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Building a team Featured

8:00pm EDT May 26, 2009

What kid hasn’t been told at some point in their lives to stop worrying about what the other children are doing and focus on his or her own behavior? Rob Lucenti says forget that. He wants employees to look outside their own box at what their colleagues are working on.

“I have to understand that I’m going to get a functional person or a business unit that’s going to say, ‘I’m just worried about A right here,’” says Lucenti, the managing partner for the Orange County practice of Deloitte & Touche LLP. “If I get A, I’m in good shape. It’s my job to understand that. But it’s also my job to say, ‘But the longer-term vision is this, so should we be thinking about A, B and C?’ That’s what I need to bring to the table for every small meeting, for every little proposal and everything we think about.”

Lucenti has worked to build a team-thinking philosophy at Deloitte’s Orange County office, which employs about 870 people.

Smart Business spoke with Lucenti about how to build a team-oriented culture.

Set the right tone. The more transparent and open and communicative I am, the more of that that I display and lead by example. I am a firm believer that that is what flows down through my organization.

If I create events like meetings or communication methods that show and foster that, my organization is going to catch on. If we have an opportunity here at Deloitte, let’s say it just happens to be an opportunity with an audit, we strongly believe we should discuss that opportunity with all our business functions.

We should have a tax person involved; we should have an internal audit person involved. To the extent that it’s allowable within the rules and all the things that govern us, we should ask the consultants for their advice.

By involving our entire organization, it not only brings us together and breaks down our silos, but it also brings more value to our clients.

Keep it simple. The vision has to be simple. The value proposition of what we are doing has to be simple. When I say simple, I don’t mean we’re not complex in our thinking as far as our offerings. I just mean it has to be well articulated to say, ‘This is the goal we are trying to achieve.’

The easier it is for our people to get their arms around that, the easier it is for them to carry out their tasks. If that vision or that articulation of that value proposition is not clear and is clouded or [there is] confusion, it’s going to be difficult.

Empower people to deliver that message. One of the really important things to do is let the people within those business units that understand the overall long-term vision articulate it because when folks see one of their own stepping up and saying this is where we need to go, that’s a huge advocacy for where a vision needs to go.

That’s instant credibility. The more ways you can empower your folks to get that message out there, the better. As a leader, that doesn’t mean shirking the responsibility. As a leader, I’m strategically picking out the folks who are starting to get it and empowering them with the ability to carry it out.

Watch your people. The more time I can spend in the field with our folks and with our leadership understanding who has the ability to do what, the better. It’s almost like practice. It’s important for a coach to spend time watching their players in practice and finding out what their strengths and weaknesses are.

I like being out in the field with my people going out on what I would call client opportunities or even what we call client-service assessments to see how we’re doing. I like to do that as much as possible because I get to see how we’re performing.

I like to get a read on folks based on how they interact with me. With certain people, even at our lowest staff levels, I can kind of gauge how they interact with me and you can see that level of confidence in some and apprehension in others.

I use folks’ interactions with me as one sign. I definitely use the feedback that I get from my leaders and the people that are most associated with our folks as another.

Observe client interactions. The better way for me is when we are interacting not only with our folks but with a client, as well. I really get to learn about my folks when we are interacting with a client. I like situations where it’s a client opportunity or it’s a client service investment and I get a chance to interact with my people with a client.

I really get to see how well or not well we are doing or how good or not good we are positioned for an opportunity. ... It really gives me a window into where we are at. It gives me a window into the individuals, as well.

Seek out advice from others. You look at a guy like Phil Jackson, (the coach of the Los Angeles Lakers). He has Tex Winter right there behind him. You think Phil Jackson knows everything there is to know about basketball, and you watch him during the game and he turns around and he’s asking Tex a question.

That’s the way I view the senior partners that I have here in my office. They have been through a lot, and it’s an opportunity for me to go down, and if there is some gray area or if there is something that I’m unsure on, that’s one of the first places I go is to go to that experience. I say, ‘Hey, have you ever been faced with this before? Can I ask for your advice?’ A leader can’t be afraid to do that. You can always learn from someone.

How to reach: Deloitte & Touche LLP, (714) 436-7100 or www.deloitte.com