Leaders and business owners know that in order to build a lasting organization, their company must have a sustainable competitive advantage.
What Is Competitive Advantage?
Specifically, it is your company's unique skills and resources working to implement strategies that competitors cannot implement as effectively. Understanding your competitive advantage is critical. It is the reason you are in business. It is what you do best that draws customers to buy your product/service instead of your competitor's. Successful companies deliberately make choices to be unique and different in activities that they are great at and they focus their energy in these areas.
What Are Some Common Sources of Competitive Advantage?
As business owners or leaders, what do you think of when you think of sources of competitive advantage? Here is a list of likely contenders:
Strong R&D capabilities
Access to intellectual properties
Exclusive distribution rights
Ownership of capital equipment
Superior product or customer support
Low cost or high-volume production
Economic factors of globalization
Superior data processing capabilities
Strong marketing strategy
Access to working capital
Excellent management team
Barriers to entry
Teamwork is the Ultimate Competitive Advantage
What I am about to describe is not touchy feely — and there is nothing soft about it — and it’s behavioral for sure. There is no way to put it on a Gantt chart or spreadsheet. Teamwork is absolutely a critical competitive advantage. It comes down to humans interacting with one another.
What if I were to say to you that it’s “Not finance. Not strategy. Not technology. It is teamwork that remains the ultimate competitive advantage, both because it is so powerful and so rare.” Furthermore, “If you could get all the people in an organization rowing in the same direction, you could dominate any industry, in any market, against any competition, at any time.” - Patrick Lencioni.
It’s about how you and your colleagues and people working with you and for you adapt their behavior so you can get more done in less time. If people aren’t working together — work gets very hard. Most leaders have a far easier time holding people accountable for their results than they do for behavioral issues. This is a problem because behavioral problems almost always precede results. That means team members have to be willing to call each other out on behavioral issues, as uncomfortable as that might be, and if they see their leader balk at doing this, then they aren’t going to do it themselves.
Teamwork is a Strategic Choice
Teamwork is not a virtue. It is a choice — and a strategic one at that. It’s a choice to get more work done in less time in a better way. Teamwork increases efficiency, boosts creativity, provides a support network, boosts productivity, enables innovation, improves morale, encourages engagement, increases speed, improves service, grows quality, attracts talent and helps retain talent. Superior teamwork drives organizational health. “In this day and age of informational ubiquity and nanosecond change, teamwork remains the one sustainable competitive advantage that has been largely untapped.” – Patrick Lencioni
Why is Teamwork so Rare?
With all these benefits — why is teamwork so rare? Teamwork is so rare because it is so hard to truly achieve. Teams succumb to the 5 Dysfunctions of a Team: Lack of Trust, Fear of Conflict, Lack of Commitment, Avoidance of Accountability and Inattention to Results. As a result, teams hold grudges and dread meetings. They fail to tap into all the perspectives of team members. They lack confidence and fear failure. They miss deadlines and key deliverables. And they rarely defeat competitors.
How Can You Achieve the Ultimate Competitive Advantage?
To achieve the ultimate competitive advantage of teamwork, you must root out causes of dysfunction on the teams where you work, and the learn the keys to overcoming them. Counter to conventional wisdom, the causes of dysfunction are both identifiable and curable. However, they don't die easily. You have to be willing to take risks — be vulnerable, be open and honest and accept the value of conflict. You make your team functional and cohesive by employing the levels of courage, discipline and emotional energy that many groups cannot seem to muster.
Lynn Whitesell provides advanced expertise in leadership solutions, organization and culture transformation and executive coaching. She co-founded Harris Whitesell Consulting, LLC to partner with leaders and organizations to help them achieve measurable improvement and reach their full potential. For more information visit harriswhitesellconsulting.com.
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