Communication & Alignment

6 behaviors a CEO should expect from their executive team

Effective Leadership Development

It is clear when an executive team works well together. They embrace the same leadership expectations. You notice an absence of silos, territoriality, poor communication and pet projects. The team comes together in complete alignment toward the company’s mission, vision, purpose and goals.  There is transparency about failure and setbacks, and a desire to work together to overcome them.

Creating high-performing teams isn’t easy, and it takes time. I’ve noticed that high-performing executive teams share the following 6 attributes and behaviors:

1) Aligned with core purpose and goals

The CEO’s role is to articulate the mission, vision and purpose of the organization. Those elements create a company’s North Star, guiding decisions around goals and big-picture strategy.

But that vision won’t go anywhere unless the executive team champions it with their teams and uses them as guide posts for their initiatives. Great teams operate in line with those leadership expectations and hold each other accountable to those standards.

They prioritize resources to support clear, shared goals and reject pet projects that are out of alignment. An executive team becomes ineffective if each member is more worried about their team’s individual success instead of working together to accomplish the company’s goals. A purpose-driven culture inspires employees to work in unison with their colleagues to achieve the greater vision.

2) Devoted to the customer as opposed to the competition

While it is always important to understand competitive capabilities, the best executive teams are passionately focused on how to bring value to their customers and to potential customers, always staying curious about what their customers are trying to fix, accomplish or avoid.

Leaders ensure their teams regularly connect with customers, listen to their feedback and consistently look for more ways to deliver value. Staying in close communication with customers and listening to customer feedback allows executive teams to adapt and innovate to meet customers’ quickly changing needs. Customers reward companies that are nimble enough to understand their changing needs and offer new ways to help.

3) Committed to improvement

The pandemic has provided some amazing examples of executives who were determined to persevere no matter what. I am most inspired by these executives, who work continuously to improve themselves and their leadership skills.

Great executive teams are resilient, always ready to take on any obstacle. When results fall short of goal, strong executive teams evaluate what could have been done differently and keep moving forward. A team that always strives to improve serves as a strong example to the entire company.

Improvement goes hand in hand with accountability because, without accountability, there is no foundation to build upon. Top executive teams step up to this and do not try to create false narratives to protect egos.

4) Prioritize integrity and trust

In great executive teams, integrity and trust top the list of leadership expectations. High-integrity executives are committed to and aligned with the company’s core values even when it’s not convenient. Coworkers and customers are watching to ensure the leadership team does what it said it would do, especially when times get tough. A culture of transparency and honesty creates an environment of trust where employees thrive.

5) Practice cross-functional collaboration

Great executives ask questions and are willing to learn from others. They collaborate cross-functionally, bringing people together from across the company to align on and work toward their shared goals. They listen to understand rather than to inject their own beliefs.

These executives don’t hide from criticism, either. They create room for constructive feedback and work to fight confirmation bias, seeking to learn from diverse perspectives rather than confirming their own beliefs.

6) Communicate with respect

The best leadership teams, those that can bounce back from hard times and disagreements, are in consistent communication. They don’t leave it to chance.

Rather than allowing important words to go unsaid, executives express how they think and feel to the CEO, fellow executives, and employees. They’re clear and direct, without being rude or demeaning. Doing so allows others the opportunity to express themselves freely – spurring innovation and creativity from employees at all levels.

A CEO’s leadership expectations of the executive team can be summed up simply: I lead by example and you should, too. When CEOs lead by example and hold these expectations for their team, they’ll have an honest, goal-oriented team that communicates, listens, collaborates, and has a strong commitment to the customer. This kind of team has a spirit that will cascade down to each employee. And that is a winning formula for any company.


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Sam Reese About the Author: Sam Reese

Sam Reese is CEO of Vistage, the world’s largest CEO coaching and peer advisory organization for small and midsize businesses. Over his 35 year career as a business leader, Sam has led large and midsize organizatio…

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