In every organisation the top team is that critical component that is tasked with setting the wheels in motion. The way in which the top team operates sets an example for the rest of the organisation and can and should be a motivating example for the rest of the business. But just how effective are top teams in setting an organisation on the right course? And how good are they in engaging and motivating employees to do what is needed?.
Working with many top teams, observing their behaviours and listening to their conversations when they meet, I have noticed some interesting patterns.
Common Top Team Dysfunctions…
Many top team conversations focus on reviewing large tables of numbers and explaining how they are different from forecasted expectations. At this point the conversations shift to who is to held “responsible” and which department or function should take praise or blame.
Top teams often talk about how employees fail to “understand the gravity of the situation”, the importance of the “drastic change”s ahead or even “remember that they are paid to do a job”.
While many top teams are aware they need to be a team, they often believe that any time spent working on the team is time taken away from talking about important business issues. A dysfunctional top team cannot make good decisions let alone execute them.
While each top team has certainly different group dynamics and many function well in particular areas, the above behavioural patterns seem to be quite pervasive. Where the above dysfunctions are present they are almost undoubtedly at the root of larger business challenges.
…And how to overcome them
Behavioural change begins with understanding of current behaviours and a clear picture of the desired behaviours. Overcoming the above potentially destructive patterns of behaviour requires the top team to be united, caring, and authentic.
Firstly, while each team member has a functional role and is responsible for a specific business unit, all organisations need a unanimous commitment to a course of action. This has little to do with consensus and much more to do with well defined success criteria, a clear sense of the priorities, and a well defined decision-making process. Everyone is responsible for the success or failure of a business through clarity of purpose, consistent performance feedback and mutual accountability.
Secondly, simply paying someone to do a job is not always enough to motivate them to do the job right. People are engaged in doing a great job when they are inspired to do so by leaders that walk the talk, are honest in their interactions and more importantly care about what’s going on in the life of their employees. Being caring is not a nice-to-have – it can make the difference between a deadlocked organisation and one that is engaged to deliver.
Finally, for top teams to be effective they need to become aware of their influence on the mood of the entire organisation. A top team must operate as a true team, working through organisational issues with candour, vulnerability and most importantly with mutual accountability. The visible daily behaviour of the organisation’s leaders is a much more powerful message than any vision or mission statement. When the words are incongruent with the behaviours, it is the behaviours that set the truth.
Before an organisation’s leaders can expect the rest of the business to operate effectively, it is important that they understand how they themselves work as a team to contribute to the common goal of delivering business results.
Fabio Grassi is Executive Learning Director at IMI. He is a specialist in the development of team performance, collaboration and motivation. His approach involves the facilitation of tailored workshops aimed at the achievement of specific business outcomes. He is passionate about the development of ethical leadership through executive coaching. e-mail Fabio Grassi or call on +353 87 9183282.