I had the sincere pleasure this past week of attending the CEO Connection Spring Forum, Dinner and CEO Boot Camp in New York City.
Highlights from the Forum and Dinner included a round table discussion led by Matthew Bishop, the NY Bureau Chief for The Economist, entitled, “The Road from Ruin: How to Succeed in Today’s Economic Environment,” and a presentation by Ray McDaniel, Chairman and CEO of Moody’s Corporation on what he wish he’d known when he became CEO.
Although these events were exceptional, the real meat of the CEO Connection experience comes during the CEO Boot Camps that are held five times a year and take place the day following the Forum and Dinner. At the Boot Camp, an intimate group of CEOs “lay everything on the table.” They discuss their biggest challenges and then share experiences and advice that enable each of them to leave with powerful insights and strategies for addressing these challenges.
What’s On a CEO’s Mind Today?
There were four areas of discussion that were, in my own view, the issues that appeared most pressing, and that they said “kept them up at night:”
1. Clarity of Vision and Values
Members of the CEO Connection are, perhaps, an enlightened group. I say this because so much media attention these days is focused on leaders who don’t set high standards for their own behavior and who take a “me-centric” view of their roles and their companies.
It’s the exact opposite for members in this organization. There was a tremendous amount of discussion about the importance of leading with values and setting an example through the way they live their lives and lead their teams.
Specific insights included:
- The imperative of a very clear vision
- How challenging it can be to capture hearts & minds with a vision
- Not using debt for what you simply can’t afford
- The critical nature of education, beginning with parent engagement
- that action, not anger, solves problems
- The crucial importance of speaking truth to power
2. Talent Management
More than ever, CEOs realize how critical it is for them to be directly involved in talent management. At one point a member suggested that part of their role should specifically be designated, “Chief of Talent.”
This is because CEOs set the bar, standard and example for recruitment, retention, reward, motivation and development. If they make talent management a clear priority then the entire organization makes it a priority.
As a result, there is a relentless effort to have the absolute best team and to ensure that people are in roles that are the ideal fit, and that align with the organization’s vision and strategies.
Additional key insights:
- Values are critical in talent management; when you fire a high-performer who mistreats others you send a clear message about the values to which you are committed
- Relationships have become a key differentiator in this economy; you must rely on your people to excel at creating and nurturing these relationships
- Innovation comes from having the right team and then motivating and rewarding them for new ideas and bold initiatives
- Some people are simply individual players who become high performers when you take away their responsibility of managing others
We spent a lot of time talking about communication. What’s fascinating to me is that so many of our members felt that they were diligent about communication, but that the statistics show otherwise.
When surveyed, only 5% of employees of major companies – 5%! – said they knew what the company’s overriding strategy was.
Important insights included:
- CEOs must communicate downward throughout the entire organization, not just to the leadership team
- A clear understanding of the company’s vision, objectives and strategies must make its way through the entire organization
- It’s imperative that each employee understands how their role fits within the larger organization and how it aligns with the company’s vision and strategies. This is the only way they can “own it.”
- Employees want, and need, clear priorities
- Everything you do – consciously and unintentionally – communicates when you’re the leader
4. Board and Leadership Team Management
Two of the most important responsibilities a CEO has are to manage his/her Leadership Team and Board of Directors. In both cases, CEOs should be actively involved in vetting and selecting these key people.
What CEOs want most from their Boards:
- Active interest, insights, oversight and advice
- Hands off the day to day running of the company
What CEOs want most from their Leadership Teams:
- Intellectual integrity
- Healthy debate
- Commitment and loyalty to the final decision made after a healthy debate
- Commitment to the team and company’s success
Are these priorities keeping you up at night as well? Please share your experiences in the comments…I learn so much from you!
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Thank you for reading and for being part of this community – it means so much to me.
You can find me on Twitter at @LisaPetrilli and on LinkedIn. To hire me for Visionary Leadership programs, Magnetic Marketing Consulting or for the Social Media Concierge program, email me at Lisa@CLevelStrategies.com.
Photo is Sleepless in Seattle by LisbethSalander.