July 26, 2021

Building a Strong Executive Team: What It Means To Be an Executive

Written by

This is part five of our Building a Strong Executive Team series. To start at the beginning, click here.

Every business has an executive team, but unfortunately, not every business has a good executive team. Good executives make all the difference in a business because they set the tone for the rest of the company. According to a study by Harvard Business Review, new executives often struggle to form solid relationships with the rest of the executive team because they’re afraid that their teammates view them as incompetent. But instead of addressing these fears, they attempt to undermine their colleagues.

When new executives cause friction with the rest of the executive team, it sows distrust among the C-suite. That distrust trickles down and causes major cultural issues throughout the company. So how can executives overcome their fear and produce what the business needs?

What an executive needs to be successful

Knowledge of the whole business and industry

In order to make the best decisions for their company, executives need to have at least some knowledge of the whole business and the industry it falls into. They don’t have to know everything, but they need to know enough so that when their employees try to pitch them new ideas, they aren’t totally lost. Executives are often tasked with working on the business rather than in it, and that’s very difficult to do if they don’t have a working knowledge of their company or industry.

Knowledge is also important for creating the right team. If executives aren’t well-versed in their industry, they may not realize the value an applicant can bring to the company, or they might hire someone based on buzzwords instead of actual experience. Without an informed team, it can be very difficult for the company to progress.

Good decision-making abilities

Good executives have to be able to make decisions, even when it’s tough. Decisions drive an organization forward, but many people struggle with making big decisions, especially when they affect many people. Executives don’t have this luxury if they want their business to succeed.

Roy Banks, CEO of Weave, explains, “As CEO, it’s my responsibility to provide vision for the company, give my people the resources they need to be successful in their jobs, and ultimately make the decisions no one else can make.” A good executive should listen to their employees’ needs, and then combine the knowledge they have with the information they’re given to make the best possible decisions for their organization.

A team-oriented mindset

Some executives are only concerned with furthering their own careers and getting as much as they can from an organization. Good executives, however, are more team-oriented, focusing on the ways in which they can serve the business and improve the lives of their colleagues. This shift in mindset promotes employee loyalty and engagement, improving revenue and decreasing operating costs. Some executives use employee engagement software that includes anonymous surveys to promote a team-centric culture.

On being team-oriented, Banks says, “We say it all the time internally—people, not employees—and being true to that means I take time to truly engage our people on what matters to them and share what matters to me. That connection is key to building great teams and companies.” When people feel like their leaders hear and value them, they’ll engage with their work at a deeper level. Higher employee engagement leads to lower turnover and allows companies to continue to grow.

Also read: 5 Pulse Survey Solutions for Your Engagement Woes

Willingness to accept responsibility and criticism

No one is perfect, and rather than deflecting responsibility for their mistakes, good executives own it and take criticism to heart in order to improve. Self-reviews are critical for executives because there often isn’t anyone above them to actually review their performance. Executives should look at decisions they’ve made and measure how those decisions have performed against expectations. This may help the executive identify their own strengths and weaknesses, as well as any biases they may be holding.

“…surrounding myself with individuals who always agree with me is detrimental to our company and our employees’ growth.” – Eropa Stein, CEO of Hyre

Eropa Stein, CEO of Hyre, knows that if she wants her team to be able to accept criticism, she has to be able to set a good example. “I know that surrounding myself with individuals who always agree with me is detrimental to our company and our employees’ growth. I make it a point to share my learnings and mistakes in order to demonstrate that it does not hurt my ego to identify areas of improvement. In fact, I encourage everybody on my team to share constructive feedback during every meeting. Having an open culture where anyone can pitch ideas and receive feedback has been vital to our company’s growth.”

Helping executives overcome their fears

HR teams can be the biggest asset in helping executives overcome their fears. They often see more of the company than any other department and can use that knowledge to coach executives on honing their knowledge and decision-making abilities. This coaching can help executives overcome their fears of inadequacy and improve their relationships with their team. When executives can surpass these issues, they set a good example for the rest of the company and help improve the overall culture.

Read next: Building a Strong Executive Team: Succession Planning & Tackling the Bus Problem