Your executive team may have more impact than your CEO

Who’s the real leader in your organization?

Everyone who understands organizations realizes that an executive team may have more impact on an organization than the CEO. More than anyone else, executive teams have “skin in the game.” Their personal fortunes, reputations, and professional futures are riding on their effectiveness. If they fail, they will all share in the failure. If they succeed, they will succeed collectively.

Yet executive teams are often notorious for their lack of alignment. In part, the lack of alignment may be tied to lack of time, but that’s often used as an excuse. Senior executives often have huge spans of management control individually, along with a global travel schedule. They may see each other only for monthly meetings.

Is lack of team alignment harming your business?

Call it ego or confidence, senior executives have gotten to be where they are by believing they are right, and that often makes it difficult to reconcile what they think with the thinking of others. It’s hard for them to deny their own experience by compromising with the other key players.

Senior managers sometimes may also end up defending their own organizational silos rather than seeing issues from a larger point of view. Competing for resources and prominence within the organization leaves many wounded and scarred along the way, and these may have so powerfully and negatively impacted relationships that the prospects of reconciliation are poor.

Even if the description of executive team relationships is not nearly as grim in your organization as is portrayed here, you may still have the issues of clarifying roles and procedures at the senior executive level. You may just need to get on the same page. You still, therefore, need executive alignment.

How to align executive teams

We use the following process in achieving executive team alignment:

  • We help the executive team focus on outcomes rather than personal issues. We work with managers and executives to understand that making their numbers is one of the most important outcomes, and that results are better than retribution. Once executives get together and collectively describe the milestones to success and how long it will take, they begin to repair their relationships.
  • We establish the “hang together or hang separately” principle. Few understand the level resentment present at the founding of the republic at the Constitutional Convention. The aged Benjamin Franklin, in the midst of bitter conflict, stated: “Gentlemen we shall all hang together or hang separately.” Delta teaches that it is no dishonor to be defeated by more powerful forces. To be defeated by ourselves, however, is truly humiliating.
  • We negotiate interpersonal behavioral norms. People truly come to organizations with radically different notions about how people should behave with one another. To one person a statement is a personal insult, while to another it’s a spirited discussion. One person sees slipping a deadline as acceptable, while another sees it as a serious breach of trust. By putting a group together and negotiating a set of norms that everyone commits to follow, alignment follows as well.
  • We develop goals that are important enough to each member of the team. Not everything has equal importance to everyone. We identify the goals that individual team members believe are so important that they will overlook personal issues and develop personal commonalities to achieve. Often, the members of the executive team finish their work together both aligned and as friends.

Delta Associates has a strong track record in bringing alignment to executive teams that simply needed to take their performance to the next level and those that lived in opposing camps. Contact us at 512-498-9780 or jspeer@delta-associates.com to discuss how our approach to executive alignment might work in your organization.