The Paradox of CEO Leadership: Decoding CEO Success

In the ever-evolving landscape of corporate leadership, the role of a Chief Executive Officer (CEO) remains pivotal and perplexing. Through my journey as a CEO Coach, I have encountered a spectrum of leaders who, despite their diverse approaches, have steered their companies with varying degrees of success. This article delves into the intricate maze of CEO leadership, debunking the one-size-fits-all myth and offering actionable insights for C-suite leaders.

The CEO’s Diverse Faces

The role of a CEO is not monolithic. I have witnessed CEOs who create a thriving company culture and others who lead successful organizations despite creating a toxic work environment. Consider the case of Company X, where the CEO’s narcissistic tendencies and singular focus on profit yielded significant financial success, albeit with a high employee turnover rate. Contrast this with Company Y, led by a visionary CEO, whose lack of operational finesse was balanced by a strong executive team, leading to sustained growth.

The Misconception of a One-Size-Fits-All CEO

Success as a CEO does not always follow a conventional script. Some leaders check all the traditional boxes of effective leadership – charismatic, empathetic, strategic – yet their companies struggle. This was evident in the case of Company Z, where the CEO’s exemplary leadership traits failed to translate into market success due to external factors like market volatility and competitive dynamics.

Team Dynamics and Leadership

A CEO’s approach towards team building and management can significantly influence a company’s trajectory. Some CEOs are disciplined in crafting exceptional teams and promptly addressing non-performance. Others adopt a more laissez-faire approach, leading to varied outcomes. The success story of Company A, where deliberate team optimization led to breakthrough performance, stands as a testament to the power of effective team management.

Actionable Takeaways

(1) Embrace Flexibility: Adapt your leadership style to your company’s unique context and challenges.

(2) Build Strong Teams: Invest in building a diverse and capable executive team.

(3) Focus on Sustainability: Ensure that success is not just a flash in the pan but sustainable over the long term.

As we navigate the complex realm of corporate leadership, it is essential to learn and adapt continuously. I invite you to reach out for a personalized coaching session to explore how you can enhance your leadership journey.

 

About the Author: Howard M. Shore is the founder and CEO of Activate Group Inc., a growth-focused coaching firm for business leaders. With decades of experience, as a CEO Coach and the author of The Leader Launchpad and Your Business is a Leaky Bucket, Howard is dedicated to empowering leaders to unlock their potential and propel their organizations to new heights.

Unlocking Team Success: The Imperative of a Leader’s Commitment to Meetings

In my years working with leaders, a recurring theme has emerged: meetings are seen as both a blessing and a curse. When done well, meetings can drive results. When done poorly, they can bring entire organizations to a halt. The key differentiator between these two outcomes? The leader’s approach.

The Heart of Leadership: Commitment to Their People

The number one job of a leader is to make time and be present for their people. Even though it is evident, leadership must be committed to participating and engaging in the established meeting rhythms for organization and team effectiveness. Commitment differs from a decision. We can decide to have meetings but not be committed. Commitment is the higher standard of dedication to meetings because it will improve communication, teamwork, and decision-making.

Meetings are not about you; they are about the organization and the team. Frequently missed meetings send a message that you care most about yourself and are not committed to being a vital team member.

The Power of Precedent – The Secret Sauce of Effective Teams

Let me share a story: Rachel, a senior executive, prided herself on her team’s agility. However, she frequently shifted meeting times, causing havoc in her team’s schedules. Over time, this inconsistency led to missed targets and a frustrated team.

Consistency of active participation from individual team members is critical. When consistency drops, so does priority focus, agility, and timeliness of decisions. Missing meetings unconsciously causes silos and reduces the effectiveness of the organization.

Top leadership has a higher burden to set the right example. Their actions set precedents and can often be the deciding influence between adoption, engagement, and success; or resistance, withdrawal, and disappointing results – the rest of the team takes their direction from them. Leadership must always be mindful to avoid the Do as I Say, Not as I DO trap.

When leaders aren’t consistent in their approach to meetings, focus wanes, agility diminishes, and the timeliness of decisions suffers. As silos build, the organization loses momentum.

Reframing the Meeting Narrative

Yes, there might be too many meetings. But the real issue? Too many bad meetings. Instead of eliminating meetings, focus on improving them. Engage the right stakeholders. Set clear agendas. And ensure each meeting serves its purpose.

Actionable Steps for Leaders:

(1) Evaluate Your Commitment: Reflect on your meeting attendance and engagement. Are you truly committed?

(2) Prioritize Consistency: Stick to scheduled meetings. Reschedule only when absolutely necessary.

(3) Set the Tone: Remember, your team is watching. Model the behavior you want to see.

(4) Seek Feedback: Regularly ask for input on meeting effectiveness and be open to making changes.

Conclusion: Your Call to Action to Unlock Team Success

Your team’s success rests heavily on your shoulders. But remember, you don’t carry that burden alone. Your team can and will thrive with a committed and consistent approach to meetings. It’s time to recommit, be present, and unlock your team’s true potential.

