Evaluation

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

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

Top 7 CEO Personal Development Goals for the New Year

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Have you set your goals yet? Here’s what your peers are thinking about.

By Melissa Raffoni, CEO, The Raffoni Group

We always work with CEOs within our Collective to develop strategic plans for their organizations prior to their leadership team offsites. We strongly encourage these CEOs to vet their thoughts about business direction and strategic goals with their peers prior to going live with the executive team.

During our CEO Collective meetings, we encourage our CEO members to challenge each other, to expose the truth, and to band together in helping to improve the collective performance of everyone around the table. As a result, a part of this exercise also includes having the CEO articulate their personal development goals.  

Here are the seven recurring themes we hear from our CEO members who generally have five or more years of experience in the role and are running growing, profitable companies.

  1. My goal is to shift my work so that I am less mired in day-to-day operations and spending more time working on strategy.

  2. My goal is to help my leadership team to be less silo-oriented and caught up in the day-to-day.

  3. My goal is to be disciplined about setting up a good governance structure that includes highly effective strategy meetings at a regular cadence, separate from the operational meetings.

  4. My goal is to to be more strategically involved in sales. If I am pulled into a sales call, it should be for strategic reasons.

  5. My goal is to be more involved in sales, period. I have drifted from the sales process. I need to apply urgency and figure out what we are doing right and where we can improve. I need to get closer to the customer.

  6. My goal is to make better decisions about people, more quickly. My regrets always revolve around putting the wrong people in the wrong boxes.

  7. My goal is to take a vacation. I’m not sure when, but, I know I need it. My team needs me to take a vacation.

As you think of your own personal CEO development goals for 2019, I encourage you to ask the following questions of yourself:

  1. What’s the breakdown of how I spend my time? What percentage do I spend on strategy, operations, leadership team development, sales, culture and PR?

  2. Do I want to shift how I allocate my time?

  3. What do I want to do more of, and, why?

  4. What do I want to do less of, and, why?

  5. What energizes me to be the best leader I can be?

  6. What do I do well and not so well?

  7. What is my highest and best use?

  8. Am I acting as a bottleneck to my company’s growth in any way?

  9. Can the company scale properly as is or do I need to adjust the way I work to facilitate growth?

As CEO, you are the highest leverage point in the organization. The way you spend your time and the talent you surround yourself with will make or break your company. I encourage you to look in the mirror and commit one or two personal CEO development goals for the coming year. I believe you will be pleasantly surprised by both the personal joy you receive from your CEO job, as well as the results of the company. Just do it.

Email Melissa at mraffoni at raffonigroup.com

 

ADDITIONAL ARTICLES

5 Mistakes Even the Best CEOs Make

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By Melissa Raffoni

In your role of CEO, you face tough choices every day. The path is often unclear and even the very best of you can falter. Some of the most costly missteps are ones that can be avoided. Here are five mistakes you don’t want to make:

1.) Thinking you know the answers and not collaborating with other CEOs. In a CEO Collective (peer group) meeting yesterday, one of our CEOs was weighing the pros and cons of accelerated growth, versus slower and more controlled growth. In the end, the group came to some strong conclusions on what to do and not do that were completely customized to this CEOs specific business, its ownership, its industry and his strengths as CEO. This exercise reminded us all of the power of the collaborative process and the importance of vetting big decisions with other credible colleagues who know you and your business. Making decisions in a vacuum is a sure-fire way to fail.

2.) Forgetting that your demeanor, attitude and words matter. A lot. The best CEOs have egoless-confidence. As a result, they often forget that others look to them not only for business direction, but for tone and inspiration. If the CEO is frenzied, the organization will be frenzied. If the CEO is structured, the organization will be structured. If the CEO is entrepreneurial, the organization will be entrepreneurial. If the CEO cares about culture, the organization will have a strong culture. It’s like a parent-child relationship; children undoubtedly carry many of the traits of their parents.

3.) Being too open when setting strategy. The best CEOs are open to the ideas of the stellar leadership team they have built, but the role of the CEO is to set direction. A CEO should walk into a strategic planning meeting clearly communicating direction and vision and then, be open. Most experienced executives appreciate having a place to start when it comes to strategy, especially since the larger portion of their day is focused on their operational day jobs. It also makes for a more productive conversation, which all team members appreciate. The CEO's role is the oversight of all the functional areas of the business, putting him or her in the best seat to set direction.

4.) Getting stuck in the day-to-day and neglecting strategy. In the case above that illustrated the need for collaboration, the CEO was living the pain of day-to-day growth strains. With the encouragement of his peers, he took a step back and what resulted was a more thoughtful plan that tied targeted growth to key strategic goals. Building a thoughtful plan requires time away from the business, the office, the clients, and the blocking and tackling. Not once have I heard a CEO say, “developing my plan was a waste of time.” But often I have heard a CEO say, “I really need to take step back and look at the business, develop a plan and align my team around it.” Bottom line, spending time on offsite planning, prepping for it, and making sure you have structures in place, such as regular strategy meetings, time to work on strategy, and CEO Peer meetings, will ensure you stay out of the weeds and do one of your most important jobs—setting and managing the strategic plan.  

5.) Holding on to the "wrong fit" team members for too long. Each year we ask our member CEOs, “What mistake did you make this year that you wish you didn’t?” Year-over-year, the number one answer is, “I held on to person X too long.” Contrary to popular perception, the best CEOs are often great human beings, which is why people follow them, but this fatal flaw of holding on to someone too long in the hopes of making it work can have detrimental effects. Keeping people in the wrong roles or keeping the wrong people in the organization will create damage that is difficult and painstaking to repair.

 

 

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