In Monday Memo


Some really useful research has been done over the years on leadership teams and what is need for them to be highly effective. Perhaps the most useful is the study conducted since 1998 by a team of researchers led by R Wageman. After identifying outstanding, mediocre and poor teams amongst a sample of 120 senior leadership teams from around the world, they then explored what had led to these differences in outcomes.

From this extensive work they developed a model of three essential conditions and three enabling conditions that seem to encourage leadership team effectiveness. From their research they concluded that, “if it is not possible to establish the essential conditions for a senior leadership team, it is better not to form one at all” but if you want to have a high performing leadership team you need to invest in the three enabling conditions as well!

Let’s summarise these 6 conditions:


  1. A real team: a real team requires:


1.1 Interdependency – the team must have collective work to do that requires members of the team to work together. In between meetings, the leader and members continue working together, seeking each other’s advice and support and holding each other accountable.

1.2 Boundedness – it needs to be clear who is in the team and who isn’t.

1.3 A degree of stability – i.e. ‘stable membership for a reasonable period’. However, they recognised that there is constant change in membership these days and consequently ways of managing the team’s inherent instability are critical.

  1. A compelling direction: Wageman et al suggest that every leadership team should ask itself the question: ‘What is the team for, that no other entity in the organisation can accomplish?’.


  1. The right people: CEO’s should not just include their direct reports, but should select team members who are committed to the compelling direction and contributing to a collective leadership team that takes enterprise-wide responsibility. They should also have the right capabilities and capacities. The team members need to be clear about what is expected of them in terms of contribution and behaviour.



  1. A solid team structure: This includes being the right size (they recommend not more than eight or nine members), having a few clear team tasks that are strategic, mission critical and that cannot be delegated, clear norms and protocols about how the team should behave both in meetings and beyond, and a sense of collective responsibility.


  1. A supportive organisational context: “To be highly effective the team needs to have the information, education and material resources to do its job, and a performance-management and reward structure that recognises joint accountability and team contribution above and beyond individual and divisional performance.” (Hawkins).


  1. Competent team coaching and effective teamwork: “The best teams are continually being coached.” (Wageman). In these best teams, coaching was not only done by the CEO but increasingly by peer members, and external coaches would be used to help take the team to the next level. These teams have developed a coaching culture.

So, there you have it, three imperative conditions for effectiveness and three you seemingly dare not live without!

I hope that the series creates not only greater understanding for my readers, but that it perhaps creates more questions than answers. If I am successful in achieving this for you, please feel free to raise your views or questions with me at

In addition this week, I am offering the first ten people who respond and qualify, a free meeting audit consisting of an interview with the team leader, shadow coaching of one team meeting, and a report back with the team leader. These can be done face to face with teams in Johannesburg and Durban, and by way of a video-conferencing facility for other respondents. To respond, and to see if you qualify, please send me an email on in which you highlight the challenges you are facing in your meetings. This offer is open until close of business on 4 May 2018.

 (I am indebted to the work of Peter Hawkins, of Renewal Associates, especially his book, Leadership Team Coaching, as well as the methodology of Integral Coaching Canada, which I have integrated for purposes of this series and in developing my Systemic Leadership Team Coaching process.)



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