When you manage a team, your strategies and goals must align with the priorities of those above you. If you don’t fully understand how your group’s work fits into the bigger picture, consider going on a “listening tour” — a series of conversations with people who can clarify the company’s strategic objectives.
Of course, start with your boss, but also talk with other leaders in the organization, including peers and people lower in the hierarchy. Ask yourself: Who’s been at the company for a long time? Who’s worked closely with the current leadership? Who recently transferred from a company that went through a similar change process?
When you reach out, demonstrate that you have a basic grasp of the strategy and ask for their input. For example, you might say: “I hear you saying that innovation is a priority for my team. Where would you like to see us focus?”
When your top team fails to function, it will likely paralyze the whole company.
Few teams function as well as they could. But the stakes get higher with senior-executive teams: dysfunctional ones can slow down, derail, or even paralyze a whole company. McKinsey in their work with top teams at more than 100 leading multinational companies, including surveys with 600 senior executives at 30 of them, they identified three crucial priorities for constructing and managing effective top teams. Getting these priorities right can help drive better business outcomes in areas ranging from customer satisfaction to worker productivity and many more as well.
1. Get the right people on the team . . . and the wrong ones off
Determining the membership of a top team is the CEO’s responsibility—and frequently the most powerful lever to shape a team’s performance. Many CEOs regret not employing this lever early enough or thoroughly enough. Still others neglect it entirely, assuming instead that factors such as titles, pay grades, or an executive’s position on the org chart are enough to warrant default membership. Little surprise, then, that more than one-third of the executives they surveyed said their top teams did not have the right people and capabilities.
The key to getting a top team’s composition right is deciding what contributions the team as a whole, and its members as individuals, must make to achieve an organization’s performance aspirations and then making the necessary changes in the team. This sounds straight-forward, but it typically requires conscious attention and courage from the CEO; otherwise, the top team can under-deliver for an extended period of time.
2. Make sure the top team does just the work only it can do
Many top teams struggle to find purpose and focus. Only 38 percent of the executives McKinsey surveyed said their teams focused on work that truly benefited from a top-team perspective. Only 35 percent said their top teams allocated the right amounts of time among the various topics they considered important, such as strategy and people.
3. Address team dynamics* and processes
A final area demanding unrelenting attention from CEOs is effective team dynamics, whose absence is a frequent problem: among the top teams McKinsey studied, members reported that only about 30 percent of their time was spent in “productive collaboration”—a figure that dropped even more when teams dealt with high-stakes topics where members had differing, entrenched interests.
Correcting dysfunctional dynamics requires focused attention and interventions, preferably as soon as an ineffective pattern shows up.
Finally, most teams need to change their support systems or processes to crystalize and embed change.
Each top team is unique, and every CEO will need to address a unique combination of challenges.
Developing a highly effective top team typically requires good diagnostics, followed by a series of workshops and field work to address the dynamics of the team while it attends to hard business issues. The best top teams will begin to take collective responsibility and to develop the ability to maintain and improve their own effectiveness, creating a lasting performance edge.
© McKinsey & Co • Michiel Kruyt, Judy Malan, and Rachel Tuffield
*To build strong teams I recommend:
The Gabriel Institute
Curated by Trevor Lee
Having emotional intelligence, often referred to as EI, is an important part of being a stronger, more effective leader.
But too many people assume that it’s all about being sweet and chipper. Sure, some EI competencies are related to sociability, sensitivity, and likeability, but others are connected to leadership skills like achievement, influence, and conflict management.
The key is to have a balance.
If you’re strong in some of the softer, emotional skills, then focus on honing skills like giving unpleasant feedback. For example, rather than using your EI to smooth over interactions with a co-worker who is overbearing and abrasive, work on bringing up the issue to your colleague directly, drawing on conflict management to give direct feedback and on emotional self-control to keep your reactivity at bay.
By which I mean …
Do you demonstrate and deliver on these five key leadership traits:
W = Warmth: Simple human kindness
E = Empathy: The ability to sense what another person is feeling
T = Teamwork: The bias against ‘I can do it all by myself’ toward:
‘Let’s work together to make this happen’.
C = Conscientiousness: Detail orientation, including an ability and willingness to follow through to completion.
O = Optimism: The ability to bounce back and internalise challenges.
And not just leaders. These traits are human qualities and essential to ‘making a difference’ in your workplace and society at large.
Never make a formal offer until every aspect of that offer has been tested and agreed on beforehand. Easy to remember, but hard to fix if you forget. Once you’ve formally extended an offer, you’ve seriously limited your options. The applicant becomes the buyer, the company the seller. Open communication stops dead. Candidates stop thinking about why they want the job and start worrying about why they DON’T want it.
