Archive for the ‘executive coaching’ Category

How’s Your Integrity? 21st Century CEO Success Characteristics

I recently polled CEOs, asking the question: “What are the characteristics that are a must for successful CEOs in the 21st century?” Responses were received from CEOS and C-suite leaders from over 10 countries. Our top 5 list of 21st century CEO characteristics includes:

1. Inspirational Leadership
2. Exceptional Team Builder
3. Unimpeachable Integrity
4. Clear Communicator
5. Compelling Visionary

Unimpeachable Integrity was the 3rd leading vote getter, receiving 66 mentions and can be described by honesty, operating ethically, having a strong moral compass, demonstrating personal accountability and showing the courage to always do what is right. Given the environment, It was no surprise to see Unimpeachable Integrity make the top 5 list.

Earlier this year, the Edelman Trust Barometer reported that only 38% trust information about a company that comes from a CEO, down from 50% last year and the biggest drop since Edelman started doing their survey 12 years ago.

Another poll conducted by Weber Shandwick showed that only 14% of American executives hold a positive view of chief executives. This estimate is probably even lower among among the general public.

So it is time for a reset of CEO reputations and CEO brands. What can CEOs do to demonstrate unimpeachable integrity? More than anyone else at the firm, it’s the CEO who needs to create trust. Trust is a function of both capability – your skills, results and track record — and character. Character has to do with your integrity, your motives and your intent with others. So how’s your capability, the level of trust you create and your integrity?

And as CEO, are you explicit about your values? The core values you’d fall on the sword for? Put another way, if you had to put your top 5 values on a t-shirt and wear that t shirt around the office, could you credibly do it?

Have you explicitly defined the emotional experiences you’d like others to experience when you interact with them? Creating positive emotional experiences for others is critical in building trust and reputation. And it is important for your personal brand, just as it is in building the brand of your company and its products and services.

Make your values explicit and walk the talk. Define intended emotional experiences for others and hold yourself accountable to these behaviors. Talk straight and do what’s right. These are all keys for demonstrating unimpeachable integrity. So, if you graded yourself on a scale of 1 to 10, what’s the level of trust you create? What’s the level of integrity you demonstrate?


What is Your CEO Brand?

In summary, your CEO brand = the intended emotional experiences you wish others who rub shoulders with you to experience and your brand promise. It must be unique and authentic to you.

Now let’s talk for a bit about what your brand is not: It’s not about being inauthentic or something you’re not – that would be a counterfeit brand. It’s not about looking and sounding good for the sake of looking and sounding good. It’s not about shameless self-promotion. It’s not about your ego – and it certainly is not just about you.

Let’s shift gears and talk about what CEO Branding is about: Authenticity. It’s about your story: past, present and future. It’s about emotions, experiences and promises. It’s about influence, trust and reputation. It’s about you, but it’s also about us – all of your stakeholders. Because when you are performing at your highest and best self, all the world benefits. So we need you to develop and operate with a great personal brand. We’re begging you on behalf of all at your company, all of your stakeholders, family and for you, too, please build this authentic, unique brand. It’s your most valuable asset. Let your genius out. We need you to do this. Your reputation and performance will improve and you’ll get more juice, too.

What’s the Value of Your Executive Brand?

If you are an executive or manager, how’s the value of your personal brand?

Unfortunately, many executives believe because they work for corporations with well-defined brands, they don’t need to define their executive brands. They may think if they support their company’s brand, that’s good enough. While they recognize the need for clear brands at their companies or for their organization’s products or services, they fail to recognize they also need to be a brand. Yet without a unique, authentic, distinctive brand, we’re just commodities. In today’s economy, where globalization, innovation and technology make the world flat and fast, failing to define yourself as a unique brand can have disastrous consequences.

Just like Apple, Nike, Starbucks and McDonalds are brands, executives are also brands. And our brand is either increasing in value or decreasing in value. If we’re not actively managing our brand, it’s not likely that it is increasing in value. And if we’re not actively managing our executive brand, that means we leave it for others to manage our brands – and if that is the case, chances are our audience will perceive our brand differently from what we intend.

