The keys to leadership in management committees

The most functional teams are both diverse in nature and, at the same time, strongly unified around a core set of ideas and philosophies. Teams like that are invaluable, truly a rare breed; yet there is an extremely high demand for them.

While teamwork is important at any level of an organization, in the management committee it is essential. The reason for this is no mystery: in order to have a brilliant strategy and, beyond that, an effective implementation, the management committee must function well.

Eight questions for assessing whether a management committee is functioning properly

By answering the following eight questions, it is relatively easy to get an idea of how well or poorly a team functions. Try it out. If you find that any response is largely negative, then you’ve identified an opportunity for improvement and a task that needs to be performed.

  1. Is the management team small enough (three to eight people) for effective decision making?
  2. Is there sufficient diversity of personalities and a balance of power to ensure that the issues discussed can be considered from different points of view?
  3. Is there trust among team members and do they feel comfortable talking about their vulnerabilities and shortcomings to their peers?
  4. Are there healthy conflicts and discussions between different viewpoints without deteriorating personal relationships? Do the management committee members give constructive opinions about the progress of other areas?
  5. Do they use powerful explanatory styles (positivism, sense of urgency, desire to learn and overview) when discussing items on the agenda?
  6. Does the team walk away from meetings with a clear and specific set of tasks and a willingness to perform them?
  7. Do members of the team hold each other accountable for their commitments and exhibit the desired, agreed-upon behavior?
  8. Do the members of the management team prioritize the team’s agenda over that of their area or their own personal agenda?

The process of building a functional management committee

Building a cohesive and functional management team is a process that requires time, energy and discipline. Almost miraculously, only leaders with these capabilities are able to pull it off. Teams do not become functional by spontaneous generation.

There are five main phases in the process of building a great management committee. Each one requires all team members to learn a certain type of behavior. Subsequent phases are supported by the previous phases. So, if the foundation is weak, then anything built on top of it is likely to crumble.

These are the phases:

#1: Building trust among team members

This is the most important behavior, as it is the basis for the others. Trust comes from not being apprehensive of others’ actions. This, meanwhile, is usually due to the professionalism and character of the team’s members.

That’s why a management committee requires more than just solid professionals; its members must also have personal integrity. In a management committee, trust comes when members are comfortable with being transparent, even though that means revealing some vulnerability. They know that transparency will be exploited by their peers.

When team members trust each other, they are able to engage in “real” conversations in which they not only talk about things that are going well, but also their own individual missteps, weaknesses and fears. That creates an emotional bond, a new level of dialogue which allows for empathy and the desire to cooperate.

The team leader should set the first example and do everything in their power to create a safe environment where empathy emerges spontaneously. To achieve that, once again the leader’s most effective leverage lies in one-to-one conversation about added value.

#2: Managing conflicts to make them functional

Where there is diversity, there is conflict. In management committees, we want diversity, so conflict is par for the course. But the fact is, not all conflicts are dysfunctional. There are three types that are, and one that is not. The latter is what gives a management committee hope for progress.

The three types of dysfunctional conflict are, starting with the most dangerous: deceit(cynicism), when there is no trust and people are not up-front with each other; omertà (code of silence associated with the Mafia), when people appear to get along well but do not discuss issues; and confrontation, when people don’t get along but do say things face to face.

The type of conflict that makes a team grow is discrepancy, which basically means “we get along well and say things, tactfully, face to face.” The team leader has the obligation to foster good relations between the other members and create mechanisms that are conducive to tactfully talking about everything and people being able to honestly express their viewpoints on the issues.

#3: Commitment to the goals

The best byproduct of a healthy disagreement is a reinforced commitment. Members of a team who may have disagreed during a meeting, but felt like their voices have been heard, and have been able to ask questions and listen to others’ suggestions, for example, will probably be more likely to be get on board with the chosen decision, even if they did not initially agree. Another way to get people committed is to end each meeting by reviewing the agreements made, who has been tasked, the time frames and the type of progress metrics to be used. These final agreements must be documented by someone, and these points should be reviewed at the start of the following meeting.

#4: Taking responsibility for the results: accountability

This is the most difficult behavior to achieve in a management committee. The ultimate goal is to achieve peer-to-peer (lateral) accountability, although the leader will always make the final call.

The feeling that “I am responsible for my decisions and behavior” not only refers to measurable results in the areas of personal accountability, but fundamentally to the behaviors that strengthen or weaken the functionality of the team and the creation of attractive work cultures.

Holding a coworker accountable for their results should be viewed as a way of looking after that person, tending to them. Of course it takes courage, since there is a risk of them reacting negatively.

A team grows when the level of demand in terms of performance and standards of conduct is transmitted among the team members without the leader having to get involved.

#5: The team’s agenda must take precedence over individual agendas

A strong, priority common agenda is the miracle that boosts the team’s effectiveness. However, this miracle is not possible without previously developing the four behaviors referred to above. The idea is to get the management committee members to feel like their day-to-day priority projects are those that the committee itself has designated as such, and not just the ones they lead in their respective areas.

Personal or departmental objectives should therefore be subject to the team’s collective projects. The only way a team can maximize its effectiveness is by ensuring that everyone is focused on the same priorities, rowing in the same direction.

For that to happen, the members of the management committee need to feel that the best way to achieve their particular objectives (also the bonus) is by focusing on the collective needs.