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Is Your Top Team A Top Team?
Back To School!
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Twitter Highlights
I send 15-20 tweets per week with links to useful links and research. Here are a few of my latest, including links:

 If you want to change the world ... Life and Leadership Lessons From Navy SEAL Training 


10 culture clues that you should walk away from these job openings: 


Why and how transparency and open book management will boost your bottom line


Add women, and other tools for improving your team's collective intelligence


Cummins take on stewardship, community citizenship and closing the skills gap


CEO Virginia Rometty on stewardship and change management at IBM


Integrity of capital markets relies on professional conduct - in Hong Kong and elsewhere


Communicate like Aristotle; 'great tips: 3 Building Blocks of Effective Persuasion  


Good growth and The Trust Agenda - some encouraging signs


What do Van Halen and King Solomon have in common? "Traponomics" - how to detect liars


Walmart - still reverse role-modeling transparency, accountability and fairness 


When It Comes To Work, Can You Care Too Much?


Excellent article reinforcing the importance of purpose-driven leadership - 3 Dimensions of Purpose via @SBleaders   


Excellent post on how to Pivot Faster With Greater Company Transparency  


12 of the best graduation speeches of all time


Why some MBAs are reading Kant; blurring lines between business education and philosophy can be a good thing.


"I know more about my ignorance than you know about yours." (Richard Saul Wurman, TED Conferences founder - and smart guy)  


 "An expert is someone who has stopped thinking because he knows." (Frank Lloyd Wright)


Finding your True Mission in 7 steps 


Inside The Executive Brain - many more leadership articles  in Monday's (4/28) WSJ




If you missed it, below is a copy of my last blog: Is Your Top Team A Top Team? The introduction to April's article, Back To School, follows; you can access the entire article by clicking the link at the end.  Be sure to enter the "Who Said This?" contest at the bottom of this newsletter to win an autographed copy of Navigating Integrity - Transforming Business As Usual Into Business At Its Best.
Is Your Top Team A Top Team?

Likely nowhere in an organization is teamwork more important than at the top. Executive leadership teams can be a potent force charting a sustainable competitive course, communicating direction, crafting winning cultures, and aligning their organizations around strategic priorities. Yet too few executive teams operate at the top of their game; here are some guidelines for how they can:

  • Do top team members own a common purpose that contributes distinct value?

Each member of an executive team already plays a significant leadership role heading a business unit or function with its own distinct purpose and set of goals. Executive team members share a vital collective responsibility, however, that goes beyond their individual functional leadership roles. It is worthwhile for executive teams to articulate their distinct shared purpose  and the collective value they contribute that no other entity can. Here is how one executive team client defined its unique value-added role:

"Leverage our collective perspectives and resources to serve (name of organization) by anticipating challenges and opportunities, crafting strategic direction and speaking with one voice to engage internal and external stakeholders."


As with most efforts to define collective purpose, the process is almost more important than the product; it answers the all-important "why are we here?" question and serves as an important team development experience in its own right.

  • What goals are executive team members mutually accountable for? Along with a common purpose or mission, mutual goals are the foundation for any team, including executive teams; no goals, no team. For a group of senior executives to function as a true team, there must be shared goals that require collaboration and collective contributions. Too often as one experienced senior leader shared, a crisis becomes the executive team's only shared goal.

Common goals can be a challenge for senior teams, composed of strong leaders who all have their own challenging functional unit goals. In some cases those sets of goals can conflict; challenging individual goals combined with rich incentives to achieve them they can take precedence over collaborating on mutual goals.


Common c-suite goals often reflect the most important dimensions and operations of an organization that do not fall neatly into any particular function. Beyond traditional measures like revenue growth, profitability and share price for publicly held corporations, examples include health of the organization's culture, customer service, ethics and reputation. Of course to compete fairly for executive teams members' attention alongside their individual functional objectives, compensation and bonuses need to be aligned with shared goals.

  • Have executive team members articulated mutual expectations or norms for working together, and do they hold each other accountable for those? Any team's members can have different styles and expectations for working together; that is especially the case when teams are composed of members from different organizations and cultures. Conversation early in the game and periodic check-ins about meeting formats, communication preferences, "rules of the road" and other mutual expectations saves time later and lays a foundation for greater trust.

