10 Traits of a Great Executive Team

The success, or the failure, of an executive team can be felt throughout the organization. Strong teamwork and communication at the top, trickles down through all levels of management, to front-line employees. However, when something is off above, even if kept locked in an ivory tower, it can be felt throughout the organization. This uneasy feeling can result in nervous managers who are confused about the expectations of their teams, disengaged employees who feel cut off from upper management, or dysfunctional leaders who cannot agree on the organization’s direction.

Luckily, with a high performing team, these issues can be avoided.

As you read the following 10 signs of a stellar executive team, reflect on what you are doing correctly and what traits you can incorporate into your leadership to improve.

Accountability: There needs to be accountability in two different ways. Each individual in the company, executive or employee, needs to be held accountable for delivering the goods on time and within budget. No excuses. There also needs to be a formal or an informal leader who’s responsible for holding the executive team accountable. This could be the CEO or another leader who verifies that the team is meeting agreed upon goals.

Clear mission and positive vision: This leader needs to ensure that he/she routinely articulates a clear, positive vision of what the team will accomplish, not only in results, but also how executives will function as a team.

Clear goals: Once the mission and vision have been clearly articulated, each executive needs clear goals with measurements for success and the time frame for when the results will be achieved. Each executive needs to know how their work contributes to the overall success of their team and the organization as a whole.

Clarify roles and responsibilities: The big question is, “Who is responsible?” The right response is, “Everyone on the team is responsible.” But, on every team there are questions and conflicts concerning who has the responsibility for the end result. Almost always, for each executive to be successful, they need help and support from other executives. When people work well together as a team, very seldom is there a question of responsibility. When teamwork is lacking, the CEO or team’s leader needs to get involved and figure out who owns the outcome and what support that executive will need to achieve the desired result.

Pick the right people: When baseball players step up to the plate, they’re considered great players if they get a hit in one out of three balls. That’s similar to hiring. If you hire the right person on the first pick over 50 percent of the time, you have a great batting average. Ultimately, you need to hire someone with great technical skills and great people skills. The minute you start justifying someone’s inadequacies in either of these areas, you’re compromising the success of the team. If you’ve realized that you’ve made the wrong hire, quickly admit your mistake and share the person with your competitor.

Deal with problems or conflicts quickly: Be vigilant, agile and tenacious when problems or conflicts emerge. How long does it take the leader or the executives to identify and effectively solve problems? Most executives are good at identifying problems. What will separate a great team from an average team is how quickly you resolve problems and conflicts, especially between executives.

Maintain primary loyalty: In his bestselling book, The Five Dysfunctions of a Team, Patrick Lencioni highlights this concept. When an executive team agrees to accomplish something, every member of the team commits to accomplishing the goal. Almost always, each executive will meet some resistance from their own department. However, the minute the executive makes a decision to support their individual department’s concerns over the goals of the organization, they have lost primary loyalty and have decided that secondary loyalty (to their own team) is more important. When this happens, the success of the organization and the executive team will almost always be compromised.

Honest communication: This almost sounds trite. Of course executives need to communicate honestly! But, in reality, poor communication is what undermines the success of most teams. When it comes to communication, practice the concept of no surprises. If you communicate in a way that prevents others from being negatively surprised, you will find it is easier to build team trust.

Accomplish goals: Ultimately, what will define success for you individually and for your team is accomplishing your goals. You will be seen by your clients, employees, and even your competitors as a winner. This is what separates a winning team from a mediocre team.

Have fun: Life is short. When you love what you do, and your team is successful, you don’t actually have a job, you have a vocation that you are paid to do. Celebrate your successes, even the small ones.

Creating and sustaining a high performing team is not easy and requires continual evaluation—What’s working? What’s not going well? What do we need to do to fix the problems that have been identified? But the payoff is fantastic. There’s no greater feeling than knowing that your organization is lead by a stellar, high performing executive team.

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