Activate your leadership potential and make every meeting count. The success of your organization depends on it.

 

About the Author:  Howard M. Shore, CEO of Activate Group, Inc., is an acclaimed leadership coach and author of “The Leader Launchpad.” With decades of experience in guiding leaders and organizations to success, Howard specializes in unlocking the full potential of businesses by driving actionable strategies and fostering effective leadership practices.

Turbocharging Your Meetings: A Strategic Guide to Effective Preparation

Over the last 40 years, I’ve had the pleasure and sometimes the challenge of conducting and participating in thousands of meetings. I’ve seen firsthand that the difference between a productive meeting and an unproductive one often boils down to a simple factor: understanding the crucial distinction between being prepared and being informed.

When most people walk into a meeting, they have reviewed the provided materials and have a broad understanding of the topic at hand. However, this level of preparedness equates to merely being informed, and it doesn’t foster the strategic insights and critical thinking necessary for fruitful discussions and decision-making.

In a boardroom meeting with one of our prestigious clients, I recall a well-informed participant presenting an extensive report on potential business expansion strategies. The room was filled with nods of acknowledgment but also a tangible sense of confusion. The meeting concluded without a clear decision, and the team members felt disoriented rather than motivated.

In contrast, being prepared involves not just knowing the information but understanding the underlying decisions that need to be made, the necessary information for those decisions, and pre-thinking the questions that need to be answered. It involves challenging the real problem to be solved and reviewing the information to discuss interpretations, questions, and concerns, not just facts.

Imagine a meeting where all attendees have dissected the topics, pre-thought the questions, identified potential decisions, and critically analyzed the available information. The discussion would be far more productive, and decisions would have input and buy-in from all involved.

So, how do we ensure that meetings are not just gatherings of informed individuals but powerhouses of prepared minds? Here are some actionable steps:

Define the Purpose

Before every meeting, clearly define what decision(s) we want to make. Share this objective with attendees.

Identify Required Information

Once the purpose is established, identify and communicate the information required to make those decisions.

Encourage Critical Review

All attendees should review the information in advance, focusing on interpretation, questions, and concerns. Promote critical thinking over merely digesting the information.

Pre-think Questions

Invite participants to pre-think the questions that need to be answered during the meeting.

Challenge the Problem

Lastly, pre-challenge the real problem to be solved. Is it the most pressing issue? Is there an underlying problem that’s being overlooked?

In a similar boardroom scenario as above, but this time with the attendees well-prepared, the result was drastically different. The meeting led to a strategic decision on business expansion, with all participants clear on the reasons behind the decision and their roles in executing it.

It’s essential to remember that everyone’s approach to preparation will differ based on their behavioral style. Some people need more time to absorb information, consider alternatives, and research their thoughts before they are comfortable and willing to share their ideas. Others excel at thinking aloud and can be more fluid in discussions. Respecting and accommodating these differences will foster a more inclusive and productive meeting environment.

By implementing these steps, your meetings will become catalysts for action rather than mere information exchanges. And remember, the most valuable insights often surface in the meeting itself when people have come prepared.

Let’s eliminate post-meeting “aha” moments that lead to decision reversals. Let’s redefine our approach to meeting preparation and unlock the full potential of our collective intelligence.

Ready to supercharge your meetings and boost your team’s productivity? Dive into more insights and strategies in my book, “The Leader Launchpad.”

 

About the Author: Howard M. Shore is the CEO of Activate Group, Inc., a growth expert, renowned speaker, and bestselling author of “The Leader Launchpad.” Known for his practical advice and real-world experience, Shore has dedicated his career to helping organizations develop their leadership capabilities and cultivate high-performing teams.*

Building A Winning Team – Making Decisions Stick

Many leaders complain that they hate to go to meetings because they are non-productive. It is common to find that decisions taken at meetings do not stick.
Instead, group decisions at meetings become the subjects of post-meeting lobbying. Some team members call separate meetings to try to filibuster the decision. Others take a passive-aggressive approach, deciding to hope the decision goes away. In most organizations the latter approach works best because accountability is limited – by not doing your part, you might get a slap on the wrist in the worst-case scenario. In the end, the company loses precious time and money.

The above issues are found in varying degrees in every organization. Pat Lencioni has really captured this well in his book, “Five Dysfunctions of A Team”. This leadership fable identifies team behavioral factors that will reduce the results in your company. I think the book is a must-read for any organization that depends on teamwork to make money.
Company teams come in various forms. It starts with an executive team to run the company. Then it takes teamwork to: create loyal customers; deliver your product or service; manufacture your products; ship your products; execute a special project; and so on. The more employees and customers you have, the more complicated this gets because you need more teams, and each employee may have to play on more than one team.

