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Smart Leaders, Smarter Teams: How You and Your Team Get Unstuck to Get Results

ISBN: 978-0-7879-8873-9
272 pages
March 2013, Jossey-Bass
Smart Leaders, Smarter Teams: How You and Your Team Get Unstuck to Get Results (0787988731) cover image


A proven approach for helping leaders and teams work together to achieve better decisions, greater commitment, and stronger results

More than ever, effective leadership requires us to work as a team, but many leaders struggle to get the results they need. When stakes are high, you can't get great results by just changing what you do. You also need to change how you think. Organizational psychologist and leadership consultant Roger Schwarz applies his 30+ years of experience working with leadership teams to reveal how leaders can drastically improve results by changing their individual and team mindset.

  • Provides practical guidance to help teams increase decision quality, decrease implementation time, foster innovation, get commitment, reduce costs and increase trust
  • Outlines 5 core values leadership teams can adopt to exponentially improve results
  • Author of The Skilled Facilitator and The Skilled Facilitator Fieldbook

Get the results you and your team need. Start by applying the practical wisdom of Smart Leaders, Smarter Teams.

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Table of Contents

Preface xi

Who this book is for, what it is about, and why I wrote it.

1 How Well Does Your Team Really Work? 1

Why does a group of smart leaders so often create a less-than-smart team? Th is chapter describes how the mindset leaders use can get them and their team stuck. It explains why adopting a mutual learning set of values and assumptions gets you and your team unstuck so that you get more done and achieve your goals.

2 How You and Your Team Get Stuck: The Unilateral Control Approach 25

When you and your team try to achieve your goals by unilaterally controlling the situation, you get the very results you’ve been trying to avoid. This chapter enables you to compare your own mindset and behaviors to those of a unilaterally controlling leader, so you can understand the mindset from which you are operating.

3 Getting Unstuck to Get Results: The Mutual Learning Approach 49

When you shift to a mutual learning mindset, you and your team operate from a more productive set of values and assumptions. These include being transparent, curious, accountable, and compassionate, and creating informed choice. This chapter demonstrates how that mindset generates common understanding that transforms decision making to produce better team performance, stronger team working relationships, and work that is satisfying and motivating.

4 Getting the Puzzle Pieces on the Table: Mutual Learning Behaviors 1–4 87

How you think is how you lead. This chapter provides detailed guidance on how to put the mutual learning mindset into action through four mutual learning behaviors: state views and ask genuine questions, share all relevant information, use specific examples and agree on what important words mean, and explain your reasoning and intent. See how these behaviors lead you and your team to higher quality decisions, shorter implementation time, and greater commitment and trust.

5 Putting the Puzzle Together: Mutual Learning Behaviors 5–8 109

Continuing from Chapter Four, this chapter provides detailed guidance on how to put the mutual learning mindset into action through four more mutual learning behaviors: focus on interests not positions, test assumptions and inferences, jointly design next steps, and discuss undiscussable issues.

6 Designing for Mutual Learning 143

How you design—or redesign—your team shapes whether your team gets the results you want or the results you’re trying to avoid. See how to enhance your team structures, processes, and context to get more eff ective decision making, less unproductive conflict, and greater commitment.

7 Dealing With Common Team Challenges 177

Most teams face challenges that are easily addressed by using a mutual learning approach. This chapter describes how to apply the mutual learning mindset and behaviors to deal with these challenges, including keeping team meetings on track, speaking with one voice as a team, preventing end runs, and giving and receiving feedback.

8 Becoming a Smarter Leader 199

Have you decided to become a smarter leader through mutual learning? This chapter helps you take stock of what you want to achieve, develop an action plan for what you want to change and why, and prepare to talk with your team about your changes. Together these steps will help you engage your team to support your leadership change.

9 Becoming a Smarter Team 215

Your team has greater power to get better results when you and the team decide to change together. The stakes are higher, but so are the rewards. This chapter provides specific steps to help you and your team take stock of what the team wants to achieve, develop a team action plan for change, and plan for team conversations to begin the change. Together, these steps will help you create a team whose results exceed the sum of its parts.

Notes 233

Acknowledgments 241

About the Author 245

Index 247

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Author Information

ROGER SCHWARZ has been a recognized thought leader in the realm of team leadership for three decades. An organizational psychologist and president and CEO of Roger Schwarz Associates, he is a sought-after advisor to global companies, federal government agencies, and international nonprofit organizations.

