The executive team sets the tone for the entire business. Why is so much said and written about teams, yet so few really stand out?
Very few teams really perform anywhere close to their full potential or the expectation that others have of them. By allowing this to happen leaders are neglecting a vital source of competitive advantage. This advantage comes from building and sustaining high-performance teams, and doing so at the top is where it needs to start.
Teamwork at the top, without a cohesive group of people leading the organisation, the people working inside the business have nothing and no one to really believe in...irrespective of how you call it - Executive Board, Senior Leadership Team or Managing Directors. Leaders are tasked with providing something meaningful and compelling for others to believe in. Employees need to believe in the direction of the business, in the leaders themselves, and they need to know their leaders care. Talented people need this belief to do their best work, and without it a company cannot begin to tap into the potential that is there.
The rewards for building the top team are immense and immediate. High-performing executive teams make higher-quality decisions and accomplish more in less time, with less distraction and frustration. They avoid wasting time talking about the wrong issues and revisiting the same topics over and over again because of lack of clarity and buy-in. Additionally A-players are much less likely to leave organisations where the top team is cohesive and unified.
Making a team, especially the first team, functional and cohesive requires levels of courage and discipline that many groups find hard to muster, despite the source of advantage this offers. Fortunately, the causes of team dysfunction are both identifiable and curable. However, they don’t die easily. To begin improving the team and to better understand the level of dysfunction, leaders should ask themselves these simple questions:
Does the team have legitimacy in the eyes of others?
Do team members sacrifice their own interests for the good of the team?
Do team members feel mutually accountable for results?
Are team meetings compelling and productive?
Do the members of the team respect one another?
Does the team handle conflict effectively?
Is the team clear about what it wants to achieve and how to win?
Although no team is perfect, if you answered ‘no’ to many of these questions, your team may need some work.
The fundamentals of a functional team:
Make sure you hire people who are capable of being strong team players. Team members should fit the company’s culture, be committed to the team, be capable of being vulnerable and selfless and of course love getting results. Then once the team is in place, make teamwork an ongoing priority, not just a slogan. But remember, building a team has to be done in the context of real work, not tree-climbing exercises.
That doesn’t mean you shouldn’t get to know one another on a personal level and understand people’s different personalities and their life experiences though. Team-building exercises have to be grounded in the realities of doing our jobs. That’s what makes the team-building process stick.
In conclusion, building a team – especially the one at the top – is not a virtue, but a strategic choice to achieve a powerful point of differentiation. Those leaders willing to make this choice and to give their businesses something and someone to believe in will enjoy a powerful competitive advantage that is essential for manoeuvring in today’s marketplace. And if all Executive Team members have one goal for instance "becoming Digital Leaders in their business" - they will succeed. One thing is for sure: your competitors will regret it.
Digiratis - The Elite of Digital Coaching can support you on establishing a cohesive high-performance Executive Team. You wann a talk about it?
Thomas Bergmann based on input by G. Ashfield & P. Lencioni