Building Leadership Unity

July 9, 2024

Your company's performance depends on your leadership team's cohesiveness. What happens when things get busy, pressure gets dialed up, and hard conversations happen more often, though? This write-up will teach you how to get out of leadership drama and into leadership unity.

Stop the Leadership Drama: Building Leadership Team Unity

Dear Regina, our company is growing like crazy, and because I want to capture the momentum we have in time to fundraise next year, I’m planning on expanding the leadership team appropriately so we can hit all our target metrics in time.

With such busy schedules and many different personalities, how can I help ensure they all are happy working together?

. . . . . . . . .

To ensure your leadership team is happy working together, you need two things: clarity of company goals, and Team User Manuals.

What religions and companies have in common

As a practicing Christian, one of the things I marvel at the most is the shared identity within a religious body established by religious doctrine. If you’re religious and you meet another person who expresses the same belief, you are more likely to share a bond, because you assume that person shares the same values as you.

Generally speaking, if you’re Christian, you believe in one God, Jesus died for your sins, and the church is “one body.” If you’re Muslim, you believe in one God, the prophet Muhammad is God’s messenger, and the Quran is the final revelation. If you’re Jewish, you believe in one God, you follow the Torah, and the commandments guide your way of life. And if you’re Hindu, you worship multiple deities, you read texts like the Vedas and Upanishads, and observe various rituals and festivals.

Religion, with its core doctrines, offers a way to not only have a way of living, but also offers shared identity between its believers. Similar to religious doctrine, a well-defined company mission offers your team a “shared future” to believe in. With a clear, shared company mission, everyone works together better. And with that company mission, company goals become clearer. Whether you agree with it or not, there is a reason some of the most successful companies have a cult-like mentality in its earliest stages. It creates a shared reality, shared identity, and spurs cohesion.

You must use this Company Mission to create a shared reality for your team in the form of shared company goals. Allow the mission to create the goals, and center your team around that doctrine.

Company goals > Company metrics > Department goals > Department metrics

The best way to create a happy, cohesive leadership team is by helping them see one another as valuable, essential pieces to the puzzle. And the best way to do that is to avoid siloed department goals.

You’d be surprised at how often departments focus mainly on themselves, caring only about their department goals without giving much thought to how those feed into the larger company ones. If you want to make sure people are happy working together, remind people they’re building with each other, rather than building individually and praying the pieces come together later. The former allows everyone to see each other as valuable members of the team, while the latter pits leaders against each other.

To do this, gather your leadership team to discuss the goals at a company level. Make sure they say out loud which department leaders they have to work with on each company goal. This helps your leaders see the lift to hit targets as a company-wide effort, rather than a department-specific one.

Seeing goals as a group effort rather than department-specific one increases cohesion, helps you recognize how much of a team player each of the leaders are, and is a great way to notice whether one or two departments are getting thrown the brunt of the work so you can resource them effectively.

In the event you see two of your leaders disagreeing, listen to each of their grievances and seek understanding. Who is being thrown the majority of the work? Who feels like their voice isn’t being heard? These are usually the two biggest culprits to people getting along. It’s your job to help them solve their conflict, and you can follow the steps in this link to resolve tensions amicably. (I highly recommend you bring in a coach to help with facilitation if your teammates are extremely triggered by one another, as you don’t want to be perceived as playing favorites.)

Once the company goals are established and the leaders know which departments to collaborate with, you have created a low-ego environment, and your team is well on their way to working together more effectively.

So, who are you?: Team User Manuals

One of my favorite activities to do for all companies is creating Team User Manuals (TUMs). Team User Manuals (TUMs) tell everyone a little bit about you. With TUMs, you’re able to understand the person you’re working with better, thus creating clearer Terms of Engagement.

A good TUM will include the following information:

  • Name and position in the company
  • Why they’re excited about working at the company (motivation)
  • Communication styles for: quick syncs, longer discussions, and decision-making (e.g.: Slack, email, text, etc.)
  • How to best work with the person (any sort of behavioral quirks or oddities that someone may need to be aware of)
  • How to get them excited to do something (what information they need, how they make decisions)
  • Personal information to the extent the writer feels comfortable, with the following as suggestions: hobbies, things they love learning/studying/listening about, where they grew up, fun facts, Enneagram types

Though it might seem like TUMs take up a lot of time to put together, it’s a one-time investment that pays handsome dividends in the long run. This is because you get to know a person on a deeper level beyond head-butting or first impressions. If you want your team to like each other, the first step is helping them see one another as fully-fledged human beings, rather than adversaries or one-dimension personas they’re forced to work with.

I think TUMs were one of the things On Deck did exceptionally well: every time I had a new hire join, I would ask them to read the TUMs of the people they were going to work closest with. When they did their 30-minute meet and greet, they had information about the person that made way for easy icebreaker questions, and they were able to practice curiosity and attentive listening. It was also helpful for my immediate hires to read my TUM, because I became much more than their hiring manager or onboarder: I was a full-fledged human being. And every time we had Donuts, TUMs would prove to be helpful to know a little bit about the person we were talking to.

Have your leadership team set the example by writing TUMs, and then getting to know each other through them. This will have ripple effects beyond just your immediate leadership team: they will likely see the benefits, and begin encouraging their teammates to invest in writing theirs, too. And soon, everyone will see one another as much more than just another name on Slack or collaborator on Decision-Making.

For some examples of TUMs, this one by Sydney Liu is one of my favorites, and you can also check out mine here.

. . . . . . .

With clear company goals, quarterly planning, TUMs, and 1-1s, your team is well on their way to liking each other and respecting each other, leading to a much more cohesive working environment.

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Regina Gerbeaux

Who’s Regina Gerbeaux?

Regina Gerbeaux (@_rpgbx) is the executive coach to some of the fastest scaling startups in the world. She is also a founder currently interested in the food delivery and logistics space.

Regina was the first person trained by Matt Mochary (executive coach to the CEOs of Coinbase, Brex, and many more) in the Mochary Method Curriculum.

Her tactical templates and operational write-ups have been referenced and used by fast-scaling companies, including BioRender, Tembo, dYdX, and many more.

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