Leadership Team Feeling Divided? Get Them on the Same Page

December 4, 2020
December 4, 2020 Maddie Grant

Part 2 of an 11-part blog series on the Rockefeller Habits for associations


“Your people are your greatest asset.”
– Everyone at every leadership conference since the beginning of time.

If only we had a penny for every time we heard that come through on a training day or in a workshop. The problem is that this quote is so broad, it’s basically useless. Who are these people that are so valuable? As membership associations, we must assume that it is the people we serve: the members. 


Through Verne Harnish’s 10 Rockefeller Habits, we learn that, while members are the heart of the impact we are able to make, the brain of our associations—our leaders—are the strategic actors forwarding that impact. It’s for this reason that the first and most vital step of the 10 Rockefeller Habits is making sure the brain is firing on all cylinders so it is empowering the heart to thrive. 

Rockefeller Habit #1: The Association Executive Team is Healthy and Aligned.

If we are lucky, we get to spend our professional lives alongside some of the most passionate, knowledgeable, and innovative members in the industry. So much comes from those relationships, individually and as a whole. 

But when was the last time you took a look at the health of your leadership team?

Though physical health and well-being are important, that is not the health we’re looking at. Patrick Lencioni describes the faults of an executive team that could stand in the way of organizational health in his book The Five Dysfunctions of a Team:

  1. Absence of Trust
  2. Fear of Conflict
  3. Lack of Commitment
  4. Avoidance of Accountability
  5. Inattention to Results

Identifying with any of these key elements signals a need to hone in on Rockefeller Habit #1 and work on strengthening your team. This should immediately become a topic priority for internal development. 

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>> Related: Read our overview of how the 10 Rockefeller Habits can help associations

Getting Face-to-Face with Your Association Leadership Team

The key action for aligning your team is a transparent share with your team to see where members might be falling short, and then work on improving those leadership areas. 

Now, you may have already been triggered by that sentence. Transparent share? Falling short? Improving leadership? Sounds like a fight just waiting to happen, doesn’t it? 

At PROPEL, one of the things that we focus on when managing this first action step is to build on core values and the culture of your association. Before you even begin launching into the ways that the leadership team may or may not be aligning with these big-picture concepts, you have to find out if everyone knows what they’re aligning to. Some key questions to start with include: 

  • Does every leadership member know what your culture and values really are? 
  • What are the daily actions and habits that each member exhibits that support this culture?
  • How does each member of this team play a part in fostering these actions and habits in the association as a whole?

It’s What You Say AND How You Say It

Another crucial element of this alignment meeting (or meetings, depending on how connected your leadership team is to the core values and culture of your association), is to create an environment where alignment and adjustment are safe for your leadership team

We see a lot of association leadership teams that have positive, transparent communication as a core element of their organizations. This makes it easy for them to be honest, even about how someone is not really fully aligned with the goals of the collective. On the other hand, there are also more than a few associations where ego gets in the way of real lasting change, which makes aligning the leadership team very difficult. 

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When dealing with strong people who have strong opinions, it is so important to create an emotionally neutral space where everyone feels heard and no one is feeling attacked. This is one of the reasons why starting with culture and core values is so important. When you spend an hour talking about how growth, kindness, and transparency are your key values, it is much safer for people to both hear and give feedback that is constructive and ego-friendly. 

Aligning Your Association Leadership the Rockefeller Way

An aligned team is the perfect foundation for rebuilding a healthy team. As you focus on those core values and culture, you will immediately see misalignments with how your leadership team communicates and spends their time. Develop a regular feedback opportunity that focuses on behaviors rather than people. Provide accurate, recent, and data-driven examples of behaviors that are not meshing with your overall culture strategy and allow parties to share their motivations, struggles, and frustrations in a non-recriminatory setting. 

As you move through this sometimes contentious process, consider integrating additional resources for communication and conflict resolution. With consistent, positive follow-up and connections of your alignment strategy to your association’s core principals and goals, you can develop a stronger, more robust team that embraces the vital skills of positive confrontation and flexibility. 

Aligning your leadership shouldn’t be a one and done conversation, but a continual habit that shifts as the nature of the organization changes. Remember, your mission’s destiny lies in the hand of your senior team. They set the stage for the development for the entire organization.

To find out more about how we help associations align their leadership teams for better growth and impact, learn about how to get a one-on-one coaching session here.

Photo by NEW DATA SERVICES on Unsplash

Maddie Grant

Maddie Grant, CAE, is an expert culture designer and digital strategist who focuses on helping organizations unlock the power in their culture and navigate culture change. She has specific expertise in digital transformation and generational differences in the workplace. She has explored the language of workplace culture for several years through her books, co-authored with her partner in business and life Jamie Notter, including Humanize: How People-Centric Organizations Succeed in a Social World (2011), the Amazon category best-seller When Millennials Take Over: Preparing for the Ridiculously Optimistic Future of Business (2015) and the Non-Obvious Guide to Employee Engagement (2019).
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