I was coaching the senior members of a new leadership team of a mid-size technology company on developing themselves a strong leadership team. We were in a collective discussion about “What is your role as a leadership team?” and people were expressing their views. At some point in the conversation, I shared some of my own thoughts and recommendations about what the role of a strong leadership team could be.
I included things like:
“Ensure that the strategic commitments and objectives of your organization are alive and meeting their results”
“Ensure that your people are in great shape from a professional, productivity, development and motivation standpoint” and
“Ensure that you, yourselves are operating and being viewed as a highly effective leadership team.”
One of the team members responded by saying: “But, aren’t all of these role definitions basic expectations of any leadership team, so these go without saying?”
He was right. There are some fundamental commitments and accountabilities that any leadership team should naturally be in charge of.
The problem, however, is that in so many cases – perhaps in most cases – there is a significant gap between expectations and ‘shoulds’, and the reality. Simply said, most leadership teams don’t adhere to these basic expectations.
In so many organizations when the strategic objectives are being paid lip service to, behind expectations or not met, the leadership members avoid calling it out or they simply engage in blame and excuse conversations as much as anyone else.
So many times when the organization goes through significant changes, like restructuring or downsizing and people are startled and traumatized by these events, the leadership team members are too busy looking out for themselves and the people that are close to them, rather than ensuring that all their people are in great shape.
And, in many organizations, the leadership team is not considered a ‘highly effective leadership team’, in fact in most places, people point to the leadership team as the team with most dysfunctionality.
So much for expectations!
Why is this the case?
Because most leadership teams evolve by default.
Most leaders approach evolving their team, consistent with what the management books say. They bring their team members together once or twice a year to engage in a ‘team building exercise’. As many of these exercises are really good, the leaders leave them feeling energized.
However, the fierce reality and circumstances set in very quickly and in most cases the team building event at best remains as a remote memory in the rearview mirror.
Most leaders relate to building their team as an event rather than a process that requires as much ongoing focus, commitment, priority and investment of time, energy and funds, as any other mission-critical business process. Most leaders bring their people together frequently to react to tactical challenges. However, they relate to spending strategic and development time with their team as a ‘nice to have’ and ‘luxury’ to undertake if and when time, resources and circumstances are favorable. But, not as a necessity for maintaining and growing the entire competitive culture, performance and forward view of their organization.
If you want to build a powerful team you can’t bet your success on expectations and hope. You have to shape and build your team by design.
This means team members need to come together and agree on the exact type of team they want to be. There isn’t such a thing as “it goes without saying”. They have to articulate their role explicitly. Furthermore, their role must reflect the reality they are committing to deliver and cause. And, yes, they need to promise it.
Articulating your role as a leadership team through the language of “Ensuring” is very powerful. As a team, simply ask yourself “What future are we promising to ensure together?”, it orientates you around results not activities and it shapes a relationship of ownership with these results.
If you are promising to ensure a set of outcomes, that means:
- You are accountable for these outcomes
- You give up the right to have excuses, and
- You are all in this together to bring about the outcomes you promised.
When it comes to powerful teams, you can’t beat that!