Everyone can name a handful of great leaders but can you name a single great leadership team?  We all know that Alf Ramsey didn’t kick a ball in 1966, that Steve Jobs didn’t design the iPod and that many soldiers fought more battles than Julius Caesar.  Nonetheless, these individuals are heralded as symbols of achievement and success despite the invaluable input of all those they worked with.

The same applies inside organisations.  Each leader is subject to either plaudits or brickbats for the performance of the organisation – despite the fact that we all know that results flow from a much wider range of people, working together (or not !) towards the  goals.

But why does this happen?

We live in an ever more complex world in which we know issues are interrelated and its often unclear what is cause and effect. For example, does good leadership breed positive results or does strong performance create the conditions for leaders to flourish?  In a world this complicated it is necessary to simplify what we experience in order to decide what we can do to make things better.

In the case of organisations, the obvious simplification of good or bad results is to look at the person at the top.  Whether you’re a member of staff, an investment analyst or the person responsible for appointing the CEO, it’s easier to conclude that results are a function of that person’s performance (and to respond accordingly) than it is to look more deeply at the many reasons for what is happening.

Individual leadership is not a bad concept, but it is only a part of the truth

There are many reasons why it’s helpful to understand and develop the qualities in individuals which help them to better perform complex modern leadership roles.

The problem is that the focus on these things has become so strong that it not only hides the deeper issues but also distorts behaviour in destructive ways.  For example:-

  • Changing the leaders when things go wrong, leaving the underlying problems unresolved so that their successor fails over the same obstacles.
  • Creating competition for influence, jobs and resources where collaboration is what is needed to improve results.
  • Creating delusions of power in individuals and blinding us to our limitations.
  • Driving leaders to work ever harder – with terrible consequences for how long leaders can hold leadership positions before their own energy levels or worse, the consequences for their family lives, become overwhelming.

If you are a leader, weighed down by high expectations and poor results, continuing to flap one wing (your individual leadership) ever harder will only drive you round in ever decreasing circles.

The alternative is to complement  this by taking a step back, gathering round you the right people and building them into a genuine leadership team.  The good news is that this is much easier than you might think.

The Six Game Changing Conversations

The glue that holds a winning leadership team together is not some undefined ethereal force that only appears once or twice in a lifetime. It is the product of synchronised minds and attitudes.

You probably have, on the whole, the right team in place to get your company moving – but you may not know how to work together to strike gold. Our research suggests that there are six conversations that need to consistently take place within the executive team in order to deliver results far beyond what team members think possible:-

1. Ambition conversations

What joint ambition would motivate every member of the team to take risks, make genuine personal changes and reach for the extraordinary rather than settling for good enough?

2. Relationship conversations

How will you make the time to build the mutual understanding of strengths, weaknesses and motivators that allow you to draw the very best out of each other – and to create the trusting environment that will permit truly searching and challenging debate?

3. Accountability conversations

How do you ensure that the tough conversations take place, those that are needed to hold each other to the highest standards – both of behaviour and on delivery?

4. Priority conversations

How do you make hard choices and get agreement about the few, key priorities which need to be driven? Not only the priorities for your customers and financial stakeholders but also the things you will focus on for processes and people to deliver those?

5. Delivery conversations

What will you do to overcome silo thinking in order to jointly plan and deliver the cross functional activity needed to drive results?

6. Learning conversations

However well you plan, your customers, markets and people will never respond exactly as you expect.  Your ability to deliver, and to sustain progress, will depend on powerful and insightful conversations to understand what has happened and decide how to respond.

If any of these is missing, the effectiveness of your team will be compromised, results will be harder to achieve and your job as a leader will get ever more difficult.

Over the coming issues we will deal with each of these conversations. Each is different and requires different skills and disciplines. We will explain their role and how you can ensure they happen.

In the meantime, you might like to reflect on which of the Six Conversations are most in need of attention in your team – and how you can breathe new life into them…

If you think you may need more help, more quickly then please make contact by email or phone (0845 519 7871).