- Helping create successful executive management teams and high performance cultures.
- Director of Action Learning at the Stanford Graduate School of Business.
- Trained as a psychiatrist, my work as a consultant and executive coach unites my understanding of personality dynamics and requirements for effective leadership.
- Focused on way individuals and groups achieve the high level of coordinated effort necessary for entrepreneurial success.
- Clients include: VMware, Millennium Pharmaceuticals, Agilent Technologies, Microsoft, Sun Microsystems, Scios, Johnson & Johnson, Guernsey Engineering, Eli Lilly, Medarex, and FMC.
- Specialties: Change Implementation, Executive Coaching, Leadership Development, Innovation, Cultural Transformation, Strategic Advice and Consultancy.
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High-Performing Executive Teams
- The speed of doing business, and of business disruption, is growing rapidly.
- The pressures on companies, and therefore on executive teams, are greater than they’ve ever been. In particular, the rate at which things move now is remarkable. That means an executive team needs to be incredibly nimble, very responsive to the level of change out in the world and very much prepared to assist one another.
This is an environment in which incredible speed is sort of a given. Inefficiencies that may have been acceptable 10 years ago would be totally unacceptable now. Related to that is the problem of not having time to think strategically – not having time, place and format to think strategically. The quarter-over-quarter pressures – especially in public companies, but not only in public companies – are really profound.
This becomes an issue of responding adequately to the enormous amount of pressure that’s going on, and, at the same time, thinking out a year or two and formulating strategy that looks at the long run.
- Company leadership is increasingly diverse.
Regardless of whether a company is global or international in scope, companies are finding more members of their top leadership team are coming from divergent backgrounds. As an example, you may have a white Anglo CEO, an Indian SVP of technology or cofounder, an American Irish product development person, a Asian VP of sales, a woman general counsel and some other nationality or background as chief financial officer. The mix could be any other order of those titles.
Such diversity can be important for companies because of the varying perspectives people bring to the tasks at hand. That makes it important that teams understand their task is not just to be diverse, but to function as a diverse team – that is, to make full use of the knowledge and backgrounds of the team members. That will require a more advanced sensibility for communication and cooperation than many teams exhibit.
- Business is increasingly global.
As companies become more international, or global, new hurdles to team communication and functioning arise. Key issues include dealing with time zones, the expense of travel, the balance between face-to-face communication and the use of technology to communicate.
It is common for teams to have something like three members in India, someone in China, someone in the Midwest, two people in New York and three people in California. How often do they actually get together? How well do they get to know each other? Is that sufficient to make a real team versus the extraordinary expense of bringing people together from so far away?
There is, in fact, a set of skills for virtual teams that operate, a lot of the time, in the virtual world. How they will work together will be different from and, certainly, will require more attention than an eight-person team sitting in the same room. Working out these issues can be different for each team. What is important is that each team make the effort to resolve the issues in a way that works best for all on the team.
- Companies are investing more in leadership development, executive coaching, organizational development and sophisticated HR practices.
Many companies these days have a high-potential program – that is, a leadership development program, or an executive coaching program, aimed at improving the performance of the leadership team. This is both good and necessary.
However, in many cases, there is no attempt to get them all going in the same direction. They may have a major culture change initiative, a high-potential and leadership development program and an organizational development function, but these things are not oriented together.
Often, a company will pick from a menu of training and development options and not understand the enormous costs of having these things being uncoordinated. As an example, a company in England is very well meaning, very idealistic, very well-intentioned in its development programs. But there is no attempt to link their coaching program for their leading scholars with programs in organizational development. It is an inefficient, less effective, way to do business with higher costs.
- Companies are recognizing a need to align company and team goals with team organization and compensation.
- Increasingly,companies are recognizing the need to align senior team organization and compensation around company and leadership team goals. Misalignment within the team can come from such places as unequal access to the CEO or from different forms of compensation.
Equal access to the CEO relates to organizing and operating the team in a way that avoids cliques and ensures that all points of view get a hearing. The whole system of people and competencies, formal structure and culture must all be aligned with the company's strategy and, then, the executive team needs to reflect that same kind of alignment.
As an example, there often is a natural tension, between the sales and marketing team and the technology team. Salespeople often are compensated based on revenue while engineering bonuses may be based on the quality of new products. That can create different perspectives on what is important. These tensions are not completely avoidable, but they do need to be worked out.