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Don’t start your CEO’s journey wrongly

The journey of a CEO is not always an easy journey. The journey is even made more difficult and seemed to be started wrongly when CEOs starts from what I call the “status side of leadership.” Why is it wrong to start from the status side? It is wrong because the status does not make the CEO. The CEO makes the status. Most times, CEOs are appointed and not anointed, and those that appointed them – especially the boards are not looking for someone who has a prestigious position, but rather someone who can bring about the wind of progress in difficult situations. The status sticks more when a CEO has outstanding results to show for his or her stewardship. In my suggestion, it is in the best interest of every CEO to be driven by two major things: responsibility and accountability.

It is also imperative for CEOs to see themselves to be on a journey as most CEO positions are tenured. One of the advices I give to CEOs especially those that just took up the CEO’s role is to close their eyes, and assume they have come to the end of their tenure, and then ask themselves three or four things they will be remembered for. Let those four things guide and drive everything you do as a CEO. Never mind, if you did not do this at the beginning of your tenure, you can still do it now. It is important to know that you will not just choose four areas to be remembered for choosing sake. Those four areas must impact the organization’s vision, organization’s culture, organization’s performance and employees’ engagement.

I have been asked severally during board strategic thinking programs, what is the major thing that will make the CEO’s journey more difficult? In providing my answer to this question, I am always mindful and respectful of other people’s views. I always answer by letting them know first and foremost that “people support what they help create”. The CEO does not do the creating alone and cannot, everyone in the organization does. So, the CEO’s journey will be on the wrong side if he or she is driven by what is called D.A.D Syndrome (all thanks to late Steve Haines, who exposed me to the concept in my days with Haines Centre for Strategic Management, USA). So, D.A.D means Decide, Announce and Defend. The D stands for Decide. The CEO alone decides on a matter that requires other people’s input or concern. The A stands for Announce. The CEO, having decided on the matter without involving others, now announces it. The D stands for Defend. Because the CEO did not involve the right people or key stake holders from the onset, he or she will now have a hard time defending his or her decisions. As a CEO, do not be deceived, when that happens some people will deliberately sabotage or frustrate your effort whether good or bad. Many CEOs who have learnt and avoided this syndrome after attending our leadership development programs had wished they knew about it earlier.

In order to avoid the D.A.D Syndrome suffered by some CEOs and executives, we always recommend a “Parallel Involvement Process” in which real-time meetings are held with key stakeholders after each phase of the Strategic Planning and Change Management process. The purpose is twofold: (1) to share information and provide feedback to the core leadership team in order to troubleshoot and improve the plans, and (2) to gain understanding, acceptance (i.e., buy-in + stay in), and commitment to the overall direction and implementation of the plan. Every CEO and leader should know that in decision making, “People want input into decisions that affect them prior to those decisions being finalized.” This is based on a truism of life: People support what they help create.

Like we all know, the journey of the CEO is not an easy one, but it behoves every CEO to try as much as possible to make the journey easier and more productive. And one of the ways to make the journey easier and more productive is to create a connection culture so you can breakthrough to new levels of engagement and performance with your people. Remember; unless, your people in your organization have a strong sense of connection – a bond that promotes trust, cooperation and esprit de corps – they will never reach their potentials as individuals and the organization will never reach its potential. People that work in organizations where there is a high degree of connection are more engaged, more productive in their jobs, and less likely to leave the organization for a competitor. So, building a connection culture in an organization should be a key priority for any CEO that wants to succeed.

Final notes

Indeed, CEOs should avoid starting their journey wrongly. They should ensure that they don’t make the journey alone. It is difficult and lonely to ride alone. They should not also force people to join them, rather they should invite the right people to be part of the journey and ensure they contribute their parts in making the journey more interesting. Above all the CEO should ensure everyone in the organization understands and runs with the vision – then again, this is why building a culture of connection is very critical.

Finally, remember, for the CEOs journey to be successful, they would need people who are fired up, engaged, committed, willing and eager to go the extra mile – without having these kinds of people – even the best of strategy or technology may not come to the rescue.

Please feel free to share your thoughts or views.



Uju Onwuzulike

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