Top 6 Signs of Burnout for CEOs and the C-Suite

By Melissa Raffoni, CEO, The Raffoni Group

Throughout my life, when people have suggested that I may be "burnt out" from a certain activity, I have shrugged it off. I have disregarded the comment because I've always been very driven and unless I was completely passed out and unable to move, I couldn’t possibly imagine that expression could apply to me. "Burnout" conjured up images of somebody who couldn't get out of bed in the morning, was uninspired, rundown, unproductive and maybe even grumpy.

Burnout is not a dirty word.

But the longer I’ve run my own business and the more I’ve worked directly with CEOs, I’ve come to realize, that driven executives who are heading toward burnout don’t actually see it's happening, until it does. The good news is that burnout is treatable and when we tend to it in ourselves and our colleagues, everyone will be happier and more productive.

Based on my experience working with CEOs dealing with burnout, here are six warning signs:  

  1. The “I’m So Busy/Taxed and I Must Push Through” Syndrome. I get that some people are busier than others. Asian travel, acquisition, the loss of a key employee, a start-up situation -- these all create hyper-busy and very taxing schedules. But the "must push through" piece doesn’t scale. It's not backed by wisdom and does not connote a graceful leader. At some point, the physical and mental signs creep in and worse off, a "martyr" type of attitude can instill itself, if not at work, then at home. For most high-performing execs, this attitude often comes from a place of very good intent. It comes from execs who want to do the right thing, who, without batting an eye, embrace responsibility. They believe you are rewarded in life by "pushing through." These street fighter/survivor types need to step back and find a new way.

  2. The Wake Up Hour is 4 AM. If you took a poll of high-performing execs, I would guess that at least 25% will note a non-planned 4 AM wake up time or that they have issues sleeping more than seven hours. Not being able to sleep is a sure sign of stress and certainly can indicate burnout is on the horizon.

  3. The "Stressor" Behaviors Are Unveiled. Many personality assessments (such as Hogan) tell you that when you are stressed, you are more likely to demonstrate your "go to" negative behavior. Maybe it's anger, lack of patience, extreme testiness, going "dark," or talking a lot. When you see this behavior in yourself or your colleagues, it's a good indicator of the need to course correct.

  4. The "Repetitive Problem Treadmill" Doesn't Stop. This is when the same issues come up over and over and over, without resolution. Examples can range from, “I’m not getting my job done right...to this employee is not right for this role...to our model is not working.” If the same problem or question comes up over and over, the individual just may not have the space, stamina or concentration to clearly resolve and act on the issue.

  5. Physical Appearance Changes. The obvious signs are weight gain, bad posture, dry facial skin, puffy eyes and rapidly graying hair. What we can’t see or predict is what can come next, such as shortness of breath, chest pains, dizziness, fainting, headaches or a generally weak immune system that can cause nagging coughs or colds.

  6. The Failure of the "What Are you Doing for Exercise?" or "What are You Doing for Fun?" Most execs I know, even when stressed, find time to exercise because they started the habit early in life. But when exercise falls off the cliff for a normally active individual, it's time to pay attention. Other burnout candidates may still be exercising, but fun, laughter, joy and happiness has been pushed to the side. In these cases, the activities that drive these emotions need to be identified, resurrected and, as cold as it may sound, "put on the calendar."

Other warning signs may include blaming others, forgetfulness, impaired concentration, and things piling up. Many C-suite execs have systems to keep these behaviors in-check, but these warning symptoms could apply to family members, friends or other levels of staff.

When our CEO Collective peer groups spot a CEO on the path to burnout, we call it out and then move to emphasize sleep, healthy life practices (exercise, food, etc.) and a reflection on what activities provide happiness. Just calling it out can make a difference. For some, extra mental health support may be needed.   

In working with CEOs who may have direct reports suffering from burn out, we also discuss their responsibility in setting clear job expectations that map to the employee's strengths and values.

