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  • Writer's pictureMichael Soderling

The management team's giant leap

When planning the two-day workshop for the management team, I mentioned to the CEO that we might not achieve everything we would like. 


However, we did, and in this blog post, I'll elaborate on the success factors. Let me begin by stating that this kind of workshop is demanding for any team. It involves processing large amounts of information that often seem ambiguous. Additionally, each individual needs to relate to the team’s history, ongoing dynamics, and personal relationships. This team had ten members. Applying that number to the formula x(x-1)/2, yields 45 relationships between the members. Under the assumption that the quality of a team’s performance in part is a function of trusting relationships, no member can sit back and relax. On the contrary, the requirement for each individual is to be mindful of what it means to stay in role, to build or maintain good relationships with individual colleagues, and contribute to a positive group climate during the workshop. 


In this team, there was a fairly large proportion of new members. They needed to orient themselves given the new context, and existing members needed to relate to the newcomers. There's a potential difficulty in this aspect, namely, managing the paradox of openness and trust. That is, for me to open up to you, I need to trust you. For me to trust you, you need to open up to me. Who will take the first step? 


In addition to building trust and openness, what everyone needed to undergo was the process of transitioning from a group of managers leading individual areas of responsibility to becoming a management team with a common purpose. It's also worth noting that even though the CEO had extensive experience working in the company, he had only been in his current role for a few weeks. 


It's no exaggeration to say that the stakes and expectations were high when I met the team on a freezing but stunningly beautiful winter morning.


Outcome: To start with, the team passed the test of managing and making sense of the large amount of information. I introduced theories about organisations, teams, and management teams, that they absorbed. They processed comprehensive data from two surveys. On top of that, a lot of notions and insights that until this moment had been dispersed among isolated individuals, were made common. This ability to process information enabled wise decisions. Some examples include reviewing the management structure of the company, identifying flaws in the cooperation between departments, and improving the employee value proposition. 


Success factors: When we evaluated the workshop, it was clear to the team that everyone’s commitment and openness had been exemplary. There were many instances where members acted as role models, and here I want to highlight three that took place early in the workshop. The first concerns a member who shared a personal experience that was relevant to the context. As I listened, I thought it took courage to speak up, and I considered whether I should encourage the team to acknowledge the one who opened up. It turned out not to be necessary because several members not only showed appreciation but also commented on the courage and sincerity. This might have been the defining moment of the workshop since the person in sharing the story, cut the Gordian knot regarding openness and trust. He paved the way for the rest of the team.


 At the beginning of the workshop, we agreed to strive for a climate of curiosity, including the concept that the team is responsible for responding to individual members' input. The second example of a role-model was a member who made a statement that the team didn't react to. With a sense of humour rather than with frustration, he then pointed out the silence with which he was met. When a team member expresses that he expects some sort of response, it has a much greater effect than if I, in my consultant role, were to say, "Did you notice that John was left hanging?"


The third example relates to research that shows low-performing teams have a ratio of 95/5 between advocating and exploring, whereas high-performing teams have a ratio of 50/50. The CEO took lead in asking exploratory questions, which served as a good vaccine against the risk all teams face which is getting stuck in "yes, but" communications. In this regard, too, it has a much greater effect when the CEO leads the way compared to when a consultant emphasizes the importance of exploration.


As I sum up my experience of the workshop, I think this management team is in a process where they cherish all that is valuable from the company’s history and corporate culture and create even better conditions for their organisation, managers, and employees. All pieces of the puzzle are in place, not least a dedicated group of ten agreeable and competent individuals who has taken a giant leap toward becoming a team.


Is there anything in this account that you feel is applicable to your 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.


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