The Measure of a CEO

 

 

RulerI read an interesting article recently in which the author, a seasoned business consultant and attorney, referred to half of all the CEO’s out there as being “below average”.  There were no studies cited, no research statistics offered, and no indication of what “average” is, was, or has been.  The article offered one example of a high profile CEO who was fired three months after his initial hire date for failing to produce profits commensurate with his salary!  Was this something the company did not realize when they hired him?

How do we measure the quality of our Chief Executive?  Do we only work with those who come with a demonstrable track record of success?  Do they know how to make money?  Are they good with people?  Do they have clear vision?  Are they skilled facilitators, mentors, directors and growth mongers?  Can they build a sales team, create a marketing plan and implement operational strategy?  Are their values clear, is their mission strong and does their very presence in the boardroom exude integrity?

If the answer to all of these questions is a resounding “YES”, you haven’t found a CEO; you’ve found Superman or Wonder Woman.  I work daily with CEO’s.  Lot’s of them.  In fact the foundation of my consulting practice is CEO skill development and strategic planning which puts me in direct one-on-one contact with these high level power brokers.  My experience often leaves me wondering why anyone would want to take on this extremely complex, thankless, unforgiving and emotionally draining task.   The CEO’s I know work incredibly long hours, take all the company problems home, directly answer client complaints, smooth over human resource issues, answer to profit driven BOD’s, and at the end of the day, offer everyone else the credit for company accomplishment.

The CEO position is also the most tenuous position in the organization.  Anyone who has been around for more than a minute knows that founding owners, managing boards and Chairman don’t make mistakes.  It’s always the CEO who goes; the CEO who ultimately takes the fall or pays the price for poor company performance.  So why do they do it?

The CEO’s I know can’t walk in a room and not be a leader.  They are driven to accomplishment, goal and task.  They are deeply committed, driven to personal and organizational excellence, focused on the strategic vision of their industry and organization.  Are they perfect?  Not a chance.  Ego driven?  Absolutely.  Difficult to please, often argumentative, aggressive, and in many cases abrasive to those closest to them?  Yes.  Should we accept this kind of behavior? No.  But we also need to take the time to understand where the behavior emanates from.

To cite an example, one of my clients recently took on the CEO role of a high growth, seemingly successful $50 million dollar manufacturing company.  Once inside, she realized that the reason the profits were so outstanding is that the previous owners had never provided for the appropriate infrastructure to maintain quality in production.

When my client recommended a major and costly reorganization to support quality in their process the Board of Directors began to second guess their choice for CEO. Couple this with the normal fair of several employee related legal claims against previous management, a management team in transition, a cash flow shortage and yes, you may be dealing with someone whose fuse is pretty short.

While the tender of success in the workplace is measured in dollars I find it hard to judge a CEO negatively simply because they negotiate the strongest personal compensation package possible.  I often ask skeptics a simple question when I am queried about the validity of a client’s compensation package; “Compared to what?”  Even professional compensation specialists have a difficult time agreeing on CEO compensation as the points of reference are as varied as the individual needs of the organization.

I want to be clear that I am not condoning poor performance nor am I suggesting that there are not compensation plans out there that cross into the land of absurdity.  I am saying that we need to take a long hard look at the men and women who have the courage to take on these high profile positions.  Hopefully when we do, we will see leaders we can be proud to follow, leaders we can trust to do the right thing, and leaders that will promote the health and well being of American business.

Sharon Jenks is CEO of The Jenks Group Inc., a California Consulting Company that specializes in strategic planning and executive development. She can be reached at http://www.thejenksgroup.com.

 

If Your Boss Tells You to Get a Coach, Don’t Panic

coaching

 

How does it feel when you’re told that you need a coach, whether it’s your boss or someone else? For many managers it feels like a kick in the gut, a clear sign that you’re doing something wrong and your job might be in trouble. For others, who might be resistant to coaching in general, it raises questions about whether you really need the extra help.

