Monday, March 17, 2014

Starting at the Wrong Place

When senior teams are struggling, they often do it in a dramatic fashion. People take sides. Words are spoken, and later regretted. Meetings become highly dysfunctional. Everyone gets upset and in the end, a consultant is called in to figure out the exact problem and to make specific recommendations.

I have witnessed these situations many times over the decades of my work. They are not pretty and can be quite painful for all involved. Still, there are a few steps people can take in order to start moving in the right direction and prevent many common problems.

First, when building the agenda for the senior leadership team meetings clarify whether an item on the agenda is one of the following:

- information sharing
- consultative
- coordinating
- decision making

This will help all involved to know what level of participation needs to take place.

Second, read the one of the following two books: 

- Wageman, Ruth, Debra A. Nunes, James A. Burruss and J. Richard Hackman. Senior Leadership Teams: What It Takes To Make Them Great, Harvard Business School Press, 2008, 

- Lencioni, Patrick. The Five Dysfunctions of a Team, Jossey-Bass, 2002.

This will give you new tools and perspectives about what to do when it comes to dealing with normal problems and challenges.

Third, focus more on changing your own behavior than trying to change other people. While seems a simplistic choice, it is actually quite difficult to maintain a high degree of discipline and to consciously make choices based on seeking a common purpose to the situation before you.

Fourth, build individual and group level trust. As Patrick Lencioni notes in his book, The Advantage: Why Organizational Health Trumps Everything Else in Business, Jossey-Bass, 2012, “The only way for the leader of a team to create a safe environment for his team members to be vulnerable is by stepping up and doing something that feels unsafe and uncomfortable first.” Remember that without trust nothing is going to change.

This week, before you rush out to hire a consultant, do your own homework. Create a smarter team meeting agenda, read well written books on team work and team building, and focus more on your own behavior. This will be a good foundation for a new future.

Geery Howe, M.A. Consultant, Executive Coach, Trainer in Leadership, Strategic Planning and Organizational Change Morning Star Associates 319 - 643 - 2257

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