Ask the Coach: Developing the Leadership Team

Here’s one of my latest “Ask a Coach” columns published in CA Source — the Canadian Institute of Chartered Accountants  (CICA) online newsletter. Although I write that column for a newsletter that is dedicated to members of the accountancy profession, the issues addressed are relevant for many others in various sectors and professions.  Enjoy and if you have a question of your own….bring it on (see “Coaches Corner” on this site).

Q. About six months ago I took on a new role managing a company and inherited a group of six senior-level executives who make up the management team. As I’ve been observing the company, I’ve been pleased to see that each of the executive leaders are quite capable and strong performers in their own respective areas – both functionally and in their general leadership. However, there seems to be a lack of cohesion and energy when this group comes together as an executive team. We have regular meetings, but I don’t see the energy and common focus that would define a high-performing team. I think there’s more potential here – but thought I’d check to see if you have any starting advice.

A. You are on to something here. The group dynamic of your management team is as important as the individual performance of the executive leaders. The old adage: “the sum is greater than its parts” is so true when it comes to actualizing an organization’s best potential. A team that works well together works better for the greater good of the organization.

Here are a few thought-starters to consider as you focus on building a higher performing management team.  

Start with inquiry – how do the leaders on the executive team feel about the current team dynamic?
It might be a good idea to gauge how others feel about the team dynamic. There are different ways to go at this – both formal and informal. You might have conversations with each member individually, or consider a third party to assist – either through a formal survey and/or more in-depth conversations. Whichever route you choose, it is important that the leaders feel safe to speak candidly so you can get a true picture of where they stand on this issue.

Invest time in building a ‘team’, not just building a ‘biz’
A stronger management team will ultimately be better for the business. If the regular meetings to date have been focused exclusively on business issues, then you may want to invest some time to focus more specifically on team building. I recommend having time that is solely dedicated to this rather than mixing it up with the usual meetings. This will send the message that it’s important.

Enrol your leaders’ commitment though engagement
Mandating the team to work better together isn’t a viable solution. Rather, enrol their interest and commitment by inviting them to co-create a vision for how they see the opportunity to work as a more cohesive and higher performing team.

Some ideas that might be helpful (perhaps led by either an internal or external facilitator/coach) include:

  • Have the group establish clear intentions and commitments for how they want to work together; identify specific expectations with respect to their participation and behaviour as members of the team.
  • Co-create meaningful group goals that they will collectively be accountable for. Find ways to make them measurable.
  • Incorporate the company’s core values into this work if these values have already been articulated. If not, consider engaging the group in identifying the core values that will guide their work, behaviours and mindset.

Develop mutual and personal accountability for team objectives and performance
Build in appropriate personal and team accountability assessments for both the goals of the team and the overall behaviours. Some companies are incorporating this kind of accountability into performance reviews and compensation models.

Encourage the team to bond and to get to know each other better – as leaders and as people!
Trust and engagement are critical if the group is to work together in a more meaningful and collaborative way. Create opportunities for the team to get to know each other better both professionally and even personally as people. A few ideas:

  • Consider a session or exercise that allows the team to identify and acknowledge each member’s individual strengths. Each executive has their own unique set of talents, skills and personal attributes. By acknowledging the breadth and depth of talent in the group, the team can operate with more collective bench strength. It’s also a very affirming exercise to have your colleagues acknowledge you for your unique strengths.
  • Invest some time away from the office to allow the team to get to know each other as people. Whether it’s a team-building exercise or simply a more casual social opportunity, knowing people beyond their ‘working widget’ self can build more productive and trusting relationships. It also adds to the camaraderie experience, which for many people is an important fulfillment factor in their work lives.

Review, support and celebrate
As you grow your business you’ll also want to continually grow your people. This effort should be continually revisited, nurtured and supported to ensure your executive team is actualizing its potential on an ongoing basis. Consider opportunities to review, support and celebrate the objectives, goals and successes of the team – just as one should for others within the broader talent pool of the company.

Enlist the right support to do this right…
If you don’t feel comfortable or have the right expertise to get this process going, consider hiring a third party with expertise to help you coach your team in this work.
Remember the purpose behind all this is that a strong, cohesive and collaborative executive team will bode well for the business. As I said before, your observation has already put you on the right track. Go with it and trust that if you work on this together, you and your team will generate great success.

Best of luck!


One Response to “Ask the Coach: Developing the Leadership Team”

  1. Herman Najoli Says:

    Excellent thoughts. I think we spend too little time in reviewing, supporting and celebrating. We are always in a rush for the next big thing!

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