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Why timing matters for executive team and board performance

Timing matters for executive team and board performance. It’s the most frustrating of things. Decisions are made, but the time it takes to agree them seems torturously long. Even when they are agreed on, the implementation seems to go at a snail’s pace and you’re worried that the organisation will miss the market opportunity the decision was meant to grasp. Sometimes, on reflection, the executive team or Board didn’t make the right decision because of a lack of challenge – or too much, which railroaded the process.

Sound familiar?

At our most recent roundtable event we talked about the significance of timing. While what I just described probably feels hauntingly familiar if you operate as a CEO, senior executive or as a non-exec, the likelihood is that, even though you can spot the symptoms, you haven’t yet figured out the cure.

And the really tricky thing is that the right cure – the one which fixes the issues once and for all, rather than making things only incrementally better – is likely to depend entirely on the timing.

When is just as important as what

When a senior executive team or board team is performing sub-optimally it’s easy to leap to solutions. But the most crucial move is to pause sufficiently so you can understand the timing context in order to match it to the right solution.

So what do we mean by when in this context? Examples include:

  • A change in leadership – whether that’s a new chief executive, chair, significant stakeholders or C-suite team membership
  • Changes in strategy or strategic priorities
  • A need to take performance to the next level
  • External factors such as legislative changes or disruption in your market
  • Any key point within the organisation’s cycle, so the mid-year point, when you need to review how you’re doing against enterprise targets, or the start or end of a year when you are planning
  • Before you make significant changes, for example establishing a new target operating model or strategy, and you’re considering the best team to lead the change
  • A new partnership, joint venture or alliance which brings pairs of teams together
  • A situation where there’s unhelpful conflict between those in pivotal relationships, for example, the chair and chief exec, or chief exec and CFO
  • When senior relationships are so fractured that intervention is needed to get things back on track

Surely we can crack this alone?

The evidence would suggest not, given that high-performing leadership teams were number eight in the top 20 Harvard Business Review article topics between 1976 and 2016. That’s 40 years of trying to successfully and sustainably solve this problem, without much apparent progress.

And evidence also shows us how critical the performance of top teams can be. 90% of investors consider the top team the key non-financial factor in their decision-making, and an organisation is 1.9 times more likely to have above-median performance if the top team is aligned and working towards a common vision.

So while top executives seem to agree on the business challenges we’re facing – company growth, new markets, cross-sector competition and the need for new alliances – it seems that the actions being taken to make those teams most able to tackle the challenges are merely more of the same things which haven’t fixed the issues so far. It’s like turning up the volume on a radio station you’re already playing and expecting a different genre of music to appear.

At our event and in previous blogs we’ve explained the big three problems we see when working with executive teams – time together is unproductive, conflict is too high or too low, which impacts on decision-making, and the skills, experience and behaviours which got people on the top team aren’t enough to sustain performance.

In our experience the trick to making those successful and sustainable changes is in not only addressing those three big problems, but in using the right solution for the team’s when – which is dependent on the stage both the business and the team are at. Interventions need to match both the business context and the team’s current challenges, which we reviewed in detail earlier in this article.

Doing the right things at the wrong time doesn’t deliver results. That’s why we put so much emphasis on the discovery phase of our work. It helps us not only understand the enterprise and its context, but map the when, which is what leads to higher-quality, more sustainable interventions.

As basketball legend Michael Jordon so eloquently put it, “Talent wins games. But team work and intelligence win championships.” Senior leaders need to decide whether they are happy playing in the lower leagues, or whether they have their eyes set on the Premiership trophy.

If your organisation has it’s eyes on the prize and you’re keen to ensure you do the right thing at the right time to take your executive team or Board up a level, get in touch for an informal chat about how we can support your team’s performance and growth.

13 Mindblowing Organisational Transformation Stats

No doubt many of us have heard the oft-quoted statistic that 70% of all organisational transformation and change initiatives fail. But how many of us can recall some of the lesser known (and yet equally eye-opening!) facts and figures that paint a picture of the true impact of transformation, whether at an individual, team or organisational level?Leading Transformation

So hold on to your hats because we’ve got 13 awe-inspiring statistics on organisational transformation listed below. Feel free to add your own in the comments section!

  1. Company-wide change efforts are 12.4 times more likely to be successful when senior managers communicate continually. (McKinsey)
  2. 92 percent of change practitioners name top management sponsorship as the most important factor for successful change. (IBM)
  3. Nearly 60 percent of projects aimed at achieving business change do not fully meet their objectives. (IBM)
  4. When senior leaders role model the behaviour changes they’re asking employees to make, transformations are 5.3 times more likely to be successful. (McKinsey)
  5. Leaders create the climate for success – 50-70% of variance in organisational climate can be explained by differences in leadership styles. (Hay Group)
  6. Up to 30% of variance in financial results (profits and revenue) can be explained by differences in organisational climate. (Hay Group)
  7. 86% of C suite executives and 84% of all managers and employees say culture is critical to their organisations’ success. 60% see it as a bigger success factor than either their strategy or their operating model. (PWC)
  8. Less than 10% of leaders have the right capabilities and experiences required to successfully lead transformations. (PWC)
  9. Frontline employees taking the initiative to drive change elevates the success of transformations to a whopping 71%. (McKinsey)
  10. 12% of people don’t believe their companies are keeping up with the changing landscape of business (Mitch Joel, Ctrl Alt Delete)
  11. 31% of CEOs are fired for not managing organisational change well enough. (Forbes)
  12. 25% of change management initiatives are successful over the long term (Towers Watson)
  13. 95% of leaders using stakeholder centred coaching improved their effectiveness (Marshall Goldsmith)

