CEO Breakfast Session on Top Team Effectiveness

June 25 2008

The challenge of delivering high quality, effective and efficient public services in a tighter fiscal climate is not only a considerable one, but one of many dimensions.  It demands, among other things, talented management, the ability to improve performance across the board, and it will test the effectiveness of many a top management team.

The last in a series of CEO Breakfast Sessions* organised in partnership with the Hay Group addressed the third of these issues, the question of top-team effectiveness. The Session drew on the findings of a nine-year collaborative study between academics and consultants (CEOs) who work with top teams.

Gina Byrne, a Hay Group consultant for more than 10 years, led the Session. Gina is Irish practice leader for Leadership and Talent. Prior to joining Hay Group, she was an Assistant Professor at New York University’s School for Public Service where she taught strategic management in the public and non-profit sector. In her present role Gina works with a diverse range of Hay Group’s global and Irish clients.

Overall the findings of the study which Gina used as the basis of her talk showed that only 21% of leadership teams were outstanding performers.  The research team synthesised the best features and actions of top performers, and showed how these conditions could be put in place to answer the key challenges confronted by CEOs in leading their top teams.  Reflecting on the fact that the typical CEO deals with many complex issues on a daily basis, the presentation was essentially about creating a leadership team that reflects a company-wide vision: one that can help the CEO formulate and execute a coherent strategy; address strategic and mission critical issues; and focusing on the concerns of the organisation as a whole, act as a decision-making team. The study identified four team types or roles:

  • Information sharing and alignment
  • Consultative—there to give advice on specific topics
  • Co-ordination—dealing with company-wide issues and focusing on overall strategy
  • Decision making

Whatever the team or role it was argued that, in order to create an effective leadership team, teams must be bounded, stable and independent. They must have a clear and mutually well-understood and compelling purpose.  In addition, with purpose in mind, they must comprise the right people—people who can and are prepared take an organisational perspective and work collaboratively and with integrity—and they must have the right structure.

In her talk Gina Byrne addressed a number issues including failing or under-performing teams and challenges facing CEOs as they set about forming, directing and supporting their top teams emphasising that top teams can be critical to an organisation’s success and that even well-performing ones can be made more effective.  The key is have a real team with a compelling purpose, comprising the right people operating within clear boundaries.

*Previous Sessions in this series dealt with Talent Management (30 April 2008) and Improving Performance (28 May 2008): Brochure.


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