A top leadership team isn’t just another team. The best practices and conventional wisdom of effective teams are not sufficient to create a high-functioning team of C-level executives. The role and realities at the top create unique challenges.

Here are 4 challenges that senior executive teams often face when they turn to CCL for help:

1. The game has changed. Something is new and shakes up the team’s equilibrium. It could be a new CEO, a new team member, or new strategic challenges. Whatever the shift, the team struggles with focus, collaboration, and trust.

Conversations circle at a superficial level, not getting into the deeper, more complex issues. The direction for the team (and for the organization) starts to get unclear. Team members begin to doubt if they have the right people in the group; some speculate they are the ones in question.

2. The battle to achieve both functional and enterprise goals has multiple fronts. Members of the senior executive team typically play a dual role of leading their own function or organization, while being responsible for the high-level goals of the business as a whole.

This tension is constant, and can easily lead to lack of alignment and political infighting.

Team members may respond with defensiveness — acting in ways that protect themselves and their personal scope. If this tension is not managed, the team will fail to execute enterprise-wide initiatives or collaborate across silos and boundaries.

3. Conflict is either too intense or underplayed. Egos and disagreements overshadow substance. Alternatively, discussions are “too polite.” Either way, important conversations happen outside the room, difficult topics are avoided, and decisions don’t stick.

At the senior team level, the ability to be transparent, give constructive feedback, and address team dynamics is crucial for success.

4. A “good enough” team is no longer enough. The team has been effective up to now, but they want to up their game. There is untapped potential among them.

They are holding back, not challenging themselves to become a fully functioning, high-performing, best-in-class leadership team.

There is a sense (or strong evidence) that something is missing. Maybe they lack innovation, or are hesitant to take risks. Or increasing complexity requires new agility or new mindsets.

Levels of energy, enthusiasm, and engagement are too low. As a result of a senior executive team that is good, but not great, the organization is not poised to navigate greater uncertainty or capitalize on new opportunities.

What Senior Teams Need to Do

To overcome these challenges, senior executive teams need to invest in their own development.

Understanding and improving team dynamics and processes are not secondary priorities to running the business.

Without the ability to manage how they work together, top leaders will undermine the direction, alignment, and commitment needed to drive performance and see results.

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