memo - Seal Team Six

The case we read this week, “The Team That Wasn’t,” presented a multitude of issues
that Eric Holt’s team faced when working together on strategic repositioning of Fire Art
Inc. These issues, while specific to the case, are often faced by leaders in organizations.
As a team, we believe there are certain aspects of Eric’s actions that directly affected the
progress of the team. In addition, we recommend a series of steps that Eric should take to
improve their progress.
To give a little background information, Fire Art Inc. is in trouble and the CEO, Jack
Derry, has hired Eric Holt with the solitary task of “strategic repositioning”. Eric Holt
goes full speed ahead with this directive and forms a team. This, as the reader can
identify, is where the first issue arises. To begin with, as the team began working, there
was no clear goal set for them. Instead of clearly defining the actions that the team must
take to reach success, a vague task of “strategic repositioning” is identified as the plan.
Furthermore, no timeline for intermediate deliverables seems to have been set. Setting a
clear schedule of what the team must accomplish would have helped with timely decision
The first problem we identified is the lack of clear group identity and accountability. A
team that doesn’t live by a sense of collective accountability in actively solving problems
is only a group of individuals, not a team. One can draw an analogy to a football team or
an ox-drawn plow when defining the characteristics of a team. A team is like the ox or
football players. They are equally yoked toward one goal and must perform their function
correctly in order to make progress.
An important criteria that distinguishes strong teams from their inferiors is the ability for
the team members to hold itself accountable as a team rather than as a group of
individuals. A Katzenbach notes, “No group ever becomes a team until it can hold itself
accountable as a team. Like common purpose and approach, mutual accountability is a
stiff test” (Katzenbach, 168). Thus, a key recommendation would be the adoption of
measures to ensure such common purpose is clearly understood by all members. Eric
Holt can achieve this by making several measures including creating a team charter,
mandatory team building seminar enrollment, and holding all members of the team
accountable for the final product.
The case analysis of Eric Peterson also can provide other clues into why this team is not
working. This is because there are many similarities between Eric Holt and Eric Peterson.
These include the fact that:
- Priorities have not been set
- Conflicts have not been confronted
- The agenda has not been clearly established
- Trust has not been built
- Eric’s credibility has not been established with the team.
Erik also did not individually identify any strengths one particular member of his team
had, instead he just tried to keep things running smoothly. As Erik Peterson’s failure at
GMCT showed, this is not a good way to lead a group of people. Therefore, it would be
wise for Eric Holt to consider what his members, especially Randy, could bring to the
table in order to function successfully as a team. In addition, Eric Holt, like Erik
Peterson, is fairly new to his role as team leader and his diminished authority directly
affects the success of the team. Consequently, his aversion to conflict seems to be yet
another source of the problem.
As mentioned before, timelines for deliverables are an integral component to helping an
organization succeed. In this case scenario, Eric has not set any intermediate deliverables
that would have helped with timely decision making. It would have also served to foster a
sense of success among the new team members, something that would have helped build
morale and team spirit. Katzenbach’s article advises that teams that set specific
performance goals separate themselves from the rest of the company far more
successfully. Thus, the team can begin to set clear goals with clear timelines from the
Although focusing solely on one-on-one relationships is not recommended, it is
nonetheless critical to the team’s success for Eric to meet with the team members
individually. This is a vital recommendation that we would give to Eric. This is so
important because it will not only prepare them for when they meet again as a group, but
also allows them the opportunity to relay any issues to Eric that they may not feel
comfortable doing so in front of the others. In addition, this is a great way for Eric to
define the roles the person should have as well as establish expectations.
Consequently, another problem we saw was that Eric failed to set clear expectations and
consequences early on to both Randy and the other team members. This lead to
noncommittal on the part of the team, lack of initiative from Randy, and an inability of
Eric to delegate effectively. As Peter Isenberg and Winona Finch both did, Eric could
start establishing his credibility by asking simple questions to his team members,
especially Randy. Isenberg notes that as he did this, the team members became more
engaged and eager to contribute. Finch’s subordinates were committed to the team’s
goals because they were empowered, not ordered, to achieve them. This process could
lead to Randy becoming more of an inside participant instead of the outside renegade he
now is, allow the team to become more cohesive, and definitely improve their chances of
success. The more power manages can share, the more influence they command.
Eric needs to realize that being passive and hoping Randy will come around may very
well be a lost cause. It would be wise of him to address the incongruity of Randy’s belief
system and the team spirit and mentality needed to run Fire Art Inc. As the John
Delhorne story indicates, Eric must, if necessary, involve the CEO in his efforts, since at
the end of the day, the team’s success or failure are his responsibility. Establishing a good
relationship with his superior is often a great help for a leader that is struggling. For
instance, Eric could speak to Derry about some of the ideas the team has already come up
with and get his input. It’s possible that Derry could propose related or other good ideas,
and in addition, could talk with Randy and secure his alignment with the mission.
Eric now needs to redefine his role in the group and assume the responsibility to act as
the team’s leader. He needs to first develop and understand his “art” and “threshold
capabilities” and then define and develop his five components of emotional intelligence.
With the skills of self-awareness, self-regulation, motivation, empathy, and social skill,
Eric will have the foundation to better understand himself, his true charge and what the
group and mission truly needs from him.
Further, Eric needs to understand and develop his approaches to issues and people
utilizing the Four-Frame Model. As ????? states in his article ?????, “The influence a
leader exerts in altering moods, in evoking images and expectations, and in establishing
specific desires and objectives determines the direction a business takes.” With the FourFrame Model, Eric can use the appropriate methodology and approach, whether be
political, structural, human resource or symbolic, in response to the need or the
circumstances of the specific situation.
Finally, Eric needs to define his own leadership style. This entails using some of the
talents of a Wizard and/or a Warrior to create a new attitude, rally the troops, and
encourage some healthy conflict among the team. Then, and only then, will Eric and the
team have what they need: a strong leader who can inspire and drive the group to
completing its charge. (What is this word supposed to be? Charge does not make
Katzenbach distinguishes a group from a team by defining a group as making up of
“members [who] don’t take responsibility for results other than their own” (Katzenbach,
164). As Katzenbach further explains, the attributes of a working team are defined as “a
set of values that encourage listening and responding constructively to views expressed
by the other, giving other the benefit of the doubt, providing support, and recognizing
interest and achievements of others.” (Katzenbach, 164). These qualities, as the reader
can see, are missing within the Fire Art team.
While reading the case, we questioned, collectively, whether or not Eric and his team
members are really acting like a cohesive group. Eric and the others are so ineffective at
working together that at times it does not even seem like they are part of the same team.
Instead, they are individuals who have gathered together. The group is clearly lacking a
strong leader; someone capable of motivating them and also confronting problems
appropriately. The team does not live by a sense of individual or group accountability. As
a whole, they do not encourage active problem-solving skills, do not measure their
performance by assessing the collective work products and, finally, they do not work well
together. This, we decided, does not make them a team- instead, they are a group.
In order to combat the issue at hand, we made several recommendations to Eric in our
analysis. To summarize, we believe it is important for Eric to meet with team members
individually. However, it is equally as important to meet with them as a group. In
addition, based on ideas from our reading, we identified a handful of steps Eric should
take to get the team on the right track. These steps range from defining his leadership
style to creating a new attitude. We firmly believe that all of the recommendations listed
in our analysis will allow Eric and the Fire Art Inc. team to reach success.