Having worked with dozens of managers who’ve been in this situation, these reactions are completely natural, especially if the request to work with a coach comes as a surprise. In either case, before you get started with the coaching, you need to work through these feelings so that you can have a positive experience. Here’s how:

The first step is to recognize coaching for what it is: a fantastic opportunity for growth, development, self-insight, and career progression – and an endorsement that the company is willing to invest in you. After all, there are a number of reasons why your boss might want you to be coached, and some are quite positive. Your manager might think you have a great deal of potential and a coach would help you develop it. Your boss might also suggest coaching to fix a particular skill deficit. One of my clients, for example, was asked to work with a coach specifically to focus on presentation skills. Her senior manager planned to give her more exposure to the Board but wanted to make sure she had the confidence and capability to hold her own in that setting.

There are of course situations where coaching is given to a manager because of a performance issue – an inability to deliver certain results, poor project execution, or not getting along with other members of the team. But even in these cases, coaching is an investment, not a punishment. The boss isn’t giving up on you.

The second step is to understand the nature of your resistance or hesitation. Are you opposed to being coached because you’re not sure what you should focus on? Or because you don’t really understand what’s involved in the process? If these are your concerns, take control of the coaching process. Interview the potential coach (if it’s not going to be your boss) and make sure that there’s good chemistry between you two; if not, find someone else. Set clear goals with the coach about what you want to accomplish and how she can be helpful. Engage your boss in regular progress reviews so you get feedback about how you’re doing, and establish a time frame for the coaching (and the achievement of progress) so that it’s not an open-ended relationship. In other words, take the ownership away from your boss and make the coaching experience something that belongs to you. You can also talk to colleagues and friends who have worked with a coach and get a sense of their experience.

But if you still don’t think working with a coach is necessary, make a list of reasons why. For example, does your resistance actually stem from an underlying anxiety about what coaching will reveal? A common concern is that the process might uncover issues that people don’t know how to deal with or threaten their self-image. Or maybe these are the reasons running through your mind: “I don’t have time for coaching.” “I’ve been successful so far — why fix something that isn’t broken.” “Coaching often doesn’t work, I’d rather try another approach to development.” “What I really need is better feedback and guidance from my manager.”

Each of these might be a legitimate reason for not wanting to work with a coach. But before you try and make your case, ask your boss why she recommended coaching in the first place. If there are skills she wants you to work on, ask if she would be open to you pursuing a different development approach. For example, you could take a course, or tackle a stretch assignment, or pick up some new responsibilities. If time is an issue, negotiate a development schedule that works for you – or suggest a better time of the year to do the coaching, based on the rhythms of your workplace.

In the end, if your boss still thinks coaching is the best option for you, put aside your resistance and make the most of it. Use it as an opportunity to get more feedback from your boss, and from your subordinates and colleagues as well. Everyone has something to learn, no matter how successful they’ve been in the past and how much potential they have for the future. That’s not to say that coaching is the magic key to success for every manager, but it’s a tool that may be useful and shouldn’t be dismissed out of hand. The bottom line is to remember that coaching is an investment – and the more you put into it, the greater the chance that you (and your company) will get a positive return.

-Harvard Business Review

 

Preparing for Your New Position – A Systematic Approach

new job

As a consultant and coach I am frequently asked for advice when changing jobs. This job change may  be a position change or promotion  within the same organization. Either  way, the same advice applies. I will  provide this in four separate blog  posts.

  1. A Systematic Approach
  2. Phase One: Pre-Start
  3. Phase Two: First Days On The Job
  4. Phase Three: Settling In and Taking Charge

You may not feel the need to use all four, or to complete every checklist suggested. Depending on your situation, some of the information will be more pertinent than other parts. You decide which sections you’ll want to spend more time with.

  1. A SYSTEMATIC APPROACH

Why Were You Selected For This Job?

Probably because the company likes your track record – both the kind of work you’ve been involved in and your accomplishments in that field. Probably because your new management senses that your personality and methods are compatible with theirs. And certainly because they can visualize you as part of the future growth and profitability of their organization.

How can you confirm their good judgment in selecting you, and use this opportunity as a quantum leap toward your career goals?