Burnout is not a dirty word. It doesn't mean that we are weak or not doing our best. It just happens sometimes as a result of a situation or lack of change in our jobs. For many highly driven, productive execs, it's a bit "par for the course" at some point in their career. What’s most important is recognizing it, not letting it go too far and putting in a course correction plan that, in almost all cases, will put the individual on a better track to being personally healthier and more productive.

Additional resources:  

Refueling Your Engine: Strategies to Reduce Stress and Avoid Burnout

The Tell Tale Signs of Burnout ... Do You Have Them?

Job Burnout: How to Spot It and Take Action

CEO, Do You Know What Makes You Happy?

By Melissa Raffoni, CEO, The Raffoni Group

Sorry to start things on on a heavy note, but it's what's on my mind. In the last few months, I have become aware of three suicides of middle age professionals in my extended circle — two c-suite colleagues and one college friend. Simultaneously, I've witnessed at least three executives go through what I would call severe burnout.

At this same time, I see books on happiness and positive psychology taking over the shelves (both actual and virtual). Search Amazon on happiness and you'll see the new releases, like 10% Happier, The Happiness Project, The Secret of Happiness, The Gratitude Journal, etc. A common theme: How burnout in themselves or others led the authors to re-evaluate and find some new strategies for balancing their lives.

As an advocate and driver of CEOs and their success, I would be remiss in this day and age to not take the topic of life balance and stress management seriously. Even when I put on my "let's build a high performing, kick-ass company" hat, I can't turn a blind eye to the fact that good talent, and in particular, millennial talent is asking for the same thing -- a balanced, happy life not over consumed by work and stress.

Bruce Pfau, in his HBR.org blog post, What Do Millennials Really Want at Work? The Same Things the Rest of Us Dosites "The ability to manage my work life balance" as number six on the list of millennial long term goals and notes that Gen X and Baby Boomers rank this desire high as well.

I took the opportunity to ask our CEO and C-Suite clients to share what makes them happiest and/or puts them in "a state of flow." 

A state of flow defined: A mental state in which a person performing an activity is fully immersed in a feeling of energized focus, full of involvement and enjoyment in the process of the activity.
— wikipedia

Here are the top six activities (in rank order) that give the CEO and C-Suite Execs in The Raffoni Group CEO Collective program a sense of happiness and flow:

1)      Active Outdoor Activities (favorites include skiing, hiking, biking, boating and running)

2)      Time with Family (with spouse, with kids "when well-behaved, happy or succeeding", home projects, etc)

3)      Socializing (cooking, eating, drinking and laughing with friends)

4)      Vacations and Traveling

5)      Volunteering (mentoring and coaching)

6)      Music (watching it live, performing, or watching kids play)

My guess is that if you are a CEO or C-suite exec, at least one of your top five favorites is on this list. If you can't list anything that doesn't have to do with your career, you need to work on that immediately.

"How do I get the right balance between life and work?" Commit yourself. Commit to finding balance and take the appropriate action. Start by making a list of the top three to five things that put you in a state of flow. Now, open up your calendar and mark off time to make your happy/flow activities happen. And if one activity isn't that happy because you had a cranky child or fell off your bike, then schedule another as make up. Make it a priority. It's got to be ongoing too, not something you did last quarter. You work it into your schedule, commit and give yourself fully.

"I have to push through the next six months, THEN I will add some 'happy' activities in." Wrong answer. Two of the CEO’s primary roles are 1) to set a compelling, clear direction and 2) to build an aligned, productive leadership team. If you are fried, you are not able to set a clear direction. You will spin your wheels, be less effective and lose talent. 

"This stuff is too soft, next blog please." I get it. Research my past articles. Come to a CEO Collective meeting. I talk about ROI all day long. But, you know that I'm on to something here. So, go be a better leader and play. Everyone in your life will thank you for it. And guess what? You’ll be happier (maybe even more than 10%) for doing it. 

