Know what it takes to create a great leadership team
Our work with many private, public and non-profit leadership teams has shown us that there are four features to a great leadership team. We analyse current team performance using our team excellence survey on these features. They are also the features we help our clients develop in their leadership teams.
1. Clear direction
All teams need a sense of where they are going and how they are going to get there. The best teams pool their experience to take a good look at outside, as well as inside, the organisation to make these decisions. They make real choices together through intensely debating options and thinking through scenarios (best- and worst-case). They are skilled at taking stock of where they are and redirecting themselves when needed. They prioritise...and de-prioritise. They plan together how they will make things happen. And they get clear on what is the role of the team in all of this, versus the roles of individuals.
2. Productive and efficient team processes and structures
Many teams find their team processes are not helping their cause. Great teams pay attention to when they meet, how long for, what is on (and not on) the agenda and how they get prepared. They pay attention to whether they need to make a decision or whether they are giving input to help someone make a decision. They structure discussions so that everyone is clear on the desired outcome and there’s a sensible sequence of questions that will guide the group to the outcome. They have metrics, incentives and dashboards that support their direction.
3. Common norms and behaviours
It’s rare to find a team with identical backgrounds and styles of engaging. And it’s probably not very healthy. This means that most teams need to develop rules of engagement (or shared norms and behaviours) that help them work together well. And they need to live up to these rules of engagement, even in the trickiest situations. They need to get good at holding difficult discussions and managing (not avoiding) conflict. They need to be excellent at making decisions quickly but effectively. They need a common set of skills in how they listen and participate.
4. Strong trust, supported by shared mindsets
Ever been in a team where people just didn’t trust each other...or seemed to have totally different attitudes or motivations? If left untackled, this hidden stuff kills teams and infects their whole organisations. The best teams talk about their mindsets (their attitudes, beliefs, values and motivations) and figure out which mindsets they all need to practise. For example, we often find through our work that teams decide taking a responsible mindset will help them to collaborate and get past tricky situations. At other times, teams will need to work on the balance between optimising for individual results versus optimising for collective results. Most teams benefit from boosting their levels of trust and openness.