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February 26, 2008

Jack Covert Selects: Ask 8cr! - Senior Leadership Teams

By: 800-CEO-READ @ 9:42 PM – Filed under: Management & Workplace Culture

Ask 8cr! is a section of our blog used as a forum to address the kinds of issues and challenges people are having in the workplace. We take these issues and apply a business book we feel offers a viable solution. Others then chime in via the comments section. The person with the selected challenge gets a free copy of the book, but everyone who reads these posts, wins. What's your challenge at work? Send it to me at jon(a)800ceoread(dot)com.
Today's challenge deals with managing poor decisions from above:
"How does a senior level person working in a small corporation keep the owners from making mistakes? In other words, how do you manage one level up in the organization? Often, experience is overlooked and sales are made that should not be made. After all, some deals are too good to be true!"- Gary
Walking into your boss' office and telling them that they've made a mistake or should do things differently might put you in a worse off situation than the mistake is. There are, of course, diplomatic ways of communicating such things, but even then, it might just be viewed as an opinion and overlooked in the end.

Developing a team is a challenging process, particularly if hierarchy is involved. Ruth Wageman, Debra Nunes, James Burruss, and J Richard Hackman have written a helpful book on this subject called Senior Leadership Teams: What it takes to make them great. In it, the authors talk about how to design a system that takes the bulk off one head (CEO) and shares it with a group of dynamic executives operating under analysis, feedback, accountability, goals, and group direction. The initial challenge is formation, as the author's identify that good leadership teams develop slowly over time - it's not about one person deciding they need a team and "making it happen." Rather, a series of discussions, gathering the right people, the conceptual thinkers, with the agenda of making hugely positive changes for the company must take place. Imagine the results.
However, the author's state:
"Expect the process to be emotionally demanding. All the leaders we worked with and studied struggled with the emotional aspects of setting direction for their leadership teams. Clarifying the team's purpose invariably uncovers discrepancies and conflicts about what members think their role is or should be, and using your authority to say, "This is what we will do" triggers anxiety for leaders and members alike. But when done persistently and well, it also energizes and inspires."
In Gary's case, this book will provide some thoughts on how to approach the owners of his company and begin to form a solid team that is involved in the issues he refers to. By creating a solid case for development and improvement, while taking burden off them, Gary will succeed at showing interest in helping the company, and also accomplish his goal of avoiding the bad deals, once he and his team have more input in the process.
More info on this book can be found in the Jack Covert Selects article published last week.