Probably by the professional manner in which you introduce yourself to the organization and take hold of your new responsibilities. Probably by the initial impressions you make with all the people you’ll be dealing with in you job. And certainly by your ability to get up to speed quickly and reach your maximum productivity in minimum time.

Right now you’re concerned with disengaging successfully from your current job. That’s a proper attitude, because you owe your organization (and yourself!) the courtesy of a professional closure. However, even at this early stage your emphasis begins to shift toward the new assignment, and toward your strategies for starting the next phase of your career.

What’s the best way to “hit the ground running” in your new job? It begins with your commitment to take an active role in developing a systematic approach to the transition process starting now instead of waiting until your reporting date. Without compromising the “closeout” requirements of your current job, you can begin to collect the information that will help you understand:

  •  Your new organization/division (how it operates; where it wants to go; how it intends to get there)
  • Your new job/position (what management expects of you)
  • The resources available to you (people, budgets, programs and operating freedoms you’ll need to get the job done

At this point you may know very little about the inner workings of the organization. You may have only a skeletal idea of your job requirements. You may have met very few of the people, except for your new boss and the Personnel manager who negotiated with you. Yet your mind is filled with questions:

  1. Who am I replacing, and how was he/she regarded by superiors, associates and subordinates?
  2. Why was the position vacant?
  3. Who else wanted my job, and how can I deal effectively with them in the coming months?
  4. What commitments were made to or by my predecessor that I should know about?
  5. Why was I selected?
  6. Upon arrival, what immediate responsibilities will I have to take on?
  7. If there is unfinished business with my old job, what arrangements would be acceptable to my new boss?
  8. How do things really get done?
  9. Do I have any allies or adversaries in my new job, and how are they identified?
  10. How and when will I be formally announced to the organization and its people?

The list could be much longer, and some of the questions may have been answered during the interview that preceded your selection. In any case, you need the answers to begin planning your systematic approach. As a starting point, make a list of question you have now about your new job. (Later as you begin to collect more specific information, you’ll be able to ask more pertinent questions, in much greater detail.)

FIRST IMPRESSIONS – Make a list all of the questions you’d like to be answered about your new job. Note the sources available to you at present for providing the answers.

Why have a Systematic Approach?

For many professionals the introduction to a new job is a haphazard affair. The good news is usually accompanied by smiles, handshakes, and vague statements about “getting together after you’re on board.”

Then follows a period of coordinating the relocation with in-house specialists….reading a few general pamphlets about the company and its products or services….and possibly some lonely moments of contemplating the nameless and shapeless challenges that lie ahead.

The first day on the new job is a kaleidoscope of administrative forms.. an absolutely un-rememberable volume of new faces and names….a quick tour of the immediate area…. and a few private minutes with the boss, whose impromptu remarks about projects and problems barely register.

Suddenly the new person is alone at a desk or behind an office door, checking the starter supply of pencils and wondering what comes next.

Answer? Simple. Next comes a honeymoon period – length unknown and indeterminable – after which the prevailing judgments will be rendered in either of two forms:

  • “Joe really has taken charge in record time! We’ve got a real winner there!”

-OR-

  •  “It’s a shame, but Joe still hasn’t grasped the situation yet. Guess we can’t always be right.”

But it doesn’t have to be that way for you. A few hours of up-front planning can arrange important subjects and issues in a logical priority and eliminate minor matters that tend to “fog” the entry process. The “people” skills you already possess can help you gain the cooperation of your boss and other sources of advance information. With a systematic approach to your upcoming transition you can:

  • obtain information needed to form preliminary conclusions about the organization, your new job responsibilities, and the people you’ll be dealing with;
  • provide a framework for your self and others to follow during your transition;
  • simplify your “first day” entry with your boss, subordinates and associates;
  • increase your managerial effectiveness during your first weeks and months on the job;
  • bring yourself up to speed as quickly as possible in terms of productivity and results.

A Matter of Timing

Your entry process begins while you’re still in your old job, and ends on the day you’re performing effectively in the new position. Let’s divide the total process  into three distinct phases as follows:

Pre-Start – A time for gathering information, researching the elements of you job (at least in general terms), getting familiar with some of the people involved, and coordinating your announcement and arrival.

