Monday, November 26, 2012

Three Steps to a Better Executive Team

By Virgil R. Carter

Many non-profit organizations and their CEOs depend on a staff executive team to help lead the non-profit to be a consistently successful organization.  The day of a “one person” leadership team, in most organizations, is long gone.  Are there ways for the executive team to function better?  According to an article in McKinsey Quarterly, authored by Michiel Knuyt, Judy Malan and Rachel Tuffield, “few teams function as well as they could”.  The authors write that there are three important steps that can be taken for more effective executive teams.  Consider the following:

--Get the right people on the team…and the wrong ones off:  Remember the advice to “get the right people on the bus”?  The matching critical ingredient is to help the “wrong” people find a new and different opportunity that more closely fits their capabilities. CEOs are responsible for selecting the staff executive team.  The authors note that this responsibility “…typically requires conscious attention and courage from the CEO, otherwise, the top team can under deliver for an extended period of time.”  Without the right people, the executive team’s performance will be limited.

--Ensure the team works on only what it can do:  The purpose and focus of the top staff team is critical.  It’s up to the CEO to communicate the purpose and focus of the executive team, and to closely monitor the team’s adherence to the purpose and focus.  Like committees everywhere, left alone the team will look for things to do that seem interesting and that justify the team’s existence. Thus, purpose and focus must be carefully drawn and matched to the unique needs of the nonprofit organization.  Often, projects with critical cross-functional or cross regional programs provide valuable work for the top team.

--Keep team dynamics and processes positive and productive:  CEOs must give “unrelenting attention” to the productive collaboration of the top staff executive team.  It is all too common for executive teams to become dysfunctional over opposing priorities, entrenched thinking, competitive views, and the like.  CEOs must lead their executive teams, setting the example and addressing the dynamics of their team, while dealing with concrete business issues.

With a staff executive team that is willing and able to effectively do its work, a non-profit organization can achieve a major performance improvement.  For the full article, see

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