Good leaders build good teams and great leaders build great teams. In a nutshell, the leadership team, or any management team, must be focused, aligned, and capable to be high-performing.

Building good and great teams involves ensuring the right people are in the right roles; creating trust and clarity among team members; infusing teamwork in execution; using operating principles to guide the work; and, managing the team’s performance and development.

Consider the following set of operating principles—the way of doing things—that a leader at a professional services firm co-created with her team of functional managers:

  • External strategic focus: We will stay at the right altitude, strategic and externally-focused, in leading the organization.
  • Clarity and alignment: We will define and communicate clear goals and aligned priorities for each of our teams.
  • Enterprise orientation: We will be collaborative, non-territorial, and unified in leading the organization together.
  • Functional excellence: We will succeed through others by providing direction, expertise, support, and guidance.
  • Shared values and norms: We will strive to preserve a culture of respect, empowerment, quality, and productivity.
  • Collaborative relationships: We will meet regularly, actively learn from each other, and help each other succeed.
  • Disciplined execution: We will continuously improve core business processes to relentlessly drive desired results.
  • Mutual accountability: We will assess our progress and develop capabilities as individual leaders and as a team.

Building capability requires active team performance management. The leader above used a quarterly process to gain feedback from the team, share key themes, and openly discuss team-building opportunities. Useful questions for team development include:

  • Given our operating principles, what is currently working well as a team and what are some of our strengths?
  • What is not working so well, how is this affecting performance, and why do we think it is happening?
  • What can we do to create greater day-to-day alignment? What behaviors need to stop, start, or continue?
  • What mindsets, skillsets, and toolsets do we need to focus on to become more effective as a team of leaders?
  • How will we do all of this while also making our personal experience meaningful and rewarding?

Over time the mantra of make it clear, make it real, make it work, and make it last became the way, an operating philosophy for the team. As a result, other teams became more empowered within and across functions to manage natural tensions, better execute strategy, and improve key results.

What is your management team’s way?