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 firstname.lastname@example.org