As the CEO and leader of the organization, there are many responsibilities and tasks that require regular attention. While each of these appears to vie equally for the CEO’s time, there are certain aspects of the role that are inherently more important.
When a major initiative begins its journey from idea to reality it is vital for the CEO to be clear with the senior leadership team about how this work is integral to the purpose, or “why”, of the company. It is equally important that the CEO communicate how and when the contribution of each department will most positively impact the eventual rollout of the product.
Clarifying Roles and Responsibilities
As the CEO invests the time to assemble a group of leaders in whom they will place great trust, it is important for these team members to understand the specific part they will play. While this seems obvious, a very careful portfolio of outlined responsibilities can be foundational to a highly functioning leadership team.
Most senior executives have been elevated to their roles because they also possess an ability or talent which adds significant value to the organization. As the CEO, it is also important to remember that motivated people can have ambitions that extend beyond their current purview. These can be to the benefit or detriment of the organization as a whole.
Understanding Departmental Differences
The various stakeholders and departments and within the company (Finance, Operations, Legal, Production, Human Resources, Distribution, Marketing, Sales, Stakeholders or Shareholders, etc.) represent points of view that hold, at times, differing objectives. Clearly, they should all be deeply invested in the overall health and well-being of the company, as well as the success of the current initiative.
To ensure that this occurs, it is critical that the CEO not assume this will be the case. Each departmental leader must make clear about the CEO’s expectation for their contribution to the project. The expectation that departments will work in harmony without demonstrating provincial interests, is another foundational expectation.
As the CEO, the art of taking input and suggestions from trusted leaders within the company is often developed over time and informed by past experiences, both helpful and challenging. Showing a genuine interest in keeping the perception of the “level playing field” within the organization must always remain high in the CEO’s awareness. Both the perception and the reality of how and when input is received and processed will be observed in every interaction. In short, the participants in the initiative are always “keeping score”.
The very hard facts are, that the order in which input is considered for significant projects impacts the outcome greatly. For example, if the loudest voice in the room is the finance department making the case that a capital outlay in this quarter may adversely impact the short-term stock price, and in turn, make the Board of directors unhappy, it is possible that the initiative may be underfunded and not reach its potential.
If the dissenting voices in the room are operations and production, sharing their concerns that this may involve a quicker ramp-up than was previously anticipated, the potential of a product shortage may happen when it comes to market. If the HR department is challenged in hiring and staffing all of the positions related to the coming product, significant delays can result.
The CEO must have the insight to consider the relevant and germane input of internal leaders while keeping the vision and the long-term goals in mind. If the strategic purpose is to move a new product to market and capture market share, the CEO must anticipate the reactions of particular departments in the context of the overall strategy. How, and in what order the input and the guidance of senior leaders are provided, can be leveraged to great effect by the CEO. Just as working a math problem in a different sequence can produce different results, the order in which the CEO applies the contributions of senior leaders will have a significant impact on the eventual outcome.
It is most critical that double and triple checks made by the CEO before moving forward place the product in a position to make the company successful. It is also vital that the CEO conduct the process internally in such a way that empowers the internal leaders for the next project and all others that follow.
The balancing act of listening, carefully considering advice and input in the proper order, and decisively moving forward in a way that expresses confidence in the leadership as well as maximizing the opportunity for product success, is the art being the CEO.
Thinking ahead in the strategic process, about the order of consideration for a particular initiative, can be of great benefit to the CEO.
Knowing that each project will differ, it is important that this process is not a “cookie-cutter” approach. Taking time to craft a vision and plan for a project should also include some strong consideration of how and when you will receive and consider key points of input. The goal is to use the CEO’s time and the contributions of others in such a way that each step in the process most effectively leverages the next.
The CEO is the keeper of the purpose and the “why” of the organization. Being purposeful in the manner in which you consider input and communicating to those inside the leadership team as to why you did so will be a practice that engenders confidence in your leadership and vision in the future.
To read more of our thoughts on how to effectively lead teams, check out our blog here!
Tim, with his extensive background in education and management, is a great part of our Fired Up! team dedicated to inspiring teams and leaders. At Fired Up!, our work is dedicated to harnessing the power of culture to equip leaders, build amazing teams, and align operation practices to engage organizations and drive breakthrough results.