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CMO transitions: How to leverage drivers of team performance for success

Every C-level executive transitioning to a new role is critically dependent on their team for success. CMOs need to get a sense of what kind of team they have and where the strengths and weaknesses may lie. When taking over this new role, it’s worth asking colleagues, stakeholders, and team members themselves a few pointed questions about how they view your inherited team.

Executives often have a fuzzy definition of what a team really means to them. For some, it’s like a relay team, with each playing a clear-cut role. Others want something more like a basketball team—where people play their positions but also mutually adjust to changing situations on the court. Sometimes they need both. New CMOs need to understand key drivers of team performance and interventions to deal with these multiple situations and improve how their teams work.

When a new leader takes over, it can be an unsettling time for existing teams, with disruptions to agreed-upon norms and patterns of work, problem solving, and decision-making. Without care, this transition at the top could affect team performance—but that doesn’t mean changes should come slowly. In fact, when many CMOs look back at their transition, they wish they had made talent moves faster. Often success in a role is made (or broken) in the first 180 days.

Here is a simple and practical framework to diagnose your new team, framing a few focusing questions and assessing key team attributes. It is an extension of the standard GRPI (Goals, Roles, Process, Interpersonal) and Alex “Sandy” Pentland’s team communications models. It covers the key areas for assessing a team: brand, shared goals, clear roles and responsibilities, clear processes, interpersonal relationships, and the communication dimensions of energy, engagement, and exploration.

  1. Brand: The brand you inherit is a snapshot of how your team interacts with its external environment and how it is shaped by that environment.
  2. Goals: Every team needs to have a set of shared goals. Do the members of your team have a clear set of shared goals or a common purpose that they can articulate and are working toward?
  3. Clarity of roles and responsibilities: In high-performing teams, each team member has a clear grasp of his or her roles and responsibilities in achieving that shared purpose.
  4. Team processes: Processes can include rules for communication, problem-solving, conflict resolution, anddecision making among team members.
  5. Interpersonal relationships: How do team members interact with each other? Do they have a foundation of mutual trust?
  6. Communication—energy, engagement, and exploration: Communication within and outside the team can be the biggest predictor of team performance.

Energy is the number of communication exchanges among team members.

Engagement is the distribution of communications across team members.

Exploration is the extent to which team members communicate outside the team to gather information to solve problems or share solutions.

As an incoming executive, you inherit a leadership group that may or may not function as a team. As a new leader, you should actively choose to support a team committed to a shared purpose and a brand going forward.

The six areas of brand, goals, role clarity, processes, interpersonal relationships, and communications can provide a practical starting point for team assessment and focus your attention on the areas that must be addressed to develop a higher-performing team. To read more about these principals, read the in-depth article, Executive Transitions: Team performance.

Deloitte’s CMO Transition Labs

To learn more about how to manage your new teams, as well as learn more about how you can be successful in those pivotal 180 days, Deloitte offers a CMO Transition Lab for marketing executives or newly appointed CMOs. The program is designed to help you prepare for the full range of roles you’ll need to play. It is an immersive one-day session in a confidential setting to help focus your efforts on what is most important, and what can help your company be successful.

Published on November 22, 2015.

How to leverage drivers of team performance for success
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