“Coming together is a beginning. Keeping together is progress. Working together is success” – Henry Ford

As most of you know, I spend my days in sessions with CEOs, C-Level executives and developing Executive Committees (or as they are called in some cases Management Committees).

Recently, a good friend and client, CEO of a major global corporation, called me in for a chat.

Topic –> his frustration over his C-Level executives’inability (or unwillingness) to work as a team, and his need to quickly develop his Executive Committee into a high performing team.

His C-Level executives are highly experienced and paid professionals who tend to be individualistic, who focus on their agenda and passively resist and maintain the status quo (as with many people, they tend to operate within their confort zones)…

However, as a CEO… my friend has an urgent need. His organisation is no longer facing situations where it needs to change. It no longer needs to transform. It needs to deal with continuous “tsunamis” of transformation. It needs to face up to a world that’s V.U.C.A. (volatile, uncertain, complex and ambiguous) and where it is constantly confronted with “tsunamis” that are deeply affecting his business model and bottom line…

If his C-Level executives do not come together as an Executive Committee with a clear vision and purpose that operates as a high performing team… embracing “tsunamis of transformation” as a natural part of its existence, and engaging the organisation’s ecosystem to find the best and most balanced responses… then he is unable to productively mobilise the rest of the organisation in a coherent and sustainable way.

This CEO is voicing one of the most significant frustrations CEOs face today when dealing with their C-Level executives and their need to “up the game” of the Executive Committee.

Many C-Level executives have not understood what an Executive Committee is about and how to operate within it. Each C-Level executive comes to the Committee to defend his own position… be it the commercial, the financial, the production or the human resources points of view. Few understand that their role in the Committee is to come together to lead the organization and that the Committee has a life of its own, its own purpose and its own objectives. Whilst it is true that each one contributes with his/her own expertise, at the Committee, the role of a C-Level executive is to participate in a high performing team that leads the organization.

For this particular Executive Committee, the CEO has some very clear goals

  1. Create an environment for success:  Do people like to come to work every day?  When they get there, do they know what they’re supposed to do, and how it connects to the company’s mission?  Are people learning and growing?  Are you building an enduring organization beyond you as a leader?
  2. Attack problems quickly, or prevent them entirely:  Are you spending enough time thinking about your business’s vulnerabilities?  Do you go into a dark cave of paranoia once in a while and make sure you’re cognizant of all the main potential threats to your livelihood?  What can you do to spot smoke as an early warning detection of fire?
  3. Exploit big opportunities:  Do you know the top 5 things that will make your company successful?  Are you constantly on the lookout for signs that it’s time to invest more heavily in them?  Are you nimble enough to make those investments when the time is right…and have you developed the intellectual or infrastructural underpinnings to make those investments matter?

The goals for the Executive Committee are clear. The members of the Committee, however, are not aligned as a team to take on this challenge.

We are now fine tuning our conversation about how to align and develop his C-Level executives and shape them into a high performing team that clearly understands why they exist and how they need to operate.

These are some of the reflexions that evolved from our conversation.

 

Why the Executive Committee must become a high performing team…

Just by working with other people doesn’t mean that you’re working as a team.

Real teamwork implies collaboration, communication and the acknowledgement of a common purpose.

A group is a gathering of people and not all groups are teams. Teams are in fact, a very particular form of group in that they’re interdependent and focused on a common purpose.

A high-performance team can be defined as a group of people with specific roles and complementary talents and skills, aligned with and committed to a common purpose, who consistently show high levels of collaboration and innovation, that produce superior results. The high-performance team is regarded as tight-knit, focused on their goal and nothing else. Team members are so devoted to their purpose that they will surmount any barrier to achieve the team’s goals.

Within the high-performance team, people are highly skilled and are able to interchange their roles. Also, leadership within the team is not vested in a single individual. Instead the leadership role is taken up by various team members, according to the need at that moment in time. High-performance teams have robust methods of resolving conflict efficiently, so that conflict does not become a roadblock to achieving the team’s goals. There is a sense of clear focus and intense energy within a high-performance team. Collectively, the team has its own consciousness, indicating shared norms and values within the team. The team feels a strong sense of accountability for achieving their goals. Team members display high levels of mutual trust towards each other.

To build a high performing team, trust is essential.

“Trust is a psychological state that implies positive expectations regarding the intentions, attitudes and behaviours of others towards oneself in situations that may imply some uncertainty or ambiguity.”

