The CEO of a successful organization ensures that their inner circle of leaders, or Core Leadership Team, are individually and collectively clear about their relative strengths and on what the group counts on from each of them to be successful.
The exercise below is a structured and straightforward way to make expectations explicit and to open channels of communication between them enabling them to provide each other advice, guidance, feedback and support in a way that is efficient, edifying, and empowering to all involved.
Ask executive team members to read the following IntelliVen posts in preparation for this exercise:
- A note on the power of alignment.
- A note on how executives contract with employees for success.
- A note on focus.
- A note on core leadership teams.
Before a break at an off-site, or in a meeting just for this, allot up to three hours for the exercise described below.
Ask each executive to print their name at the top of a sheet of newsprint laying on a table or hanging on the wall.
- Under their name have them write the heading: Good at:
- 1/3 from the top write: What we count on from you:
- 1/2 way from the top write: Best Advice:
Ask each executive to move to the sheet to their right and fill in each of the three sections for the person whose name appears at the top. When everyone has finished writing, repeat the previous step for the next person to the right until each is standing back at the page with their name on it. Add additional newsprint if more space to write is needed.
Step 1: Good At
Once everyone has recorded thier entries for all of the others, ask everyone to read carefully what is written under their name in the Good At section and then ask them to get ready to answer the following questions:
- What clarifying questions do you have?
- Do you agree that you are good at the things noted?
- Are there other things you are good at that are missing?
- Are there things you are surprised to see listed?
Have each person in-turn to read outloud what is written for them followed by their answers to the four questions above. Discuss what is said with the group until clarity is achieved and then move on to the next person.
Step 2: Count On
Once each executive has had a turn procesing the first section, ask them all to read carefully to themselves what is written under their name in the Count On section and then ask them to get ready to respond to the following:
- Would you like to ask any clarifying questions?
- Do you agree that listed items are your responsibility?
- Is anything you are responsible for missing?
- Do any of your items conflict with each other or with what is listed for others?
- Are things listed consistent with what you are good at such that you can be successful doing them and such that your organization is getting highest-and-best use from you and your talents?
Ask each executive in turn to read outloud what is written for them and address the five questions above. Facilitate discussion until clarity is achieved and then move on to the next person until everyone has had a turn.
Step 3: Best Advice
Finally, ask them to read carefully to themselves what is written under Best Advice. Ask one executive to select one Best Advice item and invite her/him to:
- Ask for clarification or explanation about what is meant by what is written.
- Work hard to draw out what others have to say.
- Not to be defensive in any way.
- Repeat back what they hear to be sure they understand.
Iterate with the group until they are all clear, and until the group knows they are clear about what is being said and until all agree it is time to move on to the next point.
Repeat the process with the first Best Advice items for the next executive. When everyone has processed their first Best Advice item, start again with a second item and repeat until all items have been covered for each executive.
Step 4: Summary
Ask the group to discuss:
- What they noticed during this exercise?
- What they individually, and as a group, learned about their roles and the roles of others.
- What was learned about how much they have to share with each other and how to do so?
Ask if a similar exercise should be done from time to time with their group and perhaps with other groups in which they work.
If the group is feeling good from the exercise and there is energy for one more question, consider asking each executive to write down and then talk through what they feel is important for them to get better at in order to live up to the team’s expectations.
A fundamental human need is to be known and understood by others. Steps 1 and 2 help each group member to feel known and understood by their teammates which creates the opportunity for a rich flow of information between them.
Step 3 builds on, and takes advantage of, the comfort established in Steps 1 and 2. The result is a deep sense of closeness and connectedness which allows each member of the group to share openly with the others and to be aggressively interested in what others have to say to them. Group members are thus able and inclined to help each other fulfill their potential individually and collectively in the press of day-to-day activity and not just at an offsite.
The exercise can and should be repeated from time to time to keep leaders synchronized and aligned. The best leaders will follow suit with similar exercises with their own teams. The odds of success with this exercise are dramatically improved when it is facilitated by a trained Organization Development professional.