Building your Company's Leadership Team
Creating a leadership team for your company is essential, and by my measures, one of the most strategic things you will do as a CEO or COO in the early stages of your company. If this has not already been done at your company, it’s time to take immediate action and put one together.
In this article we will cover these topics:
Why growth companies must have a leadership team
Attributes you should look for in selecting team members
The composition of your team
Activities of the team
If your company is growing, then things are changing. People, processes, systems, resources, and even your culture is being modified every week. Decisions are being made at an increasing volume on these things, and you need to establish the methodology upon which these decisions will be made. You can decide that you want to be the boss and make all the decisions yourself or, you can decide to be a leader, and establish a methodology for a leadership team to make the necessary decisions to accommodate growth and profitability. I like Shanna B. Van Ness’s strategy of using the three C’s: collaborate, cooperate, and coordinate as a strategy for both building and leveraging your leadership team. Instead of dictate, you actively collaborate with your team and support their decisions. Cooperation is achieved by taking the “I” out of your style and replacing it with “We”, a path to greater success. Once your mission is communicated, you coordinate the ideas and energy to achieve your goals and ensure actions are executed completely and correctly. Eventually, when your company is ready, a good leadership team will help you make the important transformation to a servant-leadership management philosophy, which will unleash your potential and bring much greater profitability to your shareholders.
What are the attributes of candidates to invite to your leadership team? First, remember that this is your team and has to be comprised of people you feel good about using the three C’s. You want this team to handle tough topics, arrive at decisions, and most of all, have courage to share their opinion without feeling the pressures of political correctness. Members should not be mediocre performers. They should be thought leaders, and have demonstrated this with contributions to blogs, newsletter articles or public speaking. I like members who I think are independent thinkers, and not likely to tell me what they think I want to hear. Finally, they must all be people whom you trust. In Patrick Lencioni’s “The Four Obsessions Of An Extraordinary Executive”, he writes: “The essence of a cohesive leadership team is trust, which is marked by an absence of politics, unnecessary anxiety, and wasted energy”.
In putting your team together, you should have the major departments and disciplines of your business represented to ensure a diverse set of leadership strengths among your membership. In “Strengths Based Leadership” by Tom Rath and Barry Conchie, they identify four “strength domains” that each need to be part of your team composition. Each team member should have one or more of the following strengths: Executing; Influencing; Relationship Building; Strategic Thinking. The premise is easy to accept: individuals don’t have to be well rounded, but teams should be. The problems they will address will sometimes need each of these leadership traits to analyze and resolve, helping your plans and solutions to be more balanced for your entire organization.
Getting the most out of your leadership team should be one of your primary objectives. Careful thought must be given to optimizing the time you will spend together in meetings. Not only are meetings expensive, but non-productive time by the membership will chip away at their potential, and eventually result in a dysfunctional team. My experience with leadership teams spans over 15 years. My preference is to have weekly meetings, each with a specific agenda. I created four different agendas, and we would cycle between agendas each week. Members came to each meeting prepared to share on the topic for that meeting. When there were 5 potential meeting dates in a particular month, we didn’t have one and everybody got a pass. It may have felt like a snow day but people used the free time productively!
Having a powerful and effective leadership leadership team is a privilege and the meetings are the best part of a leader’s job. Building the team takes work, but it is truly the most important task of the organization’s leader for success with your growth and profitability..