Academy Spotlight: Alexander Caillet – Developing and Leading High-Performing Teams

Alexander CailletAlexander Caillet, CEO, Corentus Inc.:

Tell us about yourself and Corentus:

I have been working with teams and team leaders for over 20 years across industries and around the world. This work is one my greatest passions as I love to bear witness to the formidable power a team of people can harness when they are truly collaborating and cohesive. I have always believed that teams are the most effective unit of performance available in organizations and I have dedicated a great part of my life to understanding how to help them achieve high levels of performance.

Corentus works with teams in real time as they engage in real work. We observe their ways of working, methods, behaviors and group dynamics in real time, and help them make the changes they wish to make to achieve their outcomes. This is the most impactful way I know to help teams achieve the optimum levels of effectiveness, cohesion and performance, and the results have been outstanding.

What was the focus of this Module?

This module focuses on developing and leading high-performing teams. To accomplish the learning objectives, we explored the dynamics of the six team development stages (Forming-Storming-Norming -Performing-Dorming-Transforming) and three basic operating modes (leader-directed units, working groups, leader/member teams).

From there, we dove into the four essential components of high-performing teams: common purpose and goals, roles and competencies, collaboration, and mutual accountability.

What was the greatest challenge to teaching this Module?

Many of the Fellows work more in sub-groups or individually, rather than in teams, so I urged these Fellows to see this module as a rich source of proven methods, tools and techniques to drive teamwork and collaboration writ large. If they understand and apply these methods, tools and techniques to the work they do with others, they will be able to improve their levels of effectiveness, cohesion and performance – regardless of whether they work in classically defined teams.

What resonated most directly with the Fellows?

I observed that three aspects of the module most directly resonated with the Fellows:

  • The three basic operating modes of teams (leader-directed groups, working groups, and leader-member groups) resonated as these are not static modes a group or a team engage in solely; effective groups and teams work situationally utilizing a particular mode most useful for obtaining the specific results and preferred outcomes.
  • Before any group begins to start feeling like a team, areas pertaining to them as individuals need to be addressed:

The individual and the team need to understand the specific identity an individual adopts when in the team – answering questions such as “what part of me will work best with this team” help in this understanding.

Being integrated into a team creates a sense of belonging. This area explores the individual and team understanding around the value and contribution of each team member’s work as well as her specific roles and responsibilities.

  • “Leadership is a public act.” There is research into an effective state of mind of a leader, and the several ways one can shift to obtaining an effective state of mind.

I think their biggest takeaways will be that:

  1. With intention and focus and the use of a few simple methods and tools, they can drive collaboration in the specific contexts in which they work.
  2. High performance requires a focus on both the task and relationship aspects of work.
  3. Leaders are accountable for their own state of mind. They are also accountable for knowing and behaving in accordance with the knowledge that their state of mind can influence the states of mind of those on their teams, in their groups and organizations.

What role did Jim McMillan,
General Counsel and Corporate Secretary, The Pew Charitable Trusts, and Eric Margolin, Executive Vice President, General Counsel and Corporate Secretary, CarMax, Inc., play in this Module?

Eric and Jim played an important role in helping the Fellows to see how the content of the module applied to their work in their in-house contexts and careers. It was fascinating to learn that they had both used many of the methods, tools and techniques, be it consciously and unconsciously, throughout their careers.

What distinguishes the Leadership Academy from other development programs?

Having researched, lectured, taught and facilitated team building in over 30 countries on five continents, I would say it is the quality of the Fellows and the quality of the materials that truly set the Leadership Academy apart.


jamesmcmillan_photoJim McMillan, Senior Vice President, General Counsel and Corporate Secretary, The Pew Charitable Trusts

What were the highlights of this session for you?

Weaving the research and academic perspective with practical inventory and assessment tools, Alexander provided a wealth of information about what it takes to be a successful team member, as well as a team leader.  Alexander provided a framework to enable Fellows to take stock of their leadership styles and to understand the importance of being able to tailor their approaches depending on the situation.

The emphasis on creating a safe space and identity also struck a chord.  Our legal teams are embedded in meetings across our organization.  The most positive feedback consistently comes from the division that starts their weekly meeting with each person sharing a bit about their weekend before turning to the business at hand. Taking the time to set a tone matters. Taking the time to connect also strengthens the team and fosters retention.

The conversation and exercises around state of mind were powerful.  As a leader, being self-aware, understanding the ripple effect of your words and actions, and being prepared to address our own state of mind is key.  We also have to be prepared to address state of mind with members of our team when needed.

As lawyers, our words as well as our actions matter greatly.  We need to be aware that people outside of legal often brace themselves before interacting with legal.  Thinking through our approach and taking it down a notch can be a very positive thing.  Being a “no drama” team and staying focused on the mission is paramount.

eric margolinEric Margolin, Executive Vice President, General Counsel and Corporate Secretary, CarMax, Inc.

What was the big take-away from this Module for you?

Regardless of the operating mode for your team, being empathetic and respectful is crucial.  Clear communication is very important.  The number one reason that people on your team don’t do what you want is because they don’t know what you want.  Alexander provided a treasure trove of information and tools to develop and lead high performing teams. Choose the nuggets that work best for you and for the situation – whether you are managing your team, peers, or your boss – and put them to work.

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