One of the most amazing traits of executive teams is they can all have individual IQs of 160, but when they operate as a team, for some reason, they seem to have a collective IQ of 22. You would think the collective intellectual horsepower would be tremendous. But rarely is the total greater than the sum of its parts. As a matter of fact, it’s often even less than the power of a single individual. How can this be?
The problems that even the most practical organizations experience in improving their performance to obtain the desired results can be traced back to their inability to think, decide, and act together. The main reason for the stunning drop in collective intelligence is the failure to harness the extraordinary concentration of talent into prioritized, integrated, and simplified priorities for their organization.
This reality was highlighted in a recent Strategy& study where 64% of the more than 2,300 global executives surveyed said they had too many conflicting priorities. If leaders don’t own the whole strategy first – before focusing on their separate priorities, people in the organization are bombarded with each leader’s attempt to get the organization’s attention and drive their individual agendas. The word that best describes what the organization feels is “overwhelmed.” An even better description is the image of the children’s game, “whack a mole,” where a mallet is used to constantly whack down the next mole that pops up, and the primary focus is to stay one step ahead of the next pop-up.
Most executives agree with the concept that their first responsibility is for the overall strategy, but this is seldom how they operate. It’s easy to see why the gap between what is said and what is done is the widest on “owning the whole before your piece.” Each business or functional leader was hired for their specialty, they are rewarded for their specialty, and they landed on the team because they represented excellence in a particular function, geography, division, or business unit.
The real key for each member of the team to own the whole before their piece: They must sacrifice the area that they represent for the overall good of the company. Easy to say, hard to do!
Thinking together and acting together requires each leader to no longer take the position of their area first and relax their grip on the inclination to defend their area against sliding down the priority list.
Next week, I’ll go into more detail about several helpful approaches to manage this process of owning the whole. In the meantime, tell me – is this going on in your business?