By Ed Barrows, Strategic Facilitator with the Raffoni Group
Recently, a CEO in one of my groups came to me with this dilemma. He said, “Since I’ve gotten the scorecard installed and the right people and processes in place, things are starting to really hum. We’ve got our management system functioning, people know what they’re supposed to be doing and we’re meeting our targets. Honestly, I feel like things are finally moving in the right direction. Now I have a different problem. With things working so well, I don’t feel like I’m needed. To be honest, I’m not sure what I should be focusing on as the CEO. How should I being using my time?”
I was struck by the sincerity of his question and wondered if other CEOs sometimes felt the same way. With that in mind, he used this challenge as the basis for a case study that led to a great discussion with the rest of the group on how CEOs should spend their time. It was clear that there are many things a CEO should be doing on a day-to-day basis and many varying views on exactly what those things should be.
At Raffoni Group, we see one overarching role that must be filled by CEOs at all times and at all costs: The role of the Engaged CEO Champion.
Merriam-Webster dictionary defines a champion as “someone who fights or speaks publicly in support of a person, belief or cause.” The cause in question here—which is specifically the CEO’s job to champion—is strategy and the execution of it. In order to help maintain the focus on strategy, we’ve identified three simple questions CEOs can ask themselves that will lead to better engagement as strategy champions.
1.) Are you adequately prepared for your strategic off-site meetings?
For many organizations, the watershed event in the life of a strategy is the annual strategic offsite. It is at this meeting where the most important issues regarding the company’s future are discussed and decisions are made about goals for the future. Resource commitments are typically part of this activity, as well the output of a strategic plan — the document that will guide executive action. But too often the offsite is conducted with only a cursory look at past performance void of meaningful analysis and preparation for discussion. As Bob Frisch and Logan Chandler note in their article Off-Sites That Work, “The greater expectations, the higher stakes, and the unique nature of strategy discussions require special planning to ensure that meaningful and constructive conversations happen.”
Here is where engaged CEO champions set the bar considerably higher. In advance of the offsite, the CEO should mandate a comprehensive analysis of financial performance. Also, each leader participating in the session should complete a SWOT analysis to help identify major issues to be discussed. As a rule, no more that three to five major issues should be identified for the sessions.
This background information—coupled with an honest evaluation of the top team’s performance in the areas of alignment and effectiveness—should be complied in the form of pre-work and circulated in advance of the session. Preparing in this way ensures that the team arrives at the meeting engaged, informed and ready to tackle the most pressing issues of the organization.
2.) Do you hold your leadership team to an agreed upon strategic planning process that ensures accountability and follow through?
An effective offsite and a well-crafted strategic plan provide an excellent foundation for focus and execution. Sadly, many CEOs let their teams stop strategy work with production of the plan itself. Once that task is complete, the plan is neither reviewed nor revisited until the next strategy offsite. Here is where CEO champions can earn their pay by implementing a strategy execution process that maintains focus on the strategy long after the plan has been set on a shelf.
What is strategy execution? It’s typically a set of activities that when taken as a whole enable a company to achieve its most critical objectives. Accountability and follow-through come from scheduling regular meetings to review the performance measures that gauge whether or not adequate progress is being made. Further, it’s the frequent review of the action plans and milestones that are directly linked to achieving critical goals. Strategy execution also incorporates the decisions that have to be made when the strategy begins drifting off course. Regardless of how well defined, strategy execution will not happen unless the CEO holds his team accountable to the strategic process AND the results that the strategy is designed to produce. The CEO is the one person responsible for making execution happen.
3.) Do you generally stay the course or are you prone to chasing shiny objects?
In an ideal world, a sound strategic plan and an effective execution process delivers results. The problem is executive teams don’t live in ideal worlds. The world around most leaders is rife with change, with some of it bringing genuine business opportunities. More often than not these so-called opportunities are little more than distractions, or as we at the Raffoni Group like to call them, “shiny objects.” There’s even a name for this behavior: Shiny Object Syndrome (SOS).
