, or there's a delay with a supplier or something like that, you want to be able to tell sales that, because you don't want them potentially not informing your customers that there could potentially be a delay on something. So trying to make sure that you're mapping out who are those stakeholders throughout the value chain that you should be working with maybe not every day, but figuring out that cadence together. Maybe it's just an informal lunch once a month, where you update folks, or maybe it's a more formal meeting quarterly where you go through your shared goals.
Trying to figure that out and build that communication in a few different ways will be helpful to help not only you achieve your goals, but again, to provide that exceptional customer experience. If all of the teams are aligned, we're able to really deliver on that promise to the customer because we're able to streamline the process throughout all of our different functional areas in the value chain.
Luis Wilson (11:24):
Thank you, Tracy. Really highlighting how counterparts can work together across functions to accelerate that growth. Keeping each other informed on things, close on what their goals are and really helping each other out. Now, this doesn't always work out so well. What happens when things go wrong here? What do we do?
Tracy Eames (11:43):
I think it's a good point. We all get busy and it is very easy for us to sit on a podcast and speak about the perfect situation and when everything going well. I think it's more realistic to think about there's going to be times that we all get off track in our communications. It's the reality of the world, right? We all move very quickly. There's going to be a time that you forget to email somebody. We're all human and so what I would say is having that open and honest dialogue is really valuable with your counterparts.
Maybe it's not a call-out during a meeting, but maybe it's just after a meeting has ended you ask one of your colleagues, if they can stay for a second, or if you can call them right back. Now, in the world where maybe many of us are virtual, you could just set up a 15 minute call to lay out the situation and ask for advice and also ask the other person, what could you do to make it better? We all want to be able to have input into processes. So if somebody expressed to you, "Hey, I would've rather be informed earlier." -rather than just say, "Okay." -you can say, "Hey, do you mind if we chat for a couple of seconds after the meeting?" Then when you chat say, "Well, what does earlier look like to you? Is the right timeframe a week in advance? Is it two weeks in advance?" You might have to kind of debate that timeframe a little bit, because you might both have different needs, but you're probably going to get to a better answer if you have the conversation directly versus you guessing what earlier means.
So, a couple of extra follow-up questions will help, or just recognizing when you could do something a little bit differently. You could say, "Hey, I realize I didn't send this email out." or "I only emailed these two or three people. Are there more people that should be involved? Does anybody see that I'm missing somebody?" Being open to that feedback and opening up opportunities for your colleagues to give that feedback is really valuable because sometimes people don't want to just jump in, because they don't want to be seen as being a naysayer. But if you, at the end of a meeting say, "Does anybody see if I'm missing anything? Are there any gaps? Am I leaving out a certain communication that somebody would prefer?" That opens the door for that dialogue and it opens the door for you to all brainstorm together versus you trying to figure out did I find all the details? So again, it just kind of gives you a good perspective and it helps you move through some of those times that could potentially be more challenging.
Luis Wilson (14:22):
Great. So really talking about how to right the ship when the collaboration and the communications breaking down. It sounds like it doesn't have to be a big challenge or a big breakdown where you have to have a formal conversation about it, but it can just be something as simple as soliciting more feedback or soliciting more input. Or perhaps revisiting an old email or saying, "Hey, should we add more people?"
So, at all those different levels, no matter how big the issue or how small it is, just focusing on driving more collaboration sounds like?
Tracy Eames (14:50):
Yes, Luis. I think it's similar to what we've spoken about in the past, which is this is all a journey. So there's nothing that we speak about that's just a point in time, and if we do it right, one time, we never have to address it again. Oftentimes with our teams, when a new team member joins us, these are exactly the conversations we all want to have. We want to ask the person, "How do you like to receive information? How do you share information?" And, it's top of mind for us because they've joined the team and we're going to learn about our new team member.
What we often forget is, even if we know everybody on our team, if we're changing and we're experiencing a change together, then it's helpful to have this conversation again, because it allows us to reset our shared expectations. So if you take this year, as we've spoken about there's obviously been an immense amount of change. Some teams have had to move to digital. Some teams have completely new schedules or completely new work conditions. And, under all of those new conditions in those new scenarios, we may change our working style. We may prefer to get information in a new way. It may be helpful to have an email when it used to be helpful to have a phone call. It may be helpful to have a phone call when it used to be a hallway catch up. So, we want to take more of an active approach to having these conversations, especially with our cross-functional leaders, because we all get so busy during the day. It's easy to forget that you're not in a silo and you're not only operating within your functional area.
So, the more we can be intentional about reaching out, it gives us an opportunity to brainstorm with other leaders, to get their perspective, to get their guidance. We have this whole idea around mentors and mentors being maybe a role that's ahead of us in the hierarchy, maybe more advanced in their career. But, great mentors can be your counterparts. They're living your experience just in a different region or a different functional area. So, building these relationships give you that opportunity for more of that informal brainstorming. Learning from other leaders. Learning how you can do better and also gives you the opportunity to share what's important to you and how those teams can help your team get better the same way you're going to help their team get better.
We bring it up because again, it sometimes, it feels maybe a little bit awkward to sit down with somebody on a video call after knowing them for 10 years and say, "How would you like to receive your communication?" But, it's actually really valuable. And, the other person will appreciate that the fact that you're making the effort and maybe you have a good laugh because you're, "Oh, it's kind of funny that we're having this conversation after so long." But, you'll learn things that are really helpful to both of you and we'll help you move forward together. And so worst case scenario, you spend 15 minutes, chit-chatting with one of your counterparts and you confirm everything you know, but then you're really confident. You're, "Okay, great. I had the conversation. I'm confident as we move forward, that we're doing the things that are helpful for each other."
Luis Wilson (18:04):
That's great, Tracy, thank you. Really not waiting for your counterpart to change or the team to change, but really focusing on driving this alignment and communication when the situation has changed and how to do so successfully. So, thank you so much for your time today. I really appreciate it.
Tracy Eames (18:21):
Thank you, Luis. I really appreciate talking to you and I look forward to our next session.
Luis Wilson (18:27):
Absolutely. See you next week.
Tracy Eames (18:29):
See you next week.