The leadership team is one of the most important components of an organization, if not the most important. Collectively, members of this group determine where the organization is going and how it is going to get there. Yet, the percentage of leadership teams operating at dysfunctional levels is staggering. In 2007, 42 percent of senior leadership teams were considered dysfunctional. Today, the number varies depending on the source, but it doesn’t seem to have improved much if any at all.
A high performing team (the opposite of dysfunctional) is one that is more productive, has higher employee retention rates, delivers on ROI, meets and often exceeds expectations of the board, and so on. Naturally, achieving this level of function should be the aim of every CEO. Unfortunately, many CEOs do not prioritize the activities that build this sort of high-level production.
How to prioritize leadership team building
A leadership team is the core of an organization; it’s also the canary in the coal mine. If the leadership team is falling apart, likely so are the outer teams and the “boots on the ground” (i.e., customer service representatives, salespeople, etc.).
While building a team that can help you achieve such results isn’t something that can be learned in a single article, some basic principles can help you start down the right path.
Start creating a powerful leadership team by:
- Ignoring numbers. There are always going to be those who will try to convince you that having the perfect number on your executive team is key. But remember: we’re going for quality, not quantity.
- Creating goals. Get on the same page early and often. A team can only be high performing if it’s performing in unison, with the same outcome in mind. Keep the lines of communication open and take the steps necessary to ensure everyone always has the same goals in sight.
- Establishing responsibilities. Everyone has a purpose and, while there doesn’t have to be lines of separation between team players, there should never be a doubt as to who is contributing.
- Fostering support. In his research, J. Richard Hackman found that highly effective leadership teams rely heavily on the support of one another. This includes coaching, mentoring, and general support for one another. So, while members will have their individual roles, they should actively seek to support each other in their shared drive for success.
- Providing feedback. What’s working and what isn’t? There must be consistent and dependable feedback to ensure progress and productivity.
- Leading. Highly effective teams aren’t focused on any one individual; they are completely cohesive. The team must work well together toward a common goal. However, every good team must have a good leader and, in this case, that is you. It is your responsibility to ensure the rest of these principles are implemented and adhered to while leading the team by example.
Putting it all together
Consider the instruments involved in an orchestra. Playing individually, an instrument sounds nice, but the solo performance leaves something to be desired. There is surely no exceeding expectations with a single player. Yet, when you join all the instruments together with their musicians, give them a sheet of music and a conductor, suddenly you have a completely different sound. As H.E. Luccock once said, “No one can whistle a symphony. It takes an orchestra to play it.”
You can’t lead a successful organization until you have a team of people who are on the same wavelength. Take the time to build your team; they will be there to support you and to help you initiate change on an organization-wide scale.