So there you have it: the good, the bad and the ugly! All business change requires some form of disruption from the norm, which, as you can see from some of the above stats, means that transformation done poorly can be very painful. However, it’s not all bad news – transformation can also be, well, for lack of a better term, transformational. Done right, it can position you, your team and your company to take advantage of challenges, turning what were once issues into opportunities.

For our lessons learned on what it takes for organisational transformation to be successful, enter your details below and download our top ten tips.

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CEOs what do they need to be good at?

Recent research from Mullwood Partnership offers a relevant and insightful answer to this question. The research describes how the role of the CEO is changing and examines the wider range of skills that are now required in order to perform and lead effectively at this level.

How must existing CEOs adapt and what needs to change about how we identify and develop the next generation of CEOs?

During 2012 Andrea Adams, Triumpha’s Managing Director (for those who don’t know her) had the opportunity to collaborate with Mullwood Partnership. They invited her to write up their first piece of major research called, ‘Broadening the CEO Selection Pool: where will our future leaders come from?

The findings summarise the views of 135 business leaders from around the world and clearly identify the experience, skills and behaviours that make a ‘stellar’ CEO as opposed to a merely ‘good’ one.

The Key Points

The research reveals that:

  • The best future CEOs will not necessarily come from the traditional routes of Finance and Operations, the talent selection pool will need to be wider.
  • Pre-requisites for today’s CEOs appear to be proven capability as an MD, followed by depth in their chosen sector and a multi-functional background.
  • Aspiring CEOs need to:
  • Express interest in becoming an MD/CEO. Don’t assume others know of your ambitions.
  • Build breadth as early as you can in your career by working outside of your home function.
  • People leadership is the CEO’s supreme differentiator. It singlehandedly distinguishes the best CEOs from the rest.

For more, download a copy of the full research report, Broadening the CEO Selection Pool: where will our future leaders come from.

Enter your details to download "Broadening The CEO Selection Pool: Where Will Our Future Leaders Come From?"

Broadening The CEO Selection Pool: Where Will Our Future Leaders Come From?

Broadening the CEO Selection Pool: where will our future leaders come from includes:

  • Typical CEO Career Paths
  • The four most significant changes to the CEO role in the last five years
  • The top five leadership challenges
  • CEO Success Factors
  • The CEO differentiator: the one factor that makes for a stand-out CEO
  • Recommendations for aspiring CEOs
  • Recommendations for those who recruit and develop CEOs

The research was conducted by Jo-Sellwood Taylor and Sharon Mullen, Co-Founding Directors of Mullwood Partnership in collaboration with Dr Sukanya Sen Gupta, Associate Professor at Warwick Business School, Andrea Adams, Managing Director at Triumpha and supported by Criticaleye (Network of Leaders).

Executive Summary of the findings

To read the full report use the download link below

The CEO’s role is changing and with it our understanding of the skills and experience needed to fill the role. The skills that selection and nomination committees looked for in the past may not be enough to run tomorrow’s organisations successfully, as research by Mullwood Partnership makes clear. As the external business environment changes, so, too, must the role and priorities of the CEO. In order to succeed, organisations need to re-think their idea of the ‘typical’ CEO and look beyond the usual suspects for future leaders.

Globalisation has brought with it increasingly diverse teams, a dispersed workforce, ‘24/7’ working and more widespread competition. Technological developments have introduced a range of new workplace-related words to us — digital natives; crowdsourcing; consumerisation; virtual offices.

The CEO’s role is changing and with it our understanding of the skills and experience needed to fill the role. The skills that selection committees looked for in the past may not be enough to run tomorrow’s organisations successfully, as research by Mullwood Partnership makes clear.

As the external business environment changes, so, too, must the role and priorities of the CEO. In order to succeed, organisations need to re-think their idea of the ‘typical’ CEO and look beyond the usual suspects for future leaders.

Globalisation has brought with it increasingly diverse teams, a dispersed workforce, ‘24/7’ working and more widespread competition. Technological developments have introduced a range of new workplace-related words to us — digital natives; crowdsourcing; consumerisation; virtual offices.

The upsides have been plentiful – new business models have emerged; barriers to entry are lower – but a downside is added complexity.

Economic volatility, meanwhile, has been the backdrop against which most organisations have had to work over the past five years.

All of these have combined to change the way we work – and the way we run organisations.

