When you can’t go to the CEO, where do you go?

By TEC Chair, Dawn Russell

Succession-planning-key-executivesAs a key executive in an organisation, you want to make your mark. You want to contribute significantly to the overall mission and growth of the organisation and earn the respect of the CEO or Managing Director, as well as the respect of the people who report to you.

Chances are you’ll be shouldering considerable responsibility and making decisions that affect the future of the organisation and the lives of the people who work with you. And, as with any leadership position, there are always challenges.   The thing is, you can’t go running to the CEO every time there’s an issue. To start with, they’re more than busy enough without having to weigh into your issues; and secondly, what aspiring leader wants to be seen as incapable of handling situations that leaders face every day?

Perhaps you have a prickly staff member whose performance has dropped significantly over the last six months and you need to tackle an honest conversation with them. Perhaps you have a progressive idea for meeting your sales target, but want to test its robustness before you pitch it higher up. Perhaps one of your peers is making it difficult for your team to deliver to the expected standard and you need to “call” their behaviour. Or perhaps there’s a new process that is impacting negatively on your department, but challenging it is politically sensitive because its owner has the ear of the CEO.

Whatever the issue, you need a sounding board. As an influential CEO once said to me, “The worst decision I ever made was the one made by a committee of one – me!”

You need someone (or several someones) who will challenge your thinking and play Devil’s Advocate to help you see things from a different perspective. You need to tap into others’ experience when you’re faced with a situation you’ve never encountered before. It makes sense to call on the wisdom of others. The trouble is, whose wisdom do you call on?

You may decide to talk it through with your significant other or a family member. They may or may not have the necessary business acumen, but two things are for sure: they want you to succeed and they don’t want you to get hurt. But the trouble is, they have a natural bias. And because they love you, frequently they won’t tell you it the way it really is. They don’t want to hurt you; they don’t want to hurt your feelings. As a result, they’re not likely to really challenge your thinking or look for the flaws in your argument.

Alternately, you may feel safe enough bouncing ideas around with your colleagues…until the day something confidential finds it way into the greater populace at work, or until your idea is served up to the CEO by someone else as their own. And what will they think of you if you keep going to them for advice?

You may chat to your friends and mates outside of work about it, but do they really understand your role, your industry, your politics or the particular sensitivity of the issue? Besides, you won’t be considered such good company if they have to listen to you talking about work all the time!

Being in a leadership position is a challenge and it can be isolating. It’s also very easy to miss opportunities or reap a sub-optimal result when decisions are made by that “committee of one”. We are often best served by bouncing ideas around with others, but when you can’t go to the CEO, where do you go?

Find out more about KEY membership here

How to captivate your top performers in 2016

By TEC Member Anne Moore, CEO at PlanDo

Engaging your top performersThe Prime Minister might have just announced plans for more people to come to Australia under entrepreneur visas, as part of his ‘Innovation Statement’ but that isn’t going to help the majority of HR professionals looking to hire and engage their best talent next year.

The reality is that if you thought 2015 was tough keeping the energy and attention of your best talent, it’s going to get tougher in 2016. Many companies talk about the benefits they offer their employees, the perks, the flexibility and the competitive remuneration packages, but providing individuals with a clear career path and enabling them fulfill their career goals, aligned to your own, needs to be high, if not top on the list.

For too long the systems and processes that HR professionals use reflect the organisation’s goals, not the individual’s. They present HR professionals with a huge administrative burden and don’t reflect the changing nature of the work environment. How many businesses do you know make decisions on an annual basis anymore? Indeed, HR professionals may be hiring for a role today, but that role could be completely different in a few months’ time.

Together with the changing work environment, the casualisation of labour, the increase in contractors rather than employees and the millennial mindset of wanting to work in a number of different organisations rather than sticking with one over the long-term, HR professionals need new tools to retain talent in 2016.

I’m not talking ‘retention’ here, we’re going far further upstream.  We think the magic happens with how we enable autonomy and the impact of great performance and engagement.

If you want to engage your top performers next year, you need to consider the following:

1.    How often do you or your leaders ‘check-in’ with your team members?
Instead of having to make team members wait for 12 months for their review, smart organisations will provide more feedback more often. This feedback shouldn’t just come from ‘managers’ or ‘leaders’ as they should be known, it should be from more than one person – peers, mentors whomever the individual chooses. That way, a more complete picture can be built of the individual’s progress and a different perspective can be provided.  Recent research shows that peer feedback is particularly effective in motivating team members to consistently perform at their best.

2.    Are the individuals that work for your organisation self-directed?
Has your organisation given your team members an opportunity to talk about their career goals and what they want to do? It’s important for your leaders to set goals and objectives together with individuals. Ask them how they can contribute to achieve the goals your organisation has set. Again, it comes down to ownership and accountability, and if the individual has suggested a goal or objective, they’re much more likely to achieve it, than if they’re given one.  The new world of work demands a responsiveness and agile that’s internally derived.