Clients include Hewlett-Packard, the American Red Cross, the World Bank, TransCanada, Chevron, and the U.S. Department of the Interior. He is author of the seminal work The Skilled Facilitator and coauthor of The Skilled Facilitator Fieldbook. He holds a Ph.D. in organizational psychology from the University of Michigan, and a master of education degree from Harvard University. Schwarz lives in Chapel Hill with his wife. They have two children.


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Press Release

March 18, 2013
Smart Leaders, Smarter Teams

Executives and senior managers want to lead teams that are productive, passionate, and efficient, but often the results generated fall below their team’s potential or what the team needs to achieve.  A new book, Smart Leaders, Smarter Teams (Jossey-Bass, Hardcover, $32.95, ISBN: 978-0-7879-8873-9,  April 2013), written by an organizational psychologist and consultant to Fortune 500 companies, non-profits, and government agencies, reveals how leaders and their teams can adopt a new mindset to achieve greater short- and long-term success.

Author Roger Schwarz, president and CEO of Roger Schwarz & Associates, calls upon 30+ years of research and experience working with leadership teams to reveal how leaders can dramatically improve results. Schwarz says too many leaders have a unilateral control mindset when a Mutual Learning mindset would get their teams unstuck and moving forward together toward results.

“When you use a Mutual Learning mindset, you achieve your goals by learning from and with others,” asserts Schwarz. “This means you are open to being influenced by others at the same time you seek to influence others. You see each member of your team as having a piece of the puzzle. Your job, along with your team members, is to jointly put the puzzle together.”

Smart Leaders, Smarter Teams provides leaders with:

  • 8 behaviors to build on the collective strengths of your team.
  • 5 core values to help you and your team get unstuck.
  • 9 steps to give your team members feedback to improve results.
  • 5 methods to improve performance and working relationships through email.
  • Dozens of tips on how to create structures and processes a leadership team can use to make better decisions, increase commitment, and generate shared accountability.
  • 5 key assumptions and behaviors that create better performance, stronger working relationships, and greater team member well-being, such as keeping meetings on track.
  • A response to myths on best practices, including improving performance with 360 review feedback.

The Mutual Learning mindset, once adopted by the leader and his or her team, allows them to cohesively solve problems, make decisions, and resolve conflicts. The team is better positioned, as a result, to realize greater commitment, enhance innovation, reduce costs, and reduce stress.

Schwarz, the author of the best-seller, The Skilled Facilitator, was a tenured associate professor of public management at the University of North Carolina. His clients include ConocoPhillips, the American Red Cross, the World Bank, the United States Department of Interior, TransCanada, and a wide range of other organizations.

“Too often I have witnessed leaders undermine the very results they are trying to create,” Schwarz shares. “In my book, I propose that creating an effective team starts with making some fundamental choices about how you want to lead. These choices reflect your basic values and assumptions about what it means to be a leader and what it means to be a team. I frame them as choices between a traditional self-serving approach to leadership and a relatively new, more systemic and sustainable approach to leadership.”

Schwarz addresses the leader behaviors that cause their teams to fall short, including:

  • Stating views without asking others for their views.
  • Avoiding transparency by withholding relevant information.
  • Acting on untested assumptions and inferences as if they were true.
  • Focusing on positions, not interests.
  • Controlling conversations in ways that fail to gain commitment from others.

“To benefit fully from Mutual Learning, the whole team needs to share the mindset,” says Schwarz. “To achieve the Mutual Learning results the team, as a whole, needs to be transparent and curious. It needs to create informed choice, be accountable, and practice compassion. Everyone needs to show up assuming that they have some of the information but not all of it; that others see things that they may not; that people can disagree and still have pure motives; that differences are opportunities for learning.”

As a result, everyone on the team learns to take responsibility for being part of the team’s problems and solutions.

“Team members need to realize that they are part of a collective team mindset that defines the relationship between themselves and their formal leader,” Schwarz says. “They also need to see that leadership issues are not solely the concern of the team’s formal leader, and that team leadership can – in fact, must – come from everyone on the team.”

As a leader you want those you work with to succeed and achieve greater results but sometimes the team instead delivers a lackluster performance. Strained relationships, overly stressful situations, and unproductive meetings become the norm – but according to Schwarz’s new book, it doesn’t have to be this way.


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