Business Growth & Strategy

Hey, What Kind of Gel Do You Use? Get Your Executive Team to Gel & Excel

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The Question: The CEO of a company that is transitioning out of the start-up phase asks: “How can I build an effective executive management team that operates in unison and has an effective culture of delivery?”

Vistage Connect writer David Shedd has an answer:

Let’s first look at the situation from the perspective of the owner’s leadership team. Each one wants to make a difference and prove him or herself. No matter what anyone says, there is competition amongst all the VP’s to become the indispensable, key person in the company. This is why each of them is fervently trying to promote their products or ideas.

The first step in getting the team to gel is to determine whether everyone on the team will support the goals of the company over their individual goals. As John Wooden said:

“Leaders must teach those under their supervision that the team’s success is their own personal success.”

In other words, if (say) the ideas of the VP Sales/Service were not the ones chosen, would that VP still support the company and its goals? If each one of the VPs passes this test, congratulations! You have a start on a good team.

The next step is for each of the VP’s to job shadow. See what the other VPs are doing. Have products, engineering and finance go on sales calls and sit in on marketing presentations. Have sales and marketing spend time in engineering and product development. This does not need to be extensive, but it really opens up each VP’s eyes to the issues and challenges of the others. And this helps build the mutual empathy and respect so crucial to strategic unity and efficacy.

The final step in getting the team to gel is to develop trust among the team members.Off-site events, golf outings, and the like do not engender trust! Trust is earned when all of the VPs, and their teams, are accountable for their work and responsive to the other departments. Does each department do what they say and live up to their internal and external commitments? If marketing knows that engineering will complete that project in three days as they clearly promised, then trust is beginning. As the leader and owner, your challenge will be to:

  1. Live the example of doing what you say.
  2. Oversee, challenge and manage these interactions, getting to the root causes of all potential trust breakdowns.

[EDITOR’S NOTE: Vistage Connect contributor David Shedd wrote this post as Part I of a three-part series in response to issues raised for a virtual session on Entrepreneurship — but the advice and ideas these articles contain are applicable to any business facing (or anticipating) related issues. Click here to read Part II.]

This topic and more are included in the Vistage Connect™ CEO peer advisory sessions. Learn more.

David Shedd has 10 years of success as president of a $200 million group of manufacturing and services companies, having overseen 19 different B2B businesses. Currently, Shedd is principal of Winning B2B Leadership, an advisory firm focused on small- to middle-market B2B clients, while looking for his next company or group of companies to lead. David blogs at and his book, Build a Better B2B Business: Winning Leadership for Your Business-to-Business Company, is now available on

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