What Determines CEO Effectiveness?

Here is an interesting question posed over this holiday weekend.

How does a CEO gauge effectiveness in the role of CEO?  Not conducting a 360 review for other’s perception, but how does the CEO track and consider those elements of CEO effectiveness?

Jack Daly describes the three most important pieces of the CEO role.

  1. Set the vision.
  2. Put key people in key roles.
  3. Build the appropriate culture to support the organization.

In some ways, gauging effectiveness may be in the selection of what the CEO should NOT be doing.  Your thoughts?

Why Do You Need a Team?

Phillip’s team looked at each other, across the table, and for the first time saw something different. No more were they simply co-workers, but now interdependent members of a group whose success depended on those connections.

We were talking about changing habits.

“No one succeeds by themselves,” I said. “At least for anything of significance. Sure you can think you are the Lone Ranger and prance around like you are someone important, but to achieve anything of real significance, you need a team. Each of you will, at some point, stumble, make a mistake, misjudge a situation. Each of you will, at some point, become discouraged, or become a Prima Dona, full of yourself.

“And when that happens, you will not recognize it in yourself soon enough. You need each other to tell you those things, to make each of you better. Without each other, you will end up in ditch somewhere and no one will notice.”

Does Delegation Save Time?

Emily was already in the conference room when I arrived.

“So, what’s the purpose for delegation?” I asked.

“That’s easy,” Emily replied. “To save me time. I have a lot of stuff going on.”

“And if you are able to effectively delegate, what does the team member get out of it?”

Emily looked puzzled. “Well, I guess.” She stopped. “I guess, maybe, that they learn something new.”

“Good, learning is good. What else?” I probed.

“Well, new. Something new would be more interesting. Maybe learn a new skill. Maybe a sense of accomplishment, pride?”

“Good. Now tell me, Emily, do any of those things have anything to do with time?”

“Well, no.”

“So, what do they have to do with?”

Emily was tracing the conversation. “Learning, interest, new skill, accomplishment, pride. Sounds like learning and development,” she finally concluded.

“So one purpose for delegation is to save you time. Delegation is your most powerful time management tool, and it is also your most powerful learning and development tool.”

Expectations as Clear as Mud

“Most of the time, your team members will do exactly what is expected of them, if they could just figure out, what that is,” I explained.  ”When you observe underperformance, look for the cause.  It is usually in one of these five areas.”

  • Make the expectation (of output) clear.
  • Ensure the availability of required resources.
  • Validate the required skills and sufficient practice for the task.
  • Match the persons capability with the capability required for the task (measured in time span).
  • Ensure the person places a high value on the work (interest or passion for the work).
  • Ensure the person engages in reasonable behaviors required to complete the task.

“But I told my assistant that I needed the report ASAP,” Carolyn objected.  ”When I went to find out the status, I found out the report had not even been started.”

“Let’s work through the list.  The expectations were clear to you, but were they clear to the team member?  What does ASAP mean?  You needed the report for the meeting on Friday, so ASAP could mean – as soon as possible before Friday.

“When I look at expectations, clarity of expectations, I think QQTR.  Quantity-Quality-Time-Resources.  If I miss any of these elements, then the expectation is not clear.”

  • What is the quantity of the output?
  • What is the quality standard (so I know what to count and what not to count)?
  • What is the time deadline, specifically, date and time?
  • What resources are available, or not available?

QQTR

How to Hold Someone Accountable

From the Ask Tom mailbag -

Question:
I very much enjoy your blog and always find improvement opportunities within your messages.  As you point out rather frequently, holding the right people accoutable is crucial.  In that regard, I would like to ask, what different ways have you found effective in “holding people accountable” beyond expressing your dissatisfaction with their performance, formal performance improvement requirments (PIP)  or replacing them?  I would like to know what tools/techniques you recommend and believe most effective.

Response:
Here is my short list -

  • Raising my voice.
  • Repeated criticism.
  • Frequent complaining.
  • Public flogging.

The person who believes these methods effective is someone who has no children.  None of these work.  I spent several hours with one of my executive groups on this very issue and at the end of the day, here was our conclusion.  The only person who can truly hold me accountable is me.  All other forms of harassment are largely ineffective.  Self-accountability is the only path.

Yet, we still say that we have to hold someone accountable.  My definition of a manager is that person held accountable for the output of their team.  So I say it, too.

So, here’s a better list of conditions required for self-accountability.

  • Make the expectation (of output) clear.
  • Ensure the availability of required resources.
  • Validate the required skills and sufficient practice for the task.
  • Match the persons capability with the capability required for the task (measured in time span).
  • Ensure the person places a high value on the work (interest or passion for the work).
  • Ensure the person engages in reasonable behaviors required to complete the task.

If we still observe underperformance or misbehavior, we have to make a judgment as to the cause.  Then we have to make a judgment if this cause can be corrected.

Tenth Year for Management Blog, Thanks

As we cross into our tenth year publishing Management Skills Blog, I would like to thank all my avid readers.  This year, we also launched the Hiring Talent Blog, to focus on posts specifically related to hiring.  Enjoy the holidays.  I am going to take a brief hiatus until January 2, 2014.

I first published this holiday message in 2005, based on a short afternoon meeting on Christmas eve.

