When is an executive team not an executive team?

Three points for Teamwork.

When giving a survey report to an organization, I learn a lot from the executive team’s decision on sharing sector reports. Option 1 is to provide all the sector reports to the CEO who gives each executive a copy the report for that executive’s domain. Option 2 is to provide all members of the executive team with a copy of all of the sector reports.

The choice of method says a lot about whether the team is a team.

Keeping the sector reports discrete, as in option 1, avoids putting individuals on the spot. This quality is especially valuable when one sector has more problems than the others. It allows the CEO to mentor the individual executive in ways that may encourage a more open discussion of the dynamics underlying those problems.

The overall group dynamic of the executive group becomes a series of spokes with the CEO at the center and the executives on the rim.

Option 2 makes anyone’s problem everyone’s problem. All members of the executive team are aware of the full scope of issues facing the group. When managed well, all members share responsibility for assuring that they address significant issues identified in the survey.

Option 2 fits with the executive team actually being a team. They fully share knowledge and responsibility.

Although not the hub of the wheel, the CEO has a critical role in assuring Option 2 fulfills its potential. A group process poorly managed can turn into a nasty situation. Here are three important points in sharing difficult feedback:

  1. Emphasize Shared Responsibility. Nothing occurs in isolation. Although individual executives have special responsibility for problems in their domains, issues always have organizational implications that go beyond the boundaries of each sector.
  2. Accountability means Good Measures. When initiating action to address a problem, be sure to have a means of assessing its impact. Measuring improvement turns a problem situation into a success. Failing to find improvement signals the need for more work on the strategy.
  3. Tough Conversations Develop Civility. It’s easy to be supportive and polite when all is going well. When teams struggle with tough issues, they add depth to their work together.

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