The executive leadership team is the engine that drives the success of your organization forward. It shapes your organizational vision, inspires staff members and aligns everyone’s goals around the same core set of objectives.
Executive leadership effectiveness is founded on trust, purpose, decisiveness and a host of other characteristics. It can be a challenge for leadership teams to develop all of these qualities, however, and failing to do so can have a negative impact on the rest of the organization.
At The Bailey Group, we’re committed to working with your executive leadership team to help you understand your strengths and weaknesses and build a customized plan to transform the team into a highly effective working group of leaders with a clear vision and mission.
The top priorities of an impactful executive leadership team
The gap between the most effective leadership teams and average teams is significant. But what exactly separates the great from the good? While there are numerous factors at play, one of the most straightforward is that effective leadership teams simply have their priorities in order.
Here are some of the top priorities of an impactful executive leadership team:
- Inspire the wider organization: Inspiration is one of the critical ingredients behind employee engagement and organizational success. Every senior leader has to be able to craft powerful missions with sufficient buy-in from employees. Importantly, effective executive leadership teams are able to cut through the routine of everyday life to inspire confidence, trust and commitment on a daily basis.
- Align goals at every level of the organization: It’s not enough for the executive leadership team to inspire and motivate; a powerful quarterly meeting can only go so far. Implementing its core vision requires aligning organizational goals with those of every team and individual across the company. This ensures that everyone is working in lockstep toward the same set of objectives, and makes each individual feel like a valuable part of the organization’s wider mission.
- Equip employees with the tools they need to succeed: The transition to the hybrid work model is likely here to stay. That means executive leaders like the chief information officer and chief technology officer need to be on the cutting edge of technological innovation to empower their employees to accomplish their goals as efficiently and seamlessly as possible. Video conferencing platforms, customer relationship management solutions and project management tools are among the latest tech advancements that every leader should consider deploying across their organization.
- Create constant value for the customer: Nothing an executive leadership team does is more important than finding new opportunities to generate value for the organization’s customers. Effective leaders are always engaging with their customers — listening to their feedback, understanding their problems, learning about their business — and using this information to make appropriate business adjustments that keep the customer at the core.
The key characteristics of an executive leadership team
Every executive leadership team is different, and there is more than just one path to success. That said, the most impactful leadership teams tend to share a few key characteristics. These include:
1. Clear sense of purpose
One of the hallmarks of an effective senior leadership team is that team members operate in conjunction, making decisions for the collective good of both the team and the organization as a whole. The key to achieving this is defining a clear purpose, mission and set of objectives that every member of the leadership team can fully commit to and model.
Having a clear sense of purpose helps coalesce everyone’s activities and points them toward the same collective goal, creating greater cohesion across the organization. It also boosts recruiting efforts by helping organizations target individuals who understand and believe in its central purpose, creating a workforce of dedicated, passionate team members from the very beginning.
At the end of the day, the executive leadership team is the organization’s top decision-making body. Not only does that mean they need to be good at making decisions, but they also have to be good at standing behind them and sticking to them.
Decisiveness isn’t just about arriving at a final decision, however. It also involves the ugly behind-the-scenes work — the hours of research, painstaking deliberation and (perhaps most importantly) conflict resolution to ensure everyone’s views and needs are respected and accounted for.
On the flip side of that, leadership teams can’t deliberate forever about every minute detail or they run the risk of becoming indecisive. Effective executive leadership teams understand the right balance between deliberation and decisiveness and how to translate that balance into effective decision making that earns employees’ trust.
Everyone has different viewpoints and perspectives, and this forms the basis of all conflict. Effective leaders know how to put themselves in their colleagues’ shoes, empathize with their unique viewpoints and work constructively toward reconciling all perspectives into a coherent plan of action.
Effective leaders also know what they don’t know, and aren’t afraid to admit it. They’re willing to be open and admit when they need help or support. Not only does this instill a sense of openness and collaboration within the team (which drives better results), but it also creates a deeper sense of trust between colleagues.
Trust is the glue that binds every great leadership team together. The success of the team ultimately depends on creating a culture of trust undergirded by openness, dependability and accountability both within the leadership team and across the rest of the organization. Without trust, leadership teams devolve into petty squabbling that leads to confusion, lack of direction, and lack of emotional and professional safety that will trickle down from the chief executive officer to every other level.
Trust enables leadership teams to look far into the future, crafting strategies able to win sufficient buy-in from their colleagues. Toward that end, it gives them a sturdy foundation that allows necessary risks to be taken with the full backing of their employees.
5. Psychological safety
The importance of psychological safety is often overlooked as one of the key characteristics of an effective leadership team, but it’s a critical driver of success. Impactful leadership teams understand intuitively that individuals function at their best when they’re healthy (mentally, emotionally and physically).
