I recently did some team building work with a very strong executive team. During the past year they have had some key team member changes. Even though this is a very high performing leadership team, they had to go back to some basics in order to make sure they continue their success. Some key practices help executive teams to succeed and thrive through these kinds of changes.
First, remember that when team members change, the whole team goes back through the process/stages of becoming a team again. On its face, this seems like a simple concept. Yet we frequently run into situations where teams are tripped up by this. We plug an experienced, strong executive into an existing team, and things work well for a while. Then we start to realize that the “honeymoon” is over and things aren’t as easy as they were at first. We may even feel stuck or all bound up. The thing to do is recognize that this is a) natural, b) predictable, and c) manageable.
Second, go back to basics. Team members need to learn each other’s communication preferences, leadership priorities and approaches, strengths, areas for growth, etc. Team members can learn to understand and better interpret the motives that drive the behaviors they encounter in each other. A key phrase is to “take the mystery out of who you are as a leader.” Be intentional about doing that.
Lastly, work to build or repair trust. Sometimes as teams go back through some of the more challenging stages of team development, trust can be damaged or impaired. Trust forms the basis of productive team dynamics. Be attentive to if and how trust may have been damaged, and then work to get that trust back. Remember, admitting mistakes can actually help build trust. Forgiveness is also key in repairing trust.
The bottom line – don’t forget that this happens. We can rarely just plug a new member into a leadership team and not have to go through the stages of development again. Be proactive. Be intentional, become good at recognizing the signs of the stages of development. This will strengthen your leadership no matter where you are.
Lee Angus serves as President of MEDI. Lee’s specialty is helping leaders who are new to the executive level and transitioning their leadership approach quickly and effectively to meet the new expectations placed upon them.
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