“There are two kinds of cultures in this world: cultures where what you do matters and cultures where all that matters is who you are. You can be the former or you can suck,” wrote Ben Horowitz, cofounder and Partner (along with Marc Andreessen) of the venture capital firm Andreessen Horowitz. A world-class company cannot be build without having a world-class team, but how do you know if an executive is world-class?
Horowitz continues, “the first thing to understand is that just because somebody interviewed well and referenced checked great does not mean she will perform superbly in your company.” Horowitz advices to hold your people to a high standard and keep the following in mind:
- You did not know everything when you hired her. While it feels awkward, it is perfectly reasonable to change and raise your standards as you learn more about what’s needed and what’s competitive in your industry.
- You must get leverage. Early on, it’s natural to spend a great deal of time integrating and orienting an executive. However, if find yourself as busy as you were with that function before you hired or promoted the executive, then she is below standard.
- As CEO, you can do very little employee development. One of the most depressing lessons of my career when I became CEO was that I could not develop the people who reported to me. The demands of the job made it such that the people who reported to me had to be 99% ready to perform. Unlike when I ran a function or was a general manager, there was no time to develop raw talent. That can and must be done elsewhere in the company, but not at the executive level. If someone needs lots of training, she is below standard.
In Patrick Lencioni’s book “The Five Dysfunctions of a Team,” he explains the five dysfunctions that can be identified and amended in order to create an outstanding (senior management) team, these are:
1) Absence of Trust
Without a certain level of comfort among team members, a foundation of trust is impossible to build. In order for team members to feel secure in their insecurities enough to share with others, they have to trust one another. Subtracting trust from the equation leaves you with a cluster of closed mouths, all with something to hide.
2) Fear of Conflict
Without trust, dissenting voices are squelched, opinions are held back, and healthy debate—necessary to the decision-making process—is tabled. Unaddressed team conflict then poisons the water, leading to whispered conversations and quiet judgments.
3) Lack of Commitment
When a team is discomfited enough not to air grievances and valid opinions, direction and commitment are then lost. Decisions become ambiguous, and the ambiguity—paired with inaction—can make for disgruntled employees. Expect the highest performers to feel the brunt of this dysfunction, for all their hard work and skill has sifted through careless fingers like sand.
4) Avoidance of Accountability
Now that direction and commitment have been flushed, there’s no roadmap. Even the most driven and hardworking employee, feeling as though a team member has engaged in counterproductive measures, hesitates to call them out on their actions. What’s the point? Nobody knows where they’re going anyway.
5) In attention to Results
Selfish needs—such as ego, career development, and personal recognition—replace the collective goals of a team in the absence of accountability. When every man is thinking only of themselves, no one considers the business, and the business ultimately fails.
Team and shared goals
Building a cohesive team that has the same outlook needs a shared goal, a shared Purpose. The four obsessions of an extraordinary executive:
1) Build and Maintain a Cohesive Leadership Team
Lencioni asks you to take the five dysfunctions listed above and flip them around. Cohesive leadership teams trust one another, engage in constructive conflict, are committal to group decisions, and hold one another accountable for individual actions and thought processes.
2) Create Organizational Clarity
A transparent organization allows its workers to clearly delineate its goals and structure.
Once you’ve established your values, goals, strategies and roles and responsibilities, make them well known and readily available.
3) Over-Communicate Organizational Clarity
Rinse, wash, repeat. Healthy organizations reemphasize and comprehensively communicate the group’s shared passions on a regular basis—there’s always room for improvement; always an aspect that could use elaboration.
4) Reinforce Organizational Clarity through Human Systems
It’s one thing to nail down an organization’s cohesiveness—it’s another to see it in action. Structure decision-making, evaluate job candidates, manage performance and, most of all, reward employees for their dedication to the common cause. Physical examples of a concept are simultaneously the most obvious and subtle of motivational forces.
Leaders are platforms
But of course, to build a world-class company and a world-class team you need to be a world-class CEO. The one-man show is over, team is Key. Chinese philosopher Lao Tzu said, “Fail to honor people, they fail to honor you. But of a good leader, who talks little, when his work is done, his aim fulfilled, they will all say, ‘We did this ourselves.’” He made that observation more than 2,000 years ago. Some things never change. Leaders inspire trust and create a vision which people can build upon.
In which organizational and management culture do you think that a leader as a platform excels best?
Charles Handy, in “Gods of Management”, attempts to classify four distinct management cultures that exist within all organizations. He uses the ancient Greek gods to symbolize these management cultures or philosophies. There are four types of management cultures or philosophies present within all organizations. The four cultures are the club (Zeus), role (Apollo), task (Athena), and existential (Dionysus) cultures.
As Sinek says, being amongst people who believe what you believe, that is key.
New leaders need to facilitate, they need to communicate and breath the Purpose. They serve, not the other way around.
Collaborative leadership also comes to my mind. In an open business environment, results need also be delivered beyond organizational boundaries.
What are your thoughts on these matters?
Gianluigi Cuccureddu is co-founder of Damarque, helping you to improve your commercial performance through better engagement with your employees, customers and strategic business partners.
We offer high-impact training, coaching and consulting services for professionals, teams and organizations to help improve people ánd organizational performance and innovation capability in an efficient and sustainable way.