By Glenn Busby, President & Partner, SPG Management Consulting
You are building or rebuilding your company’s management team. Or may be you think you will need to do so soon. The decisions you make and the early steps you take now are crucial and, more than just about anything else, they will have make or break impact on your long-term results, personally, professionally, and corporately.
(I) Getting the Right People On Board
We all recognize intuitively that if we fail to get the right people on the team, that it is hard if not impossible to move forward successfully. So, you consider potential candidates internally and externally. You look at knowledge skills, experience, track record; who has the “chops” to hit the ground running and deliver? This is all good stuff, and important, but there are other factors to consider, and sometimes even seasoned senior executives miss or minimize these:
Cultural & Team Fit
Does the candidate match the organizational and leadership team culture you want to create going forward? Depending on the situation, fit to present company culture may actually be a negative – if you have to change things radically, you need change agents who will exemplify the new culture. Does the candidate match you and the other team members? Do you want to work with this person closely for years to come? Do you like them personally, as opposed to just respecting them professionally? The best leadership teams gel as friends, even if they never socialize outside of work.
Looking for good fit does not mean looking for uniformity. The strongest teams are composed of individuals who share certain core values and cultural traits, AND, who have different styles, personalities, strengths and weaknesses, backgrounds, and decision-making styles. Ask yourself: do I have a mix of aggressive and cautious, creative and methodical, people and process oriented, etc. members of my team? Ten people who think and act exactly the same way is really having one person who repeats themselves ten times – you created an echo chamber.
What made us successful in our last role is often not what will make us successful in our next, more senior role. The transition to Department Leader / VP / Management Team Member can be one of the hardest in our careers, and many cannot successfully make the leap. Whether promoting or moving a lateral candidate, look for two key things: can and does the candidate think, act, and lead organizationally as well as functionally, and do they think strategically, build a department, and delegate as opposed to acting as a “doer” only?
Too few team members, as you lack for diversity, insights, and the potential to involve the right players. Too many, and the team can be cumbersome, ineffective, even dysfunctional.
(II) Establishing Team Roles, Rules, and Norms
So, we have a new team. Let’s do some “team-building” and then get on with our jobs. Book the off-site: Golf? Maybe an obstacle course or trust exercise? A nice dinner? By all means, create and enjoy a shared experience. But, do not believe that you have checked a box, and the team-building is done. High functioning teams do need shared experiences, both within and outside of daily work. Ideally these shared experiences are inclusive (i.e. everyone participates and enjoys participating) and create the opportunity for conversation and getting to know the “whole person” that is your new teammate. At the same time, you need more than just shared experiences, your team will also need a playbook to guide their actions.
Roles vs. Roles
It is important to look beyond functional roles, to look at the other “roles” each team member will play. Every team has formal and informal roles that are often (though not always) exclusive of function or organizational level. Determine and understand who will play the role of facilitator, of culture keeper, of sober second thought, of devil’s advocate, encourager, etc. These roles may shift or they may be static, but they are crucial to the group’s dynamics and to its success.
Early on in forming the team, it is very useful to have each team member share with the others the answers to the following questions:
- Who am I – what makes me tick? What do I like and not like? What is my style? What is my leadership philosophy?
- What do I need – what makes me most effective? How do you get the best from me? How can you help me when I am stressed? What do I expect from the group? From specific individuals?
- What can I do for each of you?
- What is my personal & professional agenda – what am I hoping to achieve? What am I trying to accomplish for my team/department?
Rules of Engagement
Every team has its own norms; its own ways of interacting. It is useful to establish and articulate what these are, particularly in four key areas. The first: how do we share information? How is it transmitted? To whom? When? The second: how do we make decisions? By consensus or by the leader alone? What balance of data and judgement? The third: how do our meetings function? What process for agenda, pre-work, discussion, decisions, minutes, etc.? The fourth: how do we resolve conflict? It is crucial that the team can have productive conflict – neither avoiding key issues nor destroying the team while attempting to resolve them. Having established the “rules” before conflict arises increases the likelihood of successful resolution. I WOULD NOTE IMPORTANCE OF The HOW TO RESOLVING CONFLICT HERE
Regardless of what the team agrees, what ultimately has the most lasting impact is the tone the leader sets. What does (s)he accept? How does (s)he act or react under stress? What behaviour does (s)he reward versus reject? Ultimately everyone will look to the leader to understand how things are “really going to be”.
(III) Deciding Where the Team is Going
Having assembled the right team and clarified its roles, rules and norms, the leader must also ensure that the team collectively builds and aligns on a shared vision and strategic plan that will guide their actions and that of their departments / teams.
This is not about “plaques on the wall”. Strong common visions are one part view of a successful future and one part of how we will operate. The best organizations have a clear sense of mission and strong and distinct cultures. They tend to rely on principles and norms more than policies, because they create a heightened sense of shared purpose and journey.
Strategy & Action Plan
One of the very best “shared experiences” that a leadership team can have is the joint development of the company’s strategic and annual plans. The process should be facilitated and inclusive. It should be built on vision and culture, but grounded in external competitive reality and data. All the leadership team should actively debate, challenge, and ultimately own all parts of the plan. Then, they need to deploy it in their departments and teams.
A shared vision and strategic plan will not succeed without true alignment – both “buy-in” and shared success criteria and rewards. Buy-in typically comes from the process: people need to have input and feel heard. They want to have been part of the decision-making process, even if they did not always get their way. Finally, the leader must ensure that it is always possible for the leadership team (and ultimately those that they lead) to focus on and deliver a win:win:win – for the company, the team, and the individual. To accomplish this, take advantage of cascading objectives and strategies, common scorecards, and appropriately designed incentive systems.
Building or rebuilding your company’s leadership is hard work. It takes careful thought and planning, and consistency of action. It is not a simple matter of having a “team-building” event. By considering and using the thoughts above, you have a roadmap to help guide you through the process. How will you use these ideas to successfully build a winning leadership team?
© Glenn Busby – 2012