CEO Primer: Accelerating Executive Team Performance
The alignment and performance of the executive leadership team (ELT) can make or break the short- and long-term success of an organization. This is why it is crucial for CEOs to focus on accelerating the effectiveness of the ELT.
Most CEOs inherit a leadership team. And most organizations have an executive team full of bright, hardworking, experienced leaders. But, according to Patrick Lencioni, author and leadership expert, the last true competitive edge is developing a high performing leadership team, which subsequently leads to a healthier organization overall.
So how can a CEO, new or otherwise, tackle the daunting task of taking an existing group of leaders to the next level?
Creating an effective team isn’t hinged on an event or an episode. You don’t go to the gym and expect to be in shape within a day or even a week – this would just leave you overworked and sore. The same thing is true of becoming a high performing team… it’s a process and takes courageous effort.
What follows is a primer for jump starting ELT performance in three phases…
Phase 1 – Assess the Landscape
The true reality of an organization is often elusive. You probably have some existing views and knowledge of the company and its culture. Chances are, this picture is not complete. There may also be some uncertainty around the existing ELT and their ability to drive future growth.
Effective CEOs take the time to listen, observe, and understand the organization and the existing ELT before making strategic, long-term plans. Begin assessing the organizational reality by:
- Talking to stakeholders from various levels of the company, including external vendors and suppliers
- Listening for clues that will help you familiarize yourself with the reality of the organization, including stories and narratives that help to define expectations, challenges, and opportunities, as well as aspects of the culture that may not be apparent on the surface
- Exploring the current and past effectiveness of the ELT
Next, bring the executive team together to learn more – both one-on-one and as a group. This is not only the perfect time for you to get to know them, but also for them to deepen their understanding of one another. Teams that have a strong sense of identity, purpose, and psychological safety outperform those that have little investment or awareness.
Beyond the initial exploratory discussions, and once rapport and trust have been established between the CEO and ELT, assessments can be introduced to further understand individuals’ motivators, reactions under stress, and more. It’s imperative, however, that team members know these are not for evaluation, but to empower collaboration and alignment.
By assessing personalities, as well as leadership and communication styles, the team can improve transparency and leverage their strengths to work more effectively together. This data will also help to develop the vision, strategy, and plan for execution in the next phase.
Phase 2 – Design the Foundation
Now that you have a solid blueprint of the organization and the team, this heightened awareness allows you to shape the vision and strategy, as well as design a plan for how the ELT will execute it. Pairing vision and strategy with a strong sense of