Are You An Engaged CEO Champion? Ask Yourself These 3 Questions

Melissa Raffoni, 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.

 

ADDITIONAL ARTICLES

5 Signs It's Time to Make a Change to Your Exec Team

By Melissa Raffoni, Founder and CEO, The Raffoni Group

Strong CEOs regularly assess the strength of their leadership team. As your company grows and evolves, it's inevitable that your team will need to change to support the next chapter. While these decisions are often hard to make, they are the ones that many CEOs repeatedly say they wish they'd made sooner.

It can be very difficult to dismiss self doubt, trust your instincts and make a change on the leadership team. But the longer you wait, the more the misalignment impacts the organization. There is a good chance that you’ve known for some time that this person is not a good fit for the role. It's best to listen to your gut and get the right person.

You are the highest leverage point in the organization. Not only is your energy important, but the message you send to your team is as well. If you are being dragged down by this team member, chances are, your top players are feeling the same way.

Making a change might mean letting a person go or switching the exec to report one level down where a change in expectations can sometimes salvage the relationship -- and everyone is happier for it.

Here are the telltale signs it's time to make a change on your team:

1. You consistently find yourself dissatisfied with the same person and issues.
It’s very telling if you have to address the same issues with an individual over and over. Of course, there's room for mistakes, and when someone is new, it takes time to ramp up. It's great to be empathetic and most great CEOs are, but once the grace period is over, if you are regularly dissatisfied with the work and not seeing the level of improvement required, the person is not right for the role.

2. You begin to question your ability to clearly communicate direction to the team. When a good CEO is experiencing challenges with an exec, he or she can easily question whether or not they are clear in their communications with the team. The answer is in the numbers. If three out of four members of your team think you are being clear, you are not the problem.

3. You find yourself questioning what the team member is doing with his or her time. The fact that you are having to ask this question shows that the exec does not have a basic skill required to be in their role -- the ability to manage up. They are responsible for making sure you have visibility into what they and their team are focused on and where they are at in the process of getting it done. If you feel in the dark, that’s clear evidence that this exec is not doing his or her job.

4. You feel frustrated versus energized coming out of 1:1 and team meetings.  Meeting with and leading your team should be one of the fun parts of your job. You get to pick the handful of people you want to work with. If your relationship with one or more of your execs if painful, you will not be your best as a leader, period. Chances are, this pain will end up on your sleeve, or be the elephant in the room in team meetings, and will not serve in helping the person in question (or other team members) be the best they can be.

5. There is a clear distinction on your team between who you see as a partner in the work vs. a subordinate. When our clients are looking to make changes on their exec team, I ask them to reflect on the relationships they have with the CEOs in their trusted peer group. They should experience the same level of communication, as well as pace and quality of work on their exec team as they do with their CEO peers. You should find your team members to be true partners in the work, each within their area of expertise. If you feel that an exec is a clear subordinate, they are your weak link.

Building and aligning a strong leadership team is in your top echelon of priorities as CEO. If you’ve taken a look in the mirror and asked yourself if you are doing everything you can, and your answer is, "Yes," you've got the wrong person in the wrong role. Bite the bullet and make a change. Ultimately, you’ll be glad you did.

6 Key Practices of Companies with Award-Winning Cultures

By Brian O’Donnell, CEO-in-Residence & Strategic Facilitator

When you think about your role as CEO in creating a culture where employees want to work and believe they can make an impact, it’s smart to look at companies that are rated “Best Places to Work” and learn what they are doing right. I recently did a bit of this myself by reviewing 1) several companies who have conducted detailed research 2) a number of surveys on employee satisfaction and 3) results from our own CEO Collectives members’ efforts to evaluate their company cultures.

