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  • Toby Sinclair

Coaching Senior Leadership Teams | Ask These 6 Questions

Updated: Feb 6, 2021

Coaching Senior Leadership Teams

High performing Senior Leadership teams can be a big factor in your organisational performance. Taking a group of talented individuals and helping them become a real team can be a catalyst for change.

However, developing senior leadership teams can be challenging:

“Senior Leadership Team members have a dilemma. On the one hand, they are responsible for leading their own organisational units. On the other hand, they are expected to be fully engaged and committed members of the Enterprise's senior leadership team, it can feel like being caught in two powerful cross-currents.

Wageman et al.

In this article, I share the 6 questions you need to focus on when developing your top team. In addition to sharing my own experience, I also share the core ideas from Senior Leadership Teams by Wageman et al. An excellent book about what it takes to develop high performing, senior leadership teams.

Senior Leadership Teams Wageman Book Cover

The 6 Big Questions

When developing your Senior Leadership Team ask these 6 Big Questions:

  1. Is a leadership “team” required?

  2. What is the unique, clear, compelling and challenging purpose of the team?

  3. Based upon the purpose, what team topology is needed?

  4. What skills, knowledge and experience are required on the team?

  5. What are the behavioural norms expected on the top team?

  6. What coaching is required and when?

Is this article I explore the first 3 questions

Q: Is a leadership team required?

Another way to frame this question:

“Is there a vital business need that would be better met if you worked with a leadership team, rather than a group of individuals?”

Wageman et al.

The first question is often skipped. This can lead to attempts to create a team when it's not needed. In addition, very few leaders consider the difference between a team and a group.

“Senior leadership teams have interdependent work. They are clearly bounded, and they are reasonably stable over time.”

Wageman et al.

For your organisation, a leadership team might not be required. You might be best served by a group of individuals focused on their own priorities who only come together every so often.

For others, a high performing senior leadership team can be the catalyst to success. As you know high performing teams can often create more dramatic results than when people work alone.

When deciding a leadership team is required, it should not be underestimated the effort and focus required to make it a truly great team.

The following questions explore what needs to be considered to make your senior team great.

Q: What is the purpose?

It helps to identify a handful of must-win battles, the actions the leadership team must get right if the enterprise is to achieve its strategic goals.

These focusing questions help explore collaboration on the must-win battles:

  1. What do we need each other for?

  2. What are the most critical challenges facing the business?

  3. Does the team have a collective strategy for addressing those challenges?

  4. How well is our strategy working?

Q: What leadership team topology is required?

In the book Senior Leadership Teams by Wageman et al. they share 4 Leadership team Topologies. Patterns for how Leadership Teams will organise and work.

4 Leadership Team Topologies

Informational team

  • Purpose: Make individual leaders better informed, better aligned and more able to do their jobs.

  • Decisions: Made by individuals

Consultative team

  • Purpose: Make the CEO better informed and better able to do the job effectively

  • Decisions: Made by the CEO after consultation

Coordination team

  • Purpose: Manage the operational interdependencies of the enterprise such as key projects and initiatives

  • Decisions: Made collectively or by a nominated person such as chief coordinator

Decision-making team

  • Purpose: Make the small number of critical decisions that are most consequential for the enterprise as a whole.

  • Decisions: By the team as a whole. Either consensus or disagree and commit model.

It's important that you think carefully about the team required based your purpose and must win-battles

Most organisations have more than one kind of leadership team, operating simultaneously. A common configuration is a core decision-making team, which handles the highest impact enterprise issues, along with a coordination team, which often includes members of the decision-making team that oversees and manages major organisational initiatives.

Wageman et al.

Part 2

In the next part of this article I will explore these 3 questions:

  1. What skills, knowledge and experience are required on the team?

  2. What are the behavioural norms expected on the top team?

  3. What coaching is required and when?

I'd also highly recommend grabbing a copy of Senior Leadership Teams by Wageman et al.


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