Executive Team Development

Often underused. Frequently unproductive. The executive team is the most closely watched of all.

It has the potential to provide inspirational leadership. Yet often it yields the lowest “per capita” value to the organization. It just doesn’t work well.

Yet an aligned executive team can be a powerful resource.

Alignment does not happen by chance.

The Four Roles of an Executive Team

diagram of the four roles of an executive team

It requires a commitment to the group, by the group. It requires an attitude of ‘we’, not ‘me’.

The chief purpose of a leadership team is to bring together senior leaders of diverse functions in order to solve shared problems and ensure aligned action and collective responsibility for the organization’s performance.

The unique nature of the executive team demands strong, focused and purposeful leadership by the CEO. A productive team can’t be left to chance. It has to be designed according to the context. And since the effectiveness of the team is dependent on the quality of conversations by the team, great effort should be spent on ensuring meaningful dialogue.

What Can Go Wrong?

Members of the team are often in competition with each other for the top job.

Centrifugal forces drag team members apart – competition for resources overwhelms the need for collaboration.

More so than just about any other organizational leadership group, the “reason to be” for executive teams is not as clear from the outset.

Often, the team leader (CEO) is more focused on the Board and external constituents than the executive team and will expect his/her direct reports to “just get along.”

One very common affliction of senior teams is bloat, which erodes the quality and efficiency of the conversation.

The Design Rules

Purpose. Sharing of information? Insight to solve problems? Make decisions?

Size. Seven plus or minus two.

Membership. Depends on the context.

Roles. Wear the enterprise leader ‘hat’; leave department/functional ‘hat’ at the door.

Rules of the Road. Structure, discipline and room for dialogue.

Remove bad actors. Remove a blocker on the team early.

Execution Rules

Concentrate on the quality of conversations.

Frame meetings. Clarify the purpose of each meeting and the team’s strategy and tools for achieving that purpose.

Coach the team. Provide guidance and reframe as necessary to ensure meeting is achieving objectives.

Provide feedback on what behaviors are most effective.

Leave sufficient time at the end of each meeting to decide what to communicate out of the meeting.

The River Strength Meter: Executive Teams

High Drama Passive Aggression Herding Cats Fit for Purpose Poised for Greatness Championship Caliber