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Introduction to Connecting Top Managers: A Pack of Top Dogs

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The authors of Connecting Top Managers share with you what they have learned about leadership teams and how to boost the positive impact they can have on organizations.
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  • Lisa was sitting with the CEO of a food manufacturer discussing the model for their senior leadership team. The CEO and his vice president of human resources had taken a stab at creating their model and had emailed it to Lisa the week before and asked for her input.
  • "I think what you have here is great, but it is incomplete," Lisa said. "You are missing half the model."
  • "Really, how so?" asked the CEO with great interest.
  • Lisa pulled a simple one-page diagram from a folder. "What you have defined is your expectations for what great functional leadership means to you and at this organization. What you have not yet addressed are your expectations for how your team ought to lead together or what senior leadership team excellence looks like and the impact you expect your team should have on steering this organization, results, culture, and the strength of the management function."
  • The CEO saw the power of the revised model immediately, and it changed his approach to how he and his team would lead together, and it expanded his definition of senior leadership team excellence.

This is a true story and one that we have seen played out with many leaders over the years. These experiences inspired us to write this book and share with you what we have learned about leadership teams and how to boost the positive impact they can have on organizations.

Many organizations use incomplete leadership models, which is not surprising because leaders often tend to focus on their functional (or divisional) responsibilities. Most of their time is spent running the part of the business they have been hired to lead. Their financial rewards are likely tied to unit success, and the people in their unit are who they represent at leadership team meetings and during strategic planning sessions. Recruiting and hiring decisions are often based primarily on previous results as a group leader, and bigger and broader job opportunities are often offered to the leaders who have effectively managed their units.

And so it is not at all surprising to us that the other part of the leadership model, the part that we call leadership team excellence, is often overlooked. You might be thinking that this makes perfect sense. That 95% of a leader's time is spent running his or her function or unit, and therefore we should focus on, measure, and reward leaders based on what happens there. If departments and divisions don't perform well, organizations can't succeed.

We agree that functional success is critical and that it represents only half of the picture of excellence. Here are a few things we have learned that we hope will compel you to keep reading:

  • Leadership teams, as a whole, create the culture and set the tone for how managers and employees work.
  • One of the greatest predictors of whether a workforce will seek union representation and whether a union campaign will succeed is the connection and trust employees have established with the leadership team.
  • Clashing styles within the leadership team have a strong, rippling, and negative effect on the entire organization.
  • Although they are the most expensive in the organization in terms of payroll and opportunity costs, many leadership team meetings fail to produce satisfactory results.

Throughout this book, we explore these and many other ways that leaders, as a team, impact organizational success. We share examples, research, and actionable practices that you and your team members can use to enhance your results across several measures of excellence.

We believe in the 5/95 Rule. Five percent of your time—the approximately 100 hours per year that you spend together as a team—impacts 95% of the success of several organizational systems. If you can optimize this 5%, you will see positive returns in many areas including organizational culture, employee engagement and retention, productivity and results, and organizational agility. We have designed and organized this book to help leadership teams make the most of this precious 5%.

Who This Book Is For

We have written this book for leaders. Leaders are members of at least two teams—their functional or unit groups and their peer leadership teams. Our focus is on helping leaders and their team colleagues get better together. Members of middle management teams will also benefit from the recommendations we share, and we invite human resources, organization development, and training professionals to use this book to develop their leaders and leadership teams as well.

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