Here are the key practices that stood out (and, spoiler, it’s not just about ping-pong tables and free beer on Friday afternoons):

You can design and create and build the most wonderful place in the world. But it takes people to make the dream a reality.
— Walt Disney

1) Strong Investment in Employee Development – While many companies think they are doing a good job in terms of employee development, the best companies show us that there is more to be done to both help employees to take ownership in their self-development and to give them easier access to learning and experiential activities to further their growth. The best companies make sure that employees have the right skills to accomplish their current jobs, while learning new skills to prepare for future roles. They put their employees into situations where they can get real experience, like leading projects and participating in initiatives. Research shows that learning from actual experience has the greatest impact – and reward.

They may not remember what you said, or even what you did, but they will always remember how you made them feel.
— Carl W. Buehner.

2) Giving Extra Support in Challenging Times  Employees remember and appreciate how they are treated in challenging times, even more than during the good times. The leaders in company culture know the importance of showing a positive outlook for the business and a commitment to employees during downturns. In these times, it’s paramount to protect jobs and the longer-term investment in people (instead of layoffs) and improve benefits (instead of cutting them). Companies that show this level of support in the hard times, create deeper loyalty that drives a stronger, more engaged workforce, resulting in better long-term business performance. And remember, as the CEO, you must lead the charge in this area. It can’t be delegated.

3) Providing Flexibility and Opportunities for Work/Life Balance – Companies that score the highest in employee surveys not only provide ways for their employees to have a good work/life balance, but they really “walk the talk” in terms of modeling it. While that can be more challenging in certain types of businesses, I have even witnessed traditional manufacturing companies coming up with ways to provide greater work flexibility. Flex time, PTO, work from home programs, and half-day Fridays are all examples of ways in which employees can gain flexibility. When you find ways to create flexibility for employees, you’ll find that they reciprocate. To put this model in place, it requires that you to step back and think outside historical company norms and policies. As hard as it may be to give the inch without being worried it will be taken as a mile, just remember that all the top companies do it and get great results.

4) Maintaining a “Small Company” Culture – That wonderful small company culture is hard to hold onto as a company grows larger, but employees want to feel that they are part of a group where they are known and appreciated. There are many ways the most successful companies create this culture, including free lunches once a week, employee disaster funds, mentoring programs, even rotating people on planning committees and giving them a “seat at the table” and the ability to engage at a higher level. The challenge is to keep the organizational structure as flat as you can and effectively grouped. New employee lunches, performance or service recognition events are also ways to provide that personal touch. As CEO, it is most important that you find ways to be transparent and communicate directly to employees – they need (and want) to hear from you.

5) Making Time and Space for Fun – Okay, here’s the part about the ping pong table. Yes, the most successful companies also find ways to add some fun into the mix, whether through structured activities and events (parties, sports, hiking, groups), or just creating a normal culture of “this is what we do here” (for example, open kitchens, breakfasts and lunches, special celebrations and treats, “living rooms”, and places for people to interact and engage). Fun diversions can really make a difference and help people feel they are a part of something special. But note, that simply adding some “fun” areas doesn’t create a fun culture. Again, this is a top down thing. As CEO, it’s important you are are able to have fun at the office. Employees need to see that in you to believe it’s a true value of the company.

6) Being a Great CEO – And last, but not least, research by GlassDoor, the web employee rating portal, suggests that there is a strong correlation between how highly employees rate their CEO and “Best Place to Work” ratings. Serving as CEO is both complex and rewarding. Success is not guaranteed, but it is far more likely if you are clear on what must be done by YOU, first and foremost, and not by others, in order to lead the effort to help create an excellent culture that retains talented team members.

Contact Brian at bodonnell@raffonigroup.com

How to Make Sure Q1 Doesn't Get You Down: Focus First on Yourself, then on Your Company Culture

I just had three CEO one-on-one calls in a row and every person was a bit in the dumps, including me. I felt like I was talking people off cliffs, coaching them to get their energy up and mount to the top, all while I was hanging on by two fingers in a crevice on the side of the rock face. I chuckled a bit at this and decided to explore what was going on. Here is what I came up with...