As author and motivational speaker, Jack Canfield wrote in a blog post on the topic, “It’s easy to get distracted from the goals and commitments you’ve already made. Rather than seeing things through to completion, you abandon the goals and projects you’ve started to chase whatever new thing has just caught your eye.” If strategy execution is predicated by accomplishing goals and projects, a case of SOS is cause for an immediate distress signal for getting the strategy back on track.
Again, it’s the engaged CEO that must toss out the lifeline and reel in the team in order to refocus them toward the original course. A clear strategy and a well-oiled execution process can help in this regard, but effective CEOs have to have an innate compass that drives the efforts of the entire organization toward relentless achievement of the company’s most critical goals.
Most CEOs will tell you and the old adage is true: it's lonely at the top. It’s lonelier still when the CEO questions what his best and highest value is to the company on a daily basis. Engaged CEOs don’t struggle with this question—they know the questions to ask as well as the answers they need to guide their teams toward their ultimate destination.
- Nov 21, 2017 Smoother Sailing Ahead for CEOs Who Stay at the Helm of these 5 Core Responsibilities Nov 21, 2017
- Oct 3, 2017 Why You Should STOP Thinking about Cascading Goals to Your Organization Oct 3, 2017
- Jun 19, 2017 Five Essential “To Dos” for Every CEO’s Summer Plan Jun 19, 2017
- Jun 5, 2017 Preparation Makes Perfect: 5 Tips for Preparing for Your Strategic Planning Session Jun 5, 2017
- Jun 1, 2017 Strategic Planning: Why Start with A CEO Presentation? Jun 1, 2017
- Apr 25, 2017 Five Signs It's Time to Make a Change to Your Exec Team Apr 25, 2017
- Sep 2, 2016 CEO, Do You Know What Makes You Happy? Sep 2, 2016
- Sep 2, 2016 6 Reasons Why Traveling for Pleasure Will Make You a Better CEO Sep 2, 2016
- Jun 29, 2016 The CEO's Role in Managing Culture: Do What You Believe in Most Jun 29, 2016
- Jun 29, 2016 Top 6 Signs of Burnout for CEOs and the C-Suite Jun 29, 2016
- Apr 21, 2016 CEOs share the top 15 REASONS they make time for a CEO Peer group Apr 21, 2016
- Mar 1, 2016 Are You Tracking Projects or Tracking Results? Tell the Truth. Mar 1, 2016
- Mar 1, 2016 How to Make Sure Q1 Doesn't Get You Down: Focus First on Yourself, then on Your Company Culture Mar 1, 2016
- Dec 22, 2015 9 Steps for an Eye-Opening Assessment of Your Leadership Team, Strategy, and Strategic Planning Process Dec 22, 2015
- Dec 22, 2015 For Mature CEOs Only: Ask Yourself These 12 Probing Questions as You Close Out 2015 Dec 22, 2015
- Nov 10, 2015 2015 CEO Collective Summit Recap Nov 10, 2015
- Sep 15, 2015 Does Your Leadership Team have High Executive Function? Sep 15, 2015
- Sep 14, 2015 Top Seven CEO Personal Development Goals for 2016 Sep 14, 2015
- Jul 22, 2015 Are You An Engaged CEO Champion? Ask Yourself These 3 Questions Jul 22, 2015
- Jul 22, 2015 5 Mistakes Even the Best CEOs Make Jul 22, 2015
- May 2015
- Mar 24, 2015 How to Improve Your Strategic Scorecard Mar 24, 2015
- Mar 24, 2015 What a Strategic Scorecard Is and Why You Should Care Mar 24, 2015
- Feb 3, 2015 Are You a Graceful CEO? Feb 3, 2015
- Nov 20, 2014 CEOs “Find Their Tribe” at the Raffoni Group’s 9th Annual CEO Collective Summit Nov 20, 2014