The executive team of a company is one of the company's most valuable resources. Efficient and effective operation, as a team, is critical to the team’s ability to produce the clearest analysis and best decisions possible.
This is ever more critical as the pace of business speeds up, as business becomes more global and as diversity in leadership teams expands.
Creating a smoothly-operating team requires early, direct, conscious and collaborative planning on the parts of the senior team members. Together, they need to learn how team members work and to define what the team is expected to accomplish and how it will operate to achieve its goals. Then, they need to work together to monitor team operations and ensure that the norms and expectations are followed, including adjusting those rules as needed.
Such planning, and team operations, must take place within a safe environment. Essentially, each member of the team needs to feel there is a psychologically safe zone within which to work in the team. In a high-functioning team, difficult or inconvenient truths can be raised, inquiry is encouraged, hidden assumptions can be surfaced and a true dialogue – designed to develop the best information available – can be employed regularly.
Further, the team’s culture needs to be aligned with the greater company culture. This requires direct and constant communication regarding cultural expectations for both the team and company employees. This includes the symbolic language of awards, rewards, titles and company functions. All of these elements, along with executive development and training, need to be part of a general plan so each part points in the same direction.
Some of the tools a team can use to achieve these goals include:
A “check-in” before every meeting in which team members provide a brief personal or professional status report.
Targeted communication styles for different tasks and situations.
Team functionality questionnaires and dedicated, intentional discussion of team issues.
A high functioning executive team can capture the best ideas of all of its members and improve on them. It can achieve this through an intentional effort to create a supportive environment in which curiosity and inquiry are encouraged while taking full advantage of team diversity. Such team efforts should be viewed as a business necessity, not just a nicety.