The CEO of a successful organization ensures that they have an inner circle of leaders, or Core Leadership Team, who 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 that can be used to provide each other with 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.
At a regularly scheduled executive off-site, dedicate three hours or so before the first break 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 until each is back standing at the page with their name on it. Add additional newsprint if more space to write is needed.
Ask everyone to read carefully what is written under their name in the Good at: section; ask them:
- 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?
Ask each person in-turn to read out-loud what is written for them and answer the questions above. Discuss what is said with the group until clarity is achieved and then move on to the next person until everyone has had a turn.
Ask everyone to read carefully what is written under their name in the Count on section; ask them:
- Any clarifying questions or comments?
- 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 person in turn to read out-loud what is written for them and address the questions above. Discuss until clarity is achieved and then move on to the next person until everyone has had a turn.
Ask everyone to read carefully what is written under Best advice. For one executive, ask them to select one Best advice item and have them:
- 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 got it right. Iterate with the group until they are clear and until the group knows they are clear about what is being said and until all agree it is time to move on.
Repeat the previous step for the next person in the group. When everyone has gone start again with the first person and their next item and repeat until all items have been covered for each person.
Ask the group to discuss:
- What they noticed in 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.
A fundamental human need is to be known and understood by others. The first two steps in this exercise help each group member to feel known and understood by those on their team which creates the opportunity for a rich flow of information between them.
The third step builds on and takes advantage of the comfort established in the first two. 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.