You are a leader of a new executive team.
And you want to mobilise your team fast.
But you are very busy.
And you can only take the team out for 2 days to kick things off.
And your question is: How do I best structure the 2 days, to get the best possible start?
To intelligently answer the above question would require deeper understanding and deliberation of your specific situation. Equally, there isn’t just one way to get to a great outcome.
However, having worked with hundreds of executive teams, I’ve observed that the following principles are critical to a successful executive team kick-off:
- Don’t try to condense 10 days of discussions in 2 days – building a powerful team is not a one-off event; instead a journey that requires continual investment (physical, emotional and financial).
- Sequence matters – most teams want to jump into the content straight away. I believe building relationships first leads to much better content discussions.
- Building trust in a team is a first order priority – it pays commercial dividends because it increases speed and reduces cost.
- Putting the customer at the centre of content discussions is critical – without meeting and exceeding your customers’ needs there is no sustainable business.
With the above principles in mind, outlined below is a high level framework that can constitute a powerful start for many executive teams.
Day 1 Focus : Start to Build Greater Trust in the Team
Why : Trust is the life blood in any relationship and in every team. Without sufficient trust, everything will take much longer and will cost a lot more.
Set-up conditions for Success
- Leader’s opening – Who am I, What’s my why, Why you, Why these days, Beyond these days etc
- Team check-in : What’s most important to each person? Why?
- Collective rules : How should we play in the next 2 days to maximise value and minimise waste?
Understand and appreciate each others’ personal stories
- What is each person’s story…growing up story, career story, current life stage story
Gain practical insights into the dynamics that will play out between individuals and in the team
- Use the HBDI (Herrmann Brain Dominance Instrument) to get insights into how each person thinks (normally and under stress), and what the team is likely to be strong at and weak at
Get the fastest path to building trusted relationships
- Reflect and share: How best to build/destroy trust with me?
Day 2 Focus : Start to formulate a collectively owned 30-60-90 day game plan, focussing on the most important priorities of the team
Why : Focus is everything. And the team must be ruthless in deciding on the few things that will make the biggest difference immediately (driving the right balance between Important and Urgent activities vs Important but not urgent activities).
Our Business – Outside-in perspective
- Who are our most important customers, the ones that we truly exist to serve?
- If they were in the room today, what would they say about:
- what they love about us and what we do for them
- what they find frustrating and wish that we were better at
Our Business – Inside-out perspective
- What is our perspective on what’s going great in our business and what’s not?
- Where do we have the biggest opportunities?
Strategic Decision – What does our operating archetype need to be?
- To be successful, how do we need to operate – more as a group or more as a team?
- What does that mean operationally?
Our 30-60-90 day Focus
- What is the most important work that we must drive as an executive leadership team to:
- advance our business in the right direction
- strengthen the foundations for becoming a high performing unit (group or team)
Interim Operating Rhythm
- To progress our plan, how much time do we need to invest together?
- How should we organise ourselves to maximise the return on investment of our time together?
As you reflect on the above, please bear in mind the following two caveats:
- Whilst the above framework is sensible, it doesn’t take into account any team specific situation/nuances – these are important to consider to establish the most optimal approach for each team
- Building a powerful team is a marathon and not a sprint. So any kick-off should be considered as a powerful start only and not a be all and end all.