I am pondering some of the situations that have been shared with me recently by CEOs, and some of the objectives they are trying to achieve.

I am consistently being asked by CEOs to:
◾support the development of executive teams to high performance.
◾help get their executive team into alignment.
◾help develop a shared and collective responsibility across the executive team for the overall organisational objectives, within the context of their vision and mission.
◾ help their executive team work more effectively and collaboratively together.
◾ help them support each other rather than compete on every single thing.
◾ help the executive team communicate more effectively with each other.
◾ help the executive team opt in to a shared set of priorities.
◾ be more strategic rather than reactive.

All very worthy, important things to aspire to.

I am hearing so much of this though, it has led me to ponder why these things are not developing more naturally within these executive teams.

What I have observed is that many executives associate themselves being a member of a team as them being a member of the team they lead, a member of their functional team, rather than being a member of the executive team.

If this is truly the case, this creates fundamental challenges with developing a high-performing and aligned executive team. If the individual executives do not consider themselves as members of the executive team first, then there is work to do.

“The ratio of We’s to I’s is the best indicator of the development of a team.” ~ Lewis B Ergen, American Actor

This is a very important distinction – being a member of the executive team v leading a functional team.

An executive, in fact any leader of a team, is exactly that, the leader of their functional team, rather than a member of it.

The team they are a member of, is the team of their peers.

When you consider organisations that operate in silos, this is probably the most exaggerated version of the leaders, the most senior leaders, being members of their functional teams rather than members of the executive team. In this case, the executive’s agenda is often driven solely by their functional team and the responsibilities they have there, rather than by the holistic organisational agenda, of which their functional team is a part rather than the whole.

If you are a CEO and you have an executive team that is perhaps not as high performing, not as aligned, or not achieving the things that you would like them to achieve, with the ease and grace that you aspire to, then I suggest you consider some of the basics.

Do your executive team members consider themselves as members of the executive team? That this is their team?

Have you created the opportunity for this to happen?

“Unity is strength. . . when there is teamwork and collaboration, wonderful things can be achieved.” ~ Mattie Stepanek, American Poet

Let’s go back to basics.

When the executive team was formed, or when it was changed by having a new member join the team, or the shape of the executive team has been refreshed, or you have implemented a restructure, what focus has gone into forming the executive team?

Into creating a feeling of team?

A sense of belonging?

A shared understanding of what it means to be part of the executive team?

Equally, you can examine this at other levels of leadership in the organisation. Perhaps the senior leadership team or the leadership teams within business functions? What does it mean to be a member of one of these leadership teams v a member of the functional team they lead?

As the CEO, or leader of a leadership team, what are the things that you do to sponsor and promote the sense of belonging to the leadership team or executive team? How do you know your team members consider themselves members of your team?

When you do not create membership, and your most senior leaders do not opt in to being a member of your team, how much more difficult is it to deliver on the team objectives at the highest level? The organisational objectives? Without this, you have a major stumbling block to success.

So how do individuals balance and integrate being a member of the executive team and leading their functional team? The first step here, as it is with solving any challenge, is to recognise that one exists.

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

I believe this challenge is real for many CEO’s and the executives in their team. Many executives do not identify the executive team as their team. The team they are a member of.

So now to the opportunity.

If you are a CEO, what can you do to begin bringing your team together so that the whole is greater than the sum of the individual parts?

If your objective is something along the lines of having a high performing executive team, step one is to have a team. To have a team of people who recognise they are members of this team, and they have a responsibility to contribute to this team, while also leading their functional team.

I’d love to know your thoughts.

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