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

Are You Tracking Projects or Tracking Results? Tell the Truth.

I love process. I love project management. I love organization. I love communication. But, I’m a little down on some of the more sophisticated planning processes that I keep bumping into when we are asked to assess strategic planning that is already underway.

I sincerely don’t mean to sound flippant, because I am all for aligning the front line and have all due respect for Hoshin Planning and the Balanced Scorecard (both of which have greatly influenced my thinking and methodologies), but I have to ask where the strategy is in the following objectives...

  1. Meet our financial targets

  2. Take care of our customers

  3. Launch great products

  4. Improve our processes

  5. Take care of our workforce

When we knock down 18 various projects with 50 tasks in each and feel awesome about our progress, can we always point to the actual business results and/or significant shifts in the business strategy that have resulted in an increased company value?

I want to be very clear. If you have a planning process that makes employees feel productive and helps them to see the connection between their everyday work and the bigger picture, by all means, consider that a win, because it’s VERY HARD to do that. But, as a CEO or an executive leader, the question to ask is whether or not the development of true strategic goals and the accountability to real measures (not just tasks and dates) is happening?

If you are questioning this, then I encourage you to rethink your planning approach and leadership governance. It may call for simplification and/or a separate treatment of strategy from operations, which is our strong point of view.  

Here are a few tried and true tips to follow:

1. Don’t create your strategic goals with the question, "How am I going to communicate this to the organization?" floating around in your head. If the strategic goal is to shut down a business unit or anything else that is uncomfortable, so be it.

2. Separate your strategic goal discussions from your operational objectives discussions. One way to view strategic goals is that they are "non-business-as-usual," in other words, things that require collaborative or out-of-the-box thinking because they haven’t been tackled before. If you do this, your conversation will switch from, "Did we get it done? Okay, check the box," to, "How can we make this happen?" That's an entirely different tone and way of collaborating.

3. Focus on result measures first and tasks second. Here's a simple example: Don't measure the successful launch of a product by the accomplishment of building, testing, and taking the product to market. Instead, measure the number of successful rankings from beta testers, the number of initial customers who agree to purchase at launch, and of course, revenue. I'm not saying to neglect the important tasks listed above, but rather am suggesting that you avoid being mired in them and keep your eyes on the real prize. 

Getting things done, aligning the organization, and year-over-year functional improvements are clearly necessary for running a good business. The challenge is figuring out how to keep this engine going and also allow time to focus on new strategic business drivers that can change the game for your company and keep you ahead of the pack.

Does Your Leadership Team have High Executive Function?

The Raffoni Group

Anyone with young kids has probably heard of the term “executive function.” It refers to the management of cognitive processes that includes things like working memory, reasoning, task flexibility, problem solving, as well as planning and execution. You don’t need to be a psychologist to observe that kids who have strong executive function skills have an easier time in school than those who don’t.  

Kids who lack executive function skills have real trouble focusing on their work, curbing impulses, and completing tasks they start, in addition to a host of other challenges that make basic activities very challenging.  And the problem doesn’t go away as they get older; adults with weak executive function skills struggle at work and in their personal lives. If your starting to wonder if this piece is about you personally, don’t worry, it isn’t. The executive functioning we're discussing here is the kind that applies to top management teams as a whole. 

How does executive function apply to a management team? What’s interesting about the definition above is that it includes three aspects of individual cognitive ability that are equally important to any successful top team: Planning, Execution and Problem Solving.  What we’re finding more and more as we engage with clients inside and outside of the CEO Collective is that these three skills—which together comprise our concept of execution function—vary widely across organizations.

What we see is that senior teams with well-developed executive functioning skills seem to do better, a lot better, than those that lack them. The good news is that each of these subordinate skills can be developed if the top team commits to doing so. It’s not easy and there’s no quick fix. Over time however, execution functioning can be developed.  If you’re wondering how strong your team’s executive function skills are, we’ve created a series of questions within each of the three categories that leaders can use to assess their team’s overall executive function.

 1.  Does your leadership team plan effectively?

Research shows that about 60% of small to mid-sized organizations engage in formal strategic planning.  That number grows to 90% for large organizations. Moreover, most companies who engage in strategic planning do it annually, even if the planning horizon is longer than that. The annual planning process has become a key vehicle for a top team to think through important issues, set goals and actions, and chart a comprehensive course for the future. It’s vital to overall direction and alignment, which is why so many organizations do it. If your organization does engage in strategic planning ask yourself if the leadership team is effective when doing so. 

Is your leadership team highly functioning in the area of planning? Does your team:

  • Adequately prepare for planning meetings by collecting background data and supporting information?

  • Use a structured process that guides them in a way that addresses the most significant challenges facing the organization?

  • Actively engage with each other and participate in a meaningful way?

  • Challenge one another so that the very best thinking is brought to bear on the issues the company is facing?

  • Make key decisions during the process?

  • Produce an actionable plan that everyone is committed to and able to support going forward?

