Why timing matters for executive team and board performance

Timing matters for executive team and board performance. It’s the most frustrating of things. Decisions are made, but the time it takes to agree them seems torturously long. Even when they are agreed on, the implementation seems to go at a snail’s pace and you’re worried that the organisation will miss the market opportunity the decision was meant to grasp. Sometimes, on reflection, the executive team or Board didn’t make the right decision because of a lack of challenge – or too much, which railroaded the process.

Sound familiar?

At our most recent roundtable event we talked about the significance of timing. While what I just described probably feels hauntingly familiar if you operate as a CEO, senior executive or as a non-exec, the likelihood is that, even though you can spot the symptoms, you haven’t yet figured out the cure.

And the really tricky thing is that the right cure – the one which fixes the issues once and for all, rather than making things only incrementally better – is likely to depend entirely on the timing.

When is just as important as what

When a senior executive team or board team is performing sub-optimally it’s easy to leap to solutions. But the most crucial move is to pause sufficiently so you can understand the timing context in order to match it to the right solution.

So what do we mean by when in this context? Examples include:

  • A change in leadership – whether that’s a new chief executive, chair, significant stakeholders or C-suite team membership
  • Changes in strategy or strategic priorities
  • A need to take performance to the next level
  • External factors such as legislative changes or disruption in your market
  • Any key point within the organisation’s cycle, so the mid-year point, when you need to review how you’re doing against enterprise targets, or the start or end of a year when you are planning
  • Before you make significant changes, for example establishing a new target operating model or strategy, and you’re considering the best team to lead the change
  • A new partnership, joint venture or alliance which brings pairs of teams together
  • A situation where there’s unhelpful conflict between those in pivotal relationships, for example, the chair and chief exec, or chief exec and CFO
  • When senior relationships are so fractured that intervention is needed to get things back on track

Surely we can crack this alone?

The evidence would suggest not, given that high-performing leadership teams were number eight in the top 20 Harvard Business Review article topics between 1976 and 2016. That’s 40 years of trying to successfully and sustainably solve this problem, without much apparent progress.

And evidence also shows us how critical the performance of top teams can be. 90% of investors consider the top team the key non-financial factor in their decision-making, and an organisation is 1.9 times more likely to have above-median performance if the top team is aligned and working towards a common vision.

So while top executives seem to agree on the business challenges we’re facing – company growth, new markets, cross-sector competition and the need for new alliances – it seems that the actions being taken to make those teams most able to tackle the challenges are merely more of the same things which haven’t fixed the issues so far. It’s like turning up the volume on a radio station you’re already playing and expecting a different genre of music to appear.

At our event and in previous blogs we’ve explained the big three problems we see when working with executive teams – time together is unproductive, conflict is too high or too low, which impacts on decision-making, and the skills, experience and behaviours which got people on the top team aren’t enough to sustain performance.

In our experience the trick to making those successful and sustainable changes is in not only addressing those three big problems, but in using the right solution for the team’s when – which is dependent on the stage both the business and the team are at. Interventions need to match both the business context and the team’s current challenges, which we reviewed in detail earlier in this article.

Doing the right things at the wrong time doesn’t deliver results. That’s why we put so much emphasis on the discovery phase of our work. It helps us not only understand the enterprise and its context, but map the when, which is what leads to higher-quality, more sustainable interventions.

As basketball legend Michael Jordon so eloquently put it, “Talent wins games. But team work and intelligence win championships.” Senior leaders need to decide whether they are happy playing in the lower leagues, or whether they have their eyes set on the Premiership trophy.

If your organisation has it’s eyes on the prize and you’re keen to ensure you do the right thing at the right time to take your executive team or Board up a level, get in touch for an informal chat about how we can support your team’s performance and growth.

Five things to take your top team from average to outstanding

Five things to take your top team from average to outstanding

It’s a bold claim. Only five things to transform an average team into a high-performing one. But they are so absolutely critical you’ll find it easy to see why.