The good news is that with some reflection, a framework for creating our brands and work, we can create a unique, powerful brand that differentiates us from the pack. There are seven steps required to defining a unique executive brand and they are as follows:

Join me on September 13 in Minneapolis at the University of Minnesota’s Carlson School of Management for my Optimizing Your Unique Executive Brand and you’ll learn what’s required to build an outstanding personal brand. For a preview of what to expect, see this short video:

To register for this 1/2 day course, Optimizing Your Unique Executive Brand click here:

Hope to see you on the 13th. I look forward to assisting you in becoming your best as an executive, creating greater value for yourself and your company with a well-defined, unique executive brand.

How Do You Stop a Toxic CEO From Sinking the Ship? – Part 2 of 2

In today’s hyper-speed, global economy, a company that seeks sustainable results needs a capable CEO and a motivated, aligned top leadership team. Smart CEOs realize they are not the only smart people in the room. Smart CEOs do not have all the answers and want and need to surround themselves with capable, committed senior executives who are willing to and do work well together. If CEOs are not smart enough to understand that they cannot lead their companies in a unilateral way, then the Board of Directors needs awareness of this blind spot early, and require the CEO to build, develop and lead a strong team, or they need to find another CEO.

The August 15 Fortune article, What Happened at Pfizer: The Inside Story of Revenge, Betrayal and Power at the Top of the World’s Largest Drug Company is a sad commentary of the descent of a once great organization under a CEO who was ill-equipped to lead. In last week’s blog post, I commented how Pfizer’s former CEO Jeff Kindler’s individual performance could and should have been more visible to the Pfizer Board of Directors years before his forced departure. Had the Board used an annual CEO evaluation process that incorporated an independent expert to solicit feedback on the behaviors and operating styles used by Kindler, problems would have been identified years before the situation became untenable. In this post, I’ll focus on the Board’s miss by failing to understand the dynamics and performance of Kindler’s Executive Leadership Team (ELT).

For all but the smallest of businesses, in order to achieve results in a sustainable way, a top team of leaders is required that operates in a highly effective, interdependent way. This was not the case for Pfizer’s ELT. The Fortune article reported of a constant turmoil at Pfizer, where “…managers descended into behaviors that would make Machiavelli proud.” To make matters worse, Kindler’s HR chief, Mary McLeod, divided the executive staff instead of serving as a uniting force. Kindler took on his role in 2006 and was fired in December of 2010. He had four-and-a-half years to build a team; however, during his tenure he hired and fired three different R&D chiefs and spun his leadership team like a top with a revolving door that should have made the Board’s collective head spin. Clearly, Kindler did not have an appreciation or talent for building a strong executive team. He did not develop plans to identify and groom a successor, which is an important task for every CEO. His executive team was divided, there were significant trust issues within the team and it simply didn’t perform. His failure to build an executive team that performed irreparably harmed the company’s ability to achieve results and is an egregious performance shortfall that should also have been identified early in the game by the Board of Directors. Pfizer’s Board was clearly asleep at the switch about both Kindler’s individual performance as CEO and in his inability to build, develop and lead an executive team.

The Board could have monitored the health of Kindler’s executive team by requiring the use of an independent assessment that is tailored for top leadership teams. An assessment of this type, such as Top Team Check, is designed specifically for the senior executive team and is used to assess how the team functions from the perspective of the team leader (CEO) and direct reports. Team strengths and problem areas are identified, along with solutions that address the root causes of team performance shortfalls. An assessment of Kindler’s team would have clearly identified where the team performed and where it fell short, which team members worked supportively with their colleagues and who did not. This type of assessment would have been invaluable to both the CEO and the Board, providing feedback where improvements must be made and allowing for year-to-year progress to be tracked. The unfortunate fact is that most executive teams do not perform to their potential. Executives put together and asked to perform as a team typically struggle, but that need not be the case with the right process, conditions and expert coaching.