Q1 Can Be a Bit of a Downer Because:

  1. It’s Dark. At least in Boston, it's dark when I wake my kids up and it's dark when they come home. Let's not fool ourselves, cold weather and darkness is a bit of a bummer.

  2. The Projections Are Lofty. Q1 numbers are set and, of course, we set them high—now reality sets in. The holidays are over and we have a lot to do.

  3. Some of Our Best People Are Gone. Lots of employees wait until year-end to decide to move on. Losing just a few good ones can take the wind out of our sails.

  4. The Grind Factor. Sometimes, just sometimes, the job can be a grind. Let's face it, we are up early, we are up late, and we have been doing this for five to 10 years, maybe longer. There's no getting around it. Sometimes it's just a grind.

There's a good chance you aren't the only one feeling this way. Your team may be too. And they are looking to you, as their CEO and fearless leader. They look to you for tone, inspiration, energy, and clarity. And as humble as you and I are, we sometimes forget that. Have I gotten your attention?

Here are Three Things to Focus on to Have a Good Q1:

1. Find Your Energy. As you should always do, take the beginning of the year to reassess the way you use your time. Break it into categories: Strategy, Leadership Team, Day-to-Day Ops, Culture, and Sales—then ask yourself, "Is this where I should be spending my time?" Historically, I have always said to assess this with the company's strategic goals in mind, challenging CEOs to look at the best leverage for their most precious commodity, time. But, if you are feeling a bit ragged, ask yourself where you get energy from and where you don't. You are best in places where you have "flow" or energy, so, re-allocate accordingly. Don't burn out. There is zero leverage in that. Here's a Harvard Business Review article I wrote with more info to help you assess how you are spending your time. No time to read? Listen to this brief podcast.

2. Assess Your Personal Leadership. What is your personal approach to leadership? How strong are your leadership skills? Some ideas for continued assessment and growth include reading a book or article on leadership (here are a few of mine to check out) as well as committing to take some time to listen to your staff, your customers, and even your family. Q4 and Jan Q1 require the CEO to do a lot of talking. Normally, we reset the vision, articulate the goals, get people on board—now, it's March, and maybe you should just stop talking for a bit and listen and/or ask questions.

3. Review Your Culture Plan. Hiring and human capital management are becoming increasingly more important as differentiators. Ten years ago I would have said something different. And, as a reminder, I grew up as an Organizational Development consultant. Now, culture is more important than ever. Have you done an employee satisfaction survey recently? Do you have the right HR initiatives? Are you branding internally, as well as externally? Do you like the vibe in your organization? If you have answered "no" to more than one of these questions, I’m going to remind you that as CEO, a big piece of your job is building a sustainable, high-performing culture where people feel good about coming to work and are likely to spread the word as such—whether it be glass door or to refer friends. Your employees provide some of your best PR. Make the investment into that asset.

“They are all good days, just with some bad moments. Luckily, the moments go away and we are left with all good days”
— Ken Dryer, Former Vistage Chair, Former CEO of Eliassen, a CEO Collective Member company and mentor of Melissa Raffoni.

For Mature CEOs Only: Ask Yourself These 12 Probing Questions as You Close Out the Year

By Melissa Raffoni, CEO of The Raffoni Group

As we approach goal setting and planning for the new year, The Raffoni Group team asks CEO members hard, somewhat personal questions we think few people ask. Asking the tough questions and answering them honestly takes maturity. You ready?

Ask These 12 Questions:

  1. How do you want next year to look different for you and for your company?

  2. Are you happy with how you are spending your time, both at work and personally?

  3. How is your health?

  4. How is your family coping with the demands put on you as CEO? If negative, what are you doing to address their concerns?

