Taking an Executive Team to the Next Level. Alan W Marsden Belbin Symposium 2010. The Business. One of Europe’s largest Utility companies 13.8 million customers Major project investments (£800m - £1bn pa) 4,600 employees Regulated. The Situation.
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Alan W Marsden
Belbin Symposium 2010
* Interim appointment
It was clear that a somewhat cautious approach to the softer side would be needed
BUT….new CEO clearly felt that a High EQ Team was needed if sustainable
performance was to be delivered
Decided to use Belbin Team Roles – SPI’s and Observer input – but based discussions on EQ
3 Day Workshop
Lack of Trust,
& Lack of Respect
From next level down
Everyone quickly bought into Team Roles and the ‘language’
From the workshop it was clear that there were major issues between the different Directors and
from what had been said between the Directors and their direct reports. Nevertheless – following
the workshop it was reported that there had been some improvements
Needed to be ‘behaviourally’ based, BUT recognising that we were working in an
environment that might not be emotionally capable of taking this.
Got them to really get into Team Roles and when we felt they were feeling comfortable
with this we talked ‘EQ’! To give them a feeling of ‘control’ we then concentrated on the
Observer words, asking them to select the words which were positive EQ words, and
those that were negative EQ words. Because they had completed Observer input from
colleagues and their subordinates we were then able to explore at ‘team’ and at
Once we felt comfortable that they were able to take a more direct and behaviourally
difficult approach we introduced the “3 HATS” exercise.
This really opened everything up…..and even now is referred to as being the catalyst
that led to the breakthrough.
Follow-up discussions with the CEO (now with a further 2 month’s experience in-situ) showed that he
continued to have major concerns with at least 2 of his ‘team’.
Because of what we had heard at the workshop we agreed to hold half-day workshops with each
‘Functional’ group of direct reports. These were very carefully structured so as to gather the
information we felt we needed. We included using the Observer words for each individual Director.
All of the information was then sorted and played back at follow-up ‘cross-functional’ workshops,
where the issues and concerns were ‘signed off’
6 ‘Functional’ workshops Write-up Issues & Concerns 3 ’Cross Function’ Workshops
The 1:1 interviews with Directors – 1 recognised he was ‘out of place’, another held cards close to
chest but our assessment was that there was recognition here also
It was now clearly recognised that if progress was to be made these 2 would have to go!
The ‘General’ issues, concerns and feedback received were of real concern BUT the
Specifics for 2 of the Executive members were of real concern.
The CEO wished to know whether or not these 2 individuals could change. Our ‘opinion’
was that 1 just couldn’t whilst the other might but in the longer term (it was hardly likely in anything less than 2 to 3 years. This judgement was made based upon experience, SPI & Observer data (which showed complete misalignment with Team EQ), advice from highly respected academics, and the content of the individual’s issues, concerns and feedback.
Furthermore…..we stated that were they to remain in situ the Executive would continue to be dysfunctional.
Following discussions between the CEO and the Chairman the appropriate action was taken!
Now aware of the ‘shape’ of the team we knew what ‘roles’ and what
EQ competencies we needed. The concurrent ‘Strategy’ work had
identified a different Organisation Structure and so we were able to
help the company with ‘fits’
We then took the NEW team away for a further 2 day workshop. We were now able
to adopt a totally ‘behavioural’ approach, which met with incredible success.
Amongst the outcomes was the formulation of a Psychological Contract designed by the
Exec team, for their interactions and work with their direct reports. This was then taken
to the 60 odd direct reports, discussed, amended and signed – by everyone.
A copy is held by everyone – there is real belief in it – and the evidence to date is that
it works, and that the Executive Team is displaying high level Emotional Intelligence.
Perhaps even more importantly (as far as the business is concerned) – they are meeting
with commercial success.
Our job is to carry out periodic checks to ensure that progress continues
If any individual changes are needed then we will help the company ensure
that the replacements/new members ‘fit’ – both in respect of team role and
EQ (in other words – true suitability)
PS: The company has invested in intensive ‘Leadership’ programmes for the senior
group (direct reports – 60), and for the next 340. These programmes include
a great deal of behavioural awareness