Do You REALLY have a Leadership Team?

The differences and the impacts of leadership by a team and by committees.

Teams or Committees?

Many CEOs and senior leaders in companies with which I have worked with often believe, in all sincerity, that they have a leadership team or executive team which works together to help focus and drives the business.

This, in my experience, is rarely the case. More often than it is not a leadership or executive team, but a committee.  This is true for all levels of the business but becomes increasingly more frequent the further you go up the hierarchy.

It is important to understand whether you have a leadership team or a leadership committee?  The impact of each is considerable and quite different.  Many problems that you may be experiencing with your leadership team have, at their root, the fact that the leadership team is actually a leadership committee.

Let me explain by looking at teams and committees in turn:

Teams

For the purpose of this article, I define a team as a group of individuals who are working together, towards a common goal or goals, in which they will either succeed or fail to do so together.  There is a strong common purpose, common understanding and real alignment to which all members of the team are committed.

A team that is well-aligned and works well together only does so because there is a high level of trust.  As such the team sets its own goals, and all the members share resources, information, and insights. There is open and frank communication between the members, with members, prepared to challenge each other in order to resolve issues and achieve the desired outcomes. Honesty and candor underpin the team allowing alternatives to be discussed and decisions are taken only after healthy and robust debate.

Committees

Here a group of people come together because of their title or role or function (and in a role as a representative of a given area or function) and agree to work together as long as it is individually beneficial, but at any time they can withhold information, resources, or not comply; also they can be rewarded differentially i.e. I win, you lose.  The individuals participate rather than promising an outcome or a result.

There is a lack of trust and there is no common purpose or any alignment, or it is very weak if there is any.  The focus of the committee tends not to be on achieving the outcomes, but on tasks and following process. Political battles and turf wars break out as committee members jockey for position.  They can withhold resources and information from others in doing so, and people will work or collaborate with others only so far as doing so helps their individual interests.  In a committee, people can win at the expense of the others. This means decisions are made on a sub-optimal basis and, although they can advance one area’s interests, may do so even though it causes damage to the business itself.

Which Do You Have – Teams or Committees?

So how do you know which you have?  Chance is that you probably already have a pretty good idea, but sometimes the group may be in a “gray area”.  In these instances, I suggest you apply the five criteria:

Andrew Cooke’s Five Golden Keys for Evaluating Groups

Look at the questions in the following areas.  If the answers tend to favor the group over the individual you have a team, if it is the individual over the group then you have a committee.

  1. Individual and Group Intention – how would you describe the individual intentions for each group member and the group overall?  Are they prepared to put the interest of others ahead of their own in advancing the group’s interests?  Are the group’s interests shared or do they vary from each individual?
  2. Effectiveness – is the group and the members focused on doing the right things?  Are there a clearly shared and understood set of priorities and outcomes? Is the group delivering progress towards the defined outcomes, or is progress being achieved in a multiple and conflicting directions against outcomes which may or may not be those which were defined initially? Are members participating or working to deliver outcomes.
  3. Communication –what kind of discussions and debate is there between group members?  Do they focus on the issue at hand or the personalities involved?  How well do they share with others what they are doing and why?  Do they have a shared and common understanding which they can consistently and clearly articulate?
  4. Relationships  – are they cooperative and collaborative, or is it a case of acting in the individual’s self-interest?  Is the nature of the relationship long-term, strategic and aligned; or are the relationships short-term and transactional in their focus?
  5. Power – is power perceived by the group and its members to be vested in the group itself, and thus all members are subordinate to the group; or is it perceived to be vested in certain individuals for who the group’s interests are subordinate to theirs?

Do you have a leadership team or a leadership committee?  Think carefully before you answer.  If your team is exhibiting signs of dysfunction then it is likely that you have a group that is a committee or has strong leanings to some of the characteristics of a committee than a team.

Consider one of the dysfunctional teams you either have been on or are a part of now.  Is your team a committee in disguise as a team?  If so, can you apply this distinction to diagnose the problem and get your team on track?

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How to Use Frames to Control Conversations

Frames are a powerful tool that allows you to define how a situation, event or occurrence can be viewed.  If you set the frame, you control the conversation; if you control the conversation, you can control the relationship; and if you control the relationship, you control the business opportunity.

A framework in the same way as the frame around a picture.  A good picture frame draws you into the picture so you can focus on it, and enhances the picture, without being apparent itself.