The dysfunction of the top team and the lack of visibility of the Board also impaired the Board’s ability to accurately identify and evaluate potential successors for the CEO. A critical job for every Board is succession planning for the CEO and other key executives. With a revolving door of executives and a CEO who used a “spoke and hub”, micro-managing style in running the company, the ability to plan for succession was seriously compromised.

In summary, CEOs need a strong, high performing top team. Their teams need clarity, need to be capable and need to be committed. If the CEO isn’t creating the conditions for the development of such a team, it is then the Board’s responsibility to mandate that he does. Smart CEOs want feedback to learn how the team sees itself performing and what must be improved. Smart CEOs also want feedback on what they must do to better help their teams perform at a high level. And smart Boards want this feedback, too, to know they’ve got a capable CEO who is leading for sustained results and a capable team behind him with a window into who should become tomorrow’s CEO.

How Do You Stop a Toxic CEO From Sinking the Ship? – Part 1 of 2

The August 15 Fortune article, What Happened at Pfizer: The Inside Story of Revenge, Betrayal and Power at the Top of the World’s Largest Drug Company is a sad commentary of the descent of a once great organization under a CEO who was ill-equipped to lead.

In the four and one-half years Jeff Kindler was in the CEO role, Pfizer’s stock price fell from $49 to $17 and its drug pipeline dried up. Kindler’s leadership style was described as micro, micro-management and his abusive, over-the-top temperament as reported in the Fortune article caused the members of his top leadership team (Executive Leadership Team or ELT) to rebel. His management philosophy was described as, “Jeff Kindler seemed to believe he was the only smart guy in the room.”

Kindler was a trial lawyer by background who “sought knowledge through interrogation; he was skeptical of what he was told, even when it came from people who knew far more about a subject than he did; and he bored in relentlessly on small details, always searching for the sort of nuance that could make or break a legal case—but seemed trivial in other contexts. For all Kindler’s talents, he remained palpably insecure, acutely sensitive to anything or anyone he feared might undermine his standing.” He churned his executive team and, despite his lack of Pharma experience, didn’t seem to trust Pfizer executives who were experienced in the industry.

To make matters worse, the individual who should have played a key role in pulling the members of his ELT together and advising the CEO on the sensitive matters of team dynamics and performance, his senior vice president of human resources, Mary McLeod, was widely seen as divisive, dishonest and incompetent. An anonymous senior executive at Pfizer, concerned about the dysfunction of McLeod, Kindler and the ELT, reached out to the Board of Directors. The Board had concerns of their own and their investigation discovered several senior leaders ready to resign with no executive in full support of Kindler. When Kindler was confronted with the findings of the Board, it was apparent the only option was his resignation. Kindler left Pfizer in December of 2010 with $16 million in cash and stock and nearly $7 million in retirement benefits and other stock compensation.

So after nearly five years of billions lost in market capitalization, thousands of jobs shed and a new product pipeline that was barren, the Board of Directors fired their CEO. How could they have not known about the toxic impact their CEO had on the business beforehand?

The role of the Board of Directors of a publicly traded company is to protect the fiduciary interests of its shareholders. If the CEO leads in a toxic way, is unclear about his vision and strategies and paralyzes his executive team and company from operating effectively, how are the interests of shareholders served? Boards are required to annually review the performance of their CEOs. Unfortunately, this review is too often perfunctory. A better option would be to incorporate an approach to evaluate the CEO’s performance, behaviors and leadership annually, using an independent consultant to interview the CEO, his direct reports and each Board Member. This more thorough review would flag potential problems relatively early, allow the CEO to learn from the previous year’s performance and assist in establishing clear expectations for the upcoming year. Smart CEOs should advocate for such a process so they demonstrate to their key stakeholders they view their performance seriously and are open-minded to feedback on how they can become more effective in the future. And Boards should require such a process, to avoid simmering problems that can become major crises in the future. Incorporating our CEO Feedback Process is one way of meeting this objective.

