The most obvious key to sustainable organization success is having a stable of high-performing executives capable of strategic planning, as well as leading and implementing tactical plans. While CEOs often begin their quarterly earnings calls by either thanking or citing their employees for the success of the company, it is common for the processes around executive selection, development and deployment to be weak or non-existent. As a result, there is often a scramble to quickly replace an executive who leaves a company, and hiring someone from outside the company can be a testament to weak internal succession planning. One of the best examples of a company that “got it right” was General Electric under the leadership of Jack Welch. When Welch retired, the GE Board of Directors had a plethora of internal candidates from which to choose his successor. This was a result of years of work by Welch and his GE colleagues to put in place processes for hiring, training, retaining and promoting the right people into the right positions. This is a multi-phase process that Myron Beard Executive Consulting (MBEC) addresses through the following services:
I. Executive Selection
The MBEC Advantage begins with the hiring process. Research has been clear that the highest likelihood for success in a position is not the candidate’s intelligence, personality, education or even experience, but the “fit” for the position. This is a complex combination of matching personality characteristics, thinking capabilities and interpersonal skills to the demands and requirements of the position as it is today and will be tomorrow. This process involves in-depth interviewing and online assessments, resulting in a comprehensive evaluation of personality and thinking style.
The process begins with discussions with the hiring manager to get a full understanding of the position. This is more than simply a job description, but a clear picture of “what success looks like” for the position being considered; what has succeeded in the past; what has failed in the past; how conditions for the position are similar to or different from the past; what the future expectations are; what cultural synergies and obstacles might be factors; and what kind of temperament is required for the individual to be successful. This profile is critical for understanding the personality and characteristics of temperament required for job success in the new position.
Once finalist candidates are identified, each candidate undergoes an in-depth interview with a MBEC psychologist who is highly experienced in both business and psychology. Together, they will explore the candidates’ history, decision making, interpersonal relationships, thinking style, thinking capabilities, relationship to authority, manner of dealing with both success and failure, and other personality aspects that are critical for success in the position.
Each candidate is then given up to three online assessments to augment the interviewing process. (Note: These assessments are well researched and both ADA- and EEOC-compliant.) These online assessments evaluate the individual’s adjustment, interpersonal style, decision-making process, risk tolerance and general level of ambition. In addition, they clarify how the individual is likely to perform under stress and how he/she manages stress-induced tendencies. Finally, the assessments take a closer look at the individual’s thinking style and his/her relative strengths in critical thinking, strategic reasoning and tactical understanding.
All of these data points—the in-depth interview, the personality assessments and the thinking style assessment—are consolidated into a comprehensive report, the Personal Development Assessment, complete with recommendations. When multiple candidates are assessed, MBEC provides a helpful comparison of the candidates on their personalities, thinking styles, development needs and relative “fit” for the position. This comparison is presented and discussed with the hiring manager to serve as additional data in the hiring process.
Once the final candidate is hired, he/she is provided feedback on all aspects of the interview, assessments and report. This culminates in a Personal Development Plan that is then discussed in a three-way meeting with the hiring manager. The new executive and the hiring manager formulate ways that, given the position and the requirements of the new executive, he/she can achieve optimal success in their position.
II. Executive Onboarding
It is commonly accepted that a new executive’s first 100 days are, perhaps, the most critical of his/her tenure. It is during this time that the tone for the executive’s leadership is set and the broad direction of the executive’s impact is largely determined. This is the most critical time for the executive to make a strong and positive “first impression,” which will go far in helping him/her create momentum toward the achievement of the major organizational strategic and tactical initiatives with which he/she has been entrusted. When the executive creates a “game plan” for his/her first 100 days, it has the effect of “leapfrogging” them and their accomplishments beyond the average for the actual time in their positions.
Modified from a similar GE onboarding process, this is a one or two-day event to provide the new leader and his/her team the greatest likelihood of success. At the same time that the executive comes into the new position, key members of the work environment are interviewed and/or surveyed by an MBEC psychologist, to obtain key information pertinent to the success of the executive. Key stakeholders are queried on issues such as the challenges and opportunities in the marketplace and with customers; key business issues that need to be addressed and their relative time frame; cultural issues both within the company and the executives’ new team; behaviors that will lead to the executive’s success or derailment in the position; information needed about the executive, including his/her work history, management style, decision-making style, relationship to direct reports and importance placed on cross-company relationships; and any other information that would accelerate the understanding of the executive.