  1. Provides focus – so you are able to focus your clients, via your use and control of language, on what you see to be as the pith of the matter
  2. Reduces mental clutter – make it easier to identify what you need to focus on
  3. Helps to gain agreement
  4. Accelerates movement and progress
  5. Provides control

Inside of the frame is what is important, what is outside is what is not important as shown in the picture below.

Framing

Framing a Situation

For example, you may be behind budget by $20m.  You could frame this in a couple of different ways, and how you frame it will affect and determine how you perceive and act on this.

  • Frame 1 – As a Problem: We have a target of $200m for the year and we are currently behind by $20m. We should have made $150m by this point in the year, but we have only made $130m. This means that we now have to make $70m before the year end.  We need to work harder to get more deals in.
  • Frame 2 – As an Opportunity: We are working hard and well in a difficult market. We are $20m shy of where we currently want to be and need to make $70m by the year-end.  How can we leverage what we have already done?  How can we work with other areas to help them and us accelerate the time it takes to do deals and increase the average deal size?

You can see in the second frame provides a positive, optimistic and creative context from which to drive the conversation and generate innovative ideas and actions. This helps to inspire and motivate people.  The first frame is negative, pessimistic and looks at doing more of the same (which isn’t working well as they are behind budget). This is more judgmental and is likely to lower morale.

Think how you can frame things to engage and include others in what you are trying to do and to share this technique with your people, in turn, A powerful frame can help to shape the perception, interpretation and how people engage with the situation, occurrence or event.

To view or download a PDF version of this blog click here.

Share your thoughts and ideas here, or email me at andrew.cooke@business-gps.com.au

If you found this article of use or interest please don’t hesitate to share it with others.

Click here to find out more about Andrew Cooke and Growth & Profit Solutions.

What to Do Before You Start Making Decisions

What you need to do before you start the decision-making process

by Andrew Cooke, Growth & Profit Solutions

Decisions Before You DecideWe make decisions every day; small ones, big ones, unusual ones, specific or general and those which have become a force of habit.  We get so involved in the decision itself that we become blind to the key dimensions that surround it. So what are they, why are they important and how can we use them to help us make better and more effective decisions?

The Four Key Dimensions

There are four key dimensions which need to be considered when making a decision.  This includes:

  1. Composition: Who should be involved in the decision-making process?  You need to make sure you have the right people, with the right information, who can contribute and develop the necessary decision.4 Dimensions of Decision-Making
  2. Context: In what type of environment does the decision take place?  Is it an open environment that fosters open, constructive dialogue?  Or a closed environment in which personal interests supersedes those of the group?
  3. Communication: What are the “means of dialogue” among the participants?  Does it involve considerable direct discussion with those with relevant knowledge and expertise, or is it ‘filtered’ through reports from senior people in the hierarchy?  Are there face-to-face meetings or is it via phone, email, reports etcetera?
  4. Control: How will the leader control the process and the content of the decision?
  • Control of the Process how do you want to shape the way that the deliberations are undertaken and followed;
  • Control of the Content how much do you want to control the outcome of the decision

This last factor- Control – is the hardest, and has the greatest impact on the decision.

A Balanced Approach

A balance between control of the process and control of the content is required.  Too little or too much control of the process and/or the content will result in sub-optimal decisions.  Some of the impacts of low or high levels of control on the process or content are shown below.

Impact of the Level of Control of Content & Process in Decision-Making

 Decisions and Control

So how can we achieve a balance in controlling both the process and content of a decision?  There are three steps:

 3 Steps for a Balanced Approach

1.      Be Clear on the Decision

Are you clear on what the decision is that you are making is?   For example, you are looking at how to improve your retention of key customers.  This is not a decision; this is a problem that needs to be solved.  Be careful not to confuse decisions with problems.

2.      Know What Objectives & Outcomes You Want to Achieve

Have a clear understanding of where you want to be as a result of the decision you have made.  Knowing this will help you understand what expertise and information you need, from whom you need to get it, and the people who should be involved.

3.      Have Checks & Counter-Balances

You will find that you and others involved in the decision-making process will fall into common decision-making traps or errors of judgement.  Understanding them, and how to avoid them will provide you with the means to check your collective thoughts, ideas and insights and reduce the likelihood of your decision being subverted.

Use this as a checklist – make sure you address the four dimensions: Composition, Context, Communication and Control – and build the means for better decisions.  Will you share this with your colleagues and those who participate in your decision-making processes?

It’s your decision.

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