Kim Jones is director of Bristol based management consultancy, High Growth Knowledge Company. She has many years of experience working with established companies and organisations in a number of industry sectors, from healthcare to retail and higher education, helping directors and business leaders overcome the challenges of managing sustainable growth.
In this post Kim looks at how to build effective leadership teams.
As the primary driver of success it is the role of the senior leadership team in any business to manage their own development, whilst managing the day to day running of the business through lower level management. This balance between strategic collaboration and operational expediency lies at the heart of a process that will ultimately see your business grow or falter when times get tough.
I want to look at how to build effective leadership teams at the top level of the management hierarchy and how important these teams are to steering a high growth business through the tricky waters of rapid growth and shifting organisational structure.
What Makes an Effective Leadership Team?
Creating an effective leadership team requires a degree of humility first and foremost. By this I mean the recognition that no matter how much of yourself you have put into getting the business where it is, there will inevitably come a time when you will need to bring in other people who have skills to bring to the table that you don’t. Recognising talent is therefore an obvious skill in itself, and good team building relies on it, but so too is recognising the characteristics that makes a team work effectively together.
The characteristics of a good senior leadership team can be broken down into four main components:
● Competence in leading change
● Understanding risk management
● Shared vision
● Supportive of innovation
Without one or more of these four elements in place the ability for the company to manage sustained growth can be undermined. Growth necessitates the constant shifting of organisational structure and the development of management hierarchy (many of today’s high growth businesses have adopted less hierarchical ways of organising the business, however I am addressing the general body of businesses within this article). This process of evolution and revolution was something Larry Greiner first mapped out in the 70’s. Today the Greiner Curve has become the predominant model used by management consultants to navigate business growth.
Greiner predicted six distinct crises or ‘pinch points’ that businesses face as they grow; the very first of these being a crisis of leadership. It is from this point onwards that a company takes on the responsibility of establishing the core aspects of a leadership team that is equipped to drive growth and manage change.
These aspects can be broken down into three areas that must be constantly assessed if the team is to be successful. Let’s look at each in turn now.
What is the team for? This might sound like a silly question but it’s one that lies at the beating heart of any organisation. This can include questions surrounding:
● Accountability – Is the senior leadership team accountable to shareholders, stakeholder or just the company itself? Delineating where these boundaries lie over time will form a key aspect of executive strategy, especially if / when the company becomes publicly listed.
● Purpose – What is the ultimate purpose of the company? How will progress towards this purpose be measured?
● Company Strategy – What is the strategy that will see the company achieve its goals? How will the senior leadership team implement this strategy at a strategic and operational level?
Team structure can also be regarded as team design. This is how the leadership team’s core roles and responsibilities cascade downwards through lower level management and how their interdependence reflects the various emerging departments and service line groups. Process is an important part of this aspect and must be clearly mapped out so as to avoid ambiguity, inefficiency and the needless duplication of responsibilities.
Teamwork and Communication
Teams are made up of people and as structured as they may be on paper, team members must be able to work effectively together for the company meet the challenges that lie ahead. Mutual trust and respect are fundamental principles of team building. Sometimes personalities may clash but it’s important this doesn’t affect overall cohesion, without which the unity of the team can be undermined. Developing a robust communication strategy and a culture of openness is fundamental to creating the kind of synergy needed within the senior leadership team itself, as well as enabling members to implement policy throughout the organisation.
There are many reasons why some businesses fail while others go on to achieve great success. From the innovation and appeal behind the company’s core products and services, to the financial decisions the company makes along the way, most success can ultimately be boiled down to good leadership. Building an effective leadership team means recognising what one looks like for your business. Getting it right won’t guarantee success but without one you’re less likely to sustain a growing business..
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Pictured above: Kim Jones of the High Growth Knowledge Company
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