Three ways highly intelligent C-Suite teams work and one way they fail all the time

Having an executive team of highly intelligent, self-motivated managers isn’t enough to guarantee your company’s success. While they might be great at their individual function, at most high growth companies you would find that the C-Suite also effectively collaborates to deliver complex, inter-connected projects. How do these teams manage it?

Organisational excellence is still rooted in the bedrock of people, process and systems. With the rapid rise in popularity of collaboration tech, I see companies are relying too much on systems and processes to sort out their problems without also focusing on the people.

Given the same set of tech and processes, why is it that some C-Suites manage to work cohesively without ego battles and information hoarding? What are the traits of these teams which distinguish them from other teams high-performance individuals who just can’t move fast enough to deliver results?

This post won’t teach you how to build more effective teams. But it might help you to better understand your own team and decide if you need to change it up.

The analysis-paralysis team

Effectiveness score: 0 / 5

Let’s start with the least effective and the one type of team to completely avoid!

The analysis-paralysis team hardly gets any stuff done but their days are full of executive meetings. Usually the leader of this group sees himself as a peer amongst equals and is more interested in discussions than action.

Everyone wholeheartedly participates but dig deeper and you see that few have genuine original opinions. Mostly they echo the leader’s opinion of the day. These guys are slightly better than yes men and always debating the next move. They pivot according to the leader’s mood.

Learning: Being cooperative is not the same as being collaborative. If you spend a majority of your time in meetings without any significant progress in execution then it’s time you seek help!

The rebellious team

Effectiveness score: 1 / 5

The leader here is usually challenged by one or two strong voices and this group is mostly fighting. Every decision or option is countered by opinionated arguments which are rarely backed by research and data. The rest of the group watches and lightly participates. Meetings are a dreaded affair!

It’s hard to get stuff done in this environment. An even more ineffective variation of this group is one where the leader is weaker than his combative managers or uses this strategy to let others make the decisions for him. ‘Loudest voice wins’ isn’t an effective long term strategy.

This group is more concerned with winning arguments and defending individual egos. They move slowly and their effectiveness is unpredictable and is usually down to chance.

Learning: This team can also meander down a poisonous path where managers start actively sabotaging each other. This usually happens because conflict resolution becomes a zero sum game where for one manager to win another must lose. Winning arguments is perceived as the only way to rise because success isn’t measured with metrics.

The dictatorial team

Effectiveness score: 3 / 5

When done effectively, it’s the army chain-of-command style of operations. This works when the leader is much more experienced or knowledgeable than his team. This style of management is most suitable down the ladder where the focus is on superior execution.

With C-Suites this style works when most of the team is young and are first-time managers. The leader usually has one or two confidants with whom he discusses decisions and the others are given execution orders and left to work out details. The young managers trust the leader to guide the ship.

If the leader has collected managers who are more experienced or knowledgeable than himself then they expect their opinions and suggestions to count. The dictatorial team goes bad if usually the leader here wants opinions but seldom listens. In this scenario the leader mostly does not trust his managers and always believes that he or she is the smartest person in the room. Ambitious members start adopting yes-men attitudes while others start exiting slowly. Alarm bells should start ringing because this is the smoke before the fire!

Learning: This team is as effective is as it’s leader and under experienced (or lucky!) leaders they really get stuff done. Their pace of execution is fast and success breeds trust.

The A team

Effectiveness score: 4.5 / 5

The key understanding which most ultimate C-Suite teams have is that conflict resolution isn’t a zero sum game. Each manager also has a clear understanding of their role and the extent of their autonomy. This makes the rules of collaboration clear. The A team also measures their performance with clearly defined metrics.

When they differ in opinion the A team managers understand how to solve problems without dragging arguments. Each member brings data and facts to the table while opinions are provided as suggestions. Most importantly each person understands that this isn’t a zero sum game; to win does not necessarily mean that someone has to lose. The optimum plan is in the middle with win-win resolution. Trust is high amongst managers and in their leader.

Learning: This group moves quickly but doesn’t do so by sacrificing caution. They are predictably effective. Failure does not slow them as collective decisions were made. Instead failure is analysed for learnings.

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