Top-level executive teams are invariably populated by highly-intelligent, capable, passionate and often competitive individuals. They have to make decisions under pressure, and face the brunt of the volatility, uncertainty, complexity and ambiguity (‘VUCA’) that typifies the global economic environment. Employees, shareholders commentators, and external advisors observe top teams in action.
In our work in and around organisations we hear comments like, ‘The executive team is dysfunctional’, or, ‘They don’t work together’, or ‘Some of the decisions they make just don’t make any sense’. In our engagements we assist executive teams to improve the quality of thinking, decision-making, performance – and perception.
We use a variety of instruments including DISC, MBTI, TMP, Belbin etc. Each has something to offer. Recently, we have been introduced to Prophet, a business-focused profiling instrument designed in the UK for use with Boards and Executives teams that uniquely brings together a variety of dimensions of executive team functioning. (Prophet is registered with The British Psychological Society). We have been using Prophet with senior teams and also as part of our Executive Graduate Certificate in Business (Leadership through Coaching and Mentoring).
What we like about Prophet is that it uniquely and elegantly integrates motivations, decision-making styles, and inclinations of senior executives. At the same time, it informs executives of their activity preferences at different stages of a business – the stages being create, design, operate and improve. There is a neat schema that provides a descriptive tag for how the integration of these approaches apply to an individual:
In our Leadership Coaching team at the Graduate School of Business, we found a preponderance of ‘Evangelists’. Evangelists favour, ‘people, leading, the future, and flexibility’, and show a preference for the ‘Create’ stage of the business cycle. They are influential, inspiring, passionate and enthusiastic and motivated by capturing hearts and minds and being in the limelight.
They are typically full of ideas and are great at selling the vision. We noted that one of the team members (Dr Fran Finn, our highly-organised Course Coordinator and Leadership Coach) tended to carry the burden of coordination and management. Fran wisely advises, ‘The reality is that a good leader needs to be able to function in all of the styles, so what this tool is useful in doing is showing you where your preferences are and where you need to stretch. And within a team, it is also useful to show you who your go-to partner is.’
There was a polite reminder to us from our team-building expert Dr Catherine See that a preference of particular activities does not mean that we cannot sometimes work against our preferences in the interests of the team and performance targets – of getting stuff done!
The instrument is also capable of illuminating a culturally-preferred mode of operating (as a consequence of a number of influential team members operating from a similar preference style).
For example, one of our client teams found that most members were highly present-focused, with a preference for fixing things in a reactive mode. QUT Corporate Educator Dr Jonnie De Lacy assisted them in also finding ways of looking ahead with a future and strategic focus, thereby reducing the need for short term fix-it actions that were causing stress.
Katherine Tulpa, a global pioneer in the field of executive and organisational coaching was our guide as we explored how Prophet might be of value to our clients. Based in London, Katherine is Group CEO of the Association for Coaching which has over 7000 members in 53+ countries. She is also Executive Director of Wisdom 8, an international coaching and development firm specialling in coaching CEO and top teams in FTSE100s and multinationals.
Katherine recently spoke with us as part of the Graduate School’s ‘On the Edge’ virtual conversation series. Katherine shared her experiences working in the financial sector in the UK. She recounted the value of Prophet when she was coaching a new team of 12 senior executives who had left large traditional organisations to establish an innovative virtual financial institution. The CEO’s original thinking was that he had a diverse team. Prophet helped him and the team understand that their preferences were primarily in the entrepreneurial and evangelist roles – not surprising given their motivation for change! Coaching from Katherine helped move from the ‘Create’ business stage to ‘Design’ and ‘Operate’.
As we discuss with our clients, the nature of organisational life in VUCA requires that leaders refresh and renew the way they think, feel and act in response to change. Prophet has helped us to renew our approach to assisting executives to make sense of situations that don’t seem to respond to ‘normal’ or traditional management approaches.