Given the nature of our business, we have the pleasure of working with CEOs with wildly different leadership styles, and the truth is that there is no one-size-fits-all when it comes to effective leadership. However, in our experience, successful CEOs have one thing in common—a strong supporting cast.
Here are five questions to ask to determine if you have the right people in the right seats:
- Does their approach fit your culture? In the words of Peter Drucker, culture eats strategy for breakfast. Managers have significant influence on the culture of the groups they oversee, so performance will suffer if their approach differs from your cultural norms. Additionally, at some point you are going to be faced with the thorny challenge of trying to repair the damage.
- Do they believe in your vision? If a member of your team has not bought into your vision, you will constantly struggle with execution. However, when asking this question, it is important to distinguish between minor differences in judgment and major differences in vision. It is healthy for executives to have strong and opposing opinions, but at the end of the day everyone needs to accept and support the final decision once opinions have been aired.
- Do members of your team demonstrate an ability to solve the right problems? Good managers distinguish the signal from the noise in order to solve problems in the most efficient and effective manner possible. All businesses struggle with scarcity of one important resource—time. As a result, it can be incredibly costly if members of your team struggle to stay on point. Signs of this are easy to spot, such as when managers ask you to pick from a slate of possible solutions that vary in purpose and are not directly linked to the problem you are trying to solve. Situations like this result in delayed decision making or delegation up to the CEO, distracting from more important issues.
- Do you trust them enough to stay out of the weeds? To be clear, CEOs need to spend time developing their team just like any other leader. But there comes a point where supporting managers need to be able to address all but the highest risk/highest impact issues on their own. If they cannot, then you can be relatively certain that they are also struggling to develop the skills of those working for them.
- Are they strategic partners? We often see companies hit a wall because the CEO’s time is limited and other members of the team are not capable of assisting with the development and implementation of strategy. If you are not getting impactful recommendations from members of your team, it is worthwhile to step back and consider whether setting clear expectations and/or providing additional training could help.
All is not lost if you cannot answer “yes” to each of these questions, because leaders at every level are always a work-in-progress. However, it is important to be honest about whether you have the right people in the right seats. While that may lead to tough short-term decisions, in the long run the positive impact on the company, its employees and all of its other stakeholders will prove more than worthwhile.
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