The MBEC consultant looks for key themes in the interviews or surveys and meets with the incoming executive to help him/her prepare for a dialogue between the executive and his/her team and senior management. The executive becomes aware of what business and personal issues need to be addressed in order to effectively lead his/her team to be successful. The executive then has a half-day meeting with the executive team members to address their concerns and business issues and to allow them to have a better understanding of the executive. From this dialogue, a number of team agreements are reached regarding behaviors of a high-performing team. These agreements are developed and owned by the entire team. In addition, the team develops communication mechanisms and processes for identifying, implementing and reporting on major business initiatives. From these data, the interviews and/or surveys, the dialogue and a better understanding of the major business issues involved, the executive develops a 100-Day Plan. The executive’s team subsequently ratifies this plan and its implementation.
III. Executive Development
During times of transition—taking on a new job, a promotion, increased responsibility, a move, etc.—leaders experience what is known as second-order change. Typically, in the day-to-day operations of a business, work is familiar, well understood and not overly complex. The addition of more work typically requires more-of-the-same or first-order change. In these situations, the executive has only to work harder and rely primarily on previous solutions for current problems. However, when the executive’s duties suddenly become more complex, unfamiliar or overwhelmingly large, then doing more of the same will actually decrease effectiveness and productivity. These are second-order change events. Examples of second-order change events include moving from a position as business accountant to CFO, taking on a new territory or product line, or taking on an entirely new business or new functional responsibility. These second-order change situations are not incremental change events, they are transformational and require the development of a new paradigm from which to operate. It is during these times that the use of an outside consultant with a strong background in both human behavior and business can be immensely helpful, dramatically shortening the learning curve and accelerating the effectiveness of the executive in his/her new position.
Understanding the executive’s personal management style and psychological dynamics is the foundation for executive development. Exploring behaviors such as what drives the executive; what incentives motivate his/her behavior; how he/she behaves under stress; how willing/able is he/she to make decisions in the face of adversity; how he/she communicates with managers, peers and subordinates; how his/her level of empathy interferes with or complements his/her ability to deal with conflict; etc. These issues are all explored, with the executive, through in-depth interviewing by a well-trained MBEC psychologist augmented by well-researched online personality and thinking-style assessments. This culminates in a comprehensive report, the Personal Development Assessment, identifying strengths and opportunities for the executive with areas of development for increased effectiveness.
The executive and the MBEC psychologist review, in depth, the results of the Personal Development Assessment and identify both what the executive needs to focus on as well as how the executive will begin implementing the plan for development. This is done in the context of the current and future business circumstances, understanding that what made the executive successful in the past will not necessarily make him/her successful in the future. Collaboratively, the executive and the MBEC psychologist map out a 3- to 12-month program of executive coaching. This work always includes regular meetings and may include additional items such as a 360-degree assessment of the executive; discussions with the executive’s manager, team and/or internal/external customers; attending selective meetings or presentations; and helping the executive with the development a leadership plan as well as the facilitation of key executive team meetings. The objective is to ensure the success of the executive and, ultimately, the executive’s team and the whole company.
IV. Executive Team Development
Based on the systems theory premise that “the whole is greater than the sum of its parts”, the leveraging of team talents can be more profound than simply the development of each person individually. New executives have to develop a rapid understanding of their teams in order to be fully informed on issues such as delegation, deployment, motivational factors, incentives, accountability, decision making, thinking style, communication and key business issues facing the team. The sooner an executive is able to sift through these critical interpersonal, capability and business issues, the sooner he/she will be able to develop a high-performing team and lead the team to effectively implement key business initiatives. Every team develops “rules of engagement” or “default behaviors” in the midst of both routine day-to-day operations, as well as in the throes of crises and difficult stressful periods. This typically happens as needed or coincidentally. However, when executives are intentional in proactively identifying these interpersonal dynamics with their teams, they can influence the agreements, expectations and rules around these behaviors. By doing this, they are able leverage their teams’ collective strengths more rapidly.
The MBEC consultant works with the executive to identify the kinds of information needed to “kick start” his/her leadership of the team. This culminates in either a structured interview format and/or a survey of the team to get clarity on key business, team and individual issues that need to be managed for optimal performance. Each team member is both interviewed and given “homework” in the form of reading about high-performing teams and addressing how the current team “measures up” or has opportunities for improvement. Key businesses issues are also identified and noted for later discussion. In addition, each team member is given an online assessment to identify his/her communication style. A full team meeting is subsequently held during which each team member shares his or her communication assessment, with the guidance of the MBEC consultant. This gives the entire team a good understanding of how to best communicate, approach each other and start performing better. In addition, the team discusses themes about the business that emerged from the interviews, and what the team has or needs to become high performing. There are breakouts for smaller groups with clear expectations for the meeting.
From this executive retreat, several tangible outcomes result including:
- Clear tools for better team communication, both on an individual and group basis, including a team communication chart
- Clarity of the key business issues on which the team needs to focus to be successful, with ownership and timelines assigned
- Development of High-Performing Team Characteristics and agreements/behaviors owned by the team for future engagement