IN TOUCH : Building successful leadership teams

The days of the heroic CEO are over. In the increasingly complex world organisations operate in, it now takes more than one person to ensure the delivery of the strategic agenda. So building and supporting successful leadership teams is vital to business success. Just how to do this is about to become lot more obvious to New Zealand managers and executives.
American academics Ruth Wageman and Debra Nunes (both now with Hay Group) will visit Auckland later this month to present their research into the dynamics of top executive teams and their impact on organisation performance.
Since 1998 Hay Group – working with Harvard University’s Richard Hackman and Ruth Wageman (formerly of Dartmouth College) – has been studying executive teams. This collaboration led to the original working paper ‘Top Teams in 2001: Why Some Work and Some Do Not’. Drawing on the recent study of 125 top teams from around the world, their research has been updated in new book Senior Leadership Teams – What it takes to make them great, which was published in January.
While there will always be an exception to the ‘heroic CEO’ rule, Wageman and Nunes say what is needed now is decision-making team capable of dealing with an increasingly complex environment. Their research is not about team building – but deals instead with team effectiveness and what needs to be in place to facilitate this.
They have three essential conditions and three enabling ones for leadership team success. The essentials are:
• It has to be real team with clear boundaries as to who is there and why.
• There must be clear and compelling purpose for the team to exist. This must be clearly defined and understood. The issue must need team, rather than the team needing an issue.
• It is important to get the right people on the team – and the wrong people off.
Once these are in place, three things will enable team to perform:
• A structure in the business for the team to operate effectively within.
• A supportive framework for the team to operate in in terms of logistics (time, space, research).
• Support for the team, perhaps in the form of external coaching.
“Overarching all this,” says Hay Group New Zealand managing director Ian MacRae, who has been involved in the work, “is the fact that if the chief executive is not prepared to make the team effective then it won’t work. Similarly, the team has to want to work with the chief executive.
“And it takes time,” he notes, of what is potentially radical shift in thinking for organisations.

Senior Leadership Teams
Workshop. Auckland,
Friday 29 February.
For more information see

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