Why organizations need to create a senior leadership team
If there is one thing I have learned in my 25 years of casino experience, it’s that every organization should spend the time and effort needed to create a strong senior leadership team (SLT). Creating a strong SLT ensures accountability, but it can also create a strategic plan to implement necessary change. We create a very toxic environment if we are complaining about the same issues year after year. It also leads to frustration and burnout from other leaders throughout the organization if the senior leadership team is disconnected and not in alignment.
You will need to identify who is on your SLT; it’s usually the directors who report to the CEO, but this may vary. This team will need to become a close group that cultivates a trusting, professional relationship with each member. Our SLT at 7 Cedars Casino is known as the “dream team” throughout Indian Country. Part of that is because we have been together for nearly 25 years, but we also have a dynamic relationship with each other and it’s noticeable. We have put time and effort into those relationships.
Golfing is a big part of our culture. We find those informal outings outside the casino property very beneficial. Get creative with this; professional or even high school games are fun ways to get to know your team better. My partner organization, Raving, has added axe throwing, bowling, pinball and batting cages to their SLT regimen. Remember, we exceed our guests’ expectations to create loyalty … we need to do the same with our team; we need to be in the mindset of exceeding their expectations.
Once the team has been selected, the SLT should agree on a baseline view of the organization and identify immediate needs. It is very helpful to organize focus groups to get perspectives from our frontline team members as to our immediate needs. Also, ask for input from your support teams (IT and HR) when it comes to issues like communication and how you can improve. A goal should be to actively improve communication from the SLT to the frontline team members.
I can’t say enough about creating a culture of recognition. Your SLT should put a plan together for informal and formal reward and recognition. They should analyze if their team members are satisfied and happy, or if there is work to be done to create a balanced work environment. Here’s an example: If I’m new to your organization and basically ignored by my leadership team, I’m already looking for a new job. But it only takes one engaged and developed leader to lean into me and ask where I see myself in the next year, to create a satisfied, lifelong member of the team. We need to make sure that our SLT understands and promotes this type of culture.
Total Organizational Alignment
The SLT should also be efficient in communicating organizational goals so that each team member understands their role in the goal. Once this starts to happen, each department’s goals align with the organization’s goals rather than feeling siloed. It’s also helpful for the SLT to give updates on their own area so that the team has a feeling for what is going on throughout the property.
After the team has identified any needed changes, it’s important that a plan be developed and followed up on with an updated report for the next meeting.
One general manager said to me, “Paula, I love the program we developed, but my favorite benefit of the process was creating a senior leadership team that is truly connected and competent enough to get things done. There is no finger-pointing anymore, we just come together for solutions in a way that seemed disconnected before this process.”