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By Steve Sheils

Over the years I have seen many Senior Management Teams (SMT) that know how to do the heavy lifting. In these companies, growth of the top and bottom lines seem to be predictable and controlled.

In other companies, senior management appears to expend more effort getting along than they should. A strong CEO can often sort this out; but when he / she is absent, the games continue.

What are the symptoms? Who is responsible? How much money is wasted before the cure?

Let’s take a look at the team player dynamics.

The first dysfunction is an absence of trust among the team members. This stems from their unwillingness to be vulnerable within the group. Team members who are not open with each other about their mistakes and even weaknesses, makes it virtually impossible to build a foundation for trust.

The failure to build trust is damaging because it sets the tone for the second dysfunction: fear of conflict. The team won’t engage in unfiltered and passionate debate of ideas and instead resort to veiled discussions and guarded comments. Who among us has not groaned inwardly during meetings of this kind?

A lack of healthy conflict is a real problem because it ensures the third dysfunction of a team: lack of commitment. Without airing opinions and ideas in a healthy open debate, team members rarely if ever buy into a decision or direction.

Without commitments and team participation we can expect to observe an avoidance of accountability. Without committing to a clear plan of action, even the most focused and driven people often hesitate to “call their peers” on the actions and behaviors that seem counterproductive to the team that manages the company’s future.

Whenever a team fails to hold their colleagues accountable, the fifth dysfunction will thrive. Inattention to results occurs when team members put their individual needs (or the needs of their division) first. Ego, career development and personal recognition are placed above the collective goals of the team.

Now if this sound simple, it’s because it is simple, at least in theory.

Which bring us back to the skills of the CEO. Building an effective SMT and keeping the players healthy, requires levels of discipline and persistence.

However, before diving into each of the dysfunctions and exploring ways to overcome them, it’s always helpful to assess your team and identify where the opportunities for improvement lie in your company.

Invite an unbiased consultant to a few of your SMT meetings. You might be surprised to learn your team has a few issues that need attention.

In my next article we’ll discuss the fundamental leadership skills that all senior staff should practice every day. Now these are the people we all should invite to our SMT.

Steve Sheils is the CEO of Authentic Vision for Change. Steve’s passion is helping companies make the difficult decisions required to achieve profitable growth in this tough economy.  He can be reached at 416-819-2004 or by email steve@sheils.com. Visit www.authentic-vision.com.


The RIC blog is designed as a showcase for entrepreneurs and innovation. Our guest bloggers provide a wealth of information based on their personal experiences. Visit RIC Centre for more information on how RIC can accelerate your ideas to market.

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