Most executive leadership teams are ineffective at leading transformation. I say this based on nearly 30 years of experience working with teams in both for profit and non-profit organizations. There are two primary reasons for this ineffectiveness:
- Executive team members do not understand and have not agreed on the purpose of an executive team and how to measure their success as a team.
- Executive team members mostly lack an understanding of how to build healthy team dynamics and are not up to date on recent advances in decision making tools and techniques.
What is the purpose of an executive team? Put simply it is to drive change. McKinsey research says that in organizations that succeed, executives spend more than 50% of their time leading transformation. Leading transformation requires focusing on three primary roles:
- Setting direction – Agreeing on and hyper communicating a compelling and specific vision for the future (Jim Collins famously refers to this as creating a BHAG).
- Aligning the organization – Translating the vision into a set of time bound priorities (e.g. 1 year, 90 days), translating the priorities for each function, and measuring and communicating progress towards achieving the priorities
- Motivating and inspiring – Working collaboratively to assist employees (who are coping with imposed change) to understand the need for change. It also requires creating an environment that combines both psychological safety (meaning it is safe to challenge leadership about what is not working) and accountability (being clear that results are not optional).
Steven Johnson, in his recent book titled Farsighted: How We Make Decisions That Matter the Most, describes advances that have been made in group decision making. Using a framework of mapping, forecasting and deciding, he describes multiple tools and concepts such as influence diagrams, charrettes, peripheral cognition, optimal extremism, simulations, scenario planning, premortems and many others.
How often have you heard terms like these raised or explicitly employed in your team’s decision making? My guess is rarely (except perhaps for scenario planning). This means most executive teams are unaware of and not employing tools for maximizing their decision-making effectiveness.
In a recent HBR article, Carlos Valdez-Depena leads with a provocative statement: “Most corporate team building is a waste of time and money”. He argues that traditional team building puts too much focus on building trust and relationships and not enough on understanding the purpose for collaboration and motivating collaborative behavior. I couldn’t agree more!
If your executive team lacks an understanding of its purpose or struggles with decision making, give me a call or shoot me an email. The Bailey Group can help you and your team beat the transformation odds by focusing on building a high performing executive team.