We held numerous one on one and follow up discussions with CEOs in 2021…over 160…who sought our insight, perspective and guidance. No doubt, with the impact of “swans” and the need to accelerate change, CEOs and their leadership are being challenged to pivot and to create value in new ways. Our discussions suggested how lonely it is at the top and why there is an increasing trend of CEO and leadership “burnout.”
Here is What We Learned
All were concerned on how best to achieve impactful change in uncertain times recognizing that over 70% of transformation fail to hit the mark. To improve the odds, without exception, all recognized that to make change “stick,” centers on motivating & mobilizing leaders and teams to identify and execute on priorities. It’s about clarity and optionality… underscoring a cultural team norm to discover and deliver paths forward…essential to winning now. Not surprisingly, while many CEOs speak about the importance of team-based culture (the “grease” of sustainably winning regardless of conditions and “swans”), we’ve observed few are willing to make the necessary investment to “live” it, giving into the pressure of adjusting solely to delivering current tangible outcomes.
Moreover, in a recent Roundtable of CHROs, all set a top priority of dealing with the ramifications of COVID…certainly, necessary. Yet, all agreed that a great opportunity to capture the future was being mired…akin to the CEOs short term pressures… caught in the daily abyss. And there was agreement that, on balance, that CHROs can’t demonstrate a dollar payoff of a truly effective organizational/strategic succession/talent investment aligned to the future while addressing the needs and anxieties of the current fix and redirect environment.
Yet, without a commitment now, neither will CEOs meet the succession and leadership depth requirements of their boards nor will the CHROs have the resources to deliver on their responsibilities to the CEO of “delivering” talent when and where it is required.
Gaining Footholds of Value
- CEOs realize a talent pipeline is critical to their and their company’s success… today and for transitioning for sustainable value enhancements… requiring a combination of carefully selected and developed position-player talent with the alchemy of a culturally attuned team.
- To gain advantage via human capital, CEOs and their CHROs must be aligned in perception, expectations and outcome (the why, how and success markers), regardless of current conditions and adjustments that must be tailored and implemented.
- Regardless of the CHRO’s responsibility as the leadership functional head, CEOs shouldn’t abdicate their principal responsibility for the organizational future & culture of what matters most… building depth and provide the necessary succession guidance.
Culture Sets Up Wins. CEOs Must Lead Not Delegate
Below are four actions that, if consistently applied, will influence value outcomes.
- Emphasize/Act by “Living” a Leadership Culture. Prioritize and measure leadership attraction, retention and development effectiveness as center pieces to assure future vitality…Not just as statistics but as an ongoing element of a winning strategy.
- Communicate Clear Expectations of What’s Important & How Your Leaders Will Be Measured. Benchmark progress. Review often. Adjust but don’t compromise.
- Celebrate Wins Together. Remove elements of an “executive star system” and replace it with highlighting team victories…winning as one team with one purpose.
- Reward cultural agility to win commercially. Hold firm and don’t compromise on values, the balancing of stakeholder matters and shareholder/governance responsibilities nor ethics.
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