Saturday, October 20, 2012

Senior Management Teams That Work

There is perhaps nothing more important to the success of a company than for a Senior Management Team to work and function as a well oiled machine with common purpose.   As someone who has lived through dysfunctional Senior Management Teams that did not work, I can say with some authority that is causes a ripple effect throughout an organization that is not only destructive, it can be downright ugly.   I have worked with Senior Managers who actually hated each other and saw as their goal the destruction of other Senior Managers to get ahead.   The fact that the CEO of the company tolerated these behaviors was inexcusable; but was also an indication of the CEO's dog eat dog New York mentality.   It was despicable. 

And then, I have also experienced a Senior Management Team where all liked each other; but just could not work together.   The CEO allowed management meetings to degenerate into yelling, screaming matches, often based on the company's lack of profitability.   I recall counseling the CEO, that this situation was intolerable, requiring her intervention to stop savage attacks that were counter-productive.   The good thing is that for me anyway, now a CEO, I learned that a Senior Management Team that works well together was critical to the success of an organization and that it is my job to make it work.   This is never more important than during bad times when difficult decisions are often necessary. 

For starters, it is important that members of a Senior Management Team actually like and respect each other.   During our company history, we have had a few Senior Managers, like new fish in an aquarium, that just did not make it because they could not develop relationships with other Senior Managers.   This had nothing to do with experience, competence, or intelligence; but rather inter personal skills.   In another case, one of our Senior Managers was viewed as untrustworthy by other employees.   Usually, Senior Managers that don't fit in, self select; but in a few cases as CEO of our company, I have had to help this process along, if you know what I mean. 

Senior Management Teams that work enjoy being with each other the many hours that are spent in monthly meetings.   The time spent together; though often very serious, is also filled with humor and fun and lots of laughter.  Successful Senior Management Teams are supportive and not territorial, which in our company is a good thing, since we are constantly reorganizing to deal with changing conditions.   And, it is always interesting to watch when a new member of the Team comes on board.   As CEO, I try to facilitate integration into the Team as soon as possible; but it often depends on the new Senior Managers personality style.   Some lay low until they get the lay of the land, which is a reasonable approach.    Others jump right in, which can work too. 

The job of every CEO, in charge of a Senior Team, is to build and promote a very cohesive management structure.   That means insisting on mutual respect, flexibility and positive communications.   This doesn't mean that heated debate is excluded from management meetings, as long as such debate remains constructive and does not become personal, or accusatory.   If and when that happens,  the CEO should step in to implement a Time Out.  

Years ago, when I was still doing Consulting, I was working with the Senior Management of a major company, a name you would know.   The Senior Team savaged each other in ways even I had never seen before.   I kept waiting for the CEO, a really nice guy, to step in to stop the carnage.   When it did not happen, I used my role as Managing Consultant to end the destructive behaviors I was seeing in front of me because it was incredibly counter productive to the process.   This scenario should never be permitted by the CEO of a company. 

Senior Management Teams that work are critical to the success of every company.   It is the CEO's job to build and maintain a Senior Management Team that works well together.   That means hiring the right people, rewarding positive behaviors and never allowing behaviors to become destructive.  And, oh by the way, joking around and having some fun is good too.   

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