I will give you a snapshot of the key issues I took away from the book, and then I want to encourage you to read the book for yourself. I believe that by addressing the five dysfunctions Pat Lencioni identifies, you will find that the decisions you make in your company will stick. The dysfunctions work in a pyramid, just like Maslow’s hierarchy of needs. If you have not addressed lower level need with an individual, it is futile to address the next level need. Pat’s five dysfunctions are as follows:

  1. Absence of Trust
  2. Fear of Conflict
  3. Lack of Commitment
  4. Avoidance of Accountability
  5. Inattention to Results

Absence of trust, the first dysfunction, is the hardest to overcome. It starts with the premise that one must have confidence among team members, believe that one’s peers’ intentions are good, and that there is no reason to be careful around group members. In most teams, too much time and energy, and too many good ideas are wasted trying to protect one’s reputation by managing behaviors, comments, and interactions because of a lack of trust that was created in previous interactions. People are reluctant to ask for help and to offer assistance to others, causing lower morale and unwanted turnover. To address this dysfunction, a leader must demonstrate vulnerability first, and make sure this is genuine. Leaders must encourage open dialogue in meetings, look for situations where people engage in behavior that demonstrates lack of trust, and bring it out in the open. They need to have everyone openly discuss the strength each team member brings to the team. They also need to describe the behaviors that lead them to be distrustful and get them to address those behaviors. No one, including the CEO, is immune from this exercise. One bad apple will spoil the batch.

Fear of conflict is the second dysfunction. Addressing the first dysfunction makes it much easier to address the second. If the first exercise succeeded, team members are mentally prepared to engage in passionate discussion without the fear of being perceived as vulnerable or the fear of reprisal. It means that one can speak up and not worry that someone is going to judge them, question their worth to the team if a particular comment is not one of their best, or interrupt them until they finish their thought. They know that while their idea may not be accepted, at least it will be heard. What is important here is to focus on discussion and resolving issues more quickly while avoiding personality-focused and mean-spirited attacks.

Many people have been trained to launch personal attacks when they are not getting their way. The leader has to make sure that this behavior is not tolerated, and that topics focus on the issues that need to be resolved. If everyone is not weighing in and openly debating and disagreeing on important ideas at your meetings, look for passive-aggressive behavior behind the scenes or back-channel attacks. What organizations find is that healthy conflict saves them a lot of time and leads to much better decisions. The role of the leader is to practice restraint and to allow for conflict and resolution to occur naturally.

The third dysfunction, commitment, is often missing in many organizations. As you can now see, it likely resulted from a lack of healthy debate in meetings, which led to false consensus and weak buy-in to the decisions. By having productive conflict and tapping into everyone’s perspectives and opinions, everyone can confidently buy in and commit. Even those who voted against the matter at least know their issues have been heard and considered. Now commitment is required.

Great teams know the danger of seeking consensus and certainty and find ways to achieve buy-in from the rest of the team. The leader’s role is to demonstrate decisiveness and to communicate awareness and acceptance of the fact that some decisions may turn out wrong. He or she must push decisions around issues, as well as adherence to schedules that the team has set. The leader must cascade messaging to key people in the organization to support follow-through on decisions so that everyone is clearly aligned.

The fourth dysfunction, accountability is also a team effort. Team members need to hold each other accountable in daily, weekly and monthly meetings when their behaviors and actions do not support the goals set by the team. Peer pressure is the most effective and efficient means of producing performance. A team should create clear standards, using leading indicators to enable each team member to know that they are doing their part. The more detailed the actions plans and the more specific the leading and lagging performance measures are, the easier it will be to hold people accountable. This is where many teams fall down. It is the leader’s role to demand these details and to allow the team to serve as the primary accountability mechanism. However, when the team does not serve this function well, there should be an external measure so that they team cannot run too far off course and eventually fail to achieve its goal(s).

The last dysfunction, inattention to results, seems obvious but is very hard to manage. This is where ego and self-preservation get in the way of company goals. If teammates are not being held accountable for their contributions to the collective results, they will likely look to their own personal or departmental interests and advancement. By having good measures in place to align an individual’s incentives with that of their team goals rather than their personal performance, an organization can produce better results. The role of the leader is to set the tone to focus on results. A problem will arise if team members sense that the leader values anything other than team results or demonstrates anything different in their own behaviors than what is expected of the team. It is important that a leader’s conversations with individuals are consistent with focusing on organizational results and not encouraging selfish behaviors.

Many organizations will find that they can significantly increase their results by improving the performance of their teams. Pat Lencioni has done a wonderful job of identifying these five areas that clearly compromise the efforts of most teams.

Howard Shore is a business growth expert that works with companies that want to maximize their growth potential by improving strategy, enhancing their knowledge, and improving motivation. To contact Howard Shore please call 305.722.7213 or visit our business coaching page for more information.
Used the “Synopsis of The Five Dysfunctions of a Team” by Randy Mayeax, of Creative Communication Network for www.15MinuteBusinessBooks.com as additional reference material.

Meeting Length vs Effectiveness: Effective Meetings Require Time

Meeting Length vs Effectiveness

Meeting length vs Effectiveness has a huge impact on how you should engage within your organization. Do you find that your organization faces the same problems and challenges year after year, with