The CEO Imperative – Building a Cohesive Senior Team

October 17, 2009 by

In our role as venture capital advisors, we spend quite a bit of our time helping CEOs focus on building their senior management teams. CEOs learn very quickly (and painfully) that the primary impediment to the growth of their companies at the expansion stage is the founders invariably becoming the biggest impediment to that growth. At the startup phase, it is so much easier to manage growth (at least compared to the expansion stage) because founding CEOs don’t have to worry about managing many other people, recruiting many other people, and building processes / systems around many other people.

Once the company enters the expansion stage, all hell breaks loose.

In a memorable conversation with one of our CEOs, I used the analogy of King Arthur’s Round Table. I said, “imagine that you’re King Arthur… you have a bunch of chairs around the table, with only four occupied. And one of your current Knights aren’t really qualified to be at the table… you and your two other qualified managers are in effect carrying the weight of 4-5 other senior managers that need to be at the table. So let’s focus your effort over the next 12 months on filling the right seats with the right Knights.”

Twelve months later, he got six seats filled with highly qualified and committed senior managers.

His next challenge was building team cohesion. I won’t go into details here. Rather I will refer you to a great book written on the subject – The Five Dysfunctions of a Team.

We also recommend that CEOs go through the Winning Mind training to build team cohesion. We went through the training as an investment team and found the approach to be massively helpful to our team cohesion and execution.

In parallel, it is critical that team cohesion is built around a common set of company Aspirations. Aspirations are the combination of a company’s Mission, Vision, Values and Priorities. Another good reading on company aspirations is the Four Obsessions of an Extraordinary Executive.

On this topic, we put together what turned out to be a hugely successful forum for our portfolio companies. We called it the Extraordinary Execution Forum. The goal of the forum was to facilitate a process for senior teams to engage in a thoughtful debate about their company aspirations, and to translate them into clear strategies and executable goals.

And for the Compendium plug (it’s an SEO thing…) We are a Global Venture Capital investment firm that provides investment capital and business development services to high growth expansion stage companies.