  5. What was the biggest mistake you made this year?

  6. What is your biggest weakness as CEO?

  7. How much personal compensation did you take home this year and are you happy with that?

  8. Do you like having investors? Would you do it differently next time?

  9. Is there someone you need to fire?

  10. Is there someone you need to hire to compensate for your weaknesses?

  11. Do you like being a CEO?

  12. What do you want to do next?

Just today, a CEO of a 300+ million dollar company told me that the CEO Collective has been invaluable, as there is no other forum where he can share and get input on these topics. These comments remind me of how lucky I am to have this job and how much I enjoy what I do. We are privileged to have these conversations with our members.

In my conversations with hundreds of CEOs like you during the past 20 years, questions like the ones above have uncovered some anxiety points that they are generally hesitant to admit. My goal is not to “expose” anyone, but to shed light on the fact that you have a hard job with many demands, externally and internally. You are naturally driven and as a result, take on superhero level responsibilities. You are a leader who holds your head up high, puts your worries in your pocket and charges full speed ahead with what appears to be grace and ease. But, the truth is, you are often carrying a heavy load.   

If you feel you are doing everything in your business, then you’ve got the wrong team. If you make excuses for not exercising or eating well, your priorities are wrong. If your family is begging for your attention, give it to them. Use the questions above to hold up the mirror and change some things for the new year. Life is short and one thing CEOs are good at is driving change. Make sure you are driving change in your own life to make it all you want to be.

@melissaraffoni on Twitter
mraffoni@raffonigroup.com

 

 

 

 

 

 

CEO Brief: Take a Self-Assessment Based on The 6 Critical Success Factors for Building an Aligned, Highly Functioning and Strategic Leadership Team

For years we have encouraged our CEO colleagues to think beyond the off-site agenda and to embrace the concept of building a strategic planning process that ensures follow through. Now, we are encouraging you to take that thinking one step further.  

Ask these key questions:

1. What can and must I do to deliver on my CEO responsibility of building an aligned, highly functioning strategic leadership team?   

2. How can our strategic planning activities contribute to the achievement of this goal?

The Raffoni Group's Strategic Leaders Program is built on Six Critical Success Factors that should be considered as you thoughtfully craft your strategic planning activities.

  1. A Visibly Engaged CEO Champion

  2. A Leadership Team with Highly Functioning Executive Skills

  3. The Separate Treatment of Strategy and Operations

  4. A Set of Clear and Measurable Strategic Goals

  5. An Effective Leadership Governance Plan

  6. An Aligned and Motivated Organization

If you want a smart strategy and an exceptional team to lead the execution of such a game plan we challenge you to hold up the mirror and ask yourself the 20 CEO reflection questions in our CEO Brief The Six Critical Factors for Building an Aligned, High Functioning Strategy Leadership Team.

Click here to DOWNLOAD the Brief.

 

ADDITIONAL ARTICLES

Are You a Graceful CEO?

Graceful.jpg

The best CEOs are those who figure out the right levers to pull, choose great people to be on the team and motivate great behaviors through an inspiring environment that respects and generally cares for the well-being of its employees.

Unfortunately, being a CEO is a bit of a grind. Well, actually, it’s a lot of a grind. You have a million things to do, planes to catch, people with problems, products you can never sell enough of, and why, for the love of god, do things continue to get more and more complex? And let us not forget that you are meant to emerge as the one who fosters inspiration, sees the way and brings clarity to complexity!

Old school CEOs resemble the famous visual of a chicken with their head cut off. They are always pushing, creating a sense of urgency, trying to get more and more done, seeing all the gaps and are, frankly, worn out. They burn out and they burn people out. Sometimes it works. Most times it fizzles.

Now, maybe as a result of my old age, I’m ready to take it up a level. My mantra is be a GRACEFUL and SKILLED CEO. Why? Because the chicken with its head cut off may cover a lot of ground, but it is really not a good leader. Very few little chicks follow this crazy bird around. 

The reality is that IP and cash can only take us so far in today’s economy. What is increasingly and seriously driving the success of today’s top companies is its people --  innovative, motivated, smart-working and “great-to-work-with” people. And, those companies have great CEO leaders.