1.Relationships built in service of the organisation’s goals

The trend for “team building” has not waned since the emergence of whole businesses built on providing cocktail mixing workshops and raft-building days which were meant to transform a disparate bunch of individuals into a super-effective team.

But activities designed as vehicles for relationship-building miss the point entirely. At board level, you don’t have to like one another, you just have to create strong relationships which enable you to co-operate and deliver for the organisation. Members of the top team must be open to being influenced by others and genuinely able to listen to their points of view.

It’s not about getting to a stage where you all happily go for after-work drinks, but forging relationships that will withstand disagreement, challenge and tough times, all while enabling each other to continue to drive organisational performance.

2. Absolute clarity on team composition

Too many teams are convened without sufficient understanding of what they have been created to do. For top teams, it’s imperative that the CEO has crystalised their thinking on two key things, which can then be refined with the team:

  • what is the purpose of the group and what critical things will they do when together?
  • what are the behavioural standards and norms for the group?

The stronger the base, the higher the peak applies here. It’s about creating an enduring framework for the board or executive team which guides what and how, but also why they come together.

This clarity must be combined with a careful assessment of who should be on the team, the skill and will needed to get the results, regardless of reporting lines. Getting this right from the start will reap its own rewards.

3. Optimising team performance

If you always do what you’ve always done, said Ghandi, you will always get what you always got.

Many teams will have done work on themselves as a unit, but few will have addressed the strategies they use to get work done. This is about task work as well as team work and is about looking carefully at what and how work gets done. Task work can be as simple as defining how decisions will be made and how problems will be solved together, but it’s the critical factor which is often overlooked.

It’s also about helping successful leaders get even better by adapting their leadership style and behaviour. In the words of Marshall Goldsmith, ‘what got you here won’t get you there.’ Leader’s get stuck in patterns of behaviour that are no longer helpful and need to acknowledge where they can optimise their own leadership style.

Most importantly leaders need to be willing to make changes to habitual ways of working that are no longer effective. Reaching the top table is not the end of the leadership development journey.

4. Don’t assume alignment

It’s absolutely critical that members of your top team have a common understanding of the organisation’s goals and the strategies to be used to achieve them. Even small divergences in understanding about purpose, priorities and strategic direction at this level can become gaping chasms when viewed from below.

If there is a lack of alignment, you won’t execute on strategy as quickly and in all probability will fail to adapt quickly enough to either keep pace or outpace the market.

Finding effective ways to check that the top team are genuinely aligned is a make-or-break success factor.

5. Slow down to speed up

Research (and common sense) tell us that individuals and teams cannot continue to perform at their best in perpetuity.

Periodically and purposefully coming out of performance mode to reflect on what’s going well and what might need tweaking is the best way to qualify that you are progressing at speed in the right direction.

But taking this deliberate stop also allows the literal pause for breath that is needed to replenish energy and stamina ready for the next phase. We call this slowing down to speed up.

It sounds really simple to say that just five things will take your top team from average to outstanding, and of course, if it was that simple, everyone would have solved the problem. To find out more about truly effective strategies for top team performance for your organisation, please email us at

How to build a high performance team you can be proud of

You’ve heard it before, ‘a team is more than the sum of it’s parts’. So in what circumstances is the following true:

1+1+1+1+1+1 = 6

1+1+1+1+1+1 = 2

1+1+1+1+1+1 = 12

Creating the conditions for high performance teamwork, where 1 x 6 really does equal 12, is the holy grail of team development. In this paper we discuss the five disciplines of high performance teams that should underpin any team coaching approach, the characteristics of high performance teams and the most effective methods for turning your team into a high performance team.

If you would like to discuss how to take your team to the next level please schedule a complimentary consultation at your convenience.

Even when you have highly talented individuals on your team, team performance levels may reach only what each of your team members could have achieved working on their own. Or individual performance levels may even reduce, such is the negative impact of the team process at times.

