3 steps to building a better team

03/19/2011

by anne lueneburger

We recently came across a client who was facing substantial leadership issues in a recently acquired business.  These leadership issues were reflected in the post-acquisition business performance, and we were briefed that the problem was one of the divisional leadership feeling stretched too thinly and thus lacking motivation.  As it turned out, the key reason the leadership team was “stretched” was that as a result of the integration process they found themselves forced to spend most of their time “managing the matrix”, meaning navigating the complex organization of their multinational parent.  Their motivation suffered as they had to take ownership of a range of tasks that did not play to the strengths they had cultivated.

As it turns out, McKinsey just published an article on a congruous topic, identifying three crucial priorities for constructing and managing effective top teams. Getting these priorities right can help drive better business outcomes in areas ranging from customer satisfaction to worker productivity and many more as well.

1.       Get the right people on the team (and the wrong ones off): Determining the membership of a top team is the CEO’s responsibility— and frequently the most powerful lever to shape a team’s performance.

2.       Make sure the top team does just the work only it can do: Too often, top teams fail to set or enforce priorities and instead try to cover the waterfront. In other cases, they fail to distinguish between topics they must act on collectively and those they should merely monitor. These shortcomings create jam-packed agendas that no top team can manage properly.

3.       Address team dynamics and processes: A final area demanding unrelenting attention from CEOs is effective team dynamics, whose absence is a frequent problem.

Our client had no issues on the first point above, some challenges on the third, and a substantial problem on the second.  Getting it right, in this case, means being mindful of how to integrate the business without compromising the very culture that made it commercially successful in the first place.  On a more granular level, it implies unleashing the leadership team to continue to play to its strength and allow the parent to be a platform that adds muscle rather than a boundary that adds constraints.

Not an easy task, but one that can be solved now that there is alignment on the nature of the challenge ahead!

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