How to Lead Management Teams More Effectively

Few leaders would disagree that effective teamwork is essential to the good health of an organization, but many would admit that the teams they lead do not function as effectively or efficiently as they would like. Why is this? Why is it that sincere, hardworking people who care about the places in which they work cannot achieve the results that might be expected of them?

As a leader how can you change this situation? Especially at a senior level, here’s more on how to lead management teams more effectively.

Leadership teams are made up of people who are used to being responsible for their own units within a larger organization. The group of leaders at the top of an organization’s hierarchy often do not play at being a true team.

The members usually want to be seen as part of a leadership team to be able to influence the overall organization.

A study by Ruth Wageman and Richard Hackman (2009) found that, although leadership teams are composed of powerful people, they tend to be ‘under-designed, under-led and under-resourced compared with other kinds of task-performing teams.

They are especially likely to have ‘unclear purposes, to work on poorly designed tasks, to suffer from a lack of information and material resources, and to receive insufficient hands-on coaching that could help with their work processes’. And this is despite the fact they have much more influence than other groups in terms of setting their own agendas and accessing space, time and information.

Collectively the members need to have the wisdom to help identify current realities and develop strategic initiatives to realize the team’s vision for the future. Success of any team-building intervention is directly dependent on how clear the organization is about what the team is to accomplish.

The first step as a leader of leaders is to interview all team members to get the general impressions of the team as well as answers to key questions on purpose, improvement strategies, effectiveness, and building brand value etc. The questions that can be asked like:

  1. What does the leadership team need to do better or differently? Is there a compelling need for this team to change and improve?
  2. What are the potential barriers, pitfalls, obstacles, or sources of resistance might interfere with these improvement efforts?
  3. What is an opportunity/project/issue/activity that this group could attempt to work on as a team?

Running this diagnostic would help in setting the plan for the actual regrouping. In order for a genuine progressive leadership team, they need certain factors as directions.

Every member of the team should be there because they have capabilities that will contribute to the team purpose, not because they hold a particular position in the organisation; however team leaders often allow teams to become large and unfocused simply because they are unwilling to upset egos by leaving anyone off the team.

The first key function of the team leader is, therefore, to clearly define team membership. Members need to understand their individual role on the leadership team. Individual responsibilities must be clearly defined in addition to any set of collective responsibilities.

If the group of individual leaders truly wants to produce effective team performance, it must develop the seven key components of team excellence required of any group that wishes to function as a team:

  1. Clear goals and sense of direction
  2. Identification of talent
  3. Clear roles and responsibilities
  4. Agreed-upon procedures
  5. Constructive interpersonal relations
  6. Active reinforcement of team-oriented behaviors
  7. Diplomatic external ties

For this purpose it is important to have these discussed and agreed upon and documented in an agreement.

Push the group to identify what it specifically will produce by when. If this group of individual leaders wants to truly work as a team, the goals of its collective efforts must be clear and will likely change as each plan and roll-out is produced.

For example, if the goal is to produce a strategic plan to achieve productivity targets, when should the plan be ready for presentation?

Leadership teams that model how to run meetings, make decisions, solve problems, and produce plans can set the tone for teams throughout an organization. They need to follow a disciplined approach to these procedures to show others that this is the key to excellence.

Constructive interpersonal relations must also be modeled. Leadership team members must not personally or publicly criticize their colleagues. When employees see the pride and admiration leadership team members express to one another, these behaviors can be contagious. 

Members of true leadership teams understand that they are servant leaders, in a position to help several constituencies: employees, customers, shareholders, and the community at large. Leadership team members need to be credible individual leaders and responsible team players. No wonder it can be such a challenge to help leadership team members help themselves! We wish you luck.

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