As you strive to be the best kind of CEO, ask yourself these hard questions:

  1. Are you demonstrating the characteristics that you want your people to emulate?

  2. Are you taking care of your health? Not just your physical health, but your mental health and well being as well?

  3. Are you giving yourself opportunities to think clearly about the business?

  4. Are you being clever about choosing the things that matter – as opposed to advocating doing everything at once?

  5. Are you rewarding innovation, creativity and trying new things?

  6. Are you giving kudos and positive vibes?

Look in the mirror. Are you the chicken with its head cut off or the graceful, skillful CEO?

ADDITIONAL ARTICLES

9 Steps for an Eye-Opening Assessment of Your Leadership Team, Strategy, and Strategic Planning Process

By Melissa Raffoni, CEO, The Raffoni Group

The year is coming to a close. Your offsite is over, the new goals are set, and the budget is finally done. Now it’s time to execute!

CEOs, before you head into the new year with your leadership team and plan in place, reflect on the topics below to be fully locked and loaded for a successful year of business.

  1. Closely examine financial results and trends. Now that the results are in (or close to it), look back and see if your team’s actual performance met budgeted expectations, especially in areas that may not be typically measured, such as customer mix, sales growth for selected products or services, and ROI. A few key slides are in order to plot the trends over time

  2. Ensure that your team’s SWOT has a real external view. A solid SWOT lists externally driven opportunities that include macro trends such as shifts in the market, customer needs, competitors and regulations. Not a list of “this product” or “that market” or the opportunity to "improve on our internal weaknesses." To be effective, your list needs to be comprised of a concise evaluation of each area.

  3. Grade the goals from last year. List the goals from 2015 and grade them A, B, C, D and even F, followed with a narrative of what was done well and not so well. Warren Buffet does a nice job of this in the Berkshire Hathaway annual report in the section entitled, “The Year at Berkshire.” Refer to the defined success metrics and the original words of the goal—did you make progress against the goal as defined by the team last year?

  4. Ask if last year’s goals were truly strategic? Goals including hitting your numbers, taking care of your customers, investing in great talent aren’t strategic. Are your strategic goals really strategic or just “business as usual”? Will the goals drive true strategic change aimed at increasing the value and position of the company?

  5. Refer back to your three-year business direction. Are you on track? In our methodology, we call this the long-term direction. In our Strategic Leaders presentation we illustrate in a single slide a three-year forecast of CEO financials, what you sell, to whom you sell it, and your key differentiator. Is it the same as what you laid out last year? Did you execute on the plan?

  6. Take a hard look at your C-suite and organizational structure. Is it set up to support the organization for the future? Do you have the right seats on the bus and do you have the right people in the rights seats? CEO success is strongly linked to the capability of the supporting team.

  7. Have your team answer the question, “What did our leadership team do well and not so well?” and review their responses. Probe on areas such as meeting management, problem-solving, decision-making, collaboration, open/honest/direct communication, humor, follow through, commitment, understanding of the business, clear accountability, inter-departmental collaboration, adequate time “on” vs. “in” the business,

  8. Have your team answer the question, “How well is the organization (underneath executive leadership) aligned?” and review their answers. Probe on questions regarding the alignment and involvement of the organization in achieving the company’s strategic objectives and goals. Find out if employees understand the relevant strategic priorities, if they are committed and involved in helping to execute the goals, and if they see where they are relevant in the organization.

  9. List the critical success factors for your leadership team for this past year. Ask yourself if they were truly integral to your success and then, raise the bar for the upcoming year.

A CEO presentation with the findings these questions uncover is an important part of getting the whole team onboard with the vision for the upcoming year.

Want more information on how to build an effective CEO presentation to share with your team? Contact us to get our CEO Presentation guidelines for annual offsite strategic Planning. We are happy to share.

Here's to a successful and prosperous 2019!

mraffoni@raffonigroup.com/ twitter @melissaraffoni