585: How Top Leaders Influence Great Teamwork, with Scott Keller

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Scott Keller: CEO Excellence

Scott is a senior partner in McKinsey’s Southern California office. He co-leads the firm’s global CEO Excellence service line and is the author of six books, including the bestseller Beyond Performance. Scott spent his early consulting years working on business strategy and operational topics until his life was turned upside down when his second child was born with profound special needs.

After taking time off to attend to his family, Scott returned to McKinsey with the desire to bring the best of psychology, social science, and the study of human potential into the workplace. He is a cofounder of Digital Divide Data and one of a few hundred people in history known to have traveled to every country in the world. His most recent book written with Carolyn Dewar and Vikram Malhotra is titled CEO Excellence: The Six Mindsets That Distinguish the Best Leaders from the Rest*.

In this conversation, Scott and I examine McKinsey’s research on what the top CEOs do (and avoid) when building great teams. We look at a few of the key mindsets that the best CEOs bring to their organizations — and how teamwork plays into this. Plus, we explore some of the key questions top leaders should ask when determining if it’s time to exit someone from the team.

Key Points

  • Top leaders staff for both aptitude and attitude. The have an eye to both the short and long term.
  • The most successful CEOs have a mindset of “first team” and expect leaders in the organization to prioritize serving the whole team/organization over any functional area.
  • New CEOs are often known for acting quickly on staffing, but the most successful leaders also temper this with fairness. They use the four questions below to act with both fairness and speed.
  • Top leaders stay connected with people throughout the organization, but also keep some distance. There’s a key distinction between being friendly and making friends.

The best CEO’s ensure that they have positively addressed all four questions below before removing somebody:

  • Does the team member know exactly what’s expected of them: i.e., what the agenda is and what jobs need to be done to drive that agenda?
  • Have they been given the needed tools and resources, and a chance to build the necessary skills and confidence to use them effectively?
  • Are they surrounded by others (including the CEO) who are aligned on a common direction and who display the desired mindsets and behaviors?
  • Is it clear what the consequences are if they don’t get on board and deliver?

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