Leadership Lessons from a CEO
"Three things...just 3...and I want everyone focused on them"
The message was relayed in seven different languages via interpreters to the 350 managers assembled at the conference. The last 12 months had been one of the most challenging in the company's recent history and the newly appointed CEO was taking charge.
"Pipeline, Partners and People", he continued. "It doesn't matter if you're in Sales, HR, Accounts or Service...let’s find a way to improve on these three things"
LEADERSHIP LESSON 1:
There are times when you have to TAKE CHARGE. When you do, be direct, clear and concise, leave no room for doubt.
The CEO had their attention. Some nodded in agreement or understanding, others moved uneasily in their seats. There was only silence in the room.
"Your time at this conference is dedicated to finding ways to fix those three things. We are going to challenge everything we have done before and we are going to walk out of here ready to act. But...we are not working on anything else but Pipeline, Partners and People"
In the two days that followed the focus did not change. The CEO moved from group to group, manager to manager. He challenged and debated but mostly he encouraged everyone. His senior management team were driven to do the same.
LEADERSHIP LESSON 2:
If you want to get something done ENGAGE YOUR TEAM at the outset. Include them in debate and discussion on the "how" - this will create ownership and buy-in.
As the conference entered the final afternoon each manager was asked to focus just on the next quarter. Taking into account all the work they had done over the previous day and a half, they had to break that down into specific short-term outcomes.
The CEO continued, "Where will you be in 90-Days-time? How much progress can we make?
What does success look like? What action and associated behaviour is required?" "When we walk out the door today we must all start to execute against our three focus points - Pipeline, Partners and People"
LEADERSHIP LESSON 3:
Execution is ACTION & BEHAVIOUR. Break strategic initiatives down to action and behaviour and focus your efforts over short blocks of time, 90-Days not 12-months.
As the conference drew to a close the CEO was on stage again but now the atmosphere in the room was very different. People were more animated, some joked, it was relaxed but energised.
"I will be coming to visit each of you in your country and your marketplace. When I do, I will only be asking this: How are you making improvements on Pipeline, Partners and People? When I meet with your managers I will be asking them the same question and when I talk with their frontline staff, I will be asking ONLY about those three things."
LEADERSHIP LESSON 4:
FOLLOW THROUGH. Change is not made at a conference ...it is made in the days, weeks and months that follow. To drive change, you need to be extremely disciplined about following through on commitments.
The CEO concluded with two assurances.
"You have my total support. If you need resources and can make a sound argument for them, I will get them for you. But we must not deviate, Pipeline, Partners and People"
Not surprisingly the company experienced a massive turnaround over the next 12 months.