ASQ - Team and Workplace Excellence Forum

November 1999

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Boeing Flies High

Fostering Creativity: An Early Start

Are We There Yet?

If It Ain't Pretty - I'm Outta Here

Flying Above Mediocrity

Teams At The Top



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Large Ideas Expressed In Small Amounts
by Peter Block


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Teams At The Top
The Driving Forces of Leadership Teams

What’s the most difficult type of team to implement? For many companies it’s upper-level management teams where corporate objectives, egos and turf boundaries often hinder development and performance.

But now a new study has shed light on what it takes for upper-level teams to succeed. A recent study by the Hay Group, Philadelphia, Pa. and Harvard University has identified specific characteristics that appear in effective leadership teams. Leadership teams were defined as being comprised of the executives that lead an entire organization, with the CEO frequently on the team, or those comprised of management teams led by division heads.
The study revealed that the most effective leadership teams displayed the following attributes: clear definition, focused leadership and emotional intelligence.

Clearly Defined Boundaries
The study found that highly productive leadership teams were those with clearly defined tasks, responsibilities and boundaries. Much like a line or staff team, which would have specific tasks for each team member, an effective leadership team consists of members that have direction and interdependent tasks that have been established to produce results.

“We found that outstanding leadership teams are foremost “real” teams; while nearly all poor leadership teams are little more than parallel play groups, with each member doing what he or she has always done despite the team’s efforts,” states Mary Fontaine, of the Hay Group. “Real leadership teams are clear about where they are going and how to get there, and the team directly influences the work each team member does. This has a major impact on the success of the team.”

Solid Leadership
A leadership team also needs great leadership to succeed. This seems trivial, but it can often be difficult to establish since all of the team members are leaders within the organization. According to the study, it takes a special kind of leadership to address a team of leaders. The leader does not necessarily have to be the most charismatic individual but must be capable of linking the team’s purpose to broader organizational goals, mobilizing team members, establishing accountability and creating an organizational atmosphere that ensures the success of the leadership team and all other teams throughout the company.

Emotional Intelligence
Members of successful leadership teams need to display high levels of emotional intelligence—the ability to read and interpret other team members’ concerns and to act accordingly. Team members with superior emotional intelligence often differ from those with high analytical and conceptual intelligence. Achievement, initiative and self-confidence do not usually motivate them. However, when dealing with a team comprised of a company’s leaders (and egos) it is beneficial to have the peace-keeping and interpreting abilities of members with high emotional intelligence.

“Sucking the oxygen out of the room with excessive charisma or an intimidating intellect and self-confidence is often detrimental to team efforts,” Fontaine adds. “Our study confirmed that leaders of outstanding leadership teams are absolutely critical to whether or not the team succeeds. But the truly outstanding leaders were those whose contributions were less visible, who worked behind the scenes to create structures and arrange for organizational support that made it easier for the team to excel.”

Executive Summary
The study summarized that executive teams need the same structure and leadership that all teams in the company need to succeed. The most driving force, however, in dealing with leadership teams were intangible qualities. Team members who could interpret and respond to other team members’ needs and concerns were influential to the success of leadership teams.

November '99 News for a Change | Email Editor
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