intertwined leadership and culture

I recently had a call from “Judy,” an HR VP, to discuss team building. She said their executive team effectiveness is slipping. Team issues and challenges are overlooked, factions are forming, and trust issues are developing. As we discussed (online) executive retreat options, she wondered if using a four-quadrant personality type training program might be helpful.

As we went deeper into their team dynamics, we agreed that a workshop on personality types wouldn’t address the underlying team issues. Judy and I discussed how an organization’s culture reflects its leadership team. The team sets the pace and direction by their own behavior. What the team does overshadows what its leaders are saying.

Executive team effectiveness tightly interweaves with the organization culture’s culture in a reinforcing feedback loop like a Mobius strip. We agreed that their team-building work needs to focus on both team dynamics and organizational culture.

An organization’s culture ripples out from the team leading it. Mediocre or dysfunctional organizations are led by weak mediocre or dysfunctional teams. Team failure factors are often a combination of seven common traps:

  • Speed Traps and Tyranny of the Urgent — flooded by e-mails, endless meetings, and crisis management, the team is highly reactive and loses sight of the big picture.
  • Partial and Piecemeal Programs — leadership development, succession planning, customer service, agile, safety, talent/performance management, IT systems, executive coaching are separate programs not strategically linked together.
  • Leadership Lip Service — leadership team members send contradictory messages about core values and desired culture through inconsistent behaviors.
  • Not Building Change Capacity — change and development efforts don’t engage the hearts and heads of key leaders and frontline staff and don’t energize and equip them to make it happen.
  • Teams Not Pulling Together — strong leaders drive change in their “silo” and work at cross-purposes. This weakens the team and culture development efforts.
  • Communication Breakdowns — leadership teams aren’t united in strategic priorities, key messages, or behaviors that model their vision and values, and rigorous implementation planning.
  • Failing to Follow-Through — strategies and development plans often lose focus because they don’t have a robust implementation process engaging key teams with a disciplined follow-through process.

Our webinar on Executive Team Building and Culture Development starts with a deeper look at these traps. I then walk through the key steps to a leadership team retreat that refocuses the team on critical strategic issues to strengthen both their teamwork and their culture.

We’ve developed a brief assessment to help leadership teams look in the mirror. Click on Seven Leadership Team Failure Factors to take the 14-item assessment. You can complete the assessment and compare your total score with our scoring guide. We’ll provide you with links to leadership team development resources. An even more powerful approach is to have your leadership team complete the assessment and compare your scores.

Many leadership teams don’t recognize their own behavior reflected back to them in their culture. What leadership team dynamics do you see reflected in your culture?