Executive Team Effectiveness

Executive Team Effectiveness

An effective executive does not have to be a leader in the conventional sense. Instead, they are skilled individuals who know how to exploit group potential by tapping into the strengths of individuals. No matter what the industry, effective executive leadership are critical in determining the success of a company. 

But exemplary, effective executive leadership is not something that just occurs. Setting the conditions needed for a group to thrive requires constant, focused energy from leaders. Additionally, it requires a concerted effort to build the executive team’s ability to serve as a model for the company. They define and amplify company culture—and they have to do it correctly. 

Read on to learn more about the fundamental ingredients of executive effectiveness.

Shifting the Focus to Executive Team Effectiveness 

Strategic planning, operations, and overall decision-making are key parts of a well-organized executive team. And because these factors have a visible impact on an organization, they are what people talk about the most. 

On the other hand, team effectiveness is harder to measure and often gets pushed to the side. Yet the elusive goal of effectiveness is just as critical. The teams that get it right often enjoy a sizable competitive advantage, and the logic makes sense: if your executive team is a well-oiled machine, everything else runs better as well.  

What All the Best Executive Teams Have in Common

We can observe some shared traits that all the best executive teams possess:

  • They work collectively. Highly functioning executive teams understand that their work must be collective, and they have a company-wide vision of both personal and team responsibilities. They model to others how to solve problems as a team, and prioritize group interests over individual ones.  
  • They have a strategic focus. The best executive teams set a clear vision for the company and spend significant time and resources on strategy. They are constantly looking ahead, seeking ways to ensure the future success of their business, while anticipating possible needs or challenges. 
  • They model team behavior. Excellent executive teams set the company culture, and they do so by interacting intentionally. They know how to communicate well, respect differences of opinion, and encourage contrasting viewpoints. These behaviors make teams better while setting the standard for team interactions enterprise-wide. 
  • They care. Finally, an effective executive team cares about others. They are accessible and approachable, honest and competent, and they exhibit genuine interest in employees on a personal level.  

5 Critical Elements of Executive Effectiveness

Let’s take a look at five critical elements that an effective executive team typically displays. 

They Get the Team Together Offline

More and more, online meetings and remote work have become ubiquitous. Many organizations have switched to a hybrid model to deal with lockdowns, and this shows no sign of letting up.

But although working from home is comfortable, it shouldn’t come at the expense of company culture. Effective executive teams understand how important it is to get the team together offline—and not just once a year. There are plenty of reasons to meet face to face. Here are just a few:

  • Developing professional relationships. More than half of our communication is non-verbal. However, reading body language and facial expressions is much more challenging online. This issue makes having productive meetings difficult, and it also makes it harder to build trust with our colleagues when we’re not in the same space. Regularly meeting offline helps develop professional relationships. 
  • Encouraging creativity. Creativity is often hard to come by when you’re sitting in a meeting in your living room, but the antidote is simple. A face-to-face meeting is often all that is needed to help stimulate the creative juices and get ideas firing. Additionally, being able to read body language in person can make it easier to share ideas. 
  • Fostering well-being. After the initial excitement of working from home, the monotony of remote life can become unpleasant for many. Some people prefer to be in a traditional office setting, and others have a hard time dealing with a lack of personal interactions. Getting together offline monthly may help ease some of these pain points and foster well-being. 

They Build Trust and Relationships With the Board and Employees

As much as it may feel like it, an executive team does not exist in a bubble—and the good ones understand this. They recognize that leaders must be visible throughout the organization. After all, they must build trust and relationships with the board, as well as with employees.  

Despite busy schedules, effective executive teams are intentional about establishing moments to connect with others, both within their own department and with others. They take time to learn the names of employees, and if you happen to be sharing an elevator with them, they say hello and chat with you. Excellent leaders do not make subordinates feel intimidated or unimportant. 

As examples, we can look to several Fortune 100 Best Companies for examples of trust and relationship building. Lots of companies have their CEOs and executives go on annual “roadshows” where they travel to all their locations. The goal of these roadshows? To talk with people and hear what’s going on? Doing so can showcase that an employee’s voice is truly valued. 

They Know How to Have Difficult Conversations

It’s all too easy to shy away from uncomfortable conversations, but part of being an effective leader is having to deliver bad news, make difficult decisions, or give negative feedback to valued people. It’s impossible to avoid, but there is a right way and a wrong way.

Of course, the wrong way makes others feel devalued or disrespected. It creates a negative culture, one where employees are scared to make mistakes or put forth their ideas for fear of criticism.  

An effective executive team is skilled at having these conversations the right way. They respect others and provide feedback constructively. In knowing how to have hard conversations, they also model the standard for what is acceptable and what is not when it comes to giving feedback.    

They Are Skilled at Effective Executive Decision-Making

There is a reason that executive team members make the big bucks: they are the ones making a business’s most critical decisions. When leaders are able to consistently make the right decisions, they more than earn those high salaries.  

However, executive decision-making is much more than following your instincts. It requires careful analysis of the problem at hand. Leaders should be skilled at the executive decision-making process, which may vary from person to person, but generally looks as follows:

  • Understanding the problem. Critical decisions stem from big issues, and top executives know that making the right one depends on more than just acknowledging the problem. They take time to understand why the problem is happening and what will occur if left unresolved. 
  • Gathering information. Leaders don’t assume that they have all the facts. They gather as much information about the problem as possible because the better the intel, the better their ability to make a decision will be. 
  • Aligning goals. A team might agree that an issue needs addressing, but they might not agree on what the goal of that solution is. Superior leaders take time to make sure everyone is on the same page and are willing to adjust goals slightly to get everyone there. 
  • Involving the right individuals. Critical decisions tend to impact a lot of people, even if this isn’t always obvious. Effective executive teams involve key organizational leaders in relevant departments to hear their feedback. Doing so allows them to discover an issue they hadn’t thought of.  
  • Sticking to your decision. Full confidence in a decision is the best way to bolster leadership. Committing to it will inspire confidence in others, and good leaders know that if they’re unsure about a decision, it’s best to wait. 

They Know About CEO Facilitation

If you look at a list of top CEO skills, “facilitation” is not usually on it—yet facilitation is a critical part of being a CEO. Most companies are not made of people who work independently, so being able to enable team conversations is essential. Meetings are the most common way to solve problems, make decisions, and set objectives. 

Still, plenty of executive teams lack the ability to engage in a discussion, which is more challenging than it sounds. If meetings have begun to feel like a waste of time, excellent leaders take a step back and evaluate whether they are directing them effectively. It takes some practice and methodology to be a facilitator, so this is a critical area to focus on. 

Do You Want to Improve Your Executive Team’s Effectiveness?

Sometimes organizations need unbiased outside assistance to develop executive effectiveness. Sterling Black has more than 25 years of experience helping leaders be the best they can be, and our custom executive team development programs are designed to help accelerate the path to effective executive teams.  


Contact us today for a confidential assessment. 


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