Executive Teams

Non-teams at the top are the rule

Teams at the top are fundamentally “non-teams”. High-performing top teams are a rare species. Why? Up until now, composition has been more important than collaboration – that is the key focus. It is based on the assumption that top managers automatically work well together because they share a common rational logic. But this is a fallacy, as our daily work reveals: most top teams are shaped by a pattern that we call the “Top Team Paradox”: the individual strengths of the individual executives do not add up to a collective strength in effective collaboration and team leadership.

On the contrary, the will to succeed and assertiveness, the very strengths that take successful managers to the top, have a counterproductive effect in a top team of equals. High individual strength thus paradoxically creates a collective weakness. Alternative loyalties in a corporate matrix, focus on the success of your own area, concealed or open competition stand in the way of constructive teamwork and a RoC, a “Return on Collaboration”, in the top team.

The top team paradox is sabotaging the RoC “Return on Collaboration” in the senior team.

Why are we team – and should we, really?

Practically every top manager today talks about a “high-performing team” that needs to be formed. The reality in our daily work is the opposite: we see a multitude of top team dysfunctions such as lack of personal trust, conflict avoidance, weak commitment or lack of focus on the team result. So the first question to answer is: why are we a team and should we, really? Executive teams need to harvest the “collaboration premium”: only an honest, self-critical look at the team’s collaboration and leadership work will enable them to work on the dynamics that stand in the way of highest team performance.

We acknowledge that it is hard to stay focused on individual growth in the hectic pace of everyday management. That’s why we offer a complementary and optional digital “Daily Leadership Workout” to help individual managers master the “knowing-doing-gap”. Building on the findings of neuroscience, this workout offers a unique learning approach: combining intellectual learning and action-learning through daily practice. It is a fact: our brain is adaptable – you can therefore change your thinking and behavioural routines by daily training. You train your self-awareness and self-management for 4 to 8 weeks, with: 1. “Food for Thought”: intellectual input to inspire your thinking; 2. Self-reflection: questions for transferring the input into your daily practice; and 3. “Train your Brain”: micro-techniques to build new routines in thinking and acting.

New attitudes and behaviours are like muscles that can be shaped by regular training.

Successful top teams perform and learn jointly at the same time

Fact check. Reflecting on your own and team behaviour and its impact on others.

Psychological safety. Overcoming impression management, thereby sharing weaknesses or doubts.

Productive conflict. Putting issues openly on the table, without any taboos.

Reflective dialogue. Listening deeply and building on each other to unlock the team’s potential.

Collaborative growth. Supporting each other, with clear individual growth steps for the joint cause.