Transcript of Jumpstart Your Leadership Team

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Welcome to today's Webinar series called Great Leaders Build Great Leadership Teams. Excited to have you here today to talk about how to jumpstart your leadership team in 2019. So before we get started, I just wanted to let folks know that the slides you're about to see are thick with content. I'm not going to read all the slides, but I do that so that you have good content post the discussion.

So, how to jumpstart your leadership team in 2019. Well, about 10 years ago, my partner Gil and I started this firm called Relationship Impact with a point of view in mind that was the leadership teams of any organization, but particularly growing organizations are critical to the success and health of the organization. And with that in mind, we built an organization that works with CEOs to help unlock the potential of their leadership teams.

Key stat. In a study of hundreds of leadership teams, only 10 percent rated themselves as high performing. We were surprised by that number. They rated themselves 10 percent as high performing on two sets of factors on. How well their teams, how well structured they were and how well they related to each other. That's a pretty, pretty stark number. And it is sort of proven out in the work that we do because a lot of the teams that we work with feel like they could be a lot better. So, the purpose of today's discussion, let me back out here, I'm having some issues with the PowerPoint flow. There we go, discussion flow. Today we're going to talk a little bit about symptoms of dysfunction, then we're going to talk about how to step back, refine the team structure and strengthen relationship dynamics. And then I'll leave you with few resources.

Some symptoms of dysfunction. I would argue that this would be a good place to start. Just take a step back and ask yourself, do we experience any of these factors on our leadership team? Each team member is extremely talented but they don't seem to be on the same page. Team meetings or stale. We're not really debating and challenging each other well. The team really kind of likes each other a lot, but they don't necessarily work "very well together" outside of a team meeting, for example. There is a clear big issue on the table and we're not addressing it. And then leaders or influencers, those with authority kind of squash or overpower discussions and the input of others and they're dismissive of other perspective. So those are a few of the key symptoms of dysfunction on some of the teams that we've worked with.

How does the leadership team get out of sync? There's many, many ways a team gets out of sync, and one of the biggest ones is that they work at such a fast pace. And it's hard to take your eye off how we're running our team when we're running a 100 miles an hour. Also, there's a tendency of leadership teams to focus on the short term at the expense of spending much time at all on the longer term strategic issues.

Another big issue is the inability or lack of skill with compromise and listening and hearing other people's perspectives. And then finally, not well established accountability structures in place that can, not clear about who's doing what and the overlaps between roles, which really can get a team in trouble.

What are some of the characteristics of great leadership teams? Number one, and if you listen to any of our other webinars, you'll hear us pounding this home. Number one is a laser focus on the results that we're looking to achieve as a leadership team. Number two, it's our ability to address increasingly complex challenges grows over time because we're learning from each other. Third is level of resilience. We are faced with challenges. They happen, we know they're going to happen and we get back on track relatively quickly. And finally, it's what we call a force multiplier effect. Folks working better together than they are as individuals.

So what do you do to jumpstart your leadership team? From our perspective, there's two sets of things that I believe, we believe that you should spend some time on. So at our next leadership team meeting, add another hour and a half, two hours, more if you can to talk about two things. How well is our structural foundation working and how well is our environment for productive dialogue working? And I'll go into each one of these and a little bit more detail as we move forward.

First, take a step back and look at how well the structure, the team structure's working. I'm not just talking about the organization structure, I'm talking about the structural elements of a team, the foundation that makes, the structural foundation that makes a team [inaudible 00:06:02]. Is there a strong sense of cross organizational purpose on this team that what we're supposed to be working on together to bring the talents and skills of the eight, 10, 12 team members to bear to focus on at this particular point in the journey of our organization. Are roles clear? Is it clear about who's doing what? Obviously, functional roles are clear, but when we start talking about integration points, are the points of overlap between our roles clear as well. And if we talked about those, oftentimes we see that organizations or leadership teams have not and it causes some unintentional friction or challenge.

Do we have good vehicles for effective coordination and communication? Do we meet well? Do we meet strategic stuff versus operational stuff or does it all get blended together? Do we communicate well outside of meetings and then reengage on important issues that were most important for the team to be addressing? And then finally, often folks look at us and say, this is just a silly thing to focus on, but do we have clear established operating principles and norms, behavioral expectations for each other and how we work together as a team? Things like, do we challenge each other well? Is it okay to challenge the CEO? All the way from that to, is it okay for us to walk out of a meeting on our phone or do we even have phones in the room or do we put them on the table before we get started with the ... Little things that can get in the way, just important to take a step back and say, you know, what are the expectations for how we work together?

