The 4 Characteristics of High-Performing Executive Teams

Todd Garretson CircleMakers | November 4, 2014

When it comes time to bring strategy to life, does your organization sizzle or fizzle?
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Most polls and studies cite that 60% – 90% of strategies fail in the execute phase. While strategy design is vital to an organization’s growth, the true value is in execution – and much of the successful execution lies with the executive team. As you grow your business, or seek to invest in another, building a great executive team is critical.

There are 4 key traits of great executive teams that have the power to move people, cultures and organizations to the highest levels of performance:

Clarity

Great executive teams keep score. Clarity is as simple as being able to clearly define for the organization the expected outcomes as well as the tactics, actions, or behaviors needed to carry out the strategy. It’s not nearly enough to identify revenue and profit outcomes without linking the tactics and behaviors required to achieve them.

This definition should live in the form of key metrics accessible or visible on some kind of scorecard for organizational and team outcomes. What makes clarity so difficult is knowing the critical few metrics that not only drive the right outcomes, but matter the most to the value you promise to deliver to your customers.

Responsibility

Great executive teams assign ownership. Responsibility is each team member owning specific sections of the strategy and delivering performance to the organization. Accordingly, responsibility cascades the organization from top to bottom so that everybody takes ownership. This establishes strong linkage from individual performer to team and company performance.

Do you have a system in place that answers these questions: Who are you responsible for? What are you responsible for delivering? When are you responsible for delivering it?

Accountability

Great executive teams not only hold people to stated commitments, but they help people reach for their commitments. First and foremost, executive leadership should hold themselves accountable to each other for delivering on their commitments. And of course, you should be making the tough and fast decisions necessary to make sure you have the right people in the right positions.

However, I propose that executive teams take accountability several steps further. We all have blind spots or skill gaps that if not watched over carefully, can become detrimental in our abilities to execute. As executives, we should have cross-functional accountability partners who can help us keep an eye on potential blind spot tendencies so we can stay on the path to commitment.

Vulnerability

Great executive teams build high levels of transparency and trust. I explored the topic of vulnerability in September, including a fantastic TED VIDEO by Brene Brown. There is no question that if leveraged, vulnerability could be the key to unlocking deeper team connection, a willingness to address topics typically swept under the rug, and ultimately foster a cement-like trust across the organization. Within teams, this kind of culture promotes executives focused on building people who build businesses.

It all starts with you. Strategy sizzles or fizzles on leadership.  An executive is responsible for executing – that is the very definition. If the leadership team is missing any of these 4 traits, it could be the missing link to unlocking dormant growth potential.

Sizzle or fizzle…it’s up to you.

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