Building and maintaining a strong leadership team is crucial for business success. As a business leader, you set the tone for the communication and collaboration you expect of senior team members and all executives. Understanding how critical these expectations are, and how to frame them correctly can shape the construction and operation of your leadership team.
Let’s start with building the leadership team. In the process of hiring and promoting people into C-suite positions, you have an extraordinary opportunity to set expectations and tone. Many times, leaders believe that their role is to advocate for their business unit, employees, and outcomes. This approach can hinder even the most skilled leaders. Individual contributors need to understand that their responsibilities are to the complete enterprise, not their corners of the universe.
Here are six steps to take in building a cohesive leadership team. The first three focus on active management by you as the business owner. The next three are behavioral models to incorporate into your leadership team.
- Create a Compelling Purpose
Setting menus for holiday parties is not a task a senior leadership team should undertake. Instead, this team should understand what tasks, decisions, policies, and goals they are uniquely qualified to delegate. Establishing a purpose is the responsibility of the organization’s senior-most leader, so each person understands their role and can be held accountable for implementation and follow through.
- Establish the Operating Model
How is your leadership team going to work? Creating a suitable operating model is critical, as it helps all members understand roles and how decisions will be agreed upon. The team operating model should include the following:
- Designated structure and roles
- Established work processes
- Communication protocols, both within the team and from the team to others
- Internal and external stakeholders the team serves
- Desired culture to implement and uphold
- Decision making practices and procedures
- Established key metrics to define and evaluate success
Two of the most common operating models are the consultative model and the integrative model. The consultative model is often used by well-established teams with stable CEOs who typically set strategic direction. In this model, the CEO uses their leadership team to share information, debate issues, and provide counsel and guidance to the ultimate decision-maker.
In the integrative model, interdependence is vital. Leaders are tasked with managing interdependencies and, crucially, making decisions of consequence related to the organization’s strategic priorities. This model requires a high level of trust, shared responsibilities, and collaboration.
- Create the Cadence
In an orchestra, the director sets the tempo for each piece. A CEO needs to do the same with their leadership team. The rhythm of the executive team’s leadership style is dependent on the pace set for them. That means establishing the way information is shared, consumed, evaluated, and implemented. It includes how tactical decisions are made that shape high-level priorities. This cadence also reflects how communication, meetings, and metrics are used to develop a natural pace for decision-making.
Next, we turn to the behaviors that need to be modeled to ensure success in how other leaders see themselves.
- Model Self-Awareness
Self-awareness takes work. It requires a leader to understand their blind spots and to work diligently to eliminate them. Whether through detailed feedback surveys or candid conversations with senior colleagues, the leader needs to show that we are all “works in progress.” Being honest with oneself can also set an example for others to follow and seek out the same self-assessments that make them better leaders, both individually and cohesively as a unit.
- Communicate Regularly and Clearly
At all levels, employees want to understand what is happening, where progress has been made, and where challenges remain. Honesty and transparency are crucial aspects of communication within an organization, especially among senior leaders. While leaders may not be able to share everything all the time, lying (or even evading answers) can erode trust quickly. When trust fades, so too does the efficacy of any strong leadership team and the counterparts that follow them.
- Be Accountable
Leaders need to be accountable for the successes and failures within a business. Passing off that accountability is another sure-fire way to erode the confidence of your senior-most leaders and their counterparts. Accountability works in multiple ways. There is individual accountability, accountability for the work of one’s team, and accountability to the senior team. Instilling and upholding that accountability need not be a negative, as it should be there for all facets – good or bad – for the business.
At Prometis Partners, we help businesses build value. Let us help your business help build a great leadership team that can help your company strengthen its position now and in the future. Prometis Partners assists businesses with succession planning, business valuation, and value creation. Contact us to see how our team can help your business excel at every level and every stage of your company’s development.