THE LEADERSHIP MATURITY MODEL
Alone we can do so little; together we can do so much.
Dysfunctional leadership teams are more the norm than the exception. At the top of many companies is a lack of trust fueled by politics, power dynamics, selfish mindsets, and a toxic culture. Often, they aren't really a team as much as a collection of individuals pursuing their own agendas for more power and budget. The dysfunctions of the leadership team permeate and infect the rest of the organization, ultimately leading to poor performance and often the never-ending revolving door of new leadership every 12-24 months. The cycle stops once a CEO with the right experience, perspective, and skillset finally cleans up the team and the mess. But, in the meantime, the market and competition have evolved, and whatever advantages the business had have disappeared.
Here is the thing: with focus and hard work, leadership teams (often with some help) can systematically address their dysfunctions in a relatively short amount of time. The transformation of a leadership team from dysfunctional to high-performing doesn't have to wait for the "savior" CEO to swoop in. Most CEOs and leadership teams have the right ingredients to become high-performing; they just need the proper focus, a robust approach, and often a coach to mature and refine their behaviors to that of a high-performing team.
High-performing leadership teams don't create mediocre or average companies. They create market leaders. Their performance is measured by how efficiently and effectively they can mature the business model into a market leader. Put another way, a high-performing leadership team creates a high-performing business model in which the organization efficiently and effectively develops and delivers the customer value proposition and go-to-market to fulfill the target customers' needs better than the competitors, all to achieve the vision and mission.
There is much to unpack in the previous statement, which I detail in many sections of Stratechi.com. The takeaway for us right now is that high-performing leadership teams create high-performing business models. So, if you want to mature into a high-performing leadership team, the team's ultimate goal is to create a market-leading business model.
High-performing leadership teams aren't about big personalities, inspiring speeches, and natural ability; instead, high performance comes down to the little fundamental things the leadership team learns to do consistently every day to ensure a group of people achieves a set of goals efficiently and effectively. Maturing a leadership team involves doing more and more of the little things, the fundamentals, that, over time, compound to create incredible improvement in the business and the organization. It comes down to having a leadership team with the right people and mindsets. A team that infuses strong collaboration and communication skills and norms through themselves and the entire organization. A team that can strategically plan its way, solve the problems, and make the stream of decisions to become a market leader. And, of course, a team with the leadership skills to drive efficient and effective organizational execution to realize the vision to become a market leader.
The path to becoming a high-performing leadership team is through maturing the fundamentals within the five leadership competencies:
- People & Mindsets
- Collaboration & Communication
- Problem Solving & Decision Making
- Leadership & Execution
We'll go deep into the details of the what, why, and how of these five competencies, but be assured that if your leadership team works diligently on maturing these competencies, performance will follow.
WHY I CREATED THE LEADERSHIP MATURITY MODEL
As an executive, consultant, and coach, I've worked with many leadership teams over my 25+ year career. They've all had the potential to do great things with their businesses. And while some accomplished great things, the majority never reached their potential simply because they would consistently get in their own way. Some just weren't very strategic, others myopic, valuing short-term gains over long-term strategy; others were terrible at communication and collaboration; some consistently made poor decisions; others weren't good at problem solving and prioritizing or didn't have the right people and mindsets, or had toxic team dynamics, or couldn't execute. While the leaders were always different, the stories were eerily the same. The leadership teams consistently underperformed to their potential and typically found themselves in a stew of politics and ineffectiveness.
Early in my career, I focused primarily on strategy, but about ten years ago, I realized strategy isn't the hard part of business. The most challenging and rewarding part, financially and personally, is elevating the performance and alignment of a leadership team so they can collectively develop and execute strong strategies to become the leader in their market. The whole performance game became much easier once I began focusing on helping teams become high-performing leadership teams. Developing collaborative strategies and visions became easier for the teams. Their team dynamics would often take a 180 in a short amount of time. The pace of positive change accelerated as the organization had focus, clarity, and motivation. And, it always came down to the same playbook, which became the Leadership Maturity Model. We would work on the fundamentals of strategy & planning, people & mindsets, collaboration & communication, problem-solving & decision-making, and leadership & execution. Over time, I knew I was onto something, and I took some time off to codify all of my learnings over my career to develop the Leadership Maturity Model.
Another reason I created the LMM is the need for more prescriptive and helpful advice on becoming a high-performing leadership team. Most of the existing content is too simple, generalized, and without much depth. There isn't a comprehensive playbook for leadership teams to become high-performing and lead their organization to market leadership. None of what is in the Leadership Maturity Model is rocket science; just a lot of fundamentals wrapped up in a practical framework of competencies, which leadership teams can rally around in their pursuit of becoming a market leader and a high-performing team.
WHY THE LEADERSHIP MATURITY MODEL WORKS
There is a tremendous lift to the leadership team's performance as they mature in the fundamentals of strategy & planning, people & mindsets, collaborating & communicating, problem-solving & decision-making, and leading & executing. The beauty is that little investment is needed to transform not only the leadership team but the entire organization and trajectory of the business. No capital investment is required to mature all the competencies of the leadership maturity model. Instead, it's just a lot of hard work and focus to drive the individual and collective change to do the basics better, evolve fundamental behaviors, norms, and mindsets, and think and act a bit differently and more strategically. In addition, there are also three other big-picture reasons why the leadership maturity model playbook works and is one of the most, if not the most, fruitful, journeys a leadership team can take to transform themselves, their organizations, and their business.
