Picture this, you are the new President and CEO of an organization now 9 months on the job. You are bringing together your senior leadership team (CFO, CIO, VP of Human Resources, VP of Products, etc.) to get refocused. The newest member of your team came on board just 5 months ago, other members have been at the organization for years. While things are going along pretty well you’re not convinced that the team is as aligned as it could, or should be.
To make your situation more interesting, you were the interim CEO for 10 months before taking on the permanent position. Now you are not 100% sure the senior leadership team has fully made the shift in viewing you, as THE CEO and President; the boss and not a peer. Plus, it’s clear to you that your vision for organization and the reasons you were hired are not as well understood as you need them to be. The final complicating element is the previous CEO departed under a fog of ethics concerns.
You’ve anticipated that with any transition in leadership some there will be some disruption and that an adjustment period is normal – especially so in this situation. And because of your situation you know things could easily run amuck. You don’t want that to happen. You want year two of your leadership to be as smooth and productive as possible.
So what do you do?
Get Everyone on the Team on the Same Page
Naturally you want to get everyone on the same page; easier said than done, even when things are going pretty darn well.
This was the very situation facing a client of mine, which happened to be a national education sector non-profit. Their situation and what they did, applies to all types of organizations across fields.
How to Get Everyone on the Team on the Same Page
(The 7 Questions to Answer)
Here’s what we did.
We brought the leadership team, from CEO to VP of Products and even the indispensable Senior Executive Assistant, together for a two-day retreat. Yes, it is hard to carve out two days when everyone has 970 must-dos each day. The cost of haziness of about where the organization is heading, what it will take to get there, and the expectations for the people leading the organization, is much costlier than 2 days out of the office.
We did not waste time with lots of touchy-feely team building exercises. We got to work answering 7 questions.
- What’s the vision?
- What needs to get done, and what’s is your role in getting it done?
- What do you need from each other for this to be a success?
- What are the risks here and what can/will you do about them?
- Where are the early wins to be found?
- How will you keep the lines of communication going?
- How do you keep the momentum going?
What Makes It Worth It Worth Trying to Get Everyone on the Same Page
In this case what got done during the two days.
The CEO underscored her expectations for the leadership team members and the role each plays based on the goal for the upcoming 6 months. Eventually they will be able to read her mind, however this gave them a jump start. We stayed out of the weeds because the CEO and I figured this out beforehand and she had skillful conversations with her team members ahead of time.
The team sketched out a key projects action plan to focus on for 6 months based on the goal, so that their time, resources and mental energy were well spent. And they assessed the gap between the talents needed within the organization and the talents they had so they could plan to fill those gaps in the short and long term. Again the CEO and I addressed the basics of this beforehand to make the most of the retreat.
A plan for how, what and when to best communicate with each other about the key projects was agreed upon. Now they keep each other accountable weekly and are far less likely to get distracted by day to day issues.
A key to the two days was the group being very clear about what they needed from each other in order for the team and organization to be successful. Each person shared the most important requests or expectations they had of the other team members. Out loud. And then one by one, each team member responded in one of three ways. They had to say, “Yes, I accept.”, “No I decline.”, or “I can't do this but I will do that.” The result, everyone from the CEO to the Senior Executive Assistant got important feedback about how to succeed in their role, as part of the team. The foundation for, open communication and a greater level of trust across the senior leadership team was laid.
Doing the upfront work to lay out expectations, key in on a goal, and think through what needs to be done sets up a team to collaborate and be successful.
Deirdre Danahar is an executive coach and organizational consultant helping high performing people and teams be forward-thinking, enhance performance and improve their bottom line by making themselves and their communities better. Contact her at email@example.com.