Achieving sustainably high performance requires strong and effective leadership. However, leadership is not a one-person job, and the dynamic nature and complexity of modern organisations makes effective teamwork an equally important factor in achieving organisational success.
“To deliver on organisational strategy, transformation and change requirements, and meet the needs and expectations of shareholders and stakeholders, leadership must be a team effort,” says Barry Bloch, Global Partner for Board and Executive Leadership. “But high performing teams don’t happen by accident – they are the product of planned, practical, responsive and customised team development, delivered together with the coaching, development and mentoring of individual Executives.”
Here we explore why team development should be a strategic priority for all organisations and introduce four critical factors that determine the effectiveness of teams.
Why is Executive Team Development important?
In the same way that Executive coaching and development helps individual leaders to grow, investing in team development is critical to the growth and performance of Executive Leadership teams.
1. Organisations are complex
Modern organisations have become so complex that no one leader can lead alone – to be successful leaders must lead together. But as leadership teams grow, their complexity grows exponentially too.
“The bigger a team gets the more dynamics are at play, and those dynamics change every time you add a person or change the context of the team in some way,” says Barry. “Executive team development is a prerequisite for managing this complexity and achieving successful team and organisational performance.”
2. Teams don’t lead by accident, so we shouldn’t develop teams by accident
Successful Executive teams go through a very conscious, deliberate and thoughtful process to perform, and the successful development of teams needs to be equally intentional.
“Executive team development is important, because without it, teams at best plateau at mediocre or average performance. At worst they under-perform due to unmanaged or unfacilitated conflict,” says Barry. “Proactively developing teams is also a lot more cost effective than resolving issues like conflict, flawed decision making and problematic communication, that typically result from poor team performance.”
3. Like leadership, team development must be customised, dynamic and ongoing
Strategically planning team development helps to define and achieve the performance of Executive teams. However, team development must also be dynamic and responsive to the environment and context in which it is delivered because the context of teams and the demands on leaders within them, is constantly changing.
“No two teams have the same individuals, face the same context, or lead the same organisation. Therefore, developing each team is uniquely different, and requires an entirely customised approach. Off-the-shelf solutions to team development inevitably under-deliver.” says Barry.
4. Actively developing diversity
Although the value of diversity is well-understood, a conscious and intentional effort is still required to bring diverse people and thought together in teams and to enable them to work together effectively.
“When we have successfully diverse teams, we see improved performance, innovation and collaboration. But where we don't actively manage for and facilitate diversity within teams, our underpinning fight, flight, fright response often leads to conflict,” says Barry. “Executive development is about developing leadership teams in a way that makes them receptive to diversity of thought and perspective, and that allows them to work, learn and grow together productively and cohesively.”
What determines the success of Executive leadership teams?
Historically, team development focused on resolving dysfunction and conflict or on building relationships, but these approaches are not nearly as effective as developing teams to stay healthy and perform at their best. Research shows that four critical success factors – goals, roles, processes and relationships – determines the health and effectiveness of teams, and directly impacts their risk in moving to dysfunctionality.
Having clarity around team goals is essential to the success of any team. “The goals of the team are very different to the goals of the organisation,” Barry explains. “To understand the goals of the team, consider what would happen if happen if the team did not exist, or alternatively if it performed outstandingly well. Having this understanding of team goals is the essential foundation for delivering on what a team needs and wants to achieve.”
High performing teams need clarity around both their formal and informal roles.
“Despite the hierarchy that typically occurs, the most successful teams leave their job titles, functions and accountabilities at the door and lead together for the future of the enterprise,” says Barry. “They still find ways for the team leader to take final accountability, but together the team delivers on performance.”
“For example, consider the roles you need to connect with the world outside of your team, or to ensure your team works in its sub-teams and pairing. What are the roles that encourage diversity and ensure openness of conversations, influence, exploration, challenge, innovation and practicality,” Barry continues. “These informal roles determine performance, with opportunities and options for informal roles as infinite as the dynamics within each team. The key is again conscious and intentional role clarity.”
To intentionally define, design and develop their performance, teams also need clarity around these five critical team processes:
- How to make decisions
- How to manage information and communication, both formal and informal
- How to allocate resources
- How to solve problems
- How to address and resolve conflict
“The most successful teams define these processes based on their goals and roles, then constantly review and refine them,” says Barry.
Ultimately, achieving relationships based on trust is the single biggest predictor of team success. But while relationships are important, teams that focus only on relationships can become ‘high liking’ rather than ‘high functioning’.
“The four success factors don't apply in isolation so when relationships are built without goals, roles, and processes, teams risk developing friendships instead of performance partnerships,” Barry concludes. “To reap the rewards, Executive team development must be about systematically, intentionally, engagingly and dynamically focusing on all four factors that shape the performance of teams.”
Think Executive Team Development can help to grow your performance of your top team? Connect with Barry Bloch or reach out to your local Gerard Daniels team.