Is it possible for people at the senior leadership level of your organization to work as a cohesive team? After all, you are probably dealing with a group of very independently minded-individuals who are self-confident (maybe even egotistical) at this point in their careers. In addition, you are likely looking at a group of people who are hyper-competitive, hard driving, and unlikely to seek out help from others. These individuals have probably been compensated and rewarded for results within their individual business units. They are very focused on “righting their own ships” rather than worrying about other parts of the business. Finally, these individuals may even be in pitched battle for the final career move into the CEO’s or COO’s office. So an equally important question is this: is working as a team important or does some degree of collaboration add value at the top of the organization?

The answer to question one is a resounding yes, but it is a daunting task. We find many senior leaders have a rather large gap in their “team IQ.” Many have forgotten, or never learned, about the power that can be achieved from building a consensus and combining the wisdom and insights of a group of smart people. Many senior leaders have developed enormous blind spots and are unaware of their teaming deficiencies. Some senior leaders are so smart in their own right that they have the “curse of the brilliant”… in other words, they suffer from the delusion that no one else could possibly have anything of value to add to their perspective on business problems.

As for the second question, we find that many leaders of independent business units are often not interested in other units and don’t believe senior leaders need to find a way to coordinate better. Although many of them share resources like HR, talent management, IT, legal, and financial services they do not realize that if they shared a common vision and strategy they would function more effectively. Furthermore, senior leaders share a pool of scarce capital resources, they can either work together to maximize their resources or they can choose to compete and fight for them. Senior leaders provide a powerful role model for younger leaders who aspire to lead and manage, like their role models at the top of the organization. Younger leaders are going to act like their role model at the top of an organization. Additionally, senior business-unit leaders often share a common customer base that could be leveraged more effectively if the senior management team knew how to “play together.” Finally, the senior group has to collaborate and reach consensus in order to map out the future strategies and direction of the overall business. In short, when you are at the top of an organization you have a potentially valuable “think tank” of people with a lot of intellectual capital that can be directed toward a myriad of collective or individual business issues. The reasons for senior leaders to collaborate are both compelling and overwhelming.

Senior leadership team building retreats designed to take on these questions can help senior leaders discover the skills, tools, and values that can be developed closer alliances. Senior leadership team retreats should be customized to meet the unique needs of each senior group.

Senior leadership team building needs to include a number of critical components:

  • Interactive simulations and tasks that help senior leaders discover their natural strengths and weaknesses
  • Discussions and presentations about key senior team leadership principles, skills, and concepts essential to senior team leadership
  • Exercises that demonstrate the value of collaboration and coordination and allow senior leaders to practice vital skills
  • Opportunities to work on real issues like strategy, resources utilization, organization culture, and other current issues
  • Opportunities to develop interpersonal relationships, behavioral expectations, and a guiding team charter
  • Action planning to transfer learning, agreements, and changes back to the workplace

Senior leadership team retreats are intense working sessions that usually occur at designated offsite locations where senior managers cannot be distracted by tactical problems and distractions. Does your senior management team work together or is there dysfunctional at the top?

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About the Author
Steven Stowell, Ph.D.
Dr. Steven J. Stowell is the Founder and President of the Center for Management and Organization Effectiveness, Inc. CMOE was created in 1978 for the purpose of helping individuals and teams maximize their effectiveness and create strategic competitiveness. Steve’s special interests lie in helping leaders and organizations transform into high-performance cultures that are focused on long-term, sustained growth.

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