Why Traditional Approaches To Create A High-Performing Executive Team Fall Short

Many chief executives and chief HR officers who believe having a high-performing executive team is essential for building a great organisation and marketplace success tend to employ a range of approaches to achieve their desired aim.  

Although each of these approaches can bring benefits, they each fall-short.

We hear comments from those who have used these traditional approaches such as:

“I felt the team were working better for a while but then old habits crept back-in“

“At the time we thought it was good, but nothing stuck for long.”

The reason as I say is that each of these traditional initiatives is good, but they each fall short.

What are the pros and cons of the traditional approaches to creating a high-performing executive team?

Let’s take a look at some of the main traditional approaches employed:

Bring in the guru:  Some chief executives and chief HR officers bring in a global business guru to ignite their top team.  Some of these gurus aim to get strategic commitment while others confront the team to speak-up.  They preach some excellent messages, but their desired changes are typically short lived as they don’t get to the root of the issues within the team.

Great facilitator:  Many executive teams bring in a great facilitator so they get the most from their away-day meetings. These facilitators typically do a very good job at managing the meeting and making sure all agenda items are covered.  But they don’t improve executive team performance.

Olympic athlete:  It’s not uncommon for a top team to bring a multi-gold medal Olympic athlete in to up their performance.  These great athletes can be superb and sharing the benefits of having grit, a trait required by all executive team members.  But again, any changes adopted are not embedded as they don’t get to the root of the issues within the team.

Authentic leadership or personal storytelling:  This approach started to be used more widely after Bill George of Harvard Business School published some excellent papers and books on the topic.  I must confess I am a fan of the authentic leadership approach, but as just one of the approaches to use.  It helps executive team members understand their beliefs and drivers, and can build trust amongst the executive team.  But it doesn’t expel dysfunctional behaviour or get the team to click.

Psychometric testing:  Asking a senior leader on the executive team of their company to complete such a test is likely to get them to raise their barriers.  Although there are some very good psychometric tests on the market, I just don’t thing they are appropriate for the top team.  Such tests don’t help build a high-performing team, and there are other more appropriate ways for an executive to improve their self-awareness.

The root issues these traditional approaches don’t address.

These traditional approaches don’t deal with the basics of human behaviour.  These in summary being:

  • as humans we are not (or at least are very rarely) rational beings
  • much of what happens to us and the executive team is outside our conscious awareness
  • there are a number of drivers of behaviour and drivers of team dynamics that are rarely acknowledged
  • the most basic driver of behaviour are our personal fears or anxieties
  • we try hard to avoid feeling fearful or anxious
  • we create what are called social defences to reduce the the possibility of feeling fear or anxiety
  • in executive teams these social defences surface in the form of dysfunctional behaviour
  • these dysfunctional behaviours are specific to the individual and can include a lack of open and honest conversations, silo thinking, political game playing , conflict avoidance and many more

The traditional approaches don’t address these root issues and therefore fall short.  And if these root issues are not addressed and removed then optimum business performance will never be achieved.

Other business psychologists shy away from this complex but key issue, due to lack of relevant psychological know how.

The Vantage Hill Partners approach.

Taking a highly practical business orientated approach we help executive teams understand what is going on outside their conscious awareness.  By doing this we are able to unlock their performance, refresh their team dynamics and get them to collaborate more effectively.

We don’t use psychobabble language nor do we walk into the team wearing white coats!

The Vantage Hill Partners approach is proven and clients find it highly stimulating and highly practical.  As part of our work we also include the best, most appropriate and effective elements of the traditional approaches.

Our approach is particularly welcomed by chief executives and chief HR officers who appreciate the benefits of such a psychological approach in creating a high-performing top-team.

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