Monday, August 19, 2013

A Better Senior Staff Team in Three Steps

By Virgil R. Carter

Many non-profit organizations and their CEOs depend on their top, senior staff team to help organize and lead the daily work of the non-profit so that it may 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 oft-quoted advice to “get the right people on the bus”?  The corresponding critical ingredient is to help the “wrong” people find a new and different opportunity that more closely fits their capabilities and career preferences. CEOs are responsible for selecting the senior 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 senior staff team’s performance will be limited and organizational performance will suffer.
  •      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. For example, projects with critical cross-functional or cross regional programs often provide valuable work for the top senior staff 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 senior staff 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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