New research: Senior in-fighting undermines engagement and it’s the CEO’s fault

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In December, London Business School released a new piece of research: their 2017 Business Leaders Survey. The surveyed asked 1,248 individuals in senior positions from varying sizes of organizations across 12 sectors and 98 countries for their perspective on what are the major leadership and development challenges facing their organizations.

The research found that the 5 biggest challenges facing leaders and their organizations today are employee engagement, effective strategy execution, talent management, siloed working practices  and how to encourage better collaboration across their organizations.

Familiar themes and not that surprising.

However, there was one additional finding within the report that did stand out and that was that:

“58% of all respondents reported at least one issue with how their organisation’s top executive team appear to work together, from focusing on their own agendas to regular conflict and in-fighting within the team”.

Now, with many organizations struggling to deliver a consistent and ever-improving customer experience, sustainable financial returns and an engaged workforce, that finding is pretty concerning.

In addition, if senior executives are noticing this about themselves, their own organizations, their colleagues and their own senior team then you can be pretty sure that everyone else in their organizations have noticed these problems too.

How can employees be expected to be more engaged and work more effectively together towards a common goal when they see in-fighting and conflict within their senior team?

The senior leadership team in any organization is hugely important in setting the tone and context for the whole organization. But, as this research shows, their efforts will be hindered if their actions are not congruent with their words.

So, who is to blame for all of this in-fighting and lack of coordination.

My conclusion: the CEO.

Now, whilst every member of the C-suite has their part to play, it is the CEO who is the team leader and, ultimately, has to bear the responsibility for any dysfunction in their team.

Failure to create an effective top team that sets the tone, agrees priorities, aligns incentives and coordinates activities is the responsibility of the team leader: the CEO.

But, here is a bigger challenge.

Many CEOs may read this article and they will then dismiss it believing that their team is completely aligned, doesn’t suffer from in-fighting and is effective in it’s ability to work together to execute strategy.

As a result, they will do no more.

However, there will be a few, more open and more curious characters that will be intrigued by these results and they will stop, reflect on the findings and start to pay closer attention to how their senior team is actually operating together.

Some will go further and will start to ask some questions of their senior team and their organization in order to investigate this issue further.

Now, they may not find anything to overly alarm them. But, the very fact that they are willing to pay closer attention to these issues, the performance of their senior team  and the impact it has on the whole organization will help them build a more cohesive and effective C-suite.

That, in turn, that will have a knock-on effect on their ability to effectively execute strategy, increase collaboration, improve engagement as well as create meaningful change.

If you are a CEO reading this, I wonder which group will you be in?

 

This post was originally published on Forbes.com here.

Thanks to Wikipedia for the image.

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