 First Days on the job – A carefully structured format for meeting key people, introducing yourself to your staff, getting down to brass tacks with your boss, and becoming familiar with departmental tasks and responsibilities.

Settling In/Taking Charge – A newcomer’s game plan for managing the efforts of people, solving problems during the first several weeks on the job, and obtaining complete agreement and support from the boss.

Each phase is treated separately  and will follow in the next three blog posts, with a text that discusses the principal issues and work-sheets designed to help you plan your actions and priorities. To Be Continued….

Sharon Jenks, CEO/President -The Jenks Group, Inc.

 

 

 

10 Killer Questions To Make The Most Of Your Mentor Meeting

mentors

So you finally mustered the nerve to ask a mentor for a cup of coffee. You’re sweating. You can feel pressure mounting. She strolls through the Starbucks door holding an Americano with two pumps of hazelnut in one hand and years of experience in the other.

Here are 10 questions you can ask her to take the pressure off you and make the most of your meeting:

  1. How do you spend most of your time? Ask this question for one reason only — digging. Does your mentor have children, a favorite charity she supports, or an addiction to a particular Mediterranean cuisine? Most people who ask for advice never take the time to build an authentic connection. Gathering these answers will allow you to follow up with relevant articles, magazine clippings for passion projects, or recipes for your mentor, who will appreciate hearing from you. Givers gain.
  2. What would you do if you were me? Don’t waste your time looking to impress your mentor with how smart you are. Tell them about your specific challenges, and ask for their recommendations.
  3. How can I help you? This is a killer question that catches most mentors off guard. Most mentees are only concerned about what they can take from a mentor. When you communicate that you are genuinely willing to give, you will set yourself miles apart from everyone else. Who doesn’t like a win/win relationship?
  4. Is this where you thought you would end up? This question usually draws out a hearty laugh, as few people shoot from point A to point B. Most experienced professionals take the scenic route in their career. How they got there is usually an interesting tale with mistakes and revelations. Learn from them.
  5. What used to be your biggest weaknesses? This whopper of a question will tell you right away if someone will make a good mentor. A good answer reveals the number one trait of a great mentor — self-awareness. If you feel this question is too intense, try softening it by asking, “What did you learn about yourself in the last six months?”
  6. Who else would you recommend I connect with? This question might be better served for later meetings when there is more trust. It can exponentially expand your network. Sometimes the best source for other mentors is your existing one.
  7. What are you most proud of? Give your mentor a chance to shine. He/she will love you for it.
  8. What professional organizations are you associated with and in what ways? No one becomes a rising star in any industry without going to the right conferences and trade associations. A good mentor can help you filter out the best ones, and if you’re lucky, get you access to coveted “invite only” insider groups.
  9. Anything FORM. Form is an acronym for family, occupation, recreation, and motivation, and it represents four universal rapport-builders. For example, you might find out that you have a location-based connection with your mentor after asking about his family or birthplace. Connection made!
  10. If a specific question comes up, can I follow up with you? This is your Holy Grail question. Have you ever met someone who has mastered the dating scene? You’ll notice they never leave the first date without the promise of a second one — ever. Never leave a mentor meeting without the promise of a future encounter. You are also communicating that you will only reach out with a relevant and specific question. Most people will agree to that. When the time does come up, simply refer back to the email chain. –By Bert Gervais, founder, Success Mentor Education.  

Here’s What Really Motivates Your Employees (It’s Not What You Think)

Dangling a carrot

In Daniel Pink’s book Drive, the underlying message is that a leader can provide a motivating environment but can’t motivate his or her employees; motivation comes from within each individual.

This goes entirely against the common belief that given more carrots, an employee will be motivated to behave in ways that will increase the success of a company. Yet, time and again, leaders have found that providing more money and better benefits, extrinsic motivators, only provides a short-term effect on behavior. Extrinsic motivators are not sustainable.

In yesterday’s article Top 5 Leadership Mistakes, one of them was misunderstanding motivation.

