The Senior Leadership Team have the most overt power in any organization. Their decisions have implications for everyone else in the organization as well as for the future of the organization itself. Many people strive for admittance to that elite table. 95% of top managers are alpha people who made it to the top through absolute determination for performance. These alphas are deeply confident about their superior rationality, which is a great asset for their organization. Yet, under pressure they develop behavioral patterns that can prevent or destroy collaboration. Alphas then exhibit dominance, actionism, and rivalry.
Senior Leadership Teams are solely connected via an abstract mission statement or financial goals. Their priority is the success of their own silos or functions. Their effectiveness is challenged by conflicts (some lasting for years), jealousies, reservations to participation, and various kinds of back- (and front-) stabbing. Alphas need to make a conscious choice against their own autopilots and structural constraints for joint leadership of the enterprise.
Rigorous prioritization is the key survival strategy and deeply rooted routine that Senior Leadership Teams apply in response to the VUCA world. The volatile, uncertain, complex and ambiguous environment requires fast solutions and decision-making of the top team. Management attention is not only the scarcest but also the most valuable resource these days.
There are several sources of difficulty and roadblocks that are unique to Senior Leadership Teams:
- The Senior Leadership Team’s collective autopilots; for example:
- Facts and figures are considered more important than perceptions.
- Action is considered more important than reflection.
- Routines are considered more important than learning.
- (Apparent) Consensus seems more important than productive conflict.
- Rule defining is considered more important than setting an example.
- The result is considered more important than the process.
- The spotlight is on them. Everyone in the organization scrutinizes their every move for signs; so does the competition. This does not encourage an environment of reflection or open discussion.
- Individuals on the Senior Leadership Team are typically stars in their own fields who have been rewarded for outstanding individual contributions. Now they are assessed on the success of their function in delivering desired results. They are rarely rewarded in any substantial way for contributions to the success of others.
- Alphas have an excess of overconfidence about their abilities coupled with poorly managed anxiety about how to deal with each other and the challenges they face together.
- The stakes are very high. Every choice and every decision are not only affected by the outcomes sought, but also by how they affect the influence and future plans of each of the members.
- Each member on the Senior Leadership Team is required to play multiple roles simultaneously; some of those roles hold implicit conflicts. Each head of a function is expected to maximize the effectiveness of that function, while at the same time, the enterprise strategy requires that resources be allocated (money, time, attention, promotion, etc.) in a way that maximizes the benefit of the enterprise. Consequently, some functions are to experience restriction for a time for the benefit of the whole organization.
- When the most forceful alphas drive choices about resources, a scarcity mindset can easily emerge and dominate the hidden dynamics of the team.
- An alpha cannot go in like a lion and out like a lamb. Everyone on the Senior Leadership Team implicitly competes for the CEO’s position; the resultant tension heavily impacts collaboration and teamwork.
„In organizations, real power and energy is generated through relationships. The patterns of relationships and the capacities to form them are more important than tasks, functions, roles, and positions.“
There are no quick fixes to overcome these barriers. Organizations face considerable change and uncertainty and will continue to do so. In this context, it is crucial to motivate and manage every team for success. Developing Senior Leadership Teams is an ongoing journey with a mixture of interventions designed to maximize the performance over a sustained period.
Mutual accountability and joint performance is difficult for teams on their own to achieve. Therefore, teams benefit from working with someone outside the team to facilitate their development. There is always the potential for conflict between Senior Leadership Team and functional business goals; not to mention the personal agendas of team members.
Team coaching enables Senior Leadership Teams to function as more than a sum of its parts by clarifying what the team is there to do and by improving the relationships both within the team, and between the team and its external environment. Achieving this goal requires integrating a finely balanced combination of individual coaching, work on interpersonal relationships, coaching the whole Senior Leadership Team on its purpose and behaviors, building successful stakeholder interfaces, and aligning the purpose of this group with the needs of the wider organization.
Team coaching with Inspired Executives is a well-blended synthesis of team facilitation, organizational consulting, organizational development, individual work, and team development work. The specific combination and approach used depends entirely on the formation of the team, what stage the team is at in its lifecycle, the organizational context, and the issues and challenges the team faces. Contact us – we are just a phone call or email away.
Wishing you the wisdom to acknowledge the power of reflection and the time to do so, Annette.