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From Pain to Gain with Your Leadership Team

In our evolving business landscape, the role of senior leadership teams has never been more important in charting their organisation’s path to success. These teams are the engines that drive innovation, spearhead critical projects and make strategic decisions that shape the future of their businesses. However, the path to excellence is fraught with challenges, and senior leaders are not immune from internal issues that can affect their team dynamic.

We often hear the expression “No pain, no gain.” But is the pain in your team enhancing or undermining your work together? Senior teams often face hurdles that hinder their effectiveness, and the consequences can ripple through an organisation, affecting productivity, innovation and ultimately the bottom line.

Our aim is to give senior teams the tools, strategies and insights they need to overcome their obstacles and thrive in the face of adversity and a changing marketplace. By following our five-step model – Connection, Cohesion, Collaboration, Contribution and Celebration – senior team leaders can harness the energy, innovation and effective collaboration in their team to drive their organisation forward.

But first, let’s look at why action is needed.

What’s going on at the top?

Senior teams encounter a wide range of obstacles to their success. While external pressures may be part and parcel of the business landscape, internal challenges offer room for intervention and improvement if you’re willing to grasp the nettle. Conversely, ignoring these internal dynamics can severely undermine a team’s effectiveness and halt progress in its tracks.

To bring this into perspective, consider these startling statistics[1]. Do they ring true for you?

  • Roughly two thirds (65%) of senior executives said their executive teams struggle to balance their functional and wider business accountabilities; top of these is strategic focus.
  • Less than one in five (18%) of CEOs rated their teams as “very effective” regarding their shared executive responsibilities.
  • Almost all (97%) of CEOs agreed that increased effectiveness of their executive team would have a positive impact on business results.

This doesn’t mean it’s all doom and gloom, but these figures underscore a critical need for focused attention on internal team dynamics and the adoption of strategies aimed at improving team effectiveness. Let’s take a closer look at some of the common issues that sit behind these statistics. 

Poor communication – Senior teams often grapple with miscommunication, information silos and a lack of clarity, leading to costly errors, misunderstandings and an erosion of mutual trust.

Lack of alignment – Maintaining alignment across different teams and departments can be a constant struggle. Senior teams must navigate conflicting priorities, differing perspectives and changing market dynamics to maintain a unified vision and strategy.

Unproductive behaviours – Senior leaders are often experienced professionals with strong opinions and leadership styles. Differences in style and perspective can escalate into conflicts that disrupt teamwork, hinder decision-making and create wider ripples across the business.

Stagnated innovation – As the society adapts to challenges such as meeting Net Zero and integrating AI safely, innovation will continue to be a driving force to achieving success. Yet, senior teams can struggle to foster an environment that genuinely encourages creativity and the exploration of new ideas, resulting in missed opportunities.

Moving from pain to gain

The transformation of a struggling team into a heroic success can be seen in the narratives of popular films such as Ocean’s Eleven, The Great Escape, The Incredibles or Kung Fu Panda. While these stories offer inspiration as well as entertainment, the reality of initiating change to the teams in our workplaces can seem much more daunting.

However, the principle of working with a coach to help your leadership team through a similar transformation also holds true in business. Team coaching can really make a difference, by helping your team to work more effectively together. 

The Association for Coaching defines team coaching as: “The application of coaching skills while working with a whole, intact team over time to improve inter-dependent members’ abilities to work together collaboratively to achieve the team’s collective purpose, potential and performance.”

To address this, we’ve developed, tried and tested a straightforward, yet powerful, 5-step model aimed at enhancing senior team effectiveness and, consequently, driving superior business outcomes. Known as the 5C Senior Team Accelerator© or 5-STA© model for short, it focuses on Connection, Cohesion, Collaboration, Contribution and Celebration.

1.    Connection: strengthening relationships

At its core, connection is about cultivating strong interpersonal relationships within the team. This foundation of trust and open communication is essential. By prioritising connection, we set the stage for a culture where individuals feel valued, understood and integral to the team’s success.

Increasing trust – Building trust is a continuous and ongoing process. Strategies and activities can be aimed at developing and maintaining trust among team members, allowing individuals to share both successes and challenges openly, without fear of judgment.

Mutual understanding – Developing strong personal relationships between senior team members is also important, as these can positively impact team dynamics and collaboration through improved understanding of where people are coming from and the insights they bring.

