When Sustainability Requires Dramatic Change

Senior leadership teams frequently fall into a pattern of focusing on the day’s urgent business problems. Board requests, routine meetings, vendor issues, compliance deviations and unexpected HR problems are all routine for the C-suite. a new product to market. Her procurement team not only identified the emerging technology, it developed an innovative partnership agreement with two suppliers to codevelop it. It all began six months earlier, when a business unit leader invited the CPO to brainstorm with his team on how to get a new product to market rapidly.

The way that an executive team interacts, collaborates and solves problems together is critical. Yet most teams spend the majority of their time focusing on the it (namely, the issues themselves) and not enough time on the we (that is, becoming more aligned and effective at solving those issues).

There is only one boss. The customer. And he can fire everybody in the company from the chairman on down, simply by spending his money somewhere else.


Many teams perform well on some of those traits, but few perform strongly on all four. Executive teams that make time to talk about previously undiscussable topics, including ideas seen as above criticism as well as strained relationships, can bring attention to their shortcomings and accelerate overall results.

Those Four Traits:

  1. Greater good. Leaders take an enterprise-wide view, thinking beyond their individual responsibilities, sharing information with peers and making decisions with an eye toward the greater good.
  2. Commitment. The actions of the executive team are consistent with what they say in the meeting room. In all settings, the group demonstrates alignment and unity with the agreed-upon path forward.
  3. Trust. The executive team presumes a posture grounded in trust (vs. control), and in addition to trusting each other, they believe that the people who report to them are also capable of solving problems.
  4. Inclusion. The C-suite actively uses a mindset of inclusion, meaning that when interacting with one another they seek to ensure three things—namely, that every member of the team feels important to the group, capable of fulfilling their responsibilities and understood on a personal level.

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