Taking decisions in today’s world of fast change, Boards and their CEOs are being challenged to look differently at the nuances of leadership qualities to win now and going forward…
To grasp these fast-paced dynamics and to achieve desired outcomes, we recommend that CEOs truly address two fundamental questions, the first of which we acknowledge every leader is asking but the second, is equally critical:
- What defined steps must our teams take to more effectively transform to win now while providing flexibility to address future opportunities and challenges?
- As a leader, what have you discovered about our culture and true decision agility capabilities that challenge our perspectives about moving better/faster…and how should these “learnings” be addressed?
“You can’t depend on your eyes when your imagination is out of focus.” –Mark Twain
What We Know
With pressure on current performance, many CEOs are underinvesting in human capital that is necessary to drive priorities and enhance future enterprise value even though catching up will be more costly than layering in investment now. While time frames don’t hold measurable intrinsic value, they will impact/limit achieving resilient enterprise value.
Striking this right balance is “the” seminal challenge that Boards, CEOs and their leadership teams face. Clearly, dealing with current uncertainties while preparing for future swans is akin to predicting future weather patterns and therefore, the best first step, we believe, is concentrating, prioritizing and leveraging fully your “leadership controllables”… i.e. defining the parameters of how best to approach decisions collaboratively.
What We Observed
In successful companies, the most impactful “controllable” is clarity on, sanctity of, and respect for, a company’s brand…what it stands for… and more specifically the culture of how it is delivered. While culture is difficult to define with specificity, simply, its impact can’t be overestimated. Cultural ground rules drive trust and with trust, leaders, have the best chance of driving current performance while successfully establishing platforms for future positive outcomes.
Look at Home Depot’s recent outstanding performance compared to its competitive set. Bernie Marcus, its Founder and retired Chairman, recently commented that “Home Depot’s culture doesn’t change. It’s the systems that change.” Carol Tome, formerly of Home Depot, has carried a similar cultural message to her team as the CEO of UPS.
Simply, Marcus and Tome recognize that it’s all about the cultural glue built around mutual responsibility and teams, not about “valuing” star performers. Its leaders fully embrace respect and act accordingly, when aligning actions, measuring performance and accountability consistently while adjusting methodologies as conditions warrant. For many leaders, unfortunately, culture is a plaque on the wall.
Leaders face challenges where unforeseen uncertainties are the norm requiring CEOs to not only think differently but like Marcus and Tome, count on what they can control… how their teams act to effectuate addressing priorities. In that respect, critically examining how decisions are made is essential to understanding the culture under which your team “lives”. If decisions are taken from the top down, most assuredly, they are non-inclusive and most likely, sub-optimal. If your leaders value “managing up,” it’s an inhibitor to better decision making. In both cases, the potential value of participative trust will be lost.
- Recognize that Aligning and Bridging Priorities and Leadership Is “The Controllable.” CEOs and their teams should assess the impact of acting and adjusting or staying on course. Strategic priorities prevail as every move, is interdependent recognizing, of course, that not every decision and leadership appointment should be weighted equally.
- Acknowledge Decision Inclusiveness and Recruit Differently. In recruiting the best qualified, CEOs should evaluate every candidate on the added dimension of decision inclusiveness. Enterprise value will be enhanced by leaders who consider viewpoints from all who can/should contribute and will underscore the importance you place on trust, aligning your culture, and “organizational soul” to value.
The Bottom Line
If an inclusive decision culture isn’t embraced by your leaders, it’s time to replace those that can’t or won’t play in this game, no matter how talented. After a few changeouts, this will signify, reshape and deliver your message that team participative dynamics, without exception, are respected and essential as a mantra to drive accretive enterprise value.
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