THE FOCUS ON BECOMING A MARKET LEADER
Most leadership teams don't aim high enough. Executives focus on their KPIs, hitting the quarterly and annual financial goals, getting their initiatives approved, and moving them along. The game changes dramatically when leadership teams change their orientation towards evolving their business model into a market leader. When this happens, the leadership team finally has a goal they can all get behind instead of the piecemeal KPIs and OKRs they are focused on in the hope of progress. Leadership teams broaden their time horizon, elevate their strategic game, and start collectively focusing on the real chess game of how they will win and dominate. It may initially seem delusional for some teams to aim so high. Still, there is no downside for a leadership team to aim high, as long as they back it up by maturing their leadership competencies of strategy & planning, people & mindsets, collaborating & communicating, problem solving & decision making, and leading & executing. Ultimately, nothing stops a leadership team from being the best except for the leadership team.
THE EXPECTATION OF BECOMING A HIGH-PERFORMING TEAM
The simple act of a leadership team committing to the pursuit of excellence in becoming a top high-performing team is one the most significant boosts to the potential performance of the team. When every leadership team executive truly commits to the hard work and challenge to develop into a high-performing team, many historical team dysfunctions of politics and toxicity quickly fade away, replaced by positive team dynamics, trust, and a collective desire to improve as a team. Once the team decides to be a team, any holdouts that continue to prioritize their individual orientation stick out like sore thumbs and typically fall into place. The collective commitment to becoming a high-performing team is one of the most significant boosts to team growth. As expectations of what the leadership team can become elevate, the art of the possible opens up to the team. Belief is a potent, if not the most potent motivator. And once the leadership team truly "believes" they can be great, they will constantly be pulled toward greatness.
TRANSFORM THE LEADERSHIP TEAM TO TRANSFORM THE ENTIRE ORGANIZATION
A toxic leadership team creates a toxic organizational culture, while a high-performing team creates a high-performing culture. People primarily learn through mimicry and modeling of behaviors. As leadership teams mature in competencies, the leaders become role models, taking those learned norms and behaviors, and infusing them into their teams, creating a positive chain reaction throughout the organization. In essence, culture is simply employees' collective norms and behaviors. There isn't a better way to create a high-performing culture than first to elevate the performance of the leadership team, who will, in turn, cascade winning norms and behaviors to their teams, who will cascade them to their teams, and so on. As the leadership team goes, so does the rest of the organization.
A COACH TO ACCELERATE THE JOURNEY
Every major professional sports team has a coach, yet few leadership teams have one. They often try to rely on the CEO to be the coach, yet that is like depending on the quarterback of a football team to be the coach. Some CEOs are highly gifted and talented and can play both roles. Still, leadership teams can significantly accelerate their transformation with a strong leadership coach to bring an objective perspective to what good is, what the gaps are, how best to evolve the dynamics and skill sets of the leadership team, while also holding them accountable. Having specialized coaches for specific competencies can further accelerate the leadership team's maturity, just like every professional sports team has a bevy of coaches to work with players on various skills.
The absence of team-oriented coaches is one of the most significant gaps in modern executive leadership. While most executives have individual coaches, the advice they get can often exacerbate specific team dysfunctions since the orientation is usually around the best strategy for individual executives rather than the best collective path for the team and organization. Imagine a professional sports team where everyone has their own personal coach they meet with once a week, who never sees the players in action in practice or games, and no coaches are overseeing the team. That experiment would go poorly, but that experiment is the reality of most leadership teams in business.
There are a million and one reasons why leadership teams may be dysfunctional, but in my experience, all the reasons leading to the dysfunctions are irrelevant. What matters is what the leadership team will do differently today, tomorrow, and over the next month to mature in specific competencies. How will they change their collective beliefs, mindsets, actions, and behaviors to try to move forward and, with it, the business model? So, let's dig into the five management competencies of the Leadership Maturity Model to get your team started on their journey today.
THE FIVE COMPETENCIES OF THE LEADERSHIP MATURITY MODEL
The five competencies of the leadership maturity model are:
- Strategy & Planning
- People & Mindsets
- Collaboration & Communication
- Problem Solving & Decision Making
- Accountability & Execution
Within these competencies are dimensions that further define the competencies to a specificity that leadership teams can tactically improve. Below are the competencies and their dimensions, which I will review in the following sections.
Leadership teams who take on the challenge of maturing across these leadership competencies create positive systemic change across their organization to accelerate their journey to market leadership. They’ll get people working on the right things and less on the things that don’t matter.
From here, you can navigate the Leadership Maturity Model sequentially, which will maximize your understanding, or jump to a section that interests you.
Learn what it takes for a leadership team to mature strategically by mastering the big picture, using a common strategic language, managing a balanced portfolio of strategic initiatives, driving functional excellence, and developing and executing well-crafted objectives and key results (OKRs).
High-performing teams drive incredible productivity and creativity through strong communication and collaboration. They focus on creating a culture of trust and strong networks of connection. They establish and nurture collective norms around purpose, quality, and efficiency. And, they fully utilize technology.
Problem solving and decision-making are how leadership teams create the strategies to become a leading business model. High-performing teams are strong problem-solvers and decision-makers. They focus on the right problems, correctly frame them, collaboratively solve them with solid logic and analytics, ideate creative and elegant solutions, and make good decisions that propel the business model forward.
The realization of a leadership team's good decisions and strategy comes down to the organization's ability to execute them. A team with strong leadership and accountability creates a performance culture. Efficient and effective execution are the last critical pieces of the puzzle.
BECOME A HIGH-PERFORMING TEAM WITH PERSONAL COACHING
I hope you are enjoying the leadership maturity model. Seeing the rapid improvements leadership teams have realized using the model has been rewarding. As an executive, consultant, and coach, I've worked with many leadership teams over my 25+ year career. If you want to take your leadership team to the next level, I encourage you to learn more about my background and reach out or set up some time if you think there is a fit. We'll work together to develop your team into a high-performing leadership team and your business into a market leader.