Monday, April 11, 2011

Creating and Utilizing Effective Senior Management Teams

by Steven H. Davis, CAE, Society of Exploration Geophysicists

Evolving a group of predominantly Type-A personalities into a fully effective team can be a challenging proposition. Through the years, I have garnered my own sense of how that can best be achieved …which I have labeled (for myself) three-part harmony.

Part one is understanding the players. To be sure, the playing field that is the Senior Management Team’s meeting room presents a great opportunity to assess individual team members and group dynamics in general. Then, the chief staff executive needs to proactively act on those assessments.

And when interventions of the mentoring and arbitrational sort prove ineffective, changes in the composition of the Senior Management Team should be considered. The alternative is to sacrifice group synergy and creativity for the sake of maintaining a superior talent who cannot play the team game. That said, my step one in evolving an outstanding Senior Management Team is composing it of the right people.

Part two is putting adequate resources (time and potentially money) into place to grow the group as a team. I have never witnessed a perfect team in action, nor will I ever. Teamwork comes naturally for some, but not for all; this kind of synergy only comes from a constant effort to experience it and replicate it. And, I am convinced, this only happens when the learning process is embraced as an ongoing and forever pursuit.

Carving out time in Senior Management Team meeting agendas to discuss “How Can we be More Effective?” can help. Hiring a consultant to periodically facilitate a team retreat for the purpose of working together and getting everyone on the same strategic page can help. Scheduling team-building programs and activities can help. The key for me has always been to maintain this focus continuously …toward finding new and effective ways in which to strengthen the sense of team. Investing in the team will yield a better team.

Part three is utilizing the Senior Management Team effectively. Meeting weekly for the purpose of getting updates from everyone is certainly helpful, but it is not at all strategic. Using this weekly meeting to get issues and opportunities on the table and explored can be very strategic. And, this level of participating in routine puzzle-solving discussions can be a stimulating and gratifying experience …of the sort that opens creative doors and therefore allows creative needs to be met. This is when teams grow together, and this is when their impact reaches next levels …when they know they can make a greater difference together.

So, my formula for growing a better Senior Management Team is to ensure the right people are on the bus, continually investing in team growth, and utilizing that team effectively.

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