business womanSenior teams, whether they be operating boards, executive committees or senior management teams, need to work at how they work together to produce the outcome they are paid to deliver.

High performing top teams look at things like their make up, roles and structure, but they also focus on the  behaviours of individual that will enable them to perform.

During my work in senior team facilitation, I’ve found there are some key behaviours and attitudes that team members find particularly useful. Here is the top ten most helpful:

  • Don’t assume. Keep clarifying the goals, roles and norms  Clarification isn’t a one off activity, it should be an ongoing process.  Failing to do this breeds unhelpful assumptions, misunderstandings and mistrust.
  • Listen and check your understanding Listen fully to what others say without judging, and then play it back to them. Often this highlights subtle differences in your understanding.
  • Explore rather than defend when challenged The default position for many senior people is to defend their position when challenged. When challenged it’s far more productive to explore similarities and differences by asking questions and making links.
  • Ask people how they feel, not just what they think  This is the single most powerful one in the tool kit.  Many senior people seem to think that feelings have no place in the workplace.  But feelings and emotions govern thoughts, decisions and actions so ignore them at your peril.
  • See challenge as clarification not as conflict It helps if the challenge is constructive rather than aggressive, but even if it is aggressive, turn it round and use it as an opportunity to explain your position again in a slightly different way to help others understand.
  • Don’t take things personally, or make them personal   They rarely are!  Most people have positive intent and aren’t out to undermine or attack anyone.  It can be hard to see it like that sometimes, but trying asking questions to understand where the questioner is coming from. This will help to keep the situation constructive and positive – it’s in your hands!
  • Leave the ego behind Sometimes behaviours that helped someone rise to the top of an organisation aren’t helpful when it comes to high performance team work.  For example, self-confidence can be misconstrued as ego.  Decisiveness can be interpreted as being uncollaborative.
  • Manage the share of voice  Is everyone being heard equally?  Are some people dominating the discussions?  Are potentially-valuable contributions being missed? Actively manage the  share of voice to ensure inclusivity and optimal information sharing.
  • Make links and highlight differences Ask for similarities and differences to the views expressed.  Try to build cohesive team ideas that are bigger than the sum of individuals’ ideas.
  • Talk about ways of working and agree some norms For useful individual attitudes and behaviours use this list as a starting point! But also look at how you share information, co-ordinate among yourselves, the appropriateness of structures and how you make decisions.

Practice these things and turn them into habits.  Give people feedback when they do these things and you find it helpful. Tell them why.  Similarly, explain how the lack of a behaviour might have diminished your joint performance.

Of course there are other factors that also lead to a top team performing, but more often than not these additional factors are as well as, not instead of, the behaviours and attitudes above. That’s why I constantly keep these behaviours front of mind while facilitating senior teams helping them to work more effectively together.

If you’d like to develop your top team so they deliver amazing results and enjoy what they do, then call Simon on 020 3488 0464 or email