How aligned is your organization’s leadership team? Do members share a common purpose, values, and goals?
Or, do members seek to primarily serve their own function, often to the detriment of their peers’ functions?
In my work with executive teams, I find that they behave more often than not as groups - not teams.
A groups is a cluster of members affiliated primarily by title who battle each other daily for limited resources to serve their turf. If others suffer during these battles, so be it.
A team, however, is a band of dedicated members aligned to a common purpose and common values and goals. Team members must work together to accomplish team goals and bring the team’s purpose to reality. Team members are accountable to each other for ensuring the team is both successful (exceeding goal expectations) and satisfying (modeling team values) for everyone involved.
Why do organizational leaders demonstrate such lousy teaming behaviors? I believe there are two primary contributors:
- Most leaders have never experienced (through observation or team membership) an effective, aligned executive team.
- Most leaders are not compensated nor recognized for effective team behaviors. They are compensated and recognized for individual accomplishment, which drives plans, decisions, and actions that help them win while peers lose.
Executive groups typically struggle to move quickly to address issues or take advantage of market opportunities. Executive groups typically spend too much time debating issues and options rather than deciding then implementing well-thought-out solutions. Executive group members spend extensive time blaming others (including their peers) for problems rather than embracing responsibility and addressing those problems.
How can an executive group evolve to an effective executive team?
First, the group must admit that the way it currently operates does not serve the team, it’s customers, or the organization. Admitting there’s a problem is a vital foundational step to changing behaviors!
Second, the group must formalize it’s “reason for being” and create clear ground rules for effective team operation. This written document specifies the team’s purpose beyond making money.
This document also outlines the team’s values and ground rules. The ground rules outline the ways team members will behave and how they’ll treat each other as the team pursues it’s goals. Ground rules might include behaviors like “listen to understand,” or “challenge ideas while valuing team members,” or “serve the organization first, this team second, and then my functional team.”
Third, and most importantly, the group must align practices to the team’s “constitution,” it’s declared purpose, values, ground rules, and goals.
When practices are aligned, the team acts with “one heart, one mind, and one voice.” Behind closed doors, ideas are debated (sometimes loudly!) yet once a decision is made, all members support the decision 100% to team members, employees, and customers.
With practices aligned, the group evolves into a well-oiled, engaging, fun, and high performing team.
These suggestions do not require an organizational change initiative or structure and resources from across the organization. These suggestions work beautifully in small, intact teams.
Are you willing to put in some time and effort to make your team more effective? It can’t hurt. After all, you’re going to be working with your team, anyway. Why not invest in your team’s evolution?
I’d love to hear about your team’s journey towards effective, inspiring operation. What is your team’s purpose? What are your team’s common values and goals? How is your team evolving to serve members and customers well (not just one or the other)? Contribute your thoughts about this post/podcast in the comments section below.
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