C-Suite: Development & Alignment

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CEO Huddle Recap: How to Build Trust on Your Leadership Team

The CEO Collective Q1 members’ huddle focused on building trust on the leadership team. Using Patrick Lencioni's book The Advantage as a jumping off point, CEOs brought their experience to the table and shared tactics that help to bring their teams together for the good of the company.

According to Lencioni’s “Model for Organizational Health” the most important thing a CEO can do for the health of the company is to build a cohesive leadership team. And to do that there must be a foundation of trust. He wrote, “If we don’t trust one another, then we aren’t going to engage in open, constructive, ideological conflict.” Without moving through conflict, results can’t be reached.

From The Advantage: Key Approaches to Building Trust

  1. Be vulnerable - Starting with the CEO 
  2. Share personal histories - Helping team members to better understand and relate to each other
  3. Profile - Using tools such as Predictive Index (PI), DISC and Myers Briggs for deeper understanding
  4. Be aware of “Fundamental Attribution Error” - Attributing frustrating behaviors of colleagues to their intentions or personality

CEO Example: How Saying “No” to a Massive Opportunity Built Trust 

Among the examples shared, one CEO told about a great opportunity with an existing client to take on all their business nationally. This would have doubled the revenue for the year. The leadership team met for weeks weighing it. Saying yes, meant blowing up the plan for the year. Just looking at the revenue alone it felt like something they couldn’t pass up. 

Tension was building and they had to make the decision. The CEO went first and was vulnerable with his concerns, saying that he believed if they moved forward with this, “the team is going to hate us and client quality is going to go down.” Once he put this out there, others were able to admit they had these same concerns. The CEO added, “I think they were holding their breath and doing what I wanted.” They walked away from the opportunity, and since then, the team morale has been amazing. It was a defining moment -- an example of saying “no'' and how that can build trust. 

From the CEO Discussion: 12 Tips for Building a Trusting, Cohesive Leadership Team

  1. Lead the way with vulnerability, sharing honestly.
  2. Be transparent with decisions through great communication about your thinking behind choices you make.
  3. Share and facilitate the sharing of personal life experiences (including the hard topics like death, illness, kids, challenges). Team members need to be able to bring their whole selves to work. 
  4. Have and encourage more patience and understanding when team members are going through something difficult.
  5. Leave space for and support constructive conflict, making sure the focus is on what’s best for the company.
  6. Publicly praise team members when they challenge ideas to show that challenge is welcome and celebrated.
  7. Make it clear to the team that you see silence as agreement. If they disagree with something, they have to speak up. 
  8. Facilitate ways to get people to speak up early in a meeting using an “icebreaker” to get people engaged so they are more likely to speak up when you get to the important topics.
  9. When a team member is more self-oriented rather than team oriented, framing it as, “in order to be successful you have to master this.”
  10. Look for ways to bring levity to discussions and conflicts when they get overly intense. Having someone on the team who is able to do this can be very helpful.
  11. Involve food to bring people together and promote more connection.
  12. Mix up the setting to shift the dynamic - a work vs. non-work setting, or any change of location. 

Building trust on the leadership team is a never ending process, but CEOs agreed that by staying focused on the practices like those above, team members can feel more connected and confident in working together, resulting in better results for the organization at large.


ABOUT THE CEO HUDDLE: Our quarterly CEO Huddles are member-only events for those in The Katahdin Group’s CEO Collective peer network. This is a forum for discussion and peer feedback on topics that are timely and important for those in the CEO seat. Learn more about the CEO Collective

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