More than ever, the personal and professional lives of team leaders are overlapping. That trend has only accelerated since the start of the pandemic. Executive leadership teams need to take this seriously and work with every individual to properly accommodate their personal lives so they can excel in their professional ones. The emergence of executive positions like chief people officer and chief wellness officer reflect the growing importance of psychological safety.
Measuring the impact of your executive leadership team
Oftentimes, it takes an outside observer to really understand the impact of a senior leadership team and grasp both its strengths and weaknesses on a deeper level. When The Bailey Group works with an organization, we interview leaders on a one-on-one basis to give them the space to be a little more vulnerable and share their views without fear of judgment or reprisal.
We ask them questions pertaining to each of the above characteristics. That includes finding out how much trust there is among team members; do they believe in each other to advance the goals of the organization, or do they feel other team members are working only for the interests of one specific department?
But it doesn’t end there. We also want to know whether team members feel their standing meetings are productive or not; are they accomplishing anything, or does every meeting feel like a big waste of time? This is just a sampling of the detailed information we aim to collect from executive leaders.
Once we’ve gathered our findings, we make sure to have a conversation with team members about the wider results. This is a critical part of the process because sometimes a person’s reaction to the results can give us additional information about the team. (Maybe the chief executive officer is shocked to find out there are misaligned purposes on the team, suggesting a disconnect between team members that could point to other problems, like a lack of communication.) Then we go to work with your team to help improve the team’s effectiveness with actionable strategies and tactics.
How to tell if your team is underperforming
Just like the most successful leadership teams share a few of the same characteristics, underperforming teams also tend to look the same. We’ve covered a couple of them already, but here are a few of the key shortcomings that indicate executive leadership team ineffectiveness:
- Unclear about collective goals: One of the common qualities of an underperforming leadership team is that members are often in disagreement about what their collective goals are. Worse, they might not even have a grasp of what those goals are supposed to be. Lacking an overarching objective, they might simply resort to the priorities of the teams or departments they came from as a fill-in (i.e the chief marketing officer may focus only on the team’s marketing strategy, chief people officer on human resources, etc.), which only creates further discord.
- Meetings are unproductive: Another telltale sign of the ineffective executive leadership team is that meetings tend to be directionless and unproductive. Meeting participants often walk away feeling like some agenda items didn’t get covered, while others were covered in an unnecessarily excessive amount of depth. The feeling among participants that “this could have been in an email” can be widespread.
- Slow to make decisions: Indecisiveness leaves the entire team without proper guidance or a plan of action, negatively impacting top-level coherence and camaraderie. While it can be caused by a number of different factors, it usually starts with an inability (or unwillingness) to reach agreement and consensus on key strategy objectives. Indecisiveness can have a ripple effect that affects the direction of the rest of the organization.
- Poor conflict resolution: Closely related to indecisiveness, poor conflict resolution skills will scuttle even the most talented leadership teams. Many people come into their leadership positions because they are assertive and strong in their beliefs — it’s one of the secrets to their success. However, without a touch of humility to understand when compromise is the best path forward, a team full of big personalities will be hampered by an inability to resolve differences and ease potentially destabilizing tension.
Making your executive leadership team more effective
Organizations can get stuck when faced with the problem of improving the effectiveness of their leadership teams. One of the best strategies a company can deploy is hiring an executive leadership consultant professionally trained to work with leaders and teams to identify any of the above shortcomings and transform them into impactful executives with high business administration skill.
At The Bailey Group, we offer executive coaching, next-level-down coaching, and team development, customized to fit your teams’ unique strengths, weaknesses, goals and objectives.
While individual and collective interviews are an important part of what we do, we also sometimes recommend having us sit in on executive team meetings to get a first-hand look at how members of the team interact with one another. We might even ask to join client calls to observe closely the team’s client relationships.
Once we’ve gathered all that information, we develop customized solutions that include further training, learning materials and action plans to help them develop the above key characteristics to become better, more effective executive leaders.
- Empower employees to excel in their role.
- Drive innovation.
- Enhance employee engagement.
- Set direction and define values for the business.
- Improve accountability among the team.
- Improve bottom line results.
Partnering with The Bailey Group
Executive leadership team development isn’t easy, but it’s critical if you want to fuel growth, power innovation and cultivate your organization’s next generation of leaders. Fortunately, The Bailey Group ensures that you don’t have to do any of this alone.
Our leadership coaches have been leaders themselves and understand that every organization, executive team and leadership role has its own unique strengths and weaknesses. That’s why we work with leaders on a deep level to understand their needs and build a solution that’s appropriate for them.
Contact us today to schedule a free consultation.