I’ve had the rare opportunity to coach and work with the leadership teams of numerous Multinational Corporations in Vietnam (MNCs). Whilst it can be a humbling experience to work with teams and team members that are at the “top of their game”, it has also provided me with rare insights into common challenges that these teams face as outlined below. 

Collaboration Within the Leadership Team 

By far the most common coaching demand I receive from leadership teams is support for promoting collaboration. The typical barriers to collaboration I’ve witnessed include differences in personality driving conflict and miscommunication; a lack of communication on a formal and informal level; poorly defined roles and responsibilities; a lack of clarity and alignment on ways of working; and KPI’s that focus vertically, rather than cross-functionally, at the leadership team level.

These challenges typically manifest by creating silos along functional or business unit lines. These divisions stoke internal conflict and a breakdown of relationships within the team, which ultimately result in an inability for the team to come together with a united voice and focus. 

A Revolving Door of Leaders

By nature, senior leaders are ambitious people. There is always “something else” that they are aspiring or aiming towards. Coupled with this is the drive to expose senior leaders within MNCs to regional and global roles during their career cycle. As such, MNCs experience a steady turnover of leadership team members in all organisations.

Whilst the ‘revolving door’ can be great for promoting fresh ideas, new perspectives and energy into the team; it also has a destabilising impact. It requires the team to be in a perpetual state of renewal. As Psychologist Bruce Tuckman described it in his “Forming, Storming, Norming, and Performing model”, the team is then stuck in a forming to norming cycle, without actually having the opportunity to reach performing.

So How Can One Create a Cohesive Leadership Team Mindset?

Most leadership team members excel technically and achieve exceptional business performance when leading their business or functional units. However, this capability combination does not always translate well when they are inserted into a team of other high performers.

It often causes individuals to double-down on what they are good at (the technical BU/functional stuff), and to focus less on areas that are new, unknown, or higher risk (the activities that the Leadership team needs to focus on).

A number of approaches that I have found to work with Leadership Teams include:

New Leader Assimilation Programs 

These programs are effective for onboarding key leaders into the team. The focus is on open-sharing, aligning on ways of working, and surfacing any concerns early on about leadership styles. They also create opportunities to accelerate the relationship-building process. 

Personality Tools 

The use of personality testing within the leadership team can help create a framework for communicating through the different individual’s unique ways of behaving. The focus is on establishing a common language to describe behaviour, highlighting people’s strengths (and weaknesses), and most importantly celebrating the diversity of personalities in the team. 

Measuring Contribution 

Leadership Team members need to be measured on both their contributions to their respective BU/function as well as to the leadership team. 

The old adage of “what gets measured, gets done” holds true. If a leader only has KPIs focused on their functional expertise, that is where they will focus. If that same leader also has KPIs on the leadership team’s success, the focus will be more balanced.

The bottom line is that no matter how far an individual might climb in a company, the need for collaboration and comprehension of others’ working styles never ceases to be a top priority. 

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Tim Burrill
Membership Manager & Executive Assistant
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