Ideally mutual expectations include authentic communication and speaking with one voice. Authentic communication assures the kind of respectful disagreement and dialog required for making the best decisions. When that has been the case, executive team members need to hold themselves accountable for speaking with one voice about decisions and direction. One of the biggest detractors from healthy cultures and execution is lack of unified communication; examples include publicly second-guessing executive team decisions that have already been made or unintentional misrepresentation of decisions or direction.


Decision-making protocols are also important to clarify. When and how will voting or consensus be used? If one person decides in the end, will there be circumstances when that isn't the executive team leader or CEO? Which decisions are an executive team's or its leader's call, and which are a board's?


When top teams need a "tune up," here are some suggestions:

  • Basic navigation principles apply: before knowing where to go, senior teams need to know where they are. In that regard, I conduct interviews with all senior team members before team development engagements; I summarize responses anonymously to reflect perceived team strengths, limitations, opportunities and dynamics. I usually supplement that with a commercial senior team survey or one that I design.
  • There may not be an "I" in team, but there is a "me." Senior teams are composed of individuals; if we want strong teams we need to invest in development of team members, especially its leader. A 2008 Hay study of executive teams revealed that an executive team leader's leadership style accounts for 70% of the team's climate; further, that climate accounts for 30% of the variance in executive team contributions. Senior team development is best accompanied or preceded by team member coaching, including survey-feedback.
  • The best senior team development is in the context of their real work, including strategic planning, critical decisions to make, conflicts about direction or dysfunctions to address. Senior teams are often more inclined to invest in team development with the prospect of simultaneously achieving other critical tasks.
  • My senior team work always ends with commitments - collective and individual commitments about what will be done, how team members will work together and individual roles. Commitments are shared, and agreements made about measuring progress and how team members will be mutually accountable for following through. A time should be set for a formal facilitated review by the team of progress on goals and commitments.


The health and effectiveness of top teams are too important to leave to chance; I hope that these are useful guidelines for assuring that your top team is at the top of its game.   






"Yet with a culture of individual accountability and self-reliance pervading executive suites, few senior executive groups ever function as real teams."

                     Jon R. Katzenbach, Teams at the Top


"You may have the greatest bunch of individual stars in the world, but if they don't play together, the club won't be worth a dime."

                             Babe Ruth



Back To School!

After a few decades, Bowling Green State University recently readmitted me for completion of my master's degree in Organization Development; the degree will be official this August. (No excuses, but somehow I never got around to finishing my thesis long ago after two job changes, a divorce, re-marriage, kids and a few moves.) Returning to grad school after many years in the profession has been a rewarding experience, offering more learning opportunities than reflected in BGSU's course catalog; let me share a few:

  • Step into the unknown. Whatever the experience, if we haven't done it before or it's a little unnerving, give it a go. Visiting a foreign country, learning a new language, trying a new sport or merely altering our routines stretches our minds and capabilities. The mere act of stretching our minds and capabilities with one endeavor increases our ability to do so with others.
  • Stay fresh. It's easier, especially at a certain stage in one's career, to rely on what we've learned to that point and what's worked for us before. When asked for parting words of advice, one of our guest speakers at the last residency, a senior internal OD practitioner, said: "Don't count on what worked last time working next time;" how true.
Win A Free Book! NI book cover png 052311  

Enter the "WHO SAID THIS?" contest on our blog to win a free  autographed copy of
"In this new book, Al Watts does a masterful job articulating how to live with integrity in your organization, on your team and in your life. A highly practical guide for leveraging the power of integrity."
(Kevin Cashman, Senior Partner Korn Ferrry).


Contact inTEgro to explore how we can be of service for strategic planning, senior team and board development or facilitating critical meetings. Click "Services" on our home page to learn more, including inTEgro's array of professional organization, team and leader surveys.

All the best,

Al Watts
inTEgro, Inc.
ph: (612) 827-2363

Al Watts
inTEgro, Inc