Executive Team Development

We partner with Executive Teams (ET's) to build the critical capabilities to achieve their mandate - insuring the health and growth of an organization. ET's are unique in that they do not fit the classic profile of a "team" whose members are interdependent, mutually accountable and focused on a common work product.  Our experience is that ET's often struggle with defining what they are to do together and how to be most effective with each other.  

Our approach to Executive Team Development helps members develop a dual focus on the "what" and the "how."  

The What: Primary Tasks of Executive Teams

Insure there is a compelling direction and vision for the organization.  
Members of an organization look to the ET to articulate and communicate the organization's vision and direction. The ET must have a shared and unified understanding of the vision and direction, as well as the ability to communicate it clearly and simply.  Their communication must inspire and unify the organization.  

Align on the organization's key priorities and strategies.  High performing Executive Teams must share an understanding of and commitment to the organization's key priorities and strategies. This common understanding allows executives to (a) make decisions about what work is critical (and not) in their own divisions and (b) promote consistent messaging across divisions about where the organization is headed, why and how.  This allows the organization's members to understand how their efforts contribute to the organization's success.

Insure there is a compelling – and urgent - direction for the Executive Team itself.  The ET must clearly define the work it is to accomplish together.  Unlike project teams whose momentum is driven by clear deliverables and timelines, the "big picture" work of executive teams to "drive organizational profit and growth" is more obscure.  If not laid out clearly, the work of an ET can easily become defined by day-to-day, function-specific operational issues.  Creating a focus on broader organizational issues and maintaining a sense of urgency around them will orient the team to the work that only it can take on. The CEO plays a critical role in helping the ET to accomplish this task especially when the team is in its early stages of development.

Scan the external environment.  Unlike project teams that are focused on implementing daily work to meet periodic objectives, executive teams must look outward to understand market forces and industry trends to inform direction and strategy.  Bringing these perspectives to the table regularly ensures that all members have a pulse on the external environment.  This knowledge serves as the engine of innovation.

Recognize when to flex the ET role.  There are particular contexts in which an ET may need to act more like a "real team" to lead initiatives effectively.  For example, an Executive Team looking to create new business processes or re-tool a company's culture may need to operate as a task force to produce critical output that informs large-scale decisions.  An ET with new membership requires attention to more traditional team development: setting norms, agreeing to operating principles, and understanding each others' work styles.  

Maintain an effective relationship with governance.  Failures in communication between the ET and Board are common and can impair an organization's effectiveness.  ET's must share the right information at the appropriate time in order to leverage the Board's collective knowledge.  The Board must assume an active role advising to the CEO and ultimately to the ET especially in the area of strategy development and developing competitive advantage.  Increasing contact between individual ET members and Board members creates shared understanding and a common focus on key strategies.  

The How: Capability Development
As consultants who have worked with ETs we have identified three essential and highly impactful methods that, when used simultaneously, will create a powerful synergy for sustainable change.
Team Coaching
The entire ET as a system is the client in team coaching.  Executive Team coaching is focused on helping all members change their team dynamics regardless of individual differences. During ET coaching sessions, the team works on its usual business and then is coached in real time on its collective process and results.

Identification of Top Team Development Goals
We facilitate the team's identification of its top development goals.  These goals should address the team's most pressing needs and thereby create focus and urgency.  The criteria for goal prioritization derive from the critical work of the team as well as the stage of team development.  

Alignment of Team Goals with Individual Goals
The third key component is for each team member to develop goals that support the team goals.  Individuals identify their own development edge and define behavioral goals that are tightly linked to the team's priority areas.

See our Fall newsletter for a more in-depth look at how we work with ET's.  

updated: 13 years ago