Culture Chat

And other musings on humanizing the workplace
4 Tips for Stronger Senior Management Teams

4 Tips for Stronger Senior Management Teams

May 16, 2016
Jamie Notter

I do a lot of work with senior management teams, and they’re sort of like people: no two are exactly alike, though they share a lot of common characteristics. Senior management teams are obviously very powerful, and I think they should be wielding that power with great skill and precision, which is not always the case. Here are four tips to help you move in the right direction (and not one involves a trust fall):

1. Know your purpose.

There’s no law stating you must have a management team. I know it’s always been done that way, but that’s not an excuse. If you’re going to exist, then you have a responsibility to be clear on WHY you exist. Take some time to figure out what your actual purpose is as a management team. This purpose, by the way, can change depending on what the organization is trying to do (your purpose during a merger might be different than at a different time).

2. Design your meetings.

And “hey let’s meet once a week and talk about stuff” is not what I mean by “design.” Map out when and how you will share basic data, when you will tackle tactical challenges, and when you will have longer, more in-depth strategic conversations. The way each of those meetings is run is very different. Patrick Lencioni’s Death by Meeting has a good guide for this.

3. Increase transparency.

One of the questions we got from a Millennial that we interviewed in the research for our book speaks volumes here: “So why does the senior management team meet all the time, and never tell anyone what they’re talking about?” I will grant you that there are times where the senior management team needs to talk about stuff that cannot be shared, but not nearly enough to justify the level of opaqueness I see in their operations. When you make your work a black box, your people will invent for themselves what you’re doing at those meetings, and let me tell you: what they make up is generally much worse than the truth. So figure out how to share more of that truth.

4. Hold each other accountable on culture.

One of the challenges with senior management teams is that the individuals are all very competent. That may not sound like a challenge, but their strength often gets in the way of collaboration and the intentional creation of culture. Who am I to challenge Mary—she runs a powerful and effective division of this organization?! So get clear on the culture you want, both as an organization and a team, and do what you need to do to ensure that you all hold each other accountable to that (not just the CEO).

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