“A team is a small number of people with complementary skills who are committed to a common purpose, performance goals, and approach for which they are mutually accountable.” – Katzenbach and Smith, 1993.
This is my favorite definition of “team”. It is the one that can be most broadly applied and, for us at MarchFifteen, speaks to our strong belief in the power of the collective and the impact of synergy and focus.
An aligned Executive Team that projects coherence and acts as a unified entity has phenomenal implications on the wellbeing of an organization. It fosters engagement and lowers anxiety amongst the employees. Clarity of vision, strategic direction and business priorities enable the entire organization to accomplish more.
An aligned Executive Team is one where all members are focusing their energy towards the same overarching goals that serve the same purpose. They prioritize their activities, such as service delivery, product design and launch, to satisfy the needs of the stakeholders and so that the primary source of alignment can be externally focused. In doing so, aligned teams avoid organizational introversion. There is a healthy competitiveness within the team, things are discussed assertively and respectfully, energies are focused on achieving the common purpose, agendas are out on the table, ego-driven careerists are strongly discouraged in tenure and conduct, and what needs to be done collectively gets done efficiently. Internal pressures do not distract from the commitment to be successful in delivering on the mandate.
Executive alignment is anchored in trust, inclusion and collaboration. Moreover, for the Executive Team to function in an aligned fashion, each individual team member must have the reflex to consult and collaborate on all the issues requiring collective effort. Each member must understand that issues on which alignment is critical, override any natural tendencies to focus on more self-centered preoccupations. They must be able to push aside their personal success or ambition and accommodate the needs of the larger organization, of the larger team.
At MarchFifteen, we are passionate advocates of collaboration. But, as I look around, I do not see many organizations that are structured appropriately to foster true teamwork at their highest echelons. Typically, Executives are structured to operate quite independently from each other, and often with competing agendas and goals. And today, that is simply not good enough.
We have designed a process, rooted in collaboration, to support our clients in the journey towards team alignment. Below are the steps we take towards this development:
- To be successful, the team alignment initiative has to be grounded in business realities – market awareness, vision, goals, and critical success factors. This way, any activities, “sacrifices” or commitments are relevant to the overall business performance and owned by the team. We start with a focused conversation about the strategic direction of the organization. This conversation helps to set context and acts as a foundation for the entire initiative.
- Next, we take a close look at the desired way the team needs to behave to create alignment. Simple guiding principles connected to a well-thought-out behavioral model make a pragmatic formula for future success. Both need to be challenged against the necessary business performance. This step provides a platform where the Executive Team can define the mechanism for cooperation, lay the groundwork for what alignment requires, and commit.
After that, we assess the team and allow them to look at how they stack-up against the model they have created, and then pinpoint individual and team strengths and areas for development. It is powerful to see how the team compares to the desired model, and to reflect on what needs to be done (even from the Stop-Start-Continue perspective) to take the performance to a different level.
- This step really solidifies the fact that the team is not built through a single activity or an event – the support given to the team and individual leaders to sustain good intentions is an important ingredient in the process that makes a team align. It helps to develop the habit of displaying the right leadership practices that the team, peers and the rest of the organization need to see and believe.
- They say that you do what you measure, so regularly looking back and checking whether the development is yielding the right results helps us to celebrate when appropriate, and course-correct if needed.
“If you could get all the people in an organization rowing in the same direction, you could dominate any industry, in any market, against any competition, at any time.” – Patrick Lencioni, The Five Dysfunctions of a Team.
So if you have a team that does not row in the same boat, if you are leading a new team that is still feeling itself out, if you believe that your Executives can function at a higher level, if you believe you can benefit from our process – we are here, eager to explore, engage and see if our approach can take your Executive Team performance to the platinum level.