Posts

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.

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 reception@triumpha.com

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:

A. YOUR TEAM MUST WANT TO CHANGE

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.”

Anonymous

 

B. YOUR TEAM INVESTS TIME & ENERGY IN A TEAM COACHING PROCESS

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.