Our business is in trouble.

As we wrestle with how to respond to an increasingly competitive business climate, striving to apply a greater sense of urgency to achieve short term results and sustainable top-tier performance, and struggling to integrate new teams, leverage shifting business models and delivery streams, we are taking a pause to focus on how we as a senior leadership team can be more effective.”

Whether in turbulent or relatively calm times, teams can accelerate and elevate their effectiveness by deliberately addressing these five questions:

1.Who are we

Ideally team members have been on what they consider to be a high-performing team. Whether implicit or explicit each leader’s expectation of a high-performing team is influenced by their experience on previous teams. The details of those experiences are a richer source of data than simply listing key attributes

Think of a high-performing team you were on: What made it such a team for you? How much of that experience still represents the model of a high performing team for each team member? What themes connect the stories of the team members and influence their current expectations?

2. What business are we in

Beyond what products and processes the business sells, what differentiates it from others? One senior team in a global manufacturing enterprise thought they were in obvious agreement about what business they were in. When asked to decide which of McKinsey’s core business archetypes they were – knowledge, operations, leadership, technology – the answers were not so obvious. With regard to driving a team to sustainable top-tier performance, not all initiatives have the same impact on every type of organization.

What is already in place to drive our performance? What difference does our particular type of business, current business climate, and culture make on which initiatives to launch or sustain? How do we measure the impact of those initiatives? Which ones will give us the greatest return on our investments?

3.What makes us a team

The question of who represents the senior leadership team is not always accurately answered by the formal organizational chart. A striking theme from one senior leadership team session was the notion of “Clear mission. Common mission.”  Time devoted to defining a clear and common mission was helpful in answering who should be considered a member of the senior team.

How does a team get to a “Clear mission. Common mission”?  Wrestle to identify the following:

  • Must-win battles
  • One thing best done by all
  • What must be done/when to enable other things to be done
  • What are the consequences of what we do or not do

4. What will we do

Team members already have a list of priorities that represent their “real job” or “day job”. The expectation to deliver results in those roles is clear. What we will are expected to do as a leadership team is not always clear, but the team is expected to do something. The list is not long. The list just needs to be meaningful.

What will you do that will demonstrate noticeable and notable efforts towards increased effectiveness as a team? What can we expect that will test our commitment? How will we address those challenges?

5. What have we done

The work is not done simply by putting it on the calendar. Nor is it done simply by checking off the completion box. The skill that effective leaders use conducting an after-action review process to assess business results can be applied to assessing what to stop/start/continue regarding overall team effectiveness, and dissecting specific expectations like trust and alignment.

What worked? What did not work? What was going on? What would we do differently? What can we expect to gain if we get this right? What will it cost us if we do nothing or get it wrong? What are we committing to do?

Teams evolve shaped by a number of forces.

Accelerating and elevating the effectiveness of teams in an efficient manner requires intentional effort. How are you making your team greater than the sum of its parts?

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