Valuing differences – Connection involves team members valuing the different strengths that others bring to the team. By recognising that diverse perspectives and skills often lead to better business outcomes, everyone’s input can be welcomed and considered.

1.    Cohesion: building team unity

Cohesion is the glue that binds a team together, especially in challenging times. It involves aligning team members with the organisation’s overarching goals and nurturing a shared commitment to these objectives.

Common purpose – Having clear and achievable team objectives ensures that everyone is moving in the same direction. This allows the team to get the balance right between their functional objectives and those of the team as a whole, e.g. between long-term strategy and short-term delivery.

‘Us’, not ‘me and them’ – To prevent misunderstandings and conflicts, it’s crucial to define roles and expectations within the team. This ensures everyone understands their individual contribution and the importance of collective success, not just their own.

Sense of belonging – Cohesion extends beyond tasks to having shared values and culture. Defining the values and culture that bind a team together, reinforced by participation and shared successes, creates a sense of collective identity, purpose and achievement.

2.    Collaboration: fostering collective innovation

The true strength of a senior team lies in its collective expertise and perspectives. Collaboration encourages the active participation of every team member, fostering an environment where innovative solutions are born from the convergence of diverse thoughts and experiences. 

Whole team involvement – Sometimes, the most brilliant insights emerge from the most unexpected sources. Encouraging the active involvement of every team member in problem-solving discussions ensures that no stone is left unturned in the pursuit of innovative solutions.

Breaking silo thinking – By recognising that the most fruitful results are obtained by fostering cross-functional collaboration, senior teams can dismantle the barriers between siloed departments and create an environment that promotes knowledge sharing and cooperation.

Finding innovative solutions – Tapping into the unique skills and perspectives of each team member creates an environment where groupthink fades and innovation thrives. This not only leads to more creative solutions but also opens opportunities for competitive advantage.

3.    Contribution: maximising impact through action

A team’s effectiveness is measured not just by the ideas generated in the confines of a meeting room but by the actions that follow. Decisions are not just made but are executed with precision, driving meaningful results.

Robust discussions – Candid discussions are key to achieving the best outcomes, with senior leaders rigorously exploring and testing the options before them without fear or favour. Defining and agreeing on the team’s rules of engagement for constructive conflict is pivotal to allowing this healthy discourse.

Agreeing firm actions – The adage “talk is cheap” rings true, as decisions need to be followed by firm actions that deliver results. The single-minded determination shown in team decision-making must be mirrored in agreeing on actions, with clear ownership and well-defined timeframes.

Mutual accountability – Team members share responsibility for ensuring that agreed actions are completed effectively and in a timely manner by one another. This fosters and demonstrates a culture of collective ownership and a shared commitment to achieving the team’s goals.

4.    Celebration: achieving and acknowledging success

In our fast-paced world, it’s easy to get caught up in the relentless pursuit of objectives without pausing to reflect. Taking time to celebrate successes—both big and small—is crucial, as they remind everyone of the significant impact of their work.

Achieving shared objectives – Celebrating success is not merely about recognising individual accomplishments. It’s also about acknowledging the team’s achievements as a unit, marking milestones and collective triumphs, which in turn strengthens connection.

Celebrating successes – Whether it’s a small team gathering, a heartfelt acknowledgment or a grand gala event, the key is to ensure that the celebration resonates with the achievement and the team’s preferences.

Maintaining motivation – Celebration plays a crucial role in maintaining team morale and motivation, by providing a tangible sense of accomplishment and reinforcing the belief that the team’s collective efforts are making a substantial and positive difference.

Next steps

The path to maximising senior team effectiveness is littered with challenges and glittering with opportunities. Senior teams are the lynchpin of innovation, strategy and decision-making, making it imperative to address any team dynamic issues.

The five-step model outlined above provides a comprehensive framework to help overcome these challenges and realise the potential of your senior team. By focusing on Connection, Cohesion, Collaboration, Contribution and Celebration, senior teams and the businesses they lead can be transformed to excel in the dynamic and competitive business landscape.

As you embark on your journey to implement change within your senior team, remember that transformation is rarely immediate. Continuously cycling through these five steps ensures ongoing improvement and sustainable success. The scale of the positive impact? That’s for you to discover!

[1] “Are you getting the most out of your executive team?” – Cahill, Quinn & McEvoy, Center for Creative Leadership, 2017

About Aziz Corporate

Aziz was founded over 30 years ago by Khalid Aziz, a media pioneer of his day who at 21 became the youngest ever appointed BBC producer.

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