Uniting your executive committee

N°329a – Synopsis (8 p.) – Governance
Uniting your executive committee
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The members of an executive committee must simultaneously position themselves as defenders of the collective interest and defenders of the issues associated with their specific roles. How can we integrate the diversity of visions in a constructive way?

Most executives need to lean on a tight-knit team. As Bruce Chizen, former CEO of Adobe Systems, admits: “The job is simply too big for any one person.” A few famous cases do exist of duos or small teams, combining very different profiles, such as Bruce Chizen and Shantanu Narayen at Adobe, or Steven Reinemund and Indra Nooyi at PepsiCo. Indeed, their ability to combine a variety of expertise, approaches and outlooks makes them highly effective.

But, as a general rule, there is nothing obvious about getting your leadership team to function well. The simple complementarity of roles naturally engenders friction. Of course, everyone is supposed to share responsibility for the company’s overall performance—and to make decisions that serve the collective interest. But everyone is also expected to shoulder the load of the function or division for which they are responsible. So it is only natural—and even healthy—that, faced with a common challenge, different points of view should clash. The problem is that, all too often, this results in differences that are difficult to reconcile. For example, according to a McKinsey study, 100% of managers agree that it is vital for a team to align itself with the company’s strategic priorities. Yet only 60% say that they themselves agree with these priorities. This figure was even limited to 50% in another study. Moreover, divergences within the team tend to increase as environments become more uncertain, the pressure to deliver results more intense and management profiles more diverse.

It is not rare for this lack of cohesion to be ascribed to conflicts between individuals. A logical reflex then consists in urging team members to set aside their differences, to move beyond turf wars. But these difficulties can also be seen as an asset: they help grasp the complexity of the decisions involved. The aim is then no longer to seek full cohesion, but to ensure that structural disagreements are constructive.

In this synopsis:
– Leadership teams: orchestrating complementarity
– Handling power dynamics within leadership teams
– Improving the efficiency of your executive meetings

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