9 Characteristics of an Effective Executive Team

Some believe the ultimate measure of a senior leadership team’s success are the organization’s results. And yet there are companies that do quite well in spite of a dysfunctional leadership team. Imagine what could happen, in those cases, if the team at the top was able to get its act together.

The Characteristics

Here’s what a high-performing leadership executive leadership team has that others don’t.

Meaningful purpose

There is a clear and compelling reason to work together. That purpose isn’t always obvious. Normally, an executive team’s members are each responsible for a specific company function. While the CEO should be the glue that coordinates the activities, everyone’s primary concern is his/her assigned areas of responsibility. In high-performance teams a commitment to the team’s purpose should be at least as important as the commitment to the purpose for the area each member leads.

Shared goals

The team needs to focus on a set of outcomes which all members are committed to achieving and which require contribution by everyone. If it’s truly a team goal, everyone will feel equally responsible for its achievement. These are not necessarily the same as the company’s goals. Examples that would require a full-team effort could include: Launching a new service, implementing a new ERP, improving the customer’s experience, increasing employee engagement.

The right mix

The team’s members have complementary skills, experiences, and styles necessary to fulfill the needed roles and responsibilities. People know each other’s strengths, weaknesses, preferences, and aversions. They use this knowledge to create synergy. Members see the value of each person’s presence on the team. There’s a sense of equality among all the players.

Strong interpersonal relationships

People can be themselves because they genuinely like each other and will do what they can to look out for and support their teammates. Members trust each other and are trustworthy. The cohesiveness of the team is obvious to people outside the group. It’s all for one and one for all.

Helpful operating principles

The team has agreed upon ways of working together. These might include a shared set of values, processes for making decisions, ways of communicating within the team and to other employees, tracking activities, and many others. The principles are explicit and everyone lives by them.


The team recognizes when a problem exists, analyzes it, identifies alternatives, and works through conflicts. Once the decision is made, everyone commits to support it. Often this is best demonstrated by someone’s willingness to raise a thorny issue in the first place and in the members’ willingness to fully engage in finding a resolution to the problem.

High levels of candor

People say what needs saying in a direct and respectful manner. Members are receptive to tough messages without becoming defensive. Heated discussions are not viewed as a problem, but rather a positive activity as long as the discussion stays focused on issues/behaviors rather than on each other.

Mutual accountability

Members hold themselves and others to the commitments they have made. While the CEO often has the primary responsibility for holding his/her employees accountable for keeping their promises, each person shares in this activity.

Measure the important

Whether it’s progress on key initiatives, performance results, or even behaviors expected of each other; effective teams track those things that are most important to their success and take action when things are not meeting expectations.

    How Does Yours Rate?

    I’m curious to learn which of these nine most challenge executive teams. Would you take another two minutes to think of an executive team to which you belong or know well and rate it for each of these items?

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    Rate Your Executive Team Now

    Okay, you’ve formed your opinion. Want to build a stronger executive team? I can help. Reach out, and we’ll discuss your situation and the available options to enable your team’s full potential.

    Tom LaForce, President, LaForce Teamwork Inc.