How to Turn a Good Leadership Team into a Great One

leadership team


The enemy of becoming great is being good. That is the reason we have many good companies, not great ones, good schools, not a great ones, and good management teams, not great ones.

Most organizations, institutions, teams, and individuals have become comfortable with being good. That’s where they stay. Consequently, there is no urgency, drive, and motivation put into extra efforts to become great.

When the CEO of a construction company called me to provide leadership development, the company went through a lot of change. They had transferred complete ownership of the company twice in the previous year and experienced a high turnover in personnel. The executive team consisted of nine individuals with very driven, ambitious, A-type personalities.

Their culture was one in which managers made decisions based on the interest of their department or themselves, not the entire company. For example, during budget discussions the managers would fight and argue for who was to get the most resources, instead of allocating funds to implement what was best for the company. The three main departments were functioning as “stand alone silos” instead of “well oiled machines”.

The biggest challenge was getting the entire team to commit to change and to demonstrate a true desire to better oneself, the team, and the company.

We implemented the following four strategies to move their management team from good to great:

  1. Become comfortable with being uncomfortable
    When teams do the same things as they did in the past, they continue to attract the same results. Change is needed. Initially, the team had lengthy conversations about what was going well, what the challenges were, and where change was necessary. Those discussions helped create urgency for leading the change efforts. Each manager committed to shake up one of their daily routines such as visiting the field more regularly, or walk through the entire office once a day.
  2. Increase the quality and quantity of communication to foster trust
    Some of the managers didn’t mesh well together. Rather than collaborating, they were competing with each other. Two of the managers barely knew each other even though they worked on the same client projects. On one occasion they carpooled to a client meeting and learned more about each other during the trip. By spending more time together, mutual understanding increased, so did the trust between them.
  3. Uncompromising focus on new positive opportunities
    A great team owns their “purpose” and articulates it to the entire organization with clarity and tenacity. This management team met regularly for strategic sessions to align themselves around a clear future direction for the organization. They focused on opportunities rather than challenges, solutions instead of problems, and talked about new market niches rather than complaining about clients. They developed a clear vision of where they wanted to go and what they wanted to accomplish together.
  4. Define and demand clear standards for performance and behaviors
    The team discussed collective efforts, assigned roles, responsibilities, and contributions based on skills and talent. This resulted in specific performance standards and expectations. In addition, they clarified behavioral guidelines that stemmed from their company values. This was the foundation for mutual accountability.

As the management team led the change efforts, employees noticed significant improvements.   These were the responses from the team members:

  • – “Now there’s more listening here.”
  • – “We are more open with each other.”
  • – “There’s a lot more interaction and proactive discussions.”

This resulted in tangible progress in the numbers. Besides working together better among the managers, the workforce increased by 10 percent, revenues by 50 percent, and profits grew by 300 percent within 3 years. The CEO summarized the progress in his own words: “We always had skilled people. I attribute a lot of results to making changes in our own behavior. Now we are more skilled in working together as a great leadership team.”