Wednesday, July 4, 2012

What Happens When The Executive Team Gets Stuck?

It's fascinating to try and work out what the difference is between top teams that simply do okay and those that are outstanding. For the Chief Executive who may be trying to work out why the team is somewhere in between, look at how you behave yourself when the team gets hopelessly stuck in a discussion the next time. Let's have a look at some practical suggestions for help here.

The first response may be to close it all down. Imagine if you have been talking for a couple of hours with six members of your Executive Director Team, but things have been stuck in a rut for the past half hour. One Director comes along with an idea that another Director gets upset about and in turn you're getting upset with the person who is creating the stumbling block. Meanwhile another two of the Directors are just sitting back and spectating. Traditionally you might be tempted to close down the discussion and move onto something else. The others may be in agreement, but you should instead try getting them onto their feet.

Suggest a fresh approach by splitting the team up into three pairs, telling them to get out of their seats, to walk around the room and the corridor outside for seven to eight minutes. Within each pairing each has to support the other to come up with new and fresh ideas to bring back to a different seat. Then everybody will listen to everybody else's ideas and decide which two are going to be converted into real proposals for the future.

Even though you might not think that that a seven or eight minute discussion would make a difference I can tell you that this technique has worked with all sorts of Executive Teams and Boards that I've been working with for the last two decades. You'll be amazed just how the physical movement can work to make such a difference.

By restricting the talk to just a few minutes you won't get a completely formed proposition, but in fact a core concept for onward discussion. This is just enough time to come up with an idea and for the individuals to become energised about it, to want to discuss it more with the rest of the group.

If you're worried that they might think that you had lost it by suggesting something such as this, maybe it's time for you to display some leadership behaviours that may be unexpected anyway.

What You Need Is More Ideas And Fewer Decisions.

This approach relieves you of the responsibility of feeling that you have to make a decision. Rather, it inspires the Directors to kick some new ideas around, which is the main reason why they may have become stuck in the first place. The top-performing CEO should always try and increase the time that a team spends in growing and formulating new ideas. What these Executive Directors need from their peer group is a brainstorming session that is more about solving problems than it is about decision-making.

Pete Ashby is the director of and specialises in profiling the virtues and vices of exceptional leaders. To learn more about key challenges for CEOs, Boards and Executive Teams =>

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