Saturday, July 7, 2012

Why Executive Teams Shouldn't Focus On Decisions

Isn't it amazing how teams are sometimes so focused on actually making decisions that they curtail creative discussions too soon? It is as if the mark of a good meeting is how many decisions were made. This is a major obstacle to top performance.

A Proposition.

Often, Executive Directors bring significant issues to the attention of an Executive Team too late for them to have any real say in the decision-making process. It's as if the majority of the issues are at least three quarters of the way to being resolved or even more at that stage.

Issues should be at the early stages of resolution when brought to the team by the Exec Directors. Assumptions need to be challenged and options need to be discussed, as these issues are potentially very important to the organisation. In this situation Directors need creative input and some kind of direction from their peers. They often don't have time for this type of discussion because much time is being wasted talking about tactical decisions that have already been taken.

A Challenge.

This brings up the issue of trust. Others need to be left to get on with it to decide things on the basis of their authority, as Executive Directors. This underlines the Chief Executive's role in helping to transform the way that each member uses the Executive Team.

The ideal situation is where each Director takes the most difficult issues to the Executive, looking for insights from the individual members and collective direction to help form the sort of decision you need to be making.

If you find that there's broad agreement in general and you're operating in a high trust model, you don't need to go back for decisions further down the road. If there are differences of opinion then you will need to take the issue back to the Executive later on, so that in the end you have a clear majority view.

How To Move Forward - Three Ways.

1. Chief Executives - become a mentor to each of your Executive Directors. Move away from the silo situation towards unification of teams. Mentor the Exec Directors so that they handle the Exec Team differently from now on.

2. Executive Directors and CEOs - look at the time you spend outside meetings updating each other. Clear the appropriate space so that when you come together as a team you can discuss "the difficult stuff." As a natural part of the working week find out what they do in between meetings and keep them up-to-speed with what you're doing.

3. Exec Directors - psychologically, change your way of thinking to bring colleagues in on big issues as soon as possible. Remember that many decisions can be made by the individual Directors, or individuals working with the CEO, rather than being taken by the Exec as a team. This will create space for higher-quality thinking in relation to decisions that seem to be the most challenging and difficult.

With this one approach you will achieve higher performance, higher trust, a higher standard of mutual loyalty and fewer decisions. You can see why it's so important for Executive Teams to devote time together to think through issues in relation to key principles and objectives. Avoid spending a lot of time in taking "decisions" that have essentially already been taken.

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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