A thee-minute summary of research findings as well as reading recommendations.
Let’s start with the article What characterises effective management teams? A research-based approach. In the article we find a model containing 21 factors that pertain to the performance of a management team.
Of these factors, I deem two to be critical. The reason is that my experience as a consultant working with management teams, suggests that if these two factors aren't in place, no amount of effort spent developing the other factors matters. The first factor concerns staffing, and if we look beyond the obvious, that the team needs to consist of roles and competencies supporting the team's purpose, the article also covers personal characteristics.
If you're involved in managerial selection, you're likely aware that the ability to manage complex information, along with the personality trait of conscientiousness is on top of the list of requirements for a manager. The authors clarify that these traits also benefit the management team, and they add the research finding that members of outstanding management teams are far more empathic than members of mediocre or poor teams.
A complementary perspective is given by Stefan Söderfjäll in the book To Team or Not to Team where he writes that a single person displaying low agreeableness can have a significant negative impact on the team as a whole, even if the other members inherently are highly agreeable. Unfortunately, in more than one management team, I’ve seen this statement manifest itself. It has taken just one person lacking in agreeableness to paralyze the entire team, and the costs in terms of reduced productivity and depleted motivation cannot be overstated. For further insights into staffing a management team, consider reading the book Senior Leadership Teams, specifically the chapter Getting the right people on your team – and removing the wrong ones.
Going forward to the second factor, you might already be familiar with it if you happen to follow this blog; I am of course thinking about the team's purpose. The previously mentioned article suggests several relevant purposes, of which I’d like to highlight these two:
Developing, changing, and transforming the organisation
Creating alignment, coordination, and collaboration among organisational units
Almost invariably, the management teams I work with, that rate their productivity as low, have not clarified their purpose. If you are a management team whose meetings take place under unclear conditions, I suggest you initiate a discussion about what the two points above imply for you. Additionally, in Senior Leadership Teams, there's a chapter titled Creating a compelling purpose for your leadership team that might offer inspiration in this regard.
While we are discussing purpose, let me mention that in 2021 I developed a survey measuring the level of collaboration within an organisation, specifically among the divisions led by the members of the management team. I've found that the survey's results kick-start a helpful discussion about the goals and strategies in the organisation and how they are (or should be) connected with the purpose of the management team. An added benefit is that the discussion clarifies the distinction between the role of a manager and that of a management team member. In the teams I assist, this distinction is often ambiguous. Clarifying it not only establishes a common direction but also fosters a sense of resolve.
To conclude this blog post, let me revisit the introduction: Do you agree on the significance of staffing and purpose in relation to developing an effective team?
Bang, H., Midelfart, T. N. (2017). What characterises effective management teams? A research-based approach. Consulting Psychology Journal: Practice and Research, Vol 69, No. 4, 334 – 359. Alternatively, you may delve into the authors' book.
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.