In this 4 minute video, Professor Peter Hawkins, Professor of Leadership, Henley Business School shares his thoughts on the 5 disciplines for high performance teams.

Professor Hawkins’ leadership team coaching approach resonates with us here at Triumpha. We like it because it goes beyond how your team connects together through relationships and considers how to create a team that can transform your business.

We believe that accelerating the alignment, development and effectiveness of board and executive leadership teams is one of the most powerful routes for increasing organisation performance and growth. Leadership team high performance is not an optional nice to but an organisational necessity. But don’t take our word for it:


“Not finance. Not Strategy. Not Technology. It is teamwork that remains the ultimate competitive advantage, both because it is so powerful and so rare.”

Patrick Lencioni (2002)

High Performance Team Characteristics

High performance teams have the following:

  1. Shared Purpose: team members define a shared purpose which inspires & mobilises them to drive for results
  2. Focus on Results: team members create shared clarity on what you must collectively deliver
  3. Healthy conflict: team members honour differences and engage in passionate debate.
  4. Wholehearted Commitment: team members wholeheartedly commit to decisions and action plans
  5. Mutual Accountability: team members hold each other accountable for meeting team objectives
  6. Trust: team members are open about mistakes and weaknesses and willing to ask each other for help.
  7. Team Sense: team members behave in the best interests of the team when they are together and when they are apart.

These characteristics reflect common sense. The theory is simple whilst also being extremely difficult to put into practice day after day. It requires uncommon levels of courage, discipline and humility from you and your team over a sustained period of time to deliver sustainable team high performance.

In our experience these levels of discipline and persistence don’t happen by chance and occur only when two conditions are met:


Generating motivational energy around a shared purpose and goals that matter deeply to your team members will fuel your journey to team high performance.


 “Be enthusiastic as a leader you can’t light a fire with a wet match.”




Great teamwork doesn’t happen by chance. It takes some heavy lifting. Your team will need to commit to a team coaching process that:

“Will help them both improve their collective performance and how they work together, and also how they develop their collective leadership to more effectively engage with all their key stakeholder groups to jointly transform the wider business.”

Professor Peter Hawkins

High Performance Team Development Options

 There are a variety of interventions that you can use to increase your team’s performance and effectiveness:

  • Strategic planning meetings: focus on your strategic challenges, opportunities and plans without distraction for 1-2 days (preferably offsite)
  • Team development events: bespoke sessions to help your team improve for example, decision making, problem solving, conflict management, team communication and cohesion
  • Leadership retreats: time to prepare for leading transformation and change
  • Team meeting observation & feedback: team coaches observe your team in action, provide feedback on what they see and coach your team ‘real time’ to increase their efficiency and effectiveness.
  • Individual leadership coaching: for positive sustainable behavioural change
  • Meetings with stakeholders: clarifying expectations, enabling collaboration and partnership working
  • Succession Planning: plan for the replacement of key leaders and increase the readiness of succession candidates.
  • Defining a leadership standard: what great leadership looks like in your business

Used in isolation each of these interventions will be helpful up to a point. If we compare team coaching to working with a personal trainer to lose weight and get fitter. A one-time trip to the gym or a week of eating the right food moves you in the right direction but doesn’t deliver the results you want. For sustainable results you need to commit to get fit.

In this example your trainer facilitates a structured process informed by expertise in nutrition, exercise and wellbeing but you have to do the heavy lifting. If you don’t put the miles in or follow the eating plans you are unlikely to make progress towards your goals.

High performance teamwork isn’t different. Just as with the fitness example, when the disciplines for high performance are internalised you don’t need a trainer any more. At this point you have embedded a way of working that supports the continued growth, development and high performance of your team.


Think about the 2-3 biggest challenges for your organisation over the next 12-24 months:

  • Is your leadership team ready to meet these challenges?
  • How does your individual and collective leadership need to evolve and develop?

If you would like to discuss how to take your team to the next level please schedule a complimentary consultation at your convenience.