Sadly, because the CEO performed ineffectively and the Board was slow to recognize and act, Pfizer investors lost billions, opportunities were missed, thousands of jobs were lost and a former iconic company has been greatly weakened. While Jeff Kindler had serious shortfalls as a CEO, the onus lies with the Board for their failure to appropriately understand and address how their CEO operated.

Buzzsaw or Springboard? It’s Your Call

Globalization, innovation and technology collide and act as a buzzsaw to careers and jobs in North America. And they converge to create a springboard to success and prosperity. Which is your truth?

If you are smart, you’re reinventing yourself and how you create value for the future. If you aren’t learning anew and reinventing yourself, you are in much trouble. You are playing Russian Roulette with your career and livelihood. Not in these exact words, but President Obama addressed this issue last night in his State of Union address. Education, reinvention, hard work, discipline — make globalization, innovation and technology your friend. Embrace it. Change. There’s no other alternative.

What’s The Most Valuable Question You May Ever Learn?

Whether you are the CEO or an entry level employee, whether you own your own business or work for someone else or another organization, everyone needs to learn this valuable question and skillfully handle this topic.

To grow and be our best, to live satisfying lives, we’ve got to become comfortable both giving and receiving feedback. Unfortunately, a lot of us cringe when we hear the term “feedback”. We think it’s scary to hear and not a lot of fun to deliver.

But the reality is we need to hear feedback if we seek to be our best. As hard as we imagine it might be to hear, the reality is that feedback is not necessarily bad, it’s very often positive, and we simply can’t grow without hearing and acting on the feedback. The other reality is that the feedback is already out there, in the thoughts and perceptions of our co-workers, direct reports, customers and our boss. Let’s face it. We’ve all got blind spots. Isn’t it better to learn the feedback than to be in the dark?

Can you imagine a professional baseball player or golfer that didn’t want regular feedback? That simply wouldn’t fly. So if we need to shift our beliefs about feedback, particularly with year-end performance appraisals right around the corner, what better time to make the shift than now? As Ken Blanchard, author of The One Minute Manager, says, “Feedback truly is The Breakfast of Champions.”

Becoming our best requires us to be responsible for our work performance and the health of our relationships. What better way to demonstrate this responsibility by using the Ladder and Pyramid of Feedback? Watch my interview with Tiffany Ogle of NBC Milwaukee’s WTMJ4 The Morning Blend, and you’ll learn the steps for the Ladder and Pyramid of Feedback and the most valuable question you can ask at work.

Our success and satisfaction with work and life is in large part affected by our ability to request and receive feedback continuously. Now go get that feedback!

What are the Pitfalls that Plague Bosses?

Since launching my executive coaching practice ten years ago, I’ve had the good fortune of personally providing leadership assessments and coaching to over 1000 executives in companies ranging from startups to Fortune 15 global powerhouses. These leaders and their direct reports have shared many tales of bosses, both good and bad. When bosses and team leaders operate in ways that are less than inspiring, there are six common problem profiles that emerge. Sometimes a bad boss will operate in one or more of these categories simultaneously. The problem profiles are as follows:

The Tyrant – Rough on people, overly directive, alienates others, cares little about the feelings of people. While he’s technically competent and smart, he pushes people away. He rules by fear.

The “I Don’t Have a Clue” boss – Talks a good game, particularly to those higher in the organization, but clearly in over his head. Provides little clarity and insight. He is fearful. Likely to go overboard on delegation. He’s likely disengaged. Will blame others when problems arise.

The Narcissist – This boss is brilliant, a visionary, yet is motivated solely by his own needs. Seeks credit and desires to look good. People are a tool to achieve his goals. Demonstrates a low level of self-awareness and social awareness. Shows little care toward others. People are pawns.

