Businesses of all sizes and types face many challenges in the coming months.
Some are obvious — like employees who are hesitant to come back to work, because of conflicting health recommendations in the face of the contagious Delta variant of COVID-19.
Others are less obvious but offer an enormous opportunity for proactive organizations.
The opportunity? Building a leadership team across your organization that treats every team member with respect while driving promised results.
It starts with your executive team. How that team operates — how they interact with next level leaders, what they reward, what they tolerate, etc. — communicates expectations among every formal leader in your organization. Once those expectations are communicated and modeled by your senior leaders, next level leaders typically embrace those expectations and behaviors.
If those expectations and behaviors validate team members’ ideas, efforts, and contributions, you can sustain a purposeful, positive leadership community.
However, if those expectations and behaviors disrespect and demean team members’ ideas, efforts and contributions, you will have a toxic workplace.
Here are my top six characteristics of purposeful, positive executive teams and the questions you should be asking:
1. Servant Purpose. Do members understand their responsibilities as senior leaders beyond their functional duties and tasks to embrace the executive team as a separate and equally important function? Do they act as committed, responsive members of the executive team with one mind, one heart and one voice? Are they happy to engage with their executive team peers in strategic discussions and how to inspire aligned behavior across the company’s leaders and associates?
2. Engagement During Meetings. Do they set aside their functional activities to be fully present for their executive team conversations and responsibilities? Do they inform their staff that they are not to be interrupted during the executive team meetings with functional issues? Do they set aside their smartphones, tablets and laptops and focus entirely on the discussion “in the moment”?
3. Validation. Do they validate peers’ ideas, efforts and accomplishments? Do they pay attention to the discussions’ nuances and dig deeper when a potential issue is raised? Do they ask everyone to participate, giving quieter members the space to provide their insights?
4. Shared Leadership. Who facilitates the discussions in executive team meetings? Who drives decisions to be made? If all members are comfortable doing that, it shows trust, respect and validation.
5. Consensus. Do discussions end with members proactively summarizing options and making recommendations and end with a clear, mutual, firm decision with recommended actions?
6. Commitment to and Demonstration of Aligned Action. Is there explicit agreement by everyone on the decision and what that decision will require of executive team members? Do members take responsibility for those decisions? Do members challenge each other to higher targets? Do they hold each other accountable when a member doesn’t do what they said they would do?
When executive teams model and reinforce these desirable characteristics, next level leaders have a greater likelihood of modeling and the same characteristics. It becomes a self-perpetuating mindset. Aligned action across all leaders creates consistency, clarity and service to team members.
When this happens, a purposeful, positive, productive work culture is sustained, and you will be impressed by the results.
Most executive teams don’t behave as aligned teams. They are typically an affiliated “group,” competing for limited resources, recognitions and validation.
Can executive teams be trained to embrace these characteristics? They can. It takes a willing executive team that listens and learns to embrace these characteristics, then consistently models, measures and celebrates them across their organization’s leadership community.