Silos in the workplace start at the top. Breaking down those silos and aligning at the top can be accelerated with effective executive team building activities.
To be effective, the selected activities must first be aimed at building a team of executives. This sounds easier than it is!
Executive Team Building Activities for Alignment at the Top
Executive team building activities fail when:
- Executives are entrenched in turf protection. Patrick Lencioni's definition of a "First Team" is not readily accepted by some executive teams. Instead, team members compete with each other to advance their own interests.
- Members of the executive team don't fully trust each other due to competing interests, jockeying for position, personality clashes, etc.
- Activities seem lightweight or don't have a clear objective.
- Executives aren't fully invested in the time required or the objectives laid out to become a more effective team.
- Significant organizational changes are looming or are very recent. Distracted executives will, naturally, put low priority on team effectiveness when there are urgent or seriously pressing matters to attend to.
Effective executive team building activities, then, will include:
- Assessment work, pre-work or other stage-setting to help team members see the value of working as a "First Team" and breaking down silos. The Team Assessment Report from the Table Group is one of the tools I strongly recommend.
- Time spent on building trust and getting acquainted with each other. We use our 12 Dimensions of Trust tool to open up candid dialogue and move through accidental breaches of trust or misperceptions about others' trustworthiness.
- Activities that are appropriate for participants who are experienced, savvy, time-pressed and able to assimilate a great deal of information quickly.
- Clear expectations from the top about how this time is to be spent with an "all in" commitment. The work of coming together as a team isn't always comfortable. If it's too easy to duck out and do "real work," some team members will be absent (which compromises the overall effectiveness of these activities).
- Thoughtful timing and pre-planning to create the optimum environment for focus.
Examples of tried-and-true executive team building activities:
- The Values Card Sort opens up discussions about what is meaningful and why to each individual. Getting acquainted and connected at this level builds trust, camaraderie and understanding. It also reveals common ground for working together.
- Diagramming ZOPA (Zone of Potential Agreement). This de-emphasizes all the differing and competing agendas and spotlights all the reasons for working more closely together. Usually, there is significantly more overlap than first realized.
- "In Your Shoes" exchanges and case studies.
Taking the time to craft executive team building activities that truly "move the needle" for an executive team is the only way to get alignment that will cascade throughout the organization. It's well worth the effort!
Next Steps for Getting Started with Executive Team Building Activities and Alignment:
- Subscribe to the CONNECT2Win Blog RSS feed if you’d like to receive new posts each Friday to help strengthen your team.
- Download one of our eBooks “What Is Team Effectiveness & How Can We Get Some for Our Team? Stat!” or “How to Build Effective Teams: Insights on Workplace Team Building from 30 Top Experts“
- Bring PFPS Executive Coaching or team effectiveness trainers in to help with your executive retreat. Book a free consultation with Deb. No cost, no obligation.
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Deb Calvert is President of People First Productivity Solutions, the company that helps you build organizational strength by putting people first. Book Deb today to facilitate critical team meetings and retreats, to speak at your leadership or team events, to conduct workshops to improve team effectiveness, or to work with you as your executive coach.
Editor's Note: This post was originally published November 2016 and has been recently updated.