6 ways to create and keep a top-notch leadership team
by Kim Bassett, President and CEO, Steward Norwood Hospital, Massachusetts
“The whole is better than the sum of its parts.” Aristotle said this an eon ago and it still holds true today. This is particularly important when putting together a high-functioning leadership team.
There is no such thing as the perfect team and some of the best teams are not made up of “superstars.” The true power of a high-performing team lies in how well each member clicks together. A team is better as the whole, not any one individual.
As the leader of such a team, you have to be on alert, tending the team, and assuring that everyone is in sync. Here are six key ways to build and keep a high-performing leadership team:
1. Provide clear direction and feedback. It’s our responsibility to not only give our team clear direction on initiatives, but to also let them know why it is important. And part of this is the feedback loop. Get good at teaching and talking with your team, rather than accusing or “throwing people under the bus.”
2. Identify and develop key team strengths, each team member must be an expert in their own right. The best thing we can do as the leader is respect the knowledge of our team members and get out of the way and let them work. Create an environment where each team member feels safe enough to question each other, and know that those questions will be well received. Your team must feel free to speak up and throw out ideas without being ridiculed.
Bad decisions and bad ideas are going to happen. Good leaders support the team through this. Some of the best education comes from mistakes.
3. Look for talent gaps and fill them or develop them. This can be accomplished through offering training opportunities for existing team members or bringing in temporary team members as needed to work with the primary team. Often this is an excellent way to introduce lower level managers to the executive team and give them the chance to be an expert on a topic or project while filling an existing talent gap.
When recruiting to fill a vacancy, give thought to the gaps on your team and use this opportunity to find someone that compliments your team’s needs.
4. Build trusting relationships beyond the work setting, but keep it professional. This can be accomplished through get-togethers in a controlled environment. Examples include sporting events, company-sponsored family picnics or leadership retreats where trust building exercises are facilitated. One of the best team building events I participated in took place at a gun range! We all learned about gun safety and learned a little bit about ourselves as well.
Your team’s ability to trust each other (or lack thereof) becomes obvious on such retreats and can show you where work needs to be done to create a high-functioning team.
5. Showcase your team and give credit where due. This recognizes not only their accomplishments, but also gives them the opportunity to grow. A good way to showcase your team’s talent is by inviting them to speak about their area of expertise to the board of directors or other leadership groups.
Not everything should be filtered through the president or vice presidents. Encouraging your leaders to speak to your board gives you the opportunity to publicly praise their great work.
It’s essential to give praise for accomplishments. Allowing your board to hear from leaders other than yourself demonstrates the strength of your team and should make the board feel secure in the entire organization’s leadership. However, when things go wrong, a good leader also shields the team and takes the responsibility for the team, addressing issues privately within the team.
6. Set the standard. You must reinforce your messages with everything you do and say. If you want your leadership team to be great, then you too must be great. Good leadership starts at the top and if your team loses respect or faith in your ability to lead, then it affects the entire team.
Building and maintaining a top-notch leadership team is an essential element in being an effective president or CEO. There is truth in the saying, “You are only as good as the company you keep.” The mark of a true leader is the ability to recognize this and then working diligently to surround yourself with people who make you stronger, smarter and more effective.
As an experienced healthcare executive, Kim Bassett is a strong believer in the “can-do” attitude, focusing on team-building, communication and creativity to find the “win-win” in every situation. She thrives on challenges, especially those that involve bringing teams and people together to provide exceptional healthcare. Her mission in life is to care for every patient as if they were family.