I outlined the three attributes that, when implemented effectively within the organization, can increase the long-term behavioral changes the leader is looking to instill in the organization.

And what can a company expect from its employees when they provide an environment that provides for autonomy, mastery, and purpose?

An academic study by Richard Ryan and Edward Deci in 2000 issue of American Psychologist showed that focusing on internal motivators can lead to higher self-esteem and self-actualization, while a focus on external motivators, on average, leads to lower self-esteem and self-actualization.

In turn, employees driven by internal motivators demonstrated a greater level of persistence, creativity, energy, and well being, which increased the performance level of those employees.

So if, in fact, employee performance increases with intrinsic motivators, why aren’t more companies creating and implementing a plan to transition to a culture of autonomy, mastery and purpose? Because it is not easy! It is a massive shift in long-term beliefs and requires both employer and employees to change their mindset as well as the way they work.

What are the critical success factors to transitioning your workplace to an intrinsically motivated organization? They are the three C’s:

  1. Creativity: Be able to devise innovative ways of working outside the traditional mode. Bring in outside assistance if you don’t find you are making the progress you desire.
  2. Communication: Changes to the work process need to be communicated to all employees via multiple methods. Communication should be ongoing and frequent and provide employees with the opportunity to have their questions answered.
  3. Change Management: Demonstrate how the changes will positively affect employees, create methods to identify employees who may be struggling with the changes, and have resources available to help them adjust.

Beth Armknecht Miller, CMC

Author: Are You Talent Obsessed?, Leadership Development Advisor, Vistage Chair, Speaker, Executive Coach

Four Reasons to Quit Your Job

quit job

What criteria can you use to determine if you have been with the same company too long?

A friend of ours, an investment manager at a highly regarded company in the Midwest, who drove to work one morning, parked his car in the usual spot, and then found he simply could not bring himself to get out of the car. “I guess I stayed on the farm one day too long,” he joked later. When we asked him what went wrong, he answered, “It wasn’t one thing. It was everything.” No wonder he drove home and called in his resignation.

Obviously, most people don’t decide they’ve overstayed at their companies in such a dramatic fashion. Usually, angst about work creeps in, and then builds until it consumes you. And that can happen early or late in a career. Gone are the days when, after graduation, you took the best available job and stayed for as many years as you could possibly stand, frustration be damned. These days, it is not unusual to hear of perfectly legitimate careers built on multiple job stints.

So, to your question, how can you tell when it’s time to move on? We wouldn’t set out specific criteria as much as offer four questions to help sort out an answer.

The first is so simple it almost goes without saying, but the fact that a lot of people don’t confront it, including our friend who ended up stuck in his car—a Harvard MBA, by the way—suggests we should go ahead and put it out there: Do you want to go to work every morning?

This is not a matter to be over-brained. Does the prospect of going in each day excite you or fill you with dread? Does the work feel interesting and meaningful or are you just going through motions to pull a paycheck? Are you still learning and growing?

We know of a woman who worked in consulting for seven years. She loved her firm and had originally planned a career with it, but suddenly started noticing that she wished every weekend was five days long. “Basically, I felt like we were putting together massive books in order to make recommendations to people who knew more than we did,” she said. “Every day at the office, I felt a little bit more of a hypocrite.” She now happily works on the “front lines,” to use her phrase, in the marketing department of a retail company.

Second, do you enjoy spending time with your coworkers or do they generally bug the living daylights out of you? We’re not saying you should only stay at your company if you want to barbecue with your team every weekend, but if you don’t sincerely enjoy and respect the people you spend 10 hours a day with, you can be sure you will eventually decide to leave your organization. Why not make the break sooner rather than later and start cultivating relationships at a company where you might actually plant roots?

Third, does your company help you fulfill your personal mission? Essentially, this question asks whether your company jibes with your life’s goals and values. Does it require you, for instance, to travel more than you’d like, given your chosen work-life balance? Does it offer enough upward mobility, given your level of ambition? There are no right or wrong answers to such questions, only a sense of whether you are investing your time at the right or wrong company for you.

