Uniting a Leadership Team Into ONE
Leadership teams are the most fragmented teams that exists, despite the fact they are the teams that organizations consistently invest the most money in. There is a plethora of reasons —from the hierarchical level to function to location to tenure—why leaders might avoid fully committing to the leadership team and its members. Uniting a leadership team into ONE is essential!
The most common barrier, however, is that leaders are not on the same page regarding the greater objective of their company. If they do not understand the greater objective, or do not feel it is beneficial to their hinterland, they move their employees in different directions according to their own preferences.
And if they move in different directions, they send mixed signals to employees, which gets confused about the strategic direction. Often this happens unintentionally, as the leaders believe they are working for their employees’ best interest, when they filter out other organizational priorities.
The Objective – Unite The Leadership to Work as ONE
A leadership team with 100+ leaders faced similar challenges. They needed to work as ONE team despite the challenges of operating from 20+ locations. The top executive sensed from the signals she got from employees that this was not at all the case, but she lacked data to support her gut feeling.
The top executive came to Innovisor with a desire for an evidence-based and tailored action plan to improve connectivity together with the leaders in her team. Within a very short period Innovisor came back with a baseline analysis and a tailored action plan built together with the project team.
Hierarchy Was The Roadblock to Working as ONE
The baseline analysis revealed that the leadership team overall had a surprisingly good level of connectivity. It was on par with the Innovisor Benchmark© for leadership teams.
However, the devil is in the detail. A deep dive in the collaboration across hierarchies uncovered a roadblock to working as ONE. Top-level managers were disconnected from lower-level management.
Only 5% of low-level management leaders had collaborative relationships with top management. The remaining 95% of low-level management leaders were without connection to the top. A deeper look into low-level management’s connectivity showed that they were not even collaborating with each other, but only with their own leader (and probably their employees – though this was out-of-scope for the analysis).
Instead, mid-level management was the glue between the layers in the leadership team.
But it was not that they did not want to collaborate. A number of leadership pairs – consisting of 1 top leader and 1 low-level leader – were identified were both saw a benefit in collaborating closer with each other. In fact, 36 pairs in total.
Similar pairs were identified between middle management and lower-level management and between middle management and top-level management. 40% of these pairs were not collaborating today, even though both saw a benefit in it.
Targeted Actions to Unite The Leadership Team into ONE
The top executive was on the right track, when she sensed the need for making the leadership team work as ONE. And she had the evidence to prove her gut feelings. Why it was so important to unite the leadership team, as well as the knowledge of who to engage in it.
She immediately made ‘ONE leadership team’ her number one strategic priority and communicated this to the organization. To get further tailwind she focused on the quick wins as her first priority.
- Bridge the top management/lower-level management divide through 36 x 1:1’s
- Create a ‘ONE’ movement through targeted 1:1’s to improve overall connectivity across layers in the leadership team
Ahead of each 1:1, which was recommended as walk-and-talks if physical or otherwise phone calls, the pairs were told that they both had identified the value in collaboration with each other. This increased transparency around why they were connected.
All 1:1’s were also requested to report back what their synergies were, and what their mutually agreed plan for realizing them was. This practical task helped the pairs deliver value to each other and to top management with a concentrated effort.
Key Take-Aways on Uniting Leadership Teams
This case illustrates that leadership development should not focus on the process to expand the capacity of the individual leaders. Leadership development must focus on the group of leaders, so they can unite as role models for the rest of the organization.