How Aligned Is Your Executive Team?

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There are many key attributes of successful companies. The senior leadership team has identified the corporate vision, mission and values that guide the company. They’ve created a culture which promotes the actions necessary so each member of the company can internalize these values.  They also articulated the corporate strategy and incorporated in each person’s strategic job description what it is that he /she must do to contribute to the accomplishment of the overall strategy. Using tools, such as Execute to Win, it’s possible to assess the extent to which each division, department, team and individual is aligned with the culture and strategy, and identify what steps are needed to improve.*

In helping companies identify and promote purpose-focused, growth-oriented cultures strategies and talent development programs, the assumption is that the senior leadership team is aligned. However, that’s not always the case; indeed every time you hear someone talk about “silos†in their company and disconnects between activities of one division/department versus another, it’s because members of the Executive Team are not aligned with each other and agreed-upon direction of the company.

Several years ago, Vistage International, the leading CEO organization (with 17,000 members) which creates leader MasterMind groups of non-competitive leaders, heard from several members that they needed help in raising the leadership skills and alignment of their Executive Teams. Without an aligned senior executive team, growth can crawl, stall or worse.

To address this issue, Vistage Inside was created. It applies Vistage’s 4-part service platform to help the Executive Team, rather than 12 -16 non-competitive CEOs. It creates a transformational learning environment: MasterMind meeting by the executives; coaching/mentoring by experienced former CEOs: insights and best practices shared by 1000 subject matter experts;  and the experiences and fresh perspectives of the 17,000 members who are connected by an extranet, MyVistage. (For more information, see the links below.**)

How aligned is your executive team?  Alignment describes your relationship to decisions when you own decisions completely.  Miles Kierson, in The Transformational Power of Executive Team Alignment, notes that typical teams are closer to committees than true teams. They may meet weekly, but spend most of the time not talking about common issues but reporting on their department’s progress. While they recognize that as a group they will be more powerful, their individual/divisional agendas dominate their thoughts and behaviors.

Alignment also is the commitment to make the group decision work. Members may say one thing at the meeting but have a different thing in their minds. For instance, they may nod their heads in agreement with the CEO, but inside they are shaking their heads often saying “No wayâ€. How often have you heard members of the Executive Team leave a meeting commenting that the conversations didn’t get them anywhere and wasted a lot of time?

Executive team alignment requires that a commitment be made by each member prior to the meeting to support whatever decision is reached.  This has the dual effect of encouraging everyone to argue his/her point at the meeting – to get the best possible decision – and then supporting the decision once made in order to model company teamwork/alignment. Think of the difference it would make if every member of the team was committed to your success versus simply hoping that you were going to be successful. Think of what it means to the CEO: knowing team members are truly committed, means he/she can hold everyone to their word!

Here are ten benefits of Executive Team alignment:

  1. Everyone on the team pulls in the same direction
  2. There is a basis for sustaining momentum
  3. there is an element of certainty about successful implementation
  4. There is a shift from an executive group to an executive team
  5. There is clarity around decision-making
  6. Decisions and implementation are made with greater speed
  7. If a better decision could have been reached, you know this much sooner. (This is because clarity and consistency in implementation and execution make it easy for everyone to see if it’s working or not.)
  8. Executives express themselves and contribute more
  9. the executive aligned team is an example for the rest of the organization
  10. Being an aligned executive team creates the foundation for the company success by encouraging other teams to also align themselves.

How aligned is your Executive Team?  At what cost to you and your company are you tolerating less than complete alignment. What are you doing to improve it? Share your thoughts with us.