Do you have a real team at the top?

Last time I promised to write about how to start to tap into the gold mine inside your organisation.

The first step is to build a real team at the top.

When your company’s executive team are not on the same page about what’s best for the whole organisation and they put their own interests, needs and functional areas before the priorities of the larger organisation there is a problem.

A bank executive told me recently, when there is no cohesion and unity at the top, the stage is set for interdepartmental rivalry, backbiting, confusion and infighting everywhere else. This behaviour he insists does not serve the overall best interests of the bank and neither does it help the customer.

The journey to a healthy organisation begins then with the Executive Team.

When your executives, the people with the greatest influence on behaviour in your organisation, start sharing information, support group decisions, dismantle the walls that once protected their turf and outlaw political games and hidden agendas, the message about how to behave is clear to everybody else.

How your leaders behave plays a vital role in ensuring that people don’t turn instead to cynicism, apathy and escapism.

Almost every employee has a deep need and desire for a cohesive and unified team at the top. They want to be inspired, to respect their leaders and to not have to take sides and fight unwinnable wars on issues that should have been resolved above them.

For many this deep need remains unmet and it’s a huge contributing factor to why large numbers of people are not emotionally engaged in their work.

At the initial offsite with the top team the first really difficult question we ask executives is, which team is your first team?

It’s not a trick question.

Which hat you wear as you sit around the Executive table is vital to how you show up and behave. Surprisingly, many Executives have not thought much about this.

For most it’s first their functional area or business unit – the team that they lead – that gets their main loyalty. This is where they are most comfortable. Where their knowledge and power base is.

Yet in a healthy organisation – there needs to be a clear Team Number One.

This is a small group of people – the Executives – who have the total interests of the business at heart and who are guided by one overarching leadership question, “How do we unlock and release the future full potential of the whole business”.

This means they are also completely dedicated to stopping the turf wars, ambiguity and every other barrier and bad behaviour that gets in the way of survival, growth and winning in the market.

They know that the stakes are high.

They know that the competition is organised and that every ounce of human creativity and intellect has to be focused outward and not wasted on internal struggles and needless empire building.

An executive I worked with – a very straight and direct man – used to challenge his team by asking; “do you want to be Executives or do you want to be Branch Managers?”

A stinging question, not intended to demean the latter but to remind his Executives of their main purpose … to build a real team at the top.

A Team Number One, that positions the whole business to meet customer needs and to set the example for getting people to submerge their egos and co-ordinate seamlessly. This team works tirelessly to make sure they don’t squander more human capability and goodwill than they actually use.

This is the first step to building your healthy organisation.

Next time we will write about the actual characteristics your Executive Team needs.

In the meantime please visit our Resources Page and download “Do We Work Well Together?” Ten questions that will make you think deeply about your team and what you look like to the people around you.

As always we love hearing from you.

Please comment below. We’ve just received fresh copies of Patrick Lencioni’s best-selling book, The Advantage and will give away three copies to people who comment.

We love hearing from you. Please comment below or email me at


  1. Dale Hillary 22 February 2017 at 10:24 am - Reply

    A brilliant article…so true and yet missing in so many businesses! I was in a coaching intervention yesterday where the lack of real commitment by certain key players within the team has resulted in disciplinary action being taken! Not healthy!

  2. Willem Coetzee 22 February 2017 at 10:33 am - Reply

    Thanks for the article, Grant.

    I would like to add… In Lencioni’s “Five Dysfunctions of a Team” model, the importance of TRUST among the executive team, as the starting point, is emphasised. I believe it is very much applicable here as well, although I might put my Executive team member (and not Branch manager) hat on, it is important for my colleagues to trust me as well as for me to trust them in doing the same.

  3. Craig Bouchier 22 February 2017 at 10:57 am - Reply

    You have said it so well. If the team at the top doesn’t let go of egos and personal agendas there is such a waste of energy which could be put to far better use to accomplish the vision and mission of the organisation.I this is not happening you would have to ask do we have the right people on the team and use Lencioni’s Ideal Team Player to evaluate the team which may lead to some tough decisions. Thanks for the blog, always thought provoking.

  4. Clive Hawkins 22 February 2017 at 11:12 am - Reply

    A great article…this not only applies in one’s own division/business although its a great place to start. It is extremely important that where there are many other divisions in a business, that can compliment one another, that these divisions work together, and offer the client a proposal they can’t refuse…there are too many of our large businesses that don’t do this, as successfully as they can.

  5. Brad Waldron 23 February 2017 at 3:55 am - Reply

    Once again Grant you pen an article that speaks to the heart of leadership – the top team has to be a top team! Keep sharing!

  6. Peter Wright 1 March 2017 at 7:34 am - Reply

    This really sounds obvious and easy. The pity is that we miss so much that is obvious! One burning issue is that each unit head has to be convinced that the top team has their unit’s best interests in mind and that the best for the organisation is the best for their unit.

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