Harold Resnick: How to Tap into Top Potential

By Nelson, James | New Zealand Management, April 2006 | Go to article overview

Harold Resnick: How to Tap into Top Potential


Nelson, James, New Zealand Management


During his 30 years in organisational development and training, Harold Resnick has earned international recognition as a leading authority and innovator in organisational transformation and leadership development. He talks here with James Nelson about why today's global competitive environment rewards companies where senior executives adopt the philosophy of team-based top management.

What do you mean by the term team-based top management?

Chief executives around the world are realising they have not tapped the great potential of their top management. More and more, firms' overall goals can only be achieved by using these highly skilled executives as a team.

A single person can make a big difference in an organisation. But no single person has enough knowledge or experience to understand everything happening in a complex and sophisticated organisation. Major gains in quality and productivity most often result from teams--groups of people pooling their skills, talents and knowledge. With proper leadership, teams can tackle complex and chronic problems and come up with effective, permanent solutions.

An important effect of top management teams is that the core concepts of teamwork start to develop at all levels of the organisation. Team members everywhere in the company start working together, moving in the same direction.

When companies most in need of team-based top management?

An integrated top management team is essential when:

* The company is too complex for any one person to be able to know and handle all the variables.

* The interdependencies of team members mean good communications and connectivity are necessary to overall organisational success.

* Commitment to all goals by all members of top management is essential for the company to meet its many requirements.

* There are no obvious answers clearly known by one person. The team's collective knowledge and wisdom are needed to ensure success.

Don't most senior managements already operate as a team?

Much thought and attention has been paid to project, process improvement, functional organisational and self-directed work teams. But the executive team poses some unique requirements and challenges. First of all, a company's senior executives hold a collective set of responsibilities which is exclusively theirs. The success of the organisation rests in their hands, and from their collective vision and direction the organisation's longer-term strategic direction and success will flow.

It is generally assumed that by the time a group of individuals reaches the senior executive level they have pretty well developed and honed their leadership skills, including those of serving on a wide variety of teams, and functioning as leaders of their own teams.

Unfortunately, the reverse is more often the case. In 35 years of consulting experience with hundreds of organisations across the globe, I seldom found an executive group functioning as a high-performance team.

More often, the senior executive group consists of a number of fiercely independent individuals who enjoy competing with everyone, including each other. Power struggles are common and separate fiefdoms dividing the organisation along its functional structure is a common manifestation for what passes as a senior executive team.

What was the essence of the traditional model for senior management?

Traditionally, executives rose to the top of their organisations because of their high achievement focus and skills, honed over years of successful performance in competitive environments. Success has often been defined by the scope of an executive's power: for example, the size of the manager's organisation, staff, budget and scope of decision-making authority. Senior executives often see each other as rivals, both in terms of accumulating their share of the organisation's power base, and their chances of getting the chief executive's job. …

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