3.    Does your performance review process need an overhaul?
Is it too long? Too cumbersome? A box ticking exercise? Some organisations such as Accenture and Deloitte are scrapping them altogether. There are cloud based career management systems available, such as PlanDo that are more intuitive, less expensive and really help HR professionals retain their key talent. It’s about HR professionals and leaders across the business having access to the right tools for the changing work environment.

4.    Are you having quality career conversations?
Ask yourself if the tools you’re using today encourage quality conversations between ‘leaders’ and ‘individuals’ in your organisation. Standard performance systems encourage managers to only talk to their people about growth once or twice a year. Most organisations in Australia have invested in expensive outdated ‘talent management’ systems that reflect what the organisation wants from its employees, to ‘manage’ them. Today, this approach simply doesn’t work. ‘Talent’ can’t be managed. With a younger generation of workers coming through, they want to take control of their own career and not have an organisation dictate to them the path they need to take to progress.  Managers are rapidly evolving into leader coaches and as such, they’ll also be wanting easy access to simple and effective tools that facilitate great conversations.

Finally, helping your team members with their career progression is not all down to you. Competition is fierce in many industries in Australia to attract the best talent and then once you have those individuals, it’s a common misconception that it’s down to HR professionals to nurture individuals and outline a path for progression. Wrong. Today, this is a shared responsibility. It’s about co-careering which means aligned values, purpose and goals.  Building strengths, skills and ensuring there’s a great ‘fit’ is was matters more and more.  At the end of the day, the individual is responsible for their own career, ensuring their experience and skills are documented and taken with them to their next employer.

The 5 issues concerning CEOs the most

Every CEO encounters obstacles depending on their industry and the specific challenges their businesses are facing. But, while each business leader holds a unique position, there are similar issues that apply across every sector.

As the world’s largest CEO membership organisation, we have identified the key issues keeping business leaders up at night. These issues are also among the most pressing for a CEO to address if they want to ensure they are leading the business in a way that supports ongoing growth.

1) Talent management – Are the right people working for you?

Most CEOs are well aware of the issues they face when it comes to talent management. As industries have become increasingly complex, the demand for individuals who can fill vital positions has increased.

It’s not just performance where talent management has become a major concern for CEOs – there is also the importance of finding staff with the right personality to match the culture of the organisation.

Regardless of whether these talent management efforts are aimed internally or at external experts, finding the right people that suit your businesses thinking is essential.

TEC speaker Trudy McDonald suggests employing Pareto’s 80:20 rule; devoting 80 per cent of the effort involved with talent management to upfront work defining what skills a business is looking for and the remaining 20 per cent to subsequent screening and interviews.

Making this step a priority can ensure hiring and promoting the right people who fit the company culture. Trudy also emphasises that great companies understand that people are their largest asset and a major factor for ongoing business growth.

2) Rate of change – Is your business meeting the technology standards of the future?

Digital disruption and new communication channels are now an engrained part of the business landscape. For leaders, this change presents a significant challenge as businesses look to adjust their performance in light of new threats to their business model.

Social media is just one example of this shift, and one that didn’t even exist a few years ago. Risk management has become increasingly difficult for companies to undertake as information can now be spread instantly by many users.

This only adds further fuel that technology is an increasingly dominant part of companies’ overarching strategies. With this rate of change continuing to increase, the scope for issues to arise for a company is going to rise in kind. However, the increasing rate of change also presents an opportunity for companies.

This was explored recently by consulting firm McKinsey & Company, which argued that companies in the future will build “digital hives” to manage this technological growth. These hives allow businesses to harness clusters of knowledge from multiple levels within a company and channel them towards broader organisational goals.

3) Globalisation of markets – Are you taking advantage of the global market?

The world has certainly become smaller in recent decades and overseas markets are now closer than ever before. With the Australian government entering into multiple free trade agreements in recent months, the scope for issues to arise with businesses is only going to increase with time.

As overseas companies have even-greater access to Australian companies, the challenge is now for businesses to be competitive on a global scale, not just a local one.

At the same time, local firms are now looking for new strategies to expand overseas in order to develop new growth potential.

This was underscored by the Australian International Business Survey, conducted by the University of Sydney and the AusTrade. The most recent edition of the study reported that 74 per cent of respondents are planning on expanding to two or more overseas markets in the next 24 months.

These twin challenges of globalisation – pursuing an international growth strategy while also preserving local market share from international competitors – are going to continue to shape the performance of Australian companies.

4) Innovation – Are you operating in an innovative mindset?

It used to be that product quality and customer service were the primary factors that separated an average business from a great one. Now, companies that are truly successful are also those that are innovative and can find new solutions to the issues they are facing.

However, the number of innovation-active businesses in Australia is actually declining. According to the Australian Bureau of Statistics, the number of companies pursuing new products and services declined between 2011-12 and 2012-13, from 46.6 per cent of firms to only 42.2 per cent.

