Management Teams: Low-Hanging Fruit
Updated: Oct 16
Only 21 percent of managers believe their organisations have the competence to design cross-functional teams.
This research finding can be found in the article Team Development Interventions: Evidence-Based Approaches for Improving Teamwork. Since most management teams consist of diverse functions, I’d like to discuss what the article says about four approaches that can be implemented individually or in combination. My experience is that even though these approaches are qualitatively different, they are interconnected. Addressing one of them affects the others. Let's see if you agree.
Setting challenging and specific goals. Setting goals has an impact in itself, but before tackling goals, there should be a broader discussion about the purpose of the management team and for which stakeholders it exists. Based on my experience, a thorough discussion is often needed before members have fully explored and agreed on these two seemingly obvious questions. Furthermore, a management team should have an energising vision for their organisation. An example from a recent assignment of mine is “An organisation where people have the conditions to carry out their jobs.” Defining a mutual purpose and stakeholders and creating a vision obviously enable goal setting. For example, the vision I mentioned immediately begs the question what the management team members want to do about the white spaces between the silos in the organisation: In every organisation I ever have encountered, there has always been issues that everyone is affected by, and at the same time, no one feels responsible for them.
Developing relationships within the team. Creating strong relationships is helped by negotiating and implementing norms. Communication training helps members establish an atmosphere of exploration and curiosity. When that atmosphere exists, the positive spiral of openness and trust starts. That is, for you to open up to me, you first need to trust me. For you to trust me, you first need to see that I'm opening up to you. Someone must take the first step.
Clarifying roles. I recall assignments I've carried out in organisations going through change, where new roles are created. On paper the new roles make sense, but in practice they are unclear which generates uncertainty. People ask themselves what they are responsible for and what decisions they can take, as well as who reports to whom. One organisation in particular comes to mind: They had well-defined and functional processes for collaboration within teams, but they had forgotten the tiny detail of defining processes between teams. Frustration, stress, and dissatisfaction ensued.
Problem-solving. A phenomenon that I all too often see in management teams is that they skip the part where they define what the problem really is, instead they immediately dive into problem-solving. If you have hired me for management team development, chances are you have heard me repeatedly ask "What problem are you trying to solve?" and "What exactly are you discussing now?" The latter addresses the tendency for the topic to subtly change with each new speaker. Being mindful of the topic and avoiding digressions is one of many ways to enhance problem-solving capabilities in teams.
Do you agree that if you address one of these areas, it affects the others? Another way to think about it is that wherever you start, the journey will take you to the other issues. If you by any chance feel overwhelmed by that notion, feel free to apply this tool. It will show you where your low-hanging fruit is to be found.
Lacerenza, C. N., Marlow, S. L., Tannenbaum, S. I., & Salas, E. (2018). Team development interventions: Evidence-based approaches for improving teamwork. American Psychologist, 73(4), 517-531.
If you would like to know more about how you can improve effectiveness and productivity in your management team, I suggest you check out my free guide: How to create a successful management team.
The clients who reach out to me are managing directors, management teams, and executives who want to realise the potential in their organisations and accomplish extraordinary results. They reach out to me because of my ability to transform individuals, teams, and organisations.