How to Measure Your Company’s Executive Team?

by Alice Cahill, Lawrence R. McEvoy II and Laura Quinn

When it comes to creating a culture that empowers the entire company, there is no single silver bullet.

But if you could implement just one development initiative, ensuring your executive team is as effective as possible might bring you the biggest return on investment for your dollars.

Executive teams are more than just a group of senior leaders. Individually and collectively, how they function creates the template that other teams throughout the company follow.

Executive teams have three crucial imperatives:

  • Strategic focus. The top team is tasked with establishing a vision, investing time and energy at the strategic level, balancing risk and innovation, anticipating future needs and opportunities and ensuring the future sustainability of the organization.
  • Collective approach. Executive teams don’t just work together; they work to achieve common goals through a common strategy.
  • Team interaction. The executive team sets the culture that all teams in the company will adopt. To be effective, executive teams must value differences among team members and communicate effectively with each other.

Most executive teams leave at least some growth potential on the table. Why? Because most members of the executive team are functionally oriented, meaning they often struggle to act collectively with an enterprise view.

Here are five other symptoms of underperforming senior teams.

  • They fail to communicate and model enterprise awareness.
  • They don’t drive cross-boundary collaboration to eliminate waste and create new value.
  • They don’t use diverse, multidisciplinary perspectives for planning and strategy.
  • They fail to foster “bottom up” insight, awareness and ideas.
  • They don’t examine their differences well — openly, using assertions and questions.

When executive teams underperform, fixing them starts with the most senior executive, the CEO. One of the most important roles for any CEO is to be the chief development officer for the executive team.

Shaping a group of driven, high-performing senior leaders boils down to a handful of key tasks.

Diagnosis: The CEO and executive team members must understand themselves and each other. The CEO must also understand what drives each individual on the executive team and what makes them work as group.

Set the leadership model: Executive team members must understand how to explicitly lead beyond their circles of personal influence.

Establish the mindset: Executive teams have a shared growth mindset. They know they must learn, grow and lead in areas beyond their technical expertise.

Create interaction rules: Executive teams should set explicit expectations about how they’ll behave. That includes being transparent and vulnerable, being comfortable learning in public and coming equipped with strong dialogue skills.

Diffuse the DNA: Finally, executive teams are most effective when their actions are spread quickly throughout the organization. The “how we think” and “how we do things around here” starts with the executive team but becomes a core part of the organization’s cultural DNA.