Team Building for Leadership Teams
There is an old adage "never ask the troops to do anything that you would not do yourself". This also holds true for team and leadership development initiatives that organizations undertake.
For leaders to commission good external providers to help build and align their teams is of course a welcome initiative.
Leaders must be careful to fully engage in the process themselves with any team with which they regularly interact (as their own personality, team role styles etc are a big part of the chemistry that exists in each of those teams), and to set a positive Example from the start.
To avoid doing any of the profiles, workshops or sessions yourself while asking the team to do so will result in a significant component of the behavioral puzzle being missing from the work. It may also set tongues wagging as to "why the boss is not here with us".
Even if the reason you are absent from a session is down to honestly being run off your feet, to some it may seem that you are either avoiding the work or are not open enough to explore your own strengths and weaknesses with the troops.
There is great value also in looking deeply into the leadership cohort "as a team" in its own right, and meaningfully into its unique behavioral dynamics.
Failing to develop "the leadership team" can have consequences not only within that team, but for the quality of leadership and decision-making that it provides to the total organization, its stakeholders and clients.
Leaders will invariably bring strong opinions, personalities and aspirations to the role of leader. Put them all together in a leadership team and the results can be a powerful "multiplier" when the chemistry works, and a complete disaster when it does not.
So how can you get to the bottom of what makes a "leadership team" tick, and then help it to become a more effective team?
Getting past the individual Egos is usually the first big step.
Consciously and sub-consciously leaders will carry with them into a new team or level of leadership their own stacks of "memes" ( " memes" are to ideas and values, what " genes" are to physical biology) that re-enforce their own Narrative of how and why they got to where they are now. These usually manifest as confidence in and around the jobs and roles they know, and can also trigger emotional reaction around new challenges or threats.
This often self-fulfilling narrative can be a great asset to them when climbing the ladder, but what happens when they reach the top and then need to cooperate with others that have also reached those same heights, but along different paths?
Some leaders may fall into a trap of believing too much of their own publicity, (and that of any acolytes they may have had around them) with regards to the versatility and utility of their own operating style. These may be unrealistic views within what may now be a team of equals.
The confrontation reality to some may be that their own team role contributions and operating styles within the team are not perfect.
Even if someone can intellectualize with humility that not all they do will exceed the value of other team members in all circumstances (no matter how much of a "star" they are), sometimes they may still need a "nudge" to act on these Reviews when the pressure is on.
Even good leaders who may know this intuitively, and have understood their behavior in a different team context, will benefit from revisiting this simple truth when in a new leadership team themselves. It helps to reset their understanding of their contributions in the context of the new team.
They usually all deserve to be on the leadership team because of their "functional" track records, capabilities, rank, status etc, but what is the "chemistry" that will determine the genuine mutual strengths, weaknesses and biases of the leadership team?
To initiate this process with a leadership team requires a good facilitator with experience and confidence working with leadership teams to help obtain the state of openness required.
This should be done with a firmness that's balanced with sensitivity to avoid denting egos beyond what's required, or giving up halfway through the process.
To arrive at a non-threatening "language" within which to explore what really underpins the leadership team dynamics we favor the Belbin Team Role Model.
It allows us to transcend functional roles, backgrounds and status to openly discover the unique strengths and weaknesses that each lead brings into the team. We can then see with clarity what the collective culture of that team is.
Once this is done we can help to map the strengths, weaknesses and biases that exist individually and collectivelywithin the team, particulalrly when it is under pressure, and to help devise strategies for managing these.
A well facilitated and highly interactive session to explore individual and team profiles is of great value. Delivering a sophisticated business game or simulation to actually draw out the behavioral components that within the team in a novel way is also worthwhile.
Often leaders will benefit from being required to deploy their team role skills as a team outside of their usual experience base. It can more accurately identify the strengths, weaknesses and biases that may normally be ignored, hidden by functional smokescreens or even swept under the mat.
Once again, expert facilitation is required here to ensure that senior people are engaged with intelligence and credibility, not condescended to or unrealistically taken down "touchy feely" paths not relevant to the reality the team operates within.
Leadership teams have a lot in common with all human teams, but there are some unique dynamics that need to be carefully taken into account with teams that are filled with "leaders".
Managing Director, Saber Corporate Development