March 2, 2022 – The mission of a company’s steering committee is to project the business into the future, to focus on achieving objectives and to ensure its long-term sustainability and growth. As given, this statement applies to any company in any sector, with any (or most) possible realities, and by extension for any steering committee. But how to move from the abstract to the concrete is no longer so obvious, says Olga Pla Martí of IRC Spain, and managing director at The Skeye, a boutique consulting firm. “In today’s uncertain present and future, we must do everything we can to prepare the organization,” she said in a new report from IRC Global Executive Search Partners. “But who prepares the steering committee, and more importantly, how?”
In general, it is taken for granted that when a person joins the steering committee they are very clear about their role and how to perform it. “We trust that the name will do the trick, and that, by the mere fact of becoming part of the steering committee, they will start working and interacting as such from Day One,” she said. “That the mere word ‘steering’ imbues them with the necessary knowledge and strategic vision, or that they have previously developed with excellence all the key competencies to lead the organization. But nothing could be further from the truth.”
“All too often we forget that, when joining the steering committee, beyond the responsibility assumed more or less consciously, the experience and knowledge acquired, or the skills developed along the way, each member comes with his or her own strengths and weaknesses, opinions, concerns and interests, his or her own vision,” said IRC. “In order to evolve into a solid management team, it is important to take care of the people who form it, to develop them according to their individual needs, to unite the team and align it towards a common goal, for the benefit of the company. And all this does not happen spontaneously, it has to be worked on in a structured way, and with a systemic perspective.”
Every steering committee faces crucial milestones to achieve its mission. Some of these might include:
Design and Creation – What it is created for, and what is expected of the committee by the general management or board of directors.
Cohesion – In turbulent times or simply due to changes in its composition.
Development – When reality and the environment present new challenges for which the team is not ready.
Strategic Thinking Processes – Each business and company will have its own, although some shared ones may be the elaboration of the strategic plan, or the definition of a new organizational structure, among others.
Whatever the moment or the need, in IRC’s view, it is important to approach the work with the steering committee from three perspectives:
Individual – Working on trust and commitment as a starting point. “Trust must enable us to reach a compromise,” said IRC. “Trust, based on its three pillars—sincerity, professional competence and credibility—will allow the team to speak openly and discuss issues clearly, reaching a decision to which each member commits voluntarily, because it is the best for the team, even though it may not be what would benefit them individually, or their area, the most.”
Team – Working on recognition, the importance of complementarity and clarity. “Self-knowledge makes it easier to understand one’s own behavior patterns and identify areas for individual improvement,” said IRC. “But it also allows us to know and recognize others, and above all, to value the importance and need for complementarity in the team, in which each person brings a style, approach and vision to be taken into account.”
Clarity is essential both in the functions of the steering committee and in what is expected of each of its members, as well as in the approach or vision of any issue to be worked on. “Clarity on the constraints and consequences of the situation, on expectations or even fears, will encourage a rich and frank discussion, from a common starting point that will enable better decisions to be made, and the commitment of the whole team to those decisions to be long-lasting,” said the report.
Company – Once the trust and commitment of the team has been achieved, and when one has a clear vision of the objectives, the constraints and the different opinions and expectations, it remains to structure the reflection process appropriately and to focus the team’s efforts on designing the best solution for the company.
“With a tailored approach that integrates these three perspectives simultaneously, we enable the committee to be more than the sum of its members, building relationships based on trust, effective communication and co-creation, and strengthening commitment,” said IRC. “In this way, we are able to drive the steering committee to develop a shared vision, to foster innovation, to aggregate talent and to maintain effective relationships to achieve extraordinary and sustainable performance.”
Contributed by Scott A. Scanlon, Editor-in-Chief; Dale M. Zupsansky, Managing Editor; and Stephen Sawicki, Managing Editor – Hunt Scanlon Media