9 Characteristics of an Effective Executive Team

Effective executive teams

Some believe the ultimate measure of a senior leadership team’s success is the organization’s results.

And yet there are companies that, due to favorable market conditions, do quite well in spite of their dysfunctional leadership teams. Imagine what could happen if the team at the top was able to get its act together.

The Characteristics

Here’s what a high-performing leadership executive leadership team has that others don’t.

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  1. A meaningful purpose: There is a clear and compelling reason to work together. That purpose isn’t always obvious. Normally, an executive team’s members are each responsible for a specific company function. While the CEO should be the glue that coordinates the activities, everyone’s primary concern is his/her assigned areas of responsibility. In high-performance teams a commitment to the team’s purpose should be at least as important as the commitment to the purpose for the area each member leads.
  2. Shared goals: The team needs to focus on a set of outcomes which all members are committed to achieving and which require contribution by everyone. If it’s truly a team goal, everyone will feel equally responsible for its achievement. These are not necessarily the same as the company’s goals. Examples that would require a full-team effort could include: Launching a new service, changing the culture to become more data driven, improving the customer’s experience, increasing employee engagement.
  3. The right mix: The team’s members have complementary skills, experiences, and styles necessary to fulfill the needed roles and responsibilities. People know each other’s strengths, weaknesses, preferences, and aversions. They use this knowledge to create synergy. Members see the value of each person’s presence on the team. There’s a sense of equality among all the players.
  4. Strong interpersonal relationships: People can be themselves because they genuinely like each other and will do what they can to look out for and support their teammates. Members trust each other and are trustworthy. The cohesiveness of the team is obvious to people outside the group. It’s all for one and one for all.
  5. Helpful operating principles: These are agreed upon ways of working together. These might include a shared set of values, processes for making decisions, ways of communicating within the team and to other employees, tracking activities, and many others. The principle are explicit and everyone lives by them.
  6. Problem-solving: The team recognizes when a problem exists, analyzes it, identifies alternatives, and works through conflicts. Once the decision is made, everyone commits to support it. Often this is best demonstrated by someone’s willingness to raise a thorny issue in the first place and in the members’ willingness to fully engage in finding a resolution to the problem.
  7. High levels of candor: People say what needs saying in a direct and respectful manner. Members are receptive to tough messages without becoming defensive. Heated discussions are not viewed as a problem, but rather a positive activity as long as the discussion stays focused on issues/behaviors rather than on each other.
  8. Mutual accountability: Members hold themselves and others to the commitments they have made. While the CEO often has the primary responsibility for holding his/her employees accountable for keeping their promises, each person shares in this activity.
  9. Measure the important. Whether it’s progress on key initiatives, performance results, or even behaviors expected of each other; effective teams track those things that are most important to their success and take action when things are not meeting expectations.

How Does Yours Rate?

I’m curious to learn which of these nine most challenge executive teams. Would you take another two minutes to think of an executive team to which you belong or know well and rate it for each of these items?

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Rate Your Executive Team Now

Okay, you’ve formed your opinion. Want to build a stronger executive team?

Let’s meet to discuss your situation. Use this link to schedule a time. We’ll talk about your team and how to give it the boost it needs to achieve higher performance levels.

By Tom LaForce

Tom LaForce helps companies change by creating stronger teams, more effective leaders, and better processes. To discuss a challenge you're facing, use this link to schedule a free discovery call.

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