Innovation cannot be overlooked, with new ideas and insights improving the efficiency and effectiveness of a business. The challenge is more than developing an innovative product or service; but finding a course in this new business environment and then adjusting course when necessary to set your business apart from the competition.

5) Decision-making – Are you making the most informed decisions on behalf of the business?

Finally, decision-making is one of the largest and most enduring issues that CEOs face. Having to make-or-break decisions everyday when it comes to running a business; even the smallest decisions have profound implications. There are a number of personal biases – how quickly a person makes a decision for example – that can influence how well a business leader performs.

Good decisions are made when CEOs equally weigh the pros and cons, rewards versus risks, and probability of success versus failure. Out-of-the box decisions can sometimes be a recipe for disaster.

Unfortunately, many leaders are in the box when they should be out of it; and out of the box when they should be in it.

These are certainly the issues that are weighing on the minds of CEOs – are they keeping you up at night?

Are you a successful leader of change?

It’s certainly true that in order to evolve and adapt to an increasingly complex future, businesses have to be constantly changing. Whether it’s implementing new technology, processes and ways of working or seeking new markets to explore, companies need to continuously think about the routes they’ll take.

Of all the major organisational projects that business leaders have to oversee, one of the most challenging can be change management. How do you promote a culture of constant, productive change, while still keeping everyone on board and without jeopardising the harmony of your organisation?

Change management is therefore one of the skills every executive should work on developing, given the massive implications it can have on the very future of the business. As recent research suggests, however, today’s organisations, managers and employees may not be entirely ready to embrace change.

Change still a stumbling block for many

Of course, to enable smooth and effective organisational transformation, a culture of change must be embedded across the enterprise. This involves having the people, strategies and tools required to drive change – but how many companies today can claim to be adequately equipped?

According to an Association for Talent Development survey of 765 professionals, 60 per cent of respondents said their business faces “three or more major changes” every year. Meanwhile, one out of four respondents said they face twice as many changes than that per year.

Despite this obvious need to make change management a top priority, the survey went on to reveal that fewer than one in five (17 per cent) said their organisation is effective at managing change.

Furthermore, less than a third (30 per cent) of respondents reported that their company actually has a change management team in place, while twice that proportion pinned their hopes of successful change on the CEO. With so few organisations having the necessary personnel to lead change, this signals a clear area for improvement for companies across the board.

However, that isn’t the only thing preventing many organisations from successfully enacting change.

What else is holding them back?

As outlined in the Katzenbach Center’s comprehensive 2013 Culture and Change Management Survey, there are myriad factors precluding modern organisations from fully embracing the prospect of change. The survey, which polled well over 2,000 people around the world, canvassed their opinions on the importance of transformation in the organisation, who is leading it and the obstacles that hamper lasting change.

When asked about the top barriers to change, the two most prominent responses were that clashing priorities lead to “change fatigue” and that the systems, processes and incentives in place do not support change.

A large part of the problem may also be behind the attitudes of the employees themselves. The survey revealed that the top three reasons staff resist change are because failed efforts in the past have made them sceptical, they don’t feel involved in the process and they do not understand the reasons behind the change.

All in all, half (48 per cent) of respondents said the critical capabilities required to sustain change are not in place.

Business leaders who can relate to these challenges and feel they are present in their organisation may want to take action immediately, as ineffective change management can have dire effects.

The consequences of poor change management

So what are some of the things that can happen if change is not properly managed in an organisation?

This was explored in Right Management’s ‘Ready, Get Set…Change!’ study, which provided some damning findings on the potential consequences of poor change management. As expected, the majority of the impact falls on employees – according to the study, companies that don’t manage change well are four times more likely to lose talent.

Additionally, of the respondents in the study who said their organisation’s change management is poor, three-quarters (75 per cent) reported being concerned with the company’s ability to attract talent in the future. A third (32 per cent) said they harboured negative feelings about whether they could hold on to their job in 12 months’ time.

As can be seen here, poor change management can have pervasive effects around the organisation, and business leaders need to think seriously about whether they are directing change in the right manner.

What are the best steps forward?

Of course, getting on the right path to change management can be a long process that takes time and effort – but it can help to know where the best places to start are.

McKinsey & Company provides one such perspective. Following extensive global research into the subject, it has come up with a list of what it purports to be the keys to transformation success.

According to the firm, companies that have been successful in transformational change have traditionally demonstrated behaviours such as making roles and responsibilities clear, engaging continuously through ongoing communication and tasking the organisation’s best talent with the most crucial change activities.

Leaders, obviously, have an important part to play too – they should make sure that frontline staff feel ownership for the change and role-model the desired changes.

Change should not be daunting to any organisation – in fact, if managed right, it can turn into a massive step forward for your company. Are you making sure your business is primed for change management success?