Structure can be really good and enhance decision making and collaboration. It can also really hold you back and cause increased relational challenges because oftentimes unintentionally, we have misaligned incentives structurally. We have not really talked really clearly about the overlap in roles and accountabilities. And then we start executing and we start having some challenges related to assumptions people are making about, well, why is he doing that when I thought that was my responsibility, things like that.

Define a purpose. The first part of defining purpose is this kind of gaining some clarity on what type of team you are. Are you exchange information type of team? Are you providing advice and counsel to CEO and he or she makes the calls, or are you really operating as an enterprise leadership team that's really focused on the most important stuff that's driving the organization collectively?

Some examples of compelling leadership team purpose. Good example, young professional services firm growing beyond the highly concentrated customer mix. 85 percent of their customer base a couple of years ago was really focused on one customer, they had three lines of business, marketing group, business development group, and they were all attacking the market in different ways. So they really decided they needed to have a clear common go to market strategy. And the development of that strategy and the beginnings of the execution of that strategy was really the focus, the main focus of that leadership team, all with the goal of diversification. So that gives you a sense for what's creating a compelling a leadership team purpose. And these are a couple of other examples, right? A startup medical device company with the recent FDA approval and a large injection of growth capital, right?

You can get a sense for, okay, what's most important at this point in our journey for our leadership team to be focused on? Composition and roles, right? Getting the right players on the team, absolutely. Perhaps most importantly, dealing with those that are non players, non team players, right? Helping them. We've definitely seen examples of folks that aren't really very much functionally driven and good at their function but not as interested in the enterprise, which is kind of, to some people mind boggling. We've seen through some education and through awareness building the potential of these non team players to build and leverage their skills technically into the rest of the organization. And we'll talk a little bit more about that as we move to the relational side of stuff.

These are some factors from woman that we love to read. Her name is Ruth Wageman. She's written a bunch of articles and case studies and a whole bunch of stuff, but a great book called Senior Leadership Teams. These are a few characteristics from her on what makes a great enterprise focused leadership team member. First, you look for the needed and experience. Obviously, look for leaders who recognize the critical importance of their enterprise role versus just their functional role. Those that can synthesize complex information and narrow it down. And those with maturity to productively challenge and debate the most important issues that a team's facing. Composition and roles.

Coordination and communication. How well do you coordinate and communicate? Are you meetings well run? Are you focusing strategically, not just operationally? Are there some clear accountabilities and overlap? Are overlaps discussed among roles? And are you following some basic project management principles in terms of how you're executing as a team? So, just again, step back, how are we doing at coordination and communication? How are we doing with expectations and norms? Do we have any? Are they well understood by all? Are they the right norms for this team at the point on, at our life, in the point in time in our life cycle? And as this last point says, team norms are useless if the leader doesn't actually model them and if feedback and accountability doesn't exist. So you can have great norms, but if people aren't going to hold each other accountable to living them, then you might as well not have them.

Okay. So there's a strong link between structural and relational dynamics, right? And so it's not good enough to have one without the other is basically what this slide says. So let's talk about how do you step back. If you're having that two hour discussion, and at least an hour of it it's on the structural side, the second hour should be at least focused on how are we doing at creating productive dialogue. And before you even get into this, I'm going to talk a little bit about what productive dialogue is. From our perspective, productive dialogue is the ability to challenge debate, confront each other on the most important on the most important issues in a manner that progresses the issues and leaves minimal relational scars.

It's not so much conflict management, it's just how do we make sure we're creating an environment that we can challenge each other. It's okay to challenge the CEO or the president in a productive, constructive, professional way. But to put our two cents on the table and have it heard. And obviously, the reverse of that or the opposite of that is to hear others as well.

So from our perspective, there are three things that you should be really taking a look at when we're looking at do we have a good environment for productive dialogue to thrive. First, CEOs have to model some productive dialogue behaviors, and we'll talk about those in a second. Second, is there an environment of trust, not just so much that people like each other, but os there an environment of trust where people can be vulnerable with each other, people can be wrong, people can challenge each other without judgment, those types of things. And then finally, this seems like a stupid one, but when we experience agreement, disagreement in a productive way, it's important to step back and say, wow, that wasn't so bad, was it? Folks hate disagreement, hate debating, arguing. But then when they experience it, go, well, it can really be powerful.

