What your eyes reveal about your executive team’s cohesion?

Imagine somebody walks into your executive team’s meeting and asks you:


“How well does this team provide open and honest feedback with each other?”


How would the group respond? 

Over the years, we’ve worked with several senior teams to improve their cohesion and performance. We’ve witnessed different dynamics and heard countless responses to answer this question. 

Now we no longer listen to their responses to the question, we carefully observe the group’s facial expressions. In fact, we’ve found that the number one indicator that reflects the level of cohesion is seen in the team’s eyes. This is not a deep analysis of their souls or some brain science but simply a behavioural reaction to any open question presented to a team. 


What do your eyes tell us?


We find two broad team reactions once an open question is asked:

‘The eye flickers’

Not a single head in the group moves, chin’s drop a little however, sets of eyes flick quickly across the room, as if they’re having a retinal malfunction. And then… crickets!

Often, we need a follow-up question to get a response. That’s when the ‘head of’ likely offers a bland response and the team falls in behind with many obvious nods.

What happens next is … not much!

‘The steadfast eyes’

Heads around the room tilt slightly while eyes remain fixed ahead, before a quick response to the question is provided by a member of the group. Others around the table will often nod in agreement, while some may display a quizzical head tilt as they consider their response before adding their two cents.

The conversation can be difficult for us to close down and often the conversation is challenging, but rarely does it get conflictual.

What happens next is an agreed action to address the issue before swiftly moving onto the next agenda item.

The open, honest and respectful communication between teams, like the “steadfast eyes” group, is what we aspire to but it’s not always the case. 


Moving to a place of respect


The fundamental difference between the ‘eye flickers’ and the ‘steadfast eyes’ is the level of Professional Intimacy present in the group. Check out our PI Index here.

The teams that enjoy high Professional Intimacy are those that have invested in building relationships and respect with each other. They can then challenge with candour and constructive opposition.  Meetings are faster and can be more challenging – but this means things get done and the team grows. 

Those that haven’t invested in each other feel that any group forum is a minefield, a political enclave and a self-promoting or butt covering joust. Meetings are uncomfortable, laboured and mostly fruitless. Any issues that are tabled are usually brushed over so they continue –  eroding the team’s cohesion and performance.

The eye flick is simply the observable behaviour generated from a place of fear and indicates that non-leaders exist within the executive group.


Insider Tips


For any executive group wanting to build their Professional Intimacy and their team, My Personal Tactician set the following challenge: 

Meet with each member of the group separately, at least once, within a 2-week period for 30 minutes. During this meeting, you can discuss only subjects that relate to building your relationship with each other. For example, what is the one behaviour you’d both like more and less of? Or, identify one thing you can do to help deliver on each other’s KPIs.

The second indicator for an executive team’s is the smile test. But that is for another update!

If you need your team to work more cohesively, give us a buzz.

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