We know that an environment with low levels of trust will lead to

  • contradictory information
  • hidden agendas
  • unmet expectations
  • a system with higher level of control and vigilance

In a world that’s VUCA, there must be “trust” for a tem to function as a high performance team.

The C-Level is a key mobilising force within the organisation. How it behaves sends a powerful message throughout the business ecosystem. If it is perceived to be a high performing team… and it acts as such, it generates a transformation throughout the ecosystem’s DNA that sets the tone to how the organisation deals with “tsunamis” of transformation.

 

Some characteristics of highly effective Executive Committees

  • An effective Executive Committee understands the big picture.In an effective team, each team member understands the context of the team’s work to the greatest degree possible. That includes understanding the relevance of his or her job and how it impacts the effectiveness of others and the overall team effort. Too often, people are asked to work on part of a task without being told how their role contributes to the desired end result, much less how their efforts are impacting the ability of others to do their work. Understanding the big picture promotes collaboration, increases commitment and improves quality.
  • An effective Executive Committee has common goals.Effective teams have agreed-upon goals that are simple, measurable and clearly relevant to the team’s task. Each goal includes key measurable metrics (that are available to everyone on the team), which can be used to determine the team effectiveness and improvement. Understanding and working toward these common goals as a unit is crucial to the team’s effectiveness.
  • An effective Executive Committee works collaboratively, as a unit. In an effective team you’ll notice a penchant for collaboration and a keen awareness of interdependency. Collaboration and a solid sense of interdependency in a team will defuse blaming behaviour and stimulate opportunities for learning and improvement. Without this sense of interdependency in responsibility and reward, blaming behaviours can occur which will quickly erode team effectiveness.

 

High-performing Executive Committees have a number of characteristics that are recognised to lead to success 

  • Team Identity – refers to how well the team demonstrates belongingness, a desire to work together, and a sense of clarity around the role of each member
  • Emotional Awareness – considers the amount of attention the team pays to noticing, understanding, and respecting feelings of team members. Is a critical factor in motivation, productivity, and a team’s ability to collaborate. So it’s central to the stability of the team
  • Participative leadership –using a democratic leadership style that involves and engages team members
  • Effective decision-making – using a blend of rational and intuitive decision making methods, depending on that nature of the decision task
  • Stress Tolerance – gives the team a reflection of how well it’s doing in managing the pressures of workload, time constraints, and the real needs for work- life balance
  • Open and clear communication –ensuring that the team mutually constructs shared meaning, using effective communication methods and channels
  • Valued diversity –valuing a diversity of experience and background in team, contributing to a diversity of viewpoints, leading to better decision making and solutions
  • Mutual trust – trusting in other team members and trusting in the team as an entity
  • Managing conflict –dealing with conflict openly and transparently and not allowing grudges to build up and destroy team morale
  • Positive atmosphere – an overall team culture that is open, transparent, positive, future-focused and able to deliver success. Highlights the level of encouragement, sense of humour and how successful the team expects to be. Is a major support for a team’s flexibility and resilience. The heart of a “can-do” attitude. Influences building an energized attitude in your teams
  • Clear goals –goals that are developed using SMART criteria; also each goal must have personal meaning and resonance for each team member, building commitment and engagement
  • Defined roles and responsibilities –each team member understands what they must do (and what they must not do) to demonstrate their commitment to the team and to support team success
  • Coordinative relationship –the bonds between the team members allow them to seamlessly coordinate their work to achieve both efficiency and effectiveness

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About Luis Soares Costa

From the very beginning, coaching has always been at the core of my passions.

For the past 38 years I have been an Executive and Team Coach working globally with CEOs and their C-Suite Executives, Business Owners and top talent in a significant number of the major global companies (including a significant number of Fortune 500), innovative companies operating in new ecosystems and dynamic family owned businesses.

During the past 28 years, I have also been an Executive and Team Coach and a “consultant to consultants” developing partners and top talent at major consultancies, Big4 Firms and Legal Firms

As an Executive and Team Coach, I partner with you and/or your teams in a “real play” thought-provoking and creative process which inspires you to “connect the dots” and maximize your personal and professional potential. The aim of the partnership is to bring about a sustained behavioral and performance transformation and profoundly shift the quality of your and your team’s working and personal life, whilst maximizing your potential and generating sustainable value.

You can contact me at coach@LuisSoaresCosta.com and visit my Website at www.LuisSoaresCosta.com