How Is Your Company’s Management Team Performing?

From my experience, getting a company’s management team to become a high performing team is a grueling challenge. One of the main reasons is that management teams are almost never a team in the real sense of the word. They often represent a function, division, geography or business unit, which they are heading. When they are asked to choose between favoring the function / division they are heading or the management team of the company they are a member of, leaders almost always choose the team they are leading. Understandably, as they feel more ownership and have a close affinity to the people that they have hired and with whom they spend most of their time.

However the result is that a management team often is comparable to a gathering of the head of states at the United Nations. A group of individuals who represent their own area of responsibility, trying to do whatever is best for their own team. As a result the organization will achieve sub-optimal results and the management team can never be a high performing team.

I have worked with many management teams and the above is almost always the norm. I have seen few exceptions though, one of which I was part of myself during my time in Vietnam. This extraordinary group of leaders (consisting of 8 different nationalities) was able to come together and made everything about the company results. The team solely focused on how to solve problems collectively and grasp opportunities quickly. The results were phenomenal as the company quadrupled its revenue in a period of 4 years.

From my experiences in working with management teams as well as the work of some others  (my favorite reading on this topic is Patrick Lencioni’s book The Advantage) I have learned a number of crucial steps in developing high performing management teams:

4. One Target

First of all you can’t expect a team to deliver collectively on the company’s goals if the individuals don’t have a collective goal that has the highest weight-age in bonus payments. If you want people to deliver together you have to reward them for achieving a common target.

3. Peer-2-Peer Accountability

The advantage of making people’s bonus payment dependent on each other is that they will hold each other accountable. Peer-2-Peer accountability is the most effective form of accountability. Most people assume that the CEO is the person who should hold others accountability, however complaining about a colleague to the CEO will undoubtedly lead to politics and tensions and are certainly not the hallmark of a winning team. Healthy teams are able to discuss issues and obstacles which each other.

2. Shared Agenda

For a team to be able to hold each other accountable they have to have a shared agenda. An agenda that they have created together, to which they have full heartedly committed themselves and can support each other in achieving.

1. Developing Team Trust

To do this you have to build the foundation of the team. For every team this means creating an environment where team members can build trustful relationships. Doing this for management teams is very difficult as people are most of the time set in their ways and have only achieved their position because of the way they are. Changing that is a tough but necessary journey and requires a thoughtful and planned approach, in which the leader of the team constantly works to enhance the relations in the team and role model the desired way of working.

To build a solid management team, start with the last step. Create an environment where people will and can trust each other. Where they can have tough and sometimes uncomfortable conversations about the future of the company and how to improve it. Where a team is able to practice the principle of 70% Agreement, 100% Commitment and to speak with “One Voice”. If you achieve this you have the foundation of a healthy leadership team, ready to deliver outstanding results.

– Paul Keijzer


6 thoughts on “How Is Your Company’s Management Team Performing?

  1. Paul,

    pretty complete and I agree with your statement, I feel however there is one element missing which is facilitation by the company towards the individual management team members in order for them to understand and learn about their own and other members personality and (communication) style.

    In my experience this creates even more acceptance and goodwill while it also provides handles for communication upfront. This supports addressing accountability and avoids ambiguity.

    • Thanks for the comment Eric. Support in the form of facilitation would certainly help and unfortunately most companies would only offer that when the team has run in the ground and become completely dysfunctional.

      Although recently I have been involved in facilitating management teams from the moment a new CEO was appointed. They understood exactly what you were saying and the teams they are leading have made significant jumps in their performance.

  2. This article is light-on in terms of detail and strategies for turning a team around but otherwise 100% spot on. Individual rewards are the biggest saboteur for any team. I learnt this 20 years ago working in retail whilst at uni and seeing everyone competing and actively working against each other (the large chain store eventually went bust). The sad thing is that companies are still making this same mistake every day.

    • Thanks for the feedback Sarina. Strategies to turn a management team around can fill a book. I will certainly consider that !

      The problem often with team targets is that people feel uncomfortable in linking their performance to that of others, unlike team sports events whereas of course this is a given. For individual members to do that requires to work even more on the basics: team trust, clarity of roles, shared vision of the future, team rules on how to work together and resolve conflict.

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