Fourth and finally, can you picture yourself at your company in a year? We use that time frame because that’s how long it usually takes to find a new, better job once you decide to move on. So peer, as best you can, into the future, and predict where you’ll be in the organization, what work you’ll be doing, whom you will be managing, and who will be managing you. If that scenario strikes you with anything short of excitement, then you’re spinning your wheels. Or put another way, you’re just about to stay too long.

To be clear: We’re not suggesting people quit at the first inkling of discontent. No matter where you work, at some point you will have to endure difficult times, and even a deadly dull assignment, to survive a crisis or move up. But it makes little sense to stay and stay at a company because of inertia. Unlock your door and get out. – Jack and Suzy Welch

The 7 Things Successful People Never Say

Successful people

 

 

You want to be successful. Everyone does. But your actual words might be undermining your chances of success. The things you say in the office, no matter how innocuous they seem to you, might be knocking you down the career ladder and putting the top position you dream about out of reach.

Your career is too important to be tanked by a few negative phrases. Here are the seven things you should strike from your workplace vocabulary if you want to achieve the success you richly deserve:

1. “That’s not in my job description.”

When you accepted your current position, you had a good idea of what the responsibilities and workload of the role would entail. Throughout the months or years since you settled into your job, however, your role has expanded and changed shape. Some of these changes have probably been good, while others have made you wish for simpler times. When a boss or manager piles another responsibility on your already sore shoulders, it might be tempting to pull out this classic gem of work avoidance.

The better option, however, is to schedule a time to talk to your boss about your role. A specific conversation about your place in the organization is a good time to bring up the particulars of your job description, not when you’re asked to get something accomplished. No matter how stressed you are or how valid the complaint, dropping this phrase only makes you look lazy and unmotivated.

2. “It can’t be done.”

Throwing in the towel makes you look like a quitter — and quitters don’t get promoted. Instead of giving up on a project entirely, frame your response in terms of alternative ways to get the work accomplished. Very little is truly impossible, and most managers and executives want forward-thinking problem solvers to climb the corporate ladder. If you offer solutions instead of giving up, you’ll be seen as a valuable member of the team.

3. “It’s not my fault.”

No one wants to work with a blame shifter. After all, it’s just a matter of time before this person eventually shifts the blame onto you. Take ownership of your mistakes instead of pointing out where others have fallen short. Admitting to a mistake shows character and the ability to learn and grow from problems. Pointing the finger at someone else strongly implies you’ll never truly learn from your errors.

4. “This will just take a minute.”

Unless something will literally take only 60 seconds, don’t overpromise and underdeliver. Saying something will only take “a minute” also has the side effect of undermining your efforts. Most likely the reason the particular task won’t take long is due to the benefit of your professional experience and acumen. By saying it will “just” take a minute, you’re shortchanging what you bring to the table.

5. “I don’t need any help.”

The rugged lone wolf type might be the hero of most action movies, but they’re unlikely to become the hero at your company. You might think you can go it alone on a project or in your career, but teamwork is essential. Being able to work with others is the hallmark of a good leader; you’re unlikely to climb your career ladder always flying solo.

6. “It’s not fair.”

Life isn’t fair, and often your career won’t be as well. Instead of complaining, you should look for specific and actionable workarounds to the problems you encounter. Is it unfair a coworker got to run point on the project you wanted? Maybe, but instead of complaining, work harder and go the extra mile. Finding a solution will always be preferable in your professional life to whining about a problem.

7. “This is the way it’s always been done.”

Doing things the way they’ve always been done is no way to run a business. Just ask some of the companies which toed the line, accepted the status quo, and went under. Adapting to an ever-changing marketplace is really the only way to survive in an economy constantly being disrupted by the next big thing.

You don’t have to be a slave to the trends, but you also can’t stick your head in the sand and hope things go back to normal. Instead, come up with creative solutions to new problems and innovate, and you’ll soon be in the driver’s seat taking your organization into the future.

Everyone wants to be successful, so make sure your words aren’t holding you back. These seven phrases are career kryptonite — by avoiding them, you can fly into your future and become a successful superstar.

Ilya Pozin, Columnist for Forbes