An effective leadership team won’t just happen – you have to work at it!

Effective teams make a dramatic difference in terms of reducing costs, improving employee engagement and improving customer satisfaction – moreover, an effective management team is required to execute a business strategy and develop competitive advantage.

Despite this, most companies do not have effective leadership teams!

I had the pleasure of hearing Jim Alampi at a Vistage Open Day event in London where he discussed “The Five Dysfunctions of a team”.

Listening to Jim present, I realised two things. Firstly, he is obviously an expert in helping MDs and CEOs develop effective strategies and ensuring they’re executed through effective leadership. Secondly, effective leadership teams don’t just happen – you have to work at them!

I’ve been a Director at a number of different companies, both large and small, and I’m not sure that many of my previous MDs/CEOs understood that you need to plan and work at having an effective leadership team. However, this is far from unusual - something that I’ll certainly put my own hands up to in terms of running my own departments (although I have been implementing some of Jim’s suggestions and I believe it’s making a difference!).

Talking to a number of the other attendees at the event, it became apparent that most of the business leaders present had also not really thought about how their leadership teams should function and why that was important. This finding is supported by existing research - indeed, one survey of 600 top team members suggested that only 10% of them were in effective teams [source: Mckinsey].

Reading the feedback forms after the event, there were a number key actions that the executives present were going to focus on in order to get their board members, working groups or functional groups on the path to actually becoming teams:

  1.  Create and communicate core values

    Team mind-set is fundamentally important. A key factor that impacts the mind-set is the values everyone acts by. As a company gets bigger, the values arguably become more important to ensure that the heart of the business is actually what you, as the business leader, want it be and to behave like.

    Business leaders, therefore, need to ensure that the have the correct core values and that they communicate them to the whole company effectively (you may need to say something 7 times in order to actually get the message across).
  2. Assess if the executive team is dysfunctional

    Good companies measure their performance so why should we not measure how our leadership teams stack up?

    Jim suggested a questionnaire for each team member to complete to measure the teams effectiveness and to help clarify what areas the team needed to work together to improve ( if you want to use the full questionnaire/report service) . 5 potential team dysfunctions are measured: absence of trust, fear of conflict, lack of commitment, avoidance of accountability or inattention to results.

    Interestingly, the most common dysfunction that the MDs present identified that they needed to work on with their teams was “avoidance of accountability”, specifically not holding their teams or themselves to account.
  3. Get the right people on the bus

    To be effective as a business and as an executive team, you need to surround yourself with the right people. Jim Alampi suggested several sensible approaches to take to ensure this happens including:

    Only recruit A players. These employees are proactive, accountable and will help drive the company forwards.

    Only recruit those who match your core values. New employees need to be recruited based on their values – if they don’t match your core values, they should not be recruited regardless of their skill sets. If addition, it should be a dismissible offence for an existing employees to act in a way that is against the core values.

    Tackle the C players head on. People issues don’t go away so don’t ignore them, deal with them as quickly as possible.
  4. Be a more effective leader

    An effective team needs an effective leader. A phrase which resonated with the Open Day audience was that leaders should have “personal humility, business will”. Highly charismatic leaders with lots of personal ego may create headlines but they don’t normally create effective businesses.

    In addition, effective leaders ensure that they are they are getting maximum input from their team. Be the last to speak to ensure that options/suggestions from all of the team are explored and focus on the question to answer ratio so that team members are asked a lot more questions rather simply being given answers.

To become good at something, you have to work at it. Why are we surprised that developing an effective leadership team is any different?

Have you taken any of these actions and has it led to a more effective team? Share your answers below.

More from Vistage:

The 5 Dyfunctions of a Team- Jim Alampi

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