As Matthew looked across the manufacturing floor, the machines stood silent, the shipping dock was clear. Outside, the service vans were neatly parked in a row. Though he was the solitary figure, Matthew shouted across the empty space.

“Merry Christmas to all, and to all, a good night.”

He reached for the switch and the mercury vapors went dark. He slid out the door and locked it behind.

The Role of the Manager’s Manager

From the Ask Tom mailbag -

Question - 
I have appointed a new manager to my team, so I am his manager.  I thought he would pick things up quicker, but he seems to be floundering.  I think he will make over time, but I wanted to know if I should send him to training, get him a book on management?

Response -
If you think this new manager will make it, over time, just needs a sprinkling of managerial pixie dust, then you will hate this response.  The most potent step you can take is for you, as his manager, to get directly involved.

Certainly, you could offload him into a leadership program, there are many good ones around.  You could purchase a management book for him to read, but both will pale in comparison to the direct influence you can have, as his manager.

Every employee is entitled to have an effective manager with the capability to bring value to their problem solving and decision making.  Your job, as his manager, is to bring that value.  Easy to say, hard to do.

And just to make sure I have your attention.  It is you as his manager, that I hold accountable for his output in the role.  You selected him, you on-boarded him, you control the environment he works in.  You are in control of his training.  You are in the position of coach.  You are the manager accountable for his output.

Tribal Leadership?

From the Ask Tom mailbag -

Question:
I just picked up a book on tribal leadership that suggests hierarchy is an old fashioned, out dated approach to organizational structure.  Your workshop suggests that hierarchy is the only approach to organizational structure?

Response:
I hear these things from time to time, about how hierarchy should be abandoned and replaced with throwbacks to earlier organizational models and, as you can imagine, I am not overly impressed.  First, understand that there are many purposes for groups to organize.  Groups may come together to worship, promote political causes, live as families and communities.  Each may engage in different organizational structures, collegial, political, religious, family.  When I promote hierarchy as a structure, I am referring only to those groups of people organized to get work done.

And some work does not require a complicated structure.  But, gather any group of people together and give them a task to do, they will self-organize into a structure to get the work done.  First, a leader will emerge.  That person does not have to be assigned that role, they will simply emerge from the group.  If the group task requires several separate, simultaneous actions, people will gravitate to roles and cooperate, under the guidance of the leader to complete the task assignment.  If the task is of sufficient difficulty, requiring problems to be solved and decisions to be made, that organized group will take on the shape of a hierarchy.

I know there are organizations, designed to accomplish work, that self-proclaim a flat, tribal, non-hierarchical structure.  Baloney.  If the work is of sufficient complexity, and you examine the related tasks and people playing roles to complete those tasks, you will find hierarchy.

No tribe ever sent a man to the moon.

How Does Hierarchy Promote Cooperation?

From the Ask Tom mailbag -

Question:
I recently attended one of your Time Span workshops and want to know how hierarchy promotes cooperation?

Response:
The short answer is accountability.  Inherent in the structure of hierarchy is accountability.  Unfortunately, most managers misunderstand the purpose for hierarchy and where accountability is appropriately placed.

Most managers believe that hierarchy is a reporting structure.  Even our language misguides us.  ”Who is the new guy going to report to?”  This is not the central question.

The definition of a manager is, that person held accountable for the output of other people.  The question is not “who should the new guy report to?”  The central question is, which manager can be held accountable for the new guy’s output?”

When managers begin to understand accountability, the whole game changes.  Hierarchy provides us with a visual representation, of which manager is accountable for the output of the team.

When managers begin to understand that they are accountable for the output of their team, attitudes change and behavior changes.  Behaviors change from controlling and directing to supporting and coaching.  Every employee is entitled to have a competent manager with the time span capability to bring value to their problem solving and decision making.

The purpose of hierarchy is to create that value stream, where managers, one stratum above (in capability) bring value to the problem solving and decision making of their team members.  For ultimately, it is the manager who is accountable for their output.

How Does a Non-Engineer Manager Bring Value to An Engineer Solving a Problem

From the Ask Tom mailbag -

Question - 
You said yesterday, that a non-engineer can be a manager to an engineer.  How could that work?  I remember you said that one purpose for a manager, is to bring value to the problem solving and decision making of the team member.  How can a non-engineer manager bring value to the decision making and problem solving of an engineer?

Response-
I will assume that an engineer can make decisions and solve problems that are clearly within their defined level of work, or they wouldn’t be in the role in the first place.  Further, I assume the engineer may need managerial support for tough problems and tough decisions.

Your question is, how can a non-engineer manager bring value to an engineer attempting to solve a tough engineering problem?

The most effective managers are those that ask the most effective questions.

  • Describe the problem, what do you observe?
  • What are the possible causes of the problem?
  • Have we solved this problem before?
  • What are the alternative solutions?
  • Of those alternative solutions, which will most likely address the underlying cause of the problem?
  • How will you test the solution to determine if that will solve the problem?
  • If you test the solution and it doesn’t work, will it cause more damage?
  • How will you mitigate the damage so the problem doesn’t get worse?

A manager does not have to be an engineer to ask these questions.  Would these questions have been of value in the roll-out of a complicated website?