Building An Effective Management Team

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A. The Management Team Research Project

To find out what makes a management team effective, we studied more than 500 members of 72 management groups in both business and government. The teams were surveyed using the Team Effectiveness Assessment for Management (TEAM), an instrument developed specifically to assess management groups. Teams rated in the top 25% on these effectiveness measures were compared with those in the bottom 25% to determine which characteristics differentiated successful from unsuccessful teams.

B. What Is a Management Team?

“Management team” usually refers to a group of managers at the same organizational level who report to the same person. They meet regularly to share information and make decisions that affect the whole organization or department. Management teams are part of an organization’s formal leadership structure.

Management teams usually share the following characteristics:

  • The team’s primary purpose is to make decisions that guide organizational operations.
  • All team members hold leadership positions in the organization.
  • Team membership and leadership are determined by position, not selection.
  • Members often need to work together outside the team setting.
  • Members can be more effective individually by sharing information with one another.

Small enterprises may have only one management team, while large organizations have several teams at each layer of their hierarchy.

C. Types of Management Teams

Management teams are found in business, government, and not-for-profit organizations. Many management teams fall into one of the following categories:

Executive team:  The top management group in an organization.

Line management team:  Managers who run departments that produce, deliver, or sell the organization’s products or service.

Staff management team: Managers who run departments that exist to support the line functions. Staff departments have knowledge and abilities in specialized areas, such as information systems, human resources, etc.

Board or Council: A formal group that meets periodically for joint decision-making. Members have no other connection as a group. Boards usually provide governance and oversight, while Councils offer input, advice, and coordination of activities.

D. Barriers to Creating a Leadership Team

To many people, “management team” sounds like an oxymoron. In fact, turning a group of managers into an effective leadership team is no easy task, for several reasons:

Management personalities: Management work tends to attract people who are analytical, action-oriented, and high on need for control. (This generalization does not apply to all managers, but is true of managers as an occupational group.) These characteristics are often helpful in management, but usually do not enhance teamwork.

Conflicting interests: Each management team member is responsible for a separate organizational unit. These units often have conflicting goals, interests, and needs.

Power relationships: Management teams are embedded in a complex network of organizational relationships, which greatly affect their ability to produce results. To be effective, they must successfully manage relationships upward, downward, and laterally.

Group decision-making: Because their primary purpose is to make decisions, management team members must continually try to reach agreement on critical issues. Conflicting interests can make this process especially difficult.

E. Promoting Positive Relationships

A collaborative decision-making climate does not emerge overnight. Team members require time to become familiar with one another, acquire a common history, and develop shared perspectives. Two factors appear to be especially important for encouraging collaboration: trust and respect. Respect can be broken down into two types: basic respect and earned respect.

Trust: Different levels of trust may exist on a management team. A minimal degree of trust about work activities is absolutely necessary. Over time, a highly cohesive team may develop a deeper level of trust, but this is not necessary for members to work together effectively.

Basic Respect: Basic respect refers to the respectful treatment we should show to any other person simply because they are another human being. Team members should always show basic respect towards one another.

Earned Respect: Earned respect does not come automatically – a person attains earned respect through their actions, knowledge, or accomplishments. For a management team to be effective, members need to have at least some degree of respect for the abilities of other team members.

In addition, maintaining positive relationships requires successful conflict management among team members, since differences and disagreements are a natural part of team interaction.

F. What Makes a Management Team Successful?

In the Management Team Research Project, the following five Success Factors appeared to differentiate the most successful teams from unsuccessful ones. When the five factors were present, management teams that we studied worked as productive, cohesive groups. When they were absent, teams had difficulty fulfilling their leadership role in the organization.

Success Factor 1: Strategic Goals
To focus activity and effort, management teams need a clear understanding of their purpose and the goals they intend to accomplish. These goals should address the organization’s critical strategic priorities.

Success Factor 2: Extensive Networks
To make informed decisions, management teams must access critical information from both inside and outside the organization.

Success Factor 3: Collaborative Relationships
To cooperate in achieving team goals, management team members must be able to develop positive, supportive relationships.

Success Factor 4: Effective Information Processing
To make good decisions, management teams must effectively process the information available to them. Our research found that the leader of a management team has more influence over this aspect of team effectiveness than any other.

Success Factor 5: Focused Action
To accomplish results, management teams must make the transition from discussion to action. A brilliant decision that is implemented poorly will be of no benefit to the organization.