The Hub-and-Spoke boss – This boss exhorts the importance of teamwork, but controls all the information and makes the key decisions. He manages interactions on a one-off basis. Team meetings are superficial, as he does his dealing in one-on-one meetings with team members. He blindsides others as information isn’t transparent. He’s always got an agenda.

The “Feel Good” boss – Provides positive feedback, perhaps overly positive, but doesn’t engender confidence. Conflict averse. Sees the world with rose-colored glasses. May give recognition and rewards, but followers are never sure they are on solid ground with the “feel good” boss. Doesn’t spot performance problems. Will throw others under the bus to save his skin.

The Micro-Manager boss – Speaks about accountability and results. Manages down. Is technically competent, but not a strategist or change agent. Often uses a pacesetting and directive style. Misses the big picture. Looks over the shoulder of his people. Doesn’t help people grow and develop.

Unfortunately, these six problem profiles are too prevalent. Each profile results in the disengagement of others and ultimately hurts working climate and results.

The reality is that good bosses matter – a lot! Many studies show that for more than 75 percent of employees, dealing with their immediate boss is the most stressful part of the job. Especially for those at the top, bosses matter as their followers closely watch, magnify and often adopt their approaches. So to get top performance, bosses need to operate in ways that inspire. And bosses, your followers need to know you’ve got their backs. The six problem profiles. These profiles aren’t part of your repertoire – are they?

Why You Need To Be Like Lady Gaga

Every one of us, whether we’re the CEO or an entry level employee, whether we operate our own business or work for an employer, needs a well-defined personal brand. Our personal brand is about bringing our authentic self to work and doing our very best. It’s adopting a personal service provider mindset. And it’s not just for Lady Gaga, Madonna, Shaun White, Kanye West or other celebrities.

There are three reasons for defining our personal brands:

1. To get better results;
2. To distinguish ourselves from the average performers;
3. To give us juice and inspiration;

Here are several ideas for defining your personal brand.

Here’s the reality. In today’s competitive world, if you don’t have a well-defined personal brand, you are a commodity. And being a commodity is not a fun place to be. Do you want to be a rock? Or do you want to be a rock star?

You can’t afford to not have a well-defined personal brand. What next steps can you take to better define and communicate your personal brand?

What Makes a Great Team Member?

I’ve learned from clients the best team members share common characteristics in both the “skill” and the “will” areas.

A common mistake leaders make when hiring is overemphasizing the need for skill and skill alone. For example, how often have we heard a comment that goes something like this, “Larry is a great engineer and has outstanding technical skills and, therefore, he’ll be a great addition to the team.” The reality is that if we don’t have a good assessment of Larry’s “will” characteristics, in spite of his strong technical skills, he may actually be a liability to the team.

When assessing the “skill” side of the equation, we look for: 1. Technical competence; 2. Results-orientation; 3. Resilience and 4. Emotional intelligence (self-awareness, self-management, social awareness and relationship management skills). And the good news: each of these characteristics can be learned.

The “will” characteristics that make a great team member are trickier to learn. Much of the will characteristics are truly about attitude, and attitude carries the day in team performance. In fact, some say that attitude is everything.

The will characteristics that make an outstanding team member include the use of positive leadership and communication styles. In other words, being able to adapt their approach in a given situation to get on the same frequency as others to accomplish work. Will is also being supportive of others. This is demonstrated by genuinely encouraging others and seeking to build strong, trusting relationships. Finally, high-performing team members recognize that on-going feedback is a key ingredient in the success of individuals and teams. As Ken Blanchard, author of the One Minute Manager series has said, “Feedback is the breakfast of champions.” Outstanding team members seek feedback and share feedback, recognizing they cannot improve if they don’t receive it, both individually and collectively as a team.

Think for a moment about each of the members of your team at work. Do they consistently demonstrate all of the characteristics in both the “Skill” and “Will” buckets? If not, the performance of your team and the motivation of other team members is most likely not what it could be.