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Top Team Tragedy

Optimize Blog - November 16, 2015 - 0 comments

Few teams that we come across are optimized and fully functional. While we like the fun part of dysfunctional, underperforming teams at any level create drag on an organization and destroy value.
When considering the top team, this issue is amplified and an underperforming executive team can slow a company down or even derail the whole organization. Conversely getting the top team right will drive better business outcomes. Simply assuming that titles, pay grades or an executive’s position on the org chart will deliver the capability required is a major mistake.
The key to success sounds very straightforward – decide on the team’s purpose and then put the people with the right capability and competence to execute on the role in place.
However many top teams struggle to find purpose and focus and too often the top teams fail to enforce priorities resulting in ridiculous agendas that no team can manage effectively. Collective top team priorities can only be determined through a concerted effort driven by the CEO.
Many top teams fail to understand their role and some even consider the role of the top team as an interruption to the real work that needs doing. This lack of engagement needs to be addressed if the team is to have any chance of making a contribution to the success of the organization. The top team needs to be fully focused on demonstrating to the Board, employees and stakeholders that they are nurturing the long term health of the company. They must act not only to improve corporate performance in the near term but also to lay the foundation for resilient and robust growth in years to come.
Constructive collaboration also needs to be in place for the executive team to be effective. Personal agendas, career incentives and business unit goals often subvert collaboration resulting in the team being ineffectual and creating collateral damage throughout the organization as employees mirror the top team’s behaviors.
Members of the top team who cannot adjust to the true purpose of the team need to be removed respectfully but quickly. Many CEO’s often believe that they can change individuals over time but this hubris must be tempered with the reality of the timeframe within which the organization needs to effect change.
In addition, the top team needs to have the right support systems and processes in place so that alignment is achieved. Executives working at cross purposes cannot possibly succeed.
The reality is that every CEO needs to spend time ensuring that the executive team focuses on strategy, metrics, governance, communication and leadership. Agenda issues outside of these five core tasks should be avoided wherever possible so that the team executes its purpose and doesn’t become a talking shop for issues that could be dealt with elsewhere.
Each top team is unique and therefore has a unique set of challenges. Developing a great top team requires a good understanding of those challenges and action to ensure that the team takes collective responsibility for performance, is aligned around the strategic goals and is focused on the right things.
Then, and only then will the top team become effective…..

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