So we talked about productive dialog. Let's talk a little bit about some non productive dialogue examples. CEO dominance discussion, there's an elephant in the room, we're not addressing the most important thing. We're either avoiding it or waiting to discuss it after with folks that are like minded, that type of thing. A love fest. People are just so nice to each other that they're afraid to challenge each other, hurt each other's feelings, step on toes, that type of thing. Passive aggressive. Where we're kind of indirectly knocking others' ideas down rather than being curious about their ideas and asking more questions. Lobbying. We have a meeting, we agreed a bunch of stuff and then there's a line outside the CEO's office, presidents office, there's emails to him or her or phone calls, whatever it might be. Lobbying for a particular point of view and the CEO participates in that rather than says, hey look, we agreed to that, or let's re-discuss it and bring up your point of view in our discussion. Turf protecting. This gets back to that functional versus enterprise role issue.

Establish conditions. Good idea here is take this, put it in front of your CEO and say, hey, take a look at these things and how do you think you're doing against them? And then have everyone else say, yeah, he or she is doing okay, but sometimes they're not as receptive to feedback as they think they might be. Their body language is, you know, they clench their teeth or they get put their head down or take their glasses off or whatever when someone brings up an idea that they're, that's counter to theirs or challenge something that they've said. And so really what this slide is all about is are we being curious and are we being receptive to others' points of view. Are we listening?

Building trust. There's a lot in here. We have an article we wrote for Chief Executive Magazine in October, a Webinar we did in October on, I think it's called Trust Fuels Great Leadership teams. We have the link to it at the end, so don't worry about it, you'll see that. But trust is a big deal. It's hard to build and even harder to repair. And it takes a few things, right? Getting to know each other at a little bit of a deeper level. I'm not talking about understanding who are mothers and fathers are and all that kind of stuff, but really gaining a sense of what some of the challenges that we've faced in our lives. Big one for me is I bought a little manufacturing company with two other partners and we did a good job turning around and then we went bankrupt with the financial crisis in 2008. It's a big part of my journey as a professional and it influences decisions I make, how I interact with others. And it's important for others to, when they gain some insights into that, they can understand where I'm coming from a little bit better.

Next thing is using psychometric instruments we believe in a great deal, but using them to force or to encourage behavioral commitments. So it's really important for folks to understand similarities and differences among team members that can really be very powerful. But it's most important to do something with those similarities and differences. So for example, for me for example, if I'm an aggressive assertive person and that's really been helpful for me in my journey and my professional life, but this team doesn't need another aggressive and assertive person, then I might need to temper that a little bit. And if I'm getting feedback from some of my teammates that that's the case, then I'm going to commit to doing something about that and asking them to hold me accountable to that. Those tools can be really effective in our opinion if used that way.

Next thing is showing vulnerability. Even at a cursory level, right? And demonstrating diligence, executing on those behavioral commitments that we just started is a good way to start building trust and rebuilding trust on leadership teams. This is a hard, hard thing. If your team is chock full of lack of trust, you have a lot of work to do. If it's just some tweaking, just take a step back and take some time to get to talk to each other at a different level than we typically do.

Experience productive disagreement. Basically I'm saying, capitalize on those opportunities where there has been disagreement and it's been productive. People have been curious, they've listened to each other, they've heard each other's sides, and the person that "didn't win the disagreement" is not picking up her ball and going home. And so, capitalizing on those moments of disagreement.

And so, let's go back, I just want to go back to the slide that I started this part of the conversation, how do you jumpstart your leadership team? Take some time and step back as a leadership team to assess how well your structural foundation is working and how well you have created an environment for productive dialogue to thrive. If you do that, there'll be a couple of actions that emerged from here that you can hold each other accountable to as a leadership team and take the next step on your journey to jump-starting your leadership team so you can build just a great one that's focused on results, is resilient, learns from each other and is able to tackle more complex problems over time and ultimately has a force multiplier effect in place.

So, let's look at the end here. I have some resources for you to take a look at. Some really good, a couple blocks from us, I talked about this trust is what fuels this great leadership teams blog. Another blog from us and then this book, Senior Leadership Teams by Ruth Wageman, and great Ted talk on psychological safety, which is a key part of building trust, a trusting environment on a leadership team. Next, I just want to offer to anyone who participates in this, please feel free to go on our website and take this complimentary team assessment which will enable you as a leader to take a look at your team and how it's structured, how it's set up structurally and how it's set up relationally.

So, with that in mind, I'll take any questions. I'm going to get off record here in a second, but thank you for your time and I look forward to seeing you on our February webinar. Take care.