It was a wonderfully sunny day as we sat down to lunch in a very nice restaurant. The CEO had invited me and one of the senior vice presidents to sit down with him to discuss the future. Once the meal was ordered, the CEO said to the SVP, “I think you should work with Geery on a regular basis for a while as we plan for the future.” The SVP then turned to me and asked me for a list of names of the companies I had worked with before he would commit to the process. I just smiled and mentioned that I did not play the name dropping game. However, I would be willing to give him a list of executives he could personally call and talk to about my work. Then, the SVP looked at the CEO who shook his head and said, “No; don’t go there.”
“Just get started,” he explained to the SVP, “I have worked with Geery and he will ask you the tough questions that need to be asked. It will not be easy, but it will be valuable.”
The SVP replied to both of us that he wanted to work on performance management, turnover, and profitability plus team development at the divisional level, too.
I smiled and asked the first question. “With that in mind, what is your role at this organization?”
The CEO smiled. The SVP struggled with his answer. And thus the journey began.
From my vantage point this fall, I am seeing more and more problems based on a lack of role clarity at the senior team level. Gallup notes that role clarity is more important than task clarity. I would add that I believe role and goal clarity are more important than task clarity, too. When it comes to role clarity for the CEO, I always recommend people review the following article: Lafley, A.G., “What Only the CEO Can Do,”, May 2009, Harvard Business Review: http://hbr.org/2009/05/what-only-the-ceo-can-do/ar/1
Furthermore, I believe all members of the senior team also need help in this area. First, senior managers need to be an architect and builder of strategy, They also need to recognize that the infrastructure for success needs to be built and monitored, not just the development of goals. Second, they must be a watchman for constant alignment between mission, vision and core values and the execution of the strategic plan. Accountability to goals, the shaping of values and standards, and the defining of goals and expectations need to be constantly monitored. Next, they must be a “genius of the and,” referencing the work of Jim Collins and Jerry Porass in their book, Built to Last: Successful Habits of Visionary Companies, HarperBusiness, 1994. Finally, members of the senior team must be professors and coaches who manage and groom the talent in their area of responsibility.
While the work of role clarity is never easy, it is important. Asking the question is always the first step in the journey.
Geery Howe, M.A.Consultant, Executive Coach, Trainer inLeadership, Strategic Planning and Organizational ChangeMorning Star Associates319 - 643 - 2257