NOTE:  When assessing your team’s performance, it’s useful to apply a simple four-point scale:  0-poor; 1-fair; 2-good; 3-excellent.  We’ve included a summary assessment at the end of this article. 

2.  Does your leadership team execute effectively?

Planning strategy is important but getting the strategy executed is the sine qua non of high executive function leadership teams.  Some might argue that planning strategy is relatively easy and set aside a few days with a top team, engage a facilitator to guide the process, set goals and measures, align key projects, and develop a schedule for periodic review and follow up.  Completing projects, making measurable progress and ultimately achieving the documented goals is much more difficult. 

Strategy execution requires teamwork, discipline, flexibility and almost a singular focus on task completion.  When we ask top executives how may strategies fail to get implemented most respond with answers well over 50%. Not great odds but clearly odds that call for a leadership team with strong executive function skills.

Is your leadership team high functioning in the area of execution?  Does your team:

  • Possess a sense of urgency regarding accomplishing the organization’s most essential priorities?

  • Have clear roles and responsibilities relating to strategy execution?

  • Fully accept accountability for completing their strategy projects and strategic goals?

  • Align the actions of their subordinate organizations to the overall strategy?

  • Take the appropriate initiative to drive the strategy through to completion?

3. Does your leadership team effectively solve problems?

Prussian Field Marshall Helmuth Karl Bernard Gar Von Moltke is probably not someone you know, but his advice should be. As the architect of Germany’s Wars of Unification he is credited with saying, “No plan of operations extends with any certainty beyond the first contact with the main hostile force” or, as we say today, “No plan ever survives first contact with the enemy.” This same can be said of strategic plans, which invariably encounter problems as soon as execution begins. It is for this reason that problem solving rounds out our set of key execution function skills. Each and every leadership team encounters problems and, if they are not looming on the horizon at present, they soon will be. High functioning executives must be able to detect problems, frame them appropriately, analyze them for purposes of generating realistic courses of action, and then choose the best one among the set of alternatives. Doing this well calls for the very best of any executive team’s abilities. 

 Can your top team effectively solve complex problems? Does your team:

  • Agree on what the biggest challenges facing the business are today?

  • Actively use business cases to analyze and communicate the specifics of major issues?

  • Think both critically and creatively in generating novel solutions to big problems?

  • Know how to analyze possible courses of action and effectively reach decisions regarding what to do?

  • Scan the operating environment regularly looking for signals that indicate disruption may be taking place?

Definitions aside, executive function is really the highest order skill that any executive team can have.  As is the case with a youngster in school, deficiencies in three areas presented above will lead to the top team creating performance issues throughout the organization. The good news is these skills can be developed if the time and investment is taken to do so. The sixteen questions below in the Executive Function Team Assessment Tool provide a good starting point.  Great leadership teams have great execution function.  There’s no reason your team shouldn’t have it as well.

>> CLICK HERE FOR A TEAM ASSESSMENT TOOL

 

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.

Finding the Sweet Spot Between Inspirational and Operational Leadership

Inspiration.jpg

By The Raffoni Group CEO in Residence, Mark Hatton

It’s early Q1 as I write this, and if you are a CEO, you and your management team are in the process of rolling out this year's plan. Most likely, your plan has been discussed, debated, and adjusted with the input of your board and investors. Your exec team has looked the successes and failures from last year and adjusted accordingly to set this year’s more realistic, yet ambitious, goals. Management feels good and the feedback they’ve received is that the team is well aligned.

Well done. You got a great plan in place. Now as you roll it out, let’s talk about the other important part of your job that has a huge impact on what kind of year the company is going to have: Your attitude. People want to be inspired about the new plan and what’s on the horizon, and you are the only one in your company who has the role and expectation to do that for them.

Inspirational leadership is a topic that has been written about many times, and the method of inspiration will vary based on your personality. That’s all good. But however it happens, the start of a new year is the one unique and perishable time to effectively deliver this message and then hit it home over the next 12 months.

Operational leadership is hugely important to set proper goals, define tactical measurements and track the performance against the goals. But the tactical focus for a new year becomes more effective if it’s coupled with the real reason that your company is in business, and the clear vision of what is possible. It’s important that we CEOs consistently share the WHY of of what we do, in additional to the WHAT we needs to get done.

Most employees I’ve spoken with through the years, come to a company to perform their role with a desire to do their job well, get rewarded, and at some point become recognized for their value to the company. But what inspires them, and what can be the fuel for growth, is to tap into the real reason all employees are there and what they are working towards as a collective goal...they want to feel like they are a part of something important, and that their work makes a difference to the company and its customers.

Setting a vision of what a company can become over a three to five year period can build great alignment for a team on why they come to work, but also inspire them on how the business can become truly great.

A well-outlined tactical focus becomes more effective when coupled with the real reason the company is in business… the soul of the company... and the clear vision of what is possible. The effective balance of these messages, operational and inspirational, will allow a CEO to unleash his or her team to achieve greater things in the coming year.