How To Create A High Performing Management Team
Here’s an interesting fact that I’ve learned over the years from my practice – a company’s management team is almost never really a “team”. Well, you may consider them to be a team and while every intention is there for them to operate as a team, the reality is they often don’t perform or act like one. And there’s a fundamental reason why this is the case.
Management teams usually comprise of leaders who represent a function, division, geography or business unit that they head up. It’s only nature then, that their primary focus, concern and objective is to ensure their function or unit achieves its goals. You could say it’s their first thought that instinctively gets triggered. How can their function or unit benefit? What will the impact of changes to policies and procedures be on their function or unit? These concerns, habitually, take precedence over the management team. Maybe the reaction is a resultant of the ownership they feel over the team they lead and the responsibilities they hold. Maybe it’s because they develop a close affinity with the people they lead that their decisions and attention is skewed in favor of their function rather than the company’s management team.
This is precisely why it’s a daunting challenge for leaders to transform their management teams into high performing teams.
Take the example of the United Nations which consists of leaders representing various countries. While the overall agenda may be global in nature, each one of them is looking out for the best interest of their own countries (their areas of responsibility). What results is an organization that achieves sub-optimal results and a management team that can never truly be a high performing team.
Now if leaders could put aside their personal agendas, there’s a good chance that they could be tackling some major company challenges. Obviously this would mean enhanced collaboration within the management team to focus on collectively solving problems and grasping opportunities promptly. To get there, here are some of the crucial steps that leaders of management teams must take:
1. A Single Target
When you reward individuals differently you can expect differences in their behaviors as well. To really get your management team to synchronize and achieve a single target or goal, you need to design reward programs that encourage this behavior. A common target that has a common (and greater) reward to back it is precisely the catalyst that’s needed to encourage collective harmony.
2. Peer-To-Peer Accountability
Linking to the first step, if you’ve managed to not only incentivize a common goal but also assign it more weightage you’re encouraging your management team to hold each other accountable. The idea here is to prevent them from stopping at just fulfilling their functions’ goals. They know that the real payout is when the entire management team achieves its goal. Peer-to-peer accountability will help you tackle politics and tensions that arise in the management team. The CEO will have lesser complains to deal with and will instead see more cooperation in their management team. What you’re aiming for is to encourage healthy debates and conflicts that they can overcome on their own, rather than taking it up with the CEO.
3. Shared Agenda
To really hold each other accountable, management teams will need to have a shared agenda. The outcome of all the meetings, discussions and debates needs to be an mission plan that they create together and which they will wholeheartedly commit themselves to. And along the way they’ll support each other in achieving and completing the agenda.
4. Building Team Trust
You know how you feel that the choices and decisions you make are in the “best interest of the company”? Well, unsurprisingly, you’re not the only one. Building trust and a trusting relationship in the management team is a difficult and often relentless challenge. But as a management team member remember that your peers are also looking out for the best interests of the company. This is the fundamental that we all must remind ourselves of. Along with this, the leader of the company needs to play that added role of mentoring, guiding and coaching the management team to facilitate the development of trust. But all of their efforts will fall short if the management team doesn’t shed their egos, keep an open mindset, listen, and think of the greater good, beyond their own functions and units.
Building a trusting and high performing management team is an endless challenge. While it doesn’t happen overnight, once achieved, it doesn’t remain effective on its own as well. It needs constant effort to create an environment where people will and can trust each other. Sure, along the way there’ll be plenty of uncomfortable conversations, tough decisions and even arguments. However, as long as members of the management team remembers that everyone is aiming for a common and greater goal and there’s mutual trust, the team will continue to perform at high levels of output.
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