The power of purpose in leadership teams

I love working with leadership teams on their development. A consultant like me is called in for a range of reasons, including:  
  • New leader(s) joins an established team
  • There has been a restructure and team members don’t know one another
  • There is a major shift in direction, expectations or context
  • The team is floundering as a result of an incident
  • Poor interpersonal relationships
  • Culture survey results indicate the team is not engaged with their staff
  • Wanting to shift the agenda from group business or organisation wide business, or from operations to strategy
One of my discoveries is that many leadership teams meet out of habit rather than purpose. Others have long wordy purpose statements full of management speak.  

Two leadership teams I worked with recently reshaped their purpose. The first team met for two days every 6 weeks, and had teleconferences in between. Various conflicts among team members and changes in the team’s composition, meant the team hadn’t met for several months. With some careful preparation, team members were ready to meet again. We met for two hours. This team had two charters, a set of group rules and a values document. None of these had assisted team members in this difficult period.

Team one

In our initial meeting, the team decided to refresh their approach to meeting; they would meet for one day a month; an afternoon, then dinner together in the evening, and then they met again 8.30am to 1pm.

The background report had indicated four areas of concern. These became the agenda:

  • Implementing the strategic work plan
  • Challenges and risks: what are we going to do?
  • Culture building and developing: what are we doing? How are we going?
  • Communicating: key messages to the board, key messages to staff, messages to the wider sector

The following month the team met for the two-half days. We focused on relationship building among team members, and some agenda items from within the four areas.

One of this team’s risks was not knowing how the business was going, another was they knew their relationships with the next tier was weak. The team implemented quarterly reporting, updating templates and measures previously established. And they decided on their team purpose:

We inspire trust and confidence across the organisation and externally by

  • Leading the strategic direction
  • Monitoring performance against strategic direction
  • Identifying issues and managing risk
  • Building and develop the organisation culture
  • Clearly communicating outcomes

 We implemented a meeting process for each agenda item, signalling the purpose or outcome and whether the item was:

  • Information/update
  • Discussion
  • Decision and action
 The team has had their second meeting. They went well. The CE reported having actions agreed for each GM, gave him his measure of success. They meet again in three months.

Team two
The second team met weekly. They had experienced turmoil and a restructure resulting in more six new team members joining the existing four. While work was progressing, team members didn’t really know one another or what their synergies were.

As well as this, there was a rift between the leadership team and their direct reports. Departmental meetings were described as tedious and uninspiring. Rather than being downhearted, this group of leaders were motivated and visionary and wanted both their relationships and departmental relationships to be characterised by trust, respect and engagement. This leadership team wanted to be known for their simple, clear succinct communications. We got to work.

To lead their department into this new period, they decided their purpose was to really connect with their staff . They came up with… you feel inspired and confident to be the best you can be, we have your back and together we create the department you love to be part of.

This leadership team has challenges and is motivated by their clear purpose and direction.

Let me conclude with some questions for you. What is the purpose of your leadership team? Are you inspired by both the purpose and experience of your leadership team meetings? What might you do to ensure your meetings are relevant, purposeful, and inspiring?  

© Diana Jones