How to be more attuned as a C-Suite team, and why

C-Suite teams are living entities, which grow and reshape themselves over time. That growth is sometimes forced. Forced through the engagement of a new CEO, the implementation of a new change process, or the impact of a negative internal or external crisis event.  

Gallop described attunement as “the affective way a human is sensitive to the demands of a situation.”  

There are some subtleties in that definition. Affective means with emotional control. Sensitive means having acute awareness to the needs of others. The demands of a situation implies that your emotional state will be challenged by a range of situations (potentially major changes). These situations might be crisis events, or internal or external events, some with the potential to affect business continuity. 

When these events occur, the C-Suite team need to be attuned. Having attunement therefore means to be adaptable, agile, and aware. Agility to take the organisation on a new journey, in a new direction. Adaptable to the changes that are occurring, and aware of how this might affect each team member. As a team who show up with energy, engagement, and enterprise thinking. 

As a note, it would have been easy to include aligned in the above paragraph. For me, alignment is a result of leadership, not a cause of it. In other words, if the attunement is in place, the alignment will take care of itself. Alignment is the by-product of attunement. 

A C-Suite team that is attuned demonstrates to the organisation that all is well. That all is in control. That all is being managed in the best interests of the organisation and the best interests of the people in it.  

But how do you become attuned as a C-Suite leadership team?  

1. By starting with a growth mindset 

Regardless of the situations that are currently facing the C-Suite senior leadership team, the biggest issue that the CEO will face are entrenched, embedded, and instilled ways of thinking and ways of leading. Aka, a low level of adaptability to anything new. 

With change comes growth and with growth come challenge. For some of the team, this growth, and the associated challenge, will be too much. It will be too far to stretch, in terms of mindset, and willingness to adapt to a new norm, or to a new structure or strategy. 

The research around having a growth mindset is over 35 years old now, and was carried out by Dr Carol Dweck, to try and understand why some students (who were the study participants) bounced back after failure a lot quicker than others. Dweck’s research has since informed leader behaviours around having a fixed mindset (in short – stuck in the past), versus a growth mindset (in short – looking forward).  

Leaders, and teams, with a growth mindset learn from their mistakes, look to learn something from what has happened previously, to ensure that into the future they get better results. But having a growth mindset can be a real stretch for some of the C-Suite. Especially those members that are entrenched in fixed ways of thinking and behaving. 

So, if you want to get your C-Suite attuned and able to adapt to the situation, especially during or after a challenging period; step 1 is encouraging every member of the team to think forward, not back. To think big, not small. To think growth, not status quo. 

2. By continuing with an implementation mindset 

The organisation is watching. They are waiting. And they are willing to follow. Especially if the C-Suite are ready to implement change and make the decisions necessary to be highly efficient. And highly effective. And highly agile. 

The entire organisation is ready for the change. They are ready to be led, and they are ready to be part of an upgraded and upskilled future state. And they generally don’t want to wait. They want to get there quickly. Or at least they want to see steps in the right direction. They want to see something happening. Not words about what is going to happen. Words are cheap. They want to see action. Action from the top of the organisation. Action that demonstrates that the C-Suite is committed to organisational growth and change. 

C-Suite teams that don’t take action promptly, following a demanding situation, lose credibility. And they lose it quickly. There is nothing like a C-Suite team that does not act. Especially when the organisation knows that action is required.  

The sign of progress is demonstrated by implementing changes. Not for change’s sake, and not as a knee jerk reaction, but because it is the right thing to do, given the situation. Agile decision making, and action taking, is a sign of an attuned C-Suite team. Particularly when the C-Suite are all committed to the decision, have the same languaging around it, and share the message with the business in a way that explains what is happening, why it is happening, and what the C-Suite are willing to do to make sure the change is successful. 

So, if you want to get your C-Suite attuned; step 2 is about being agile in decision making and action taking, to ensure that situations and organisational demands are addressed in a timely manner. 

3. By finishing with an awareness mindset 

Let’s bring that affective element into the attunement process.  

In psychology, affect is a term that encompasses a broad range of feelings that people can experience. It embodies both emotions and moods. 

An Emotion is an intense feeling that is short-term and is typically directed at a source.  

A Mood is a state of mind that tends to be less intense than an emotion and does not necessarily need a contextual stimulus. Moods last longer than emotions, from hours to days (credit: DBT Centre). 

When it comes to attunement, affect means being aware of one’s emotions or moods, and ensuring that they are regulated in a way that those emotions are used for good, and not as an excuse for doing harm to humans, through emotion driven behaviour like aggression, abuse, or abruptness. 

Self-awareness is the first and most important element of C-Suite attunement, as it demonstrates that all senior leaders are in control of their state. Which allows them to have a level of situational awareness, and to clearly understand what the situation demands. And to be aware of what the organisation will be experiencing as they also experience the impact of a situation.  

Leaders with high scores on the positive affect scale are perceived as being more connected and attuned to not only the situation, but also the impact on others. With positive affect comes conscious control. With conscious control comes behavioural control. And with behavioural control comes situational control. It all starts with affect. 

So, if you want to get your C-Suite attuned; step 3 is about being in conscious control of your emotional state, and the moods that you are experiencing. So you do no harm. And so that you can maintain control of yourself and the situation. 

In summary, having an attuned C-Suite is the key element of an effective and efficient C-Suite team. To achieve attunement, a high level of adaptability, agility, and awareness are required. And when those attributes are present, the team alignment will increase, as will the organisational alignment with the C-Suite. 

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About Anton

Anton has dedicated his working life to helping leaders to upgrade their mindset, upskill their leadership, and uplift their teams! With a focus on helps leaders to better lead under pressure. Anton is an entrepreneur, speaker, consultant, bestselling author and founder of The Guinea Group. Over the past 19 years, Anton has worked with over 175+ global organisations, he has inspired workplace leadership, safety, and cultural change. He’s achieved this by combining his corporate expertise, education (Bachelor of HR and Psychology), and infectious energy levels.
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