The Challenge for Truss: How to build an effective new leadership team (as featured in Prime Resi)
Sep 7th, 2022
I was delighted to be asked to write an article for Prime Resi to address some of the challenges that Liz Truss will face in forming her new leadership team. The article below was featured in its journal.
Liz Truss has a mammoth task on her hand if she is to achieve any success as the new Prime Minister; she needs to build a united leadership team that is equipped to make tough decisions and help her achieve ambitious plans. A challenge faced by any new leader, whether in business or politics.
She will need a team that is equipped to help her win the support of the public and that brings together divisions within the party. It will also need to have the strength and experience to deliver a strategy that confronts the cost of living crisis, rising interest rates, Brexit and many of the issues that we all want to see addressed to help the property sector and the UK thrive.
I have worked with many CEOs over the years who have gone into new roles and discovered that what is holding the business back from growth is the leadership team they are stepping into.
How, therefore, can leaders transform the teams around them? Here are five key steps for getting the basics right:
1. Put the right people in the right roles
With Liz Truss – and any new leader in an organisation – there is naturally a focus on who is in charge, but of equal importance is the question of how good is the team around the new leader.
I recently saw a political commentator describe the Cabinet that she has inherited as the weakest in many decades, lacking in experience and stuck in a culture where pushback and alternative opinions are not well received.
As a leader, it is therefore important not to have a team filled with people who think the same way as you. It might be easier to manage, but without diversity of thought, experience, opinions and approaches, there will be a lack of innovation, which will limit its ability to make the best decisions.
Leaders should not be afraid of having people who challenge you and think differently. Nor should they resist appointing people who are more experienced than them in some areas of expertise.
2. Agree a team culture with behaviours people commit to
Leaders and their teams need to agree together the rules of engagement that the team will operate within to create the culture and behaviours that will be integral to their success.
I see far too often leadership teams that have developed a habit of avoiding conflict, not feeling able to challenge each other and a tendency to prioritise their own specific area of responsibility vs what is good for the business as a whole.
Instead, a high-performing leadership team needs to be collaborative, with a culture that allows members to hold each other accountable and demonstrate candour. The new CFO of a property development company I am working with was surprised at the passive culture of the executive team he joined and set up a rigour to its decision-making to encourage more input and challenge.
When you have demanding priorities to address, it is easy for a newly formed team to miss this vital step as they charge straight into execution, which can lead to lack of clarity and decision making.
Invest time in a strategy session and address the ‘elephants in the room’, ideally with an external facilitator who can be objective, so people leave clear on what is expected of them including the non-negotiables.
3. Have an adaptable strategy
The property sector as a whole is facing an array of new challenges and changing priorities. Investors, shareholders and clients are placing growing importance on issues related to the environment, social agenda, and corporate governance. At the same time digital challengers and disruptive start-ups are continuing to come looking for greater market share. CEOs across the sector are realising that they need to be open to new ways of doing business and looking at how their leadership team is skilled to reflect this.
Taylor Wimpey came under pressure earlier this year to make changes to its leadership team, with one of its key shareholders publicly calling for a change of CEO and an enhanced board that reflected current demands on the business. It saw experienced people with a strong track record in construction procurement and digital retailing join the board.
As a team create flexibility within the strategy so you can respond to sudden change by planning ‘what if’ strategies of scenarios that could be extreme but possible so you have the ability to adapt if you need to.
Think about ‘what if’ and have a plan of how you would adapt if it happened. I often wonder where the contingency plan was when the Brexit vote was announced.
4. Create a decision-making process
A team needs to know from the start exactly how decisions are going to be made, and by whom. This needs to be in a forum where all perspectives and opinions are able to be voiced and explored, but where decisions can be made promptly.
There is a big difference though between providing the platform for people to voice opinions and making decisions by committee.
5. Build trust
Trust is vital in leadership – indeed it is the reason why Liz Truss is now in power. She will need to pivot from winning the hearts and minds of the Tory party to the hearts and minds of the people she serves. As with all leaders in transition, she will need to gain the trust of her team and those who have not supported her appointment and create unity.
She and her leadership team will need to demonstrate credibility and character by being open, honest and human – when people feel understood and heard they will begin to build trust again and feel someone is listening.
By Oona Collins, founder of Potential Plus International, as published on Prime Resi on 07 September 2022
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