GUEST BLOG: Leading for the Long Run
Updated: Aug 11
Investing in Leadership Team Growth
In your company’s early years, much is done on a shoestring of resources, people, and structure, as well as an abundance of passion. However, as you grow in size (revenue, employees, sales, products, and services), things get complicated and passion alone cannot carry the day. Decisions are no longer quite so simple and quickly made. Perhaps you alone made most key decisions, but now you’ve hired more people who need to have a say. Now you must consult others and share the Leadership Challenge! This article focuses on the importance of having an effective team that will position your second stage company for success and the steps needed to build it.
Company growth requires Leadership Team Growth. While you need to create sustainable policies, practices, and procedures, you also need to develop your people.
Leadership Team Growth is about increased relationship effectiveness – the Team having high trust, managing disagreement and conflict in healthy ways, and possessing skills in holding each other accountable for behavior and performance. Company innovation, productivity, and profitability are at stake if your Leadership Team does not master these elements!
Challenges & Barriers
Many companies have great intentions with such initiatives as strategic business planning, strengthening policies, and streamlining processes. However, the biggest challenge is achieving Leadership Alignment – having the right person in the right seat on the bus. Leaders’ thinking and decision-making style must align with the demands of their position. (For example, the ability to make tough decisions or hold staff accountable to own their performance). Leaders must also possess the ‘soft skills’ to meet employees’ developmental needs, to strengthen morale, and to grow the teams that they lead. (For example, being empathic and caring while also capable of having difficult conversations.) Leaders must be both technically proficient AND emotionally intelligent!
Leadership Team Dysfunctions
In his book “Five Dysfunctions of a Team,” Patrick Lencioni identifies the challenges facing most teams and the behaviors that derail them.
Absence of Trust. Team members are reluctant to be vulnerable with one another, they will not admit their mistakes, acknowledge their weaknesses, or ask for help. Without a certain comfort level among team members, a foundation of trust is impossible.
Fear of Conflict. Team members fear engaging in unfiltered and passionate debate about ideas, two problems arise. First, stifling conflict actually increases the likelihood of destructive, back channel sniping. Second, it leads to inferior decision-making because the team is not benefiting from the true ideas and perspectives of its members.
Lack of Commitment. Without conflict or disagreement, it is extremely difficult for team members to buy into decisions because they don't feel that they are part of the decision. This often creates an environment of ambiguity and confusion, leading to frustration among employees, especially top performers.
Avoidance of Accountability. Without commitment to a shared direction, peer-to-peer accountability suffers greatly. Individuals will hesitate to call their peers on counterproductive actions and behaviors if they believe those actions and behaviors were never agreed upon in the first place.
Inattention to Results. Team members do not hold one another accountable, and this increases the likelihood that individual interests, ego, and recognition will become more important than collective team results. When this occurs, the entire department suffers and the team dissolves factions, back-room politics, silos, and turf wars.
Each member must become aware of how they behave and impact others. Understanding how you communicate, interact, and make decisions allows you to gauge your impact (for better or worse) on others. This is known as Emotional Intelligence (EI) and includes being aware of and choosing how to respond to emotion, possessing ‘people smarts’ (the ability to handle relationship tensions), and how to manage stress and multiple demands. When you know yourself, you are able to build effective relationships with others. And the research is clear: Leaders who possess high EI are more likely to advance in their careers and be more effective leaders.
Team members must assess their collective health. When teams identify both their behavioral assets and challenges to being an effective team, they can engage in a development process to eliminate dysfunctional behavior. The foundation for team health comes from this knowledge.
Three Successful Methods
Leadership Teams undertake these three steps:
Team members complete two tests that assess their cognitive, decision-making, communications, and interaction styles as well as measuring their Emotional Intelligence. Their self-reported data is then shared with them and their immediate supervisor (who also shares his/hers). The outcome is increased self-understanding and awareness and growing trust with others.
Team members complete a self-assessment of their collective health and together examine the results as well as their individual test profiles. As a result, the Leadership Team understands both its assets for and impediments to health and success as well as how growth can occur.
A series of facilitated sessions to address those aspects of team health that impair their effectiveness.
Leadership Growth is attainable if the team is willing to invest the time and effort in the process, consistently practice the necessary behaviors, and be willing to self-examine and own both individual and collective success and struggle. Challenging? Yes! But this process creates one more foundation for company profitability.
What are you willing to do?
MGA is here to support your needs to fully resume operations, maintain positive momentum post pandemic, and focus on future growth strategies.
Contact Jenn Deamud at Jenn@MGAlliance.org if you would like to share insights with MGA so we can help identify solutions.