The role of chief executive has evolved far beyond its clubby roots. Arguably, it has changed more in the past five years than in the previous decade.

Expectations of today’s leaders are higher, and their exposure to public scrutiny greater, than at any other time in history.

They are judged not simply on performance measures, but on personal propriety and their ability to inspire people. Tenure is short and competition fierce.

It is against this background that Jo Sellwood-Taylor and Sharon Mullen of Mullwood Partnership began researching the career path and the role of the CEO. How have they changed, and what are today’s leadership challenges? Does the traditional route to the role still offer enough breadth and depth to meet these challenges, or should the selection criteria be broadened?

The research also sought to address a specific question: why do so few HR professionals progress to CEO roles?

The findings paint a picture of a role in transition. A background in finance, operations or marketing is still the most prevalent route to the role for 50 per cent of respondents, with only five per cent coming from HR.

However, functional background is becoming less important to selection than specific experience.

The pre-requisites for today’s CEOs appear to be proven capability as an MD, followed by sector-specific experience and a multi-functional background.

“Intellectual horsepower” is essential, with a master’s or MBA degree increasingly expected for CEOs wanting to compete for roles globally.Changes in the external environment have significantly altered the way a CEO allocates his or her time: external issues make greater demands on the CEO’s time and changes to the business environment are re-shaping what, and how, senior leaders operate.

The result is a shift in priorities: with external focus the greatest challenge, people leadership and the ability to build a strong internal team has become a priority. In fact, people leadership was cited as the most important capability by the group containing chairs, CEOs and nomination committee members, with some now seeing their role as “chief talent officer”.

This, say respondents, is the differentiating factor for successful senior leaders and encompasses team building, delegation, insight, the ability to inspire and communicate long-term vision, while also having the drive and strategic abilities considered standard in the role.

Is HR a viable candidate for the CEO Role?

With talent management, organisational development and people leadership coming to the fore, it is perhaps surprising that more HR professionals don’t move into CEO roles.

The reasons for this appear to be a mix of individual and organisational reticence. The majority of HR leaders have aspirations beyond their function, and 40% had been offered the opportunity to broaden their role. Yet 89% of the organisations in which respondents worked had never appointed an HR professional to CEO. Participants were however able to name over 25 individuals from a HR background who had held the role of CEO or who were currently en route in other organisations.

The key barriers – a perceived lack of ambition and a negative perception of HR from other parts of the organisation – suggest more work needs to be done to raise awareness of just how HR can contribute to wider organisational success.

HR practitioners have the edge over other functions in several essential areas – setting people strategy, developing a talent pipeline to sustain and retain knowledge, supporting organisational change, and fostering a culture of employee engagement.

HR professionals can do their part to improve their chances of progressing. Gathering the advice of current CEOs, the report recommends first and foremost that aspiring CEOs from HR make their ambitions known. There are steps they can take to broaden their experience, building strength beyond HR and filling in any gaps in knowledge, behaviour and capability.

They can use their natural abilities to plot their own talent development. But this only goes so far: external perceptions of the contribution HR can make to the wider business need to be recognised. More needs to be done to broaden the CEO selection pool.

The findings of this report demonstrate clearly a shift in the CEO’s role and challenges. Anyone with aspirations to become CEO should include them in their career planning and leadership development work. Selection committees should include these in their specifications.

The findings of this report demonstrate clearly a shift in the CEO’s role and challenges. Anyone with aspirations to become CEO should include them in their career planning and leadership development work. Selection committees should include these in their specifications.

Enter your details to download "Broadening The CEO Selection Pool: Where Will Our Future Leaders Come From?"

Leadership Coaching: How CEOs & Senior Leaders Build Resilience and Capacity for Change

Where do you turn when you want to improve leadership effectiveness, resilience and capacity for change? Leadership coaching is a proven approach, so we invited Ann Scoular, founder of  Meyler Campbell and author of the Financial Times Guide to Business Coaching  to join a Triumpha network event group of CEOs and HR Leaders to share her views.

We transcribed the event so if you would like a copy of the transcript, please use the download link below.

Key Discussion Points

  • How to think clearly and effectively using the ’Big 5’ approach.
  • Key insights from neuroscience about behavioural change and how to sustain performance over time.
  • The hallmarks of effective leadership coaches.
  • 10 tough questions to ask a leadership coach.
  • An explanation for teenage behavior and why education is worth the effort.

Compared with only one generation ago, the amount of incoming data leaders need to process has multiplied hugely, and our processor (the brain) isn’t keeping pace. So where do we turn for that extra edge? Leadership coaching is often the answer.

Anne’s view is that working with a great leadership coach is “the equivalent of plugging in some extra processing capacity. With a great coach its like plugging into the National Grid – a surge of energy and clear focus that recharges the batteries and hauls us back to peak form.”

To download a copy of the transcript from this exclusive networking event, please enter your details below.

Enter your details to download "How Chief Executives and Senior Leaders Build Resilience and Capacity for Change"