Executive team performance: get these 5 things right

Get these five things right for optimal executive team performance

At our recent round-table event in Edinburgh, High performance top teams – fact or fiction? we discussed a framework for creating an optimal top team, in performance terms.

Developed after years of working in and on executive teams, our framework is borne out of first-hand experience, not simply theoretical study. And it’s as simple as five things…

Composition

Firstly – and most obviously – you need to have the right people round the table. But to get to the answer on who should get a seat needs work on defining what the team exists to do and how you want people to behave.

Once you have absolute clarity of purpose, required capabilities and leadership style you need to set aside any egos and conventions about reporting lines and be brave enough to pick the right people, regardless of where they sit in your organisation. Too many under-performing teams are slaves to the tradition of team composition, to the detriment of the team’s performance and potential.

Alignment

It should go without saying, but if it was that simple it wouldn’t need a mention here – in order to perform, any team, but especially an executive one, needs alignment on purpose, priorities and strategic direction.

Small chinks in alignment at this level look like great gaping chasms when viewed from below, so this is about real and tangible alignment with behaviour which supports that, not just nodding in the right places.

Interaction

The next critical part, how a team interacts, is another significant factor in its ability to perform. How do you want these relationships to be? How can you know which interactions may create tension and which will be most productive?

The individuals in the team need to be aligned to the task – the whole reason why the team exists. and critically to each other. Developing a good understanding of each other’s working styles and strengths in service of improving strategy execution is a well-made investment that will pay back many times over.

But it’s also critical to recognise that no one person can cover all the bases, so within the team people need to work with others who complement them, covering each another’s blind spots. Sharing leadership across the team in this way is essential.

Finally, the relationships within the team and between the team and other stakeholders – internal or external – also need careful consideration. Which relationships are most pivotal to the success of the team? For example, a CEO and a Chair or a CEO and a CFO, or perhaps two Functional or Business Directors who need to collaborate effectively.

Execution

Research reveals that tweaking the balance, so a team focuses simultaneously on interaction and execution (the how and the what) meant their work programmes were nearly twice as successful as those run by teams focused on teamwork alone and nearly three times as successful as those that focused on performance alone. So, having considered how a team will work, it’s also critical to focus on how to get work done. – the task strategies. This is a lynch-pin which holds together the strands of success.

To be greater than the sum of its parts, a team must operate optimally. That means getting absolute clarity on what strategies will be used to deliver. Who works with who? Who sponsors particular projects? How will the group make decisions, for example? A lack of emphasis on task strategies is a major factor holding teams back.

Learning

If your team is always in performance mode, there is no reflection and refinement, inevitably meaning its performance will deteriorate over time.

We talk about taking a step back in order to go forward, which means building in pauses at the right time to make sure that everything is on course and to identify any fine-tuning opportunities.

It’s critical to evaluate what strengths you will take forward with you and what might need some attention to be even better.

Research by McKinsey reveals that when senior leaders role-model the behaviour changes they’re asking employees to make, transformations are 5.3 times more likely to be successful. With most organisations in a constant state of flux, can you afford not to get this right?

If you’re interested in finding out more about our team performance framework, please email Triumpha and we’ll schedule a time to talk.

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