The ultimate measure of a senior leadership team’s success is the organization’s results. And yet some companies, due to favourable market conditions, do quite well in spite of their dysfunctional leadership teams. Imagine what could happen if the team at the top could get its act together. Is your leadership team effective? Evaluate them on these nine attributes.
- A meaningful purpose: They have a clear and compelling reason to work together. Executive team members are each responsible for a specific company function. One could argue the CEO should be the glue that coordinates the activities, but everyone’s primary concern should be their area of responsibility. In high-performance teams, a commitment to the team’s purpose should be at least as important as the commitment to the purpose for the area each member leads.
- Shared goals: The team needs to focus on a set of outcomes that all members are committed to achieving and that require contribution by everyone. If it’s truly a team goal, everyone will feel equally responsible for its achievement. These are not necessarily the same as the company’s goals.
- The right mix: Team members have complementary skills, experiences, and styles necessary for fulfilling the necessary roles and responsibilities. People know each other’s strengths, weaknesses, preferences, and aversions. They use this knowledge to create synergy. Members see the value of each person’s presence on the team. There’s a sense of equality among all the players.
- Strong interpersonal relationships: People can be themselves because they genuinely like each other and will do what they can to look out for and support their team-mates. Members trust each other and are trustworthy. The cohesiveness of the team is obvious to people outside the group.
- Helpful operating principles: These agreed upon ways of working together might include a shared set of values, processes for making decisions, ways of communicating within the team and to other employees, and tracking activities.
- Problem solving: The team recognizes when a problem exists, analyzes it, identifies alternatives, and works through conflicts. Once the decision is made, everyone commits to supporting it. Often this is best demonstrated by someone’s willingness to raise a thorny issue in the first place and in the members’ willingness to fully engage in finding a resolution to the problem.
- High levels of candour: People say what needs saying in a direct and respectful manner. Members are receptive to hearing tough messages without becoming defensive. Heated discussions are viewed not as a problem but rather as a positive activity as long as the discussion stays focused on issues or behaviours rather than on personalities.
- Mutual accountability: Members hold themselves and others to the commitments they have made. While the CEO often has the primary responsibility for holding employees accountable for keeping their promises, each person shares in this activity.
- Measuring the important: Effective teams track those things that are most important to their success— progress on key initiatives, performance results, or even behaviours expected of each other and take action when things are not meeting expectations. Carve out time at your next executive off-site meeting to discuss the effectiveness of the team and determine how to strengthen its performance.