An offer extended while there’s still doubt often gets an “I have to think about it” response. Thinking about an offer is fine – but once you’ve extended it your own flexibility is weakened. It’s much better to have an applicant think about all aspects of an offer BEFORE you formally put it together.
Here’s another important point: Before you extend a formal offer, you get unbiased information. After, that same attempt to determine a candidate’s interest can come across as harassment, pushiness or over-selling. Contentious salary negotiations become awkward and stressful, because neither party wants to lose face. Deals often fall apart at this point for relatively unimportant reasons.
Start by testing a candidate’s general interest in the position. Ask, “Assuming an attractive offer, do the job and the challenge appeal to you?” This question lets you draw a line between the job and the offer, and gives both parties the chance to address concerns about the job itself. You’ll eliminate a lot of bad fits this way!
Then you can ask, “What would you think if we could put together a package in the range of £_____ to £_____?” You’ll need to go back and forth with the candidate to test the range, but this gets both parties talking in an open manner.
Don’t let the candidate forget about the competition – real or imaginary. Say something like, “Although we’re still seeing other candidates, I believe you’d make a great addition to our team. What do you think about something like £_____?” The threat of competition allows you to be a bit stronger during the negotiating phase, and tends to make the candidate more realistic.
A candidate’s hesitation on any item at this stage means there are probably other issues to be considered. Continue probing. Many objections have to do with lack of information: don’t move forward until you have addressed these concerns to everyone’s satisfaction. Now is the time to make trade-offs and be creative. If you can’t meet a particular need, offer an alternative – a signing bonus instead of a too-high salary, for example. Find out now if this could turn out to be a deal-breaker.
Work on all these points until you come to an agreement – or at least an understanding. You’ll both discover that this give-and-take process is much easier WITHOUT a formal offer on the table. And when all the objections have been addressed in a mutually satisfactory fashion, THEN you’re ready to get to the final offer.
Collaboration takes time and resources. So if you want people to work together, you have to make it as easy as possible.
For example, you can use simple, off-the-shelf tools like Dropbox and Skype to help people share and communicate. (Be sure that any programs you use work seamlessly with your IT system.)
If some of your employees aren’t confident with the technology, pair them with someone who is. People are much more likely to adopt a new technology if they have someone they can turn to for help, rather than learning it on their own or relying on an IT hotline.
And for major collaboration projects, consider assigning co-leaders who can shoulder the administrative burdens.
9 implementation principles that will guide you toward a successful transformation:
The problems facing every company are different. They largely depend on history, culture, capabilities, and information technology. However, the importance of vision and communication cannot be overestimated.
A clear vision of the tasks ahead and good communication skills will enable you to navigate around the most difficult obstacles and prevent the organization sliding back into its old habits. The following principles will guide you toward a successful transformation:
Think like a revolutionary
Build an urgent case for change and convince the board
Establish a ‘guiding coalition’
Create a compelling and coherent vision for change
Communicate the vision
Enable and encourage people to change
Look for quick wins
Work around the resistors
Consolidate the gains and maintain the momentum
Ed: These are principals that form the core of my friends at the Beyond Budgeting Institute – bbrt.org – and form the business model of such diverse companies as AstraZeneca, Arla, Danfoss, Handelsbanken, HILTI, Lego, MAERSK, Michelin, Sodexo, SKF, Timpson, Volvo and many more.
But getting back to point number 2,
because it is crucial to discuss how we sell the case for change to the people that matter.
Who are the key ‘influencers’ that you need to convince?
In most companies, the two primary persons to convince will be the CEO and CFO. However, it is of great importance to engage the whole organization. I will get back to that later.
While the case for change might appear to be compelling to you, it can seem too vague and “in the future” for others.
Hard-pressed managers need more organizational change like a hold-in-the-head. Therefore, the reasons must be compelling and the case well prepared and presented.
So how do we convince key influencers?
Ask yourself the following questions:
What will it involve?
What are the costs and benefits?
Which parts of the business are affected?
Is this the only option?
What evidence do we have that it will work?
What are the risks?
How long will it take?
How will we know if we have succeeded or failed?
Addressing them objectively will strengthen your credibility and increase your chances of success even though these questions are difficult to answer.
One common pitfall of implementation is believing that the total transformation of the model can be driven by finance (or any other one function) alone, and failing to engage other parts of organization such as Human Resources or members of the management team.
Author: Anders Olesen – Director, Beyond Budgeting Institute. E-Mail: email@example.com
Curated by Trevor Lee