Recently, we were engaged on three highly sensitive searches, all for different clients in different sectors and for different positions.
1. COO for the leading sporting community in America based in the South
2. CFO of a multi -billion CPG company based in The Northeast
3. HR Leader for a technology concern based in the Midwest
Yet, although very different on every dimension and with each client seeking uniquely qualified executives, there’s a commonality of challenge which bares on how we evaluate candidates regardless of each client’s situation, scale or whether our client is publicly traded, private/investor owned or a family enterprise.
Here’s the critically important question our clients are asking; “With this recruitment, are we pragmatically strengthening our leadership to take advantage of uncertainty to help us win?”
The question is simple and the right question to ask. The answer isn’t a simple yes or no but requires complex judgments and evaluations.
Today, it’s not enough to identify candidates that just meet the position hurdles of experience and competences. For us, that’s just “vanilla table stakes.”
“Anyone can hold the helm when the sea is calm”- Publilius Syrus
Partnering with each client and given each’s unique situation, we guide our clients through a process to determine whether a candidate, regardless of past achievements, has the discipline, determination and possesses the developed leadership instinct to win in times of uncertainty and continual transformation…more than “leadership speak” of past accomplishments and agility.
Here are two important “don’t points” when determining whether your team is prepared and truly able to meet today’s challenges.
- Don’t compromise in evaluating the capability of your key leaders whether they’re currently on your team given the risks, challenges and the opportunities of meeting strategic and operational priorities.
- Don’t “accept” nor “tolerate” less than required by assuming those who had successes in the past, however loyal and icons within your organization, are the quality of leader that is needed now to power forward.
The Alchemy of Evaluation
Our many years of serving clients of every dimension and scale, the most successful seek leaders who truly embrace the following elements:
- Guides to value aren’t all-knowing oracles. Recognize, act, and adjust easily to the speed of change which dictates successful outcomes….Effectively and with belief, balances passion for outcomes with humility & compassion.
- Focuses on priorities…Under uncertain conditions, willing to make tough decisions among compelling options.
- Understands the importance of team decisions…Brings the best minds to the table irrespective of their seniority and current positions to afford the best thinking on difficult problems. Embrace inclusive team development to engender loyalty and underscoring trust.
- Stays on point… Artfully guides team decisions without being perceived as judgmental or heavy-handed. Respects healthy debate and thought-provoking “what if” questions. Discovers/listens to what their team “knows” and requires to move forward while continually seeking to discover workable/superior approaches and ideas.
- Appreciates transformations aren’t just an event… A continual performance-oriented journey supported by an all-in culture.. Recognizes that formula-driven transformation processes are risky and oftentimes fail.
- Sets a clear definition of successes… Never assumes that their leadership role can be fully delegated or abdicated…More vigilance, monitoring and involvement will be necessary. Sets boundaries and progress benchmarks. Adjusts as conditions unfold and dictate.
- Continually evaluates the contributions of their executive team…Holds candid conversations frequently. Expect high standards. Is willing to make difficult decisions thoughtfully. Moves quickly when it becomes apparent that a change in leadership is necessary.
The Bottom Line
In sum, while these leaders who embody these characteristics are rare, our clients realize that it’s executives with these qualities who will shape the future. They are decision driven and are geared to enhancing enterprise value with their egos firmly in check.
Some may consider such individuals as change agents.
In our view, they are learners and listeners who guide teams toward higher performance by establishing a culture of alignments and mutual responsibility. These individuals lead by example, show vulnerabilities and demand team excellence…the same expectations that they place on themselves.
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