Imagine a football team huddling at the start of the game, shouting out a cheer, and then never interacting again until half time. No audible calls. No handoffs. No blocks because each player is so focused on their piece of the field. Obviously, there would also be few if any points put on the board.
In many ways, a lot of executive teams work this way. They meet to talk about a strategic plan, everyone is assigned a segment of the work, they all nod in agreement, and then they go their separate ways. Each person is responsible for their area or division. They are accountable to develop work plans to ensure their area delivers. But they don’t really talk together about how to make it all happen, they don’t help each other — they’re too focused on their own area.
Their website lists who is on their executive team, but the label is misleading. It’s just a group. Imagine what could be possible if they actually worked as a team!
The ideal setting for this to be addressed is the regular executive team meeting. (If you’re not having these meetings every week or so, that’s a blaring indicator that everyone is expected to get their work done and not bother each other!) But in most of these meetings, each executive reports on their progress in their area. They rarely offer input or help to each other. Why would they insert themselves in an area they don’t completely understand? Worse, why would they give the impression it was okay for others to insert in their area? It’s none of their business!
Typically, only the CEO really listens to each report because the others don’t have the bandwidth to stay on top of what everyone else is doing; they’re tapped out in their own area. Bluntly, it would be more efficient if the reports were done one-on-one with the CEO so everyone else wasn’t wasting their time while they waited for their turn.
That isn’t teamwork. Their website lists who is on their executive team, but the label is misleading. It’s just a group. Imagine what could be possible if they actually worked as a team!
Teamwork is about working together to make a collective objective happen most effectively. The weekly meeting is the setting where busy, competent leaders come together and figure out how to make sure they move the most important tactics toward their strategic objective. They celebrate progress, share challenges, and admit where they need help. They offer input, share experience, and even share budget allocations. They do what they have to do to ensure the company succeeds.
If in their planning time the leaders identified strategic priorities for the business, those collective goals can be monitored. We call them Defining Objectives and we ask executive teams to rate how well each one is progressing weekly. Everyone indicates red, yellow, or green for each Defining Objective. Green means all is according to plan. Yellow says you have questions about progress. Red declares there are concerns. The colour coding prioritizes what to talk about: start with the most red and work downward in urgency until the 90 minutes that you allocated are used up. Review your action steps and get to work! Next week you have another meeting to solve the most pressing tactical problems at that time. No longer is each leader working in a silo to accomplish their departmental goals and inadvertently (or sometimes purposefully) impeding progress elsewhere in the company.
When an executive team meets every week to assess progress toward the immediate, collective company goal, they keep their focus where it belongs. They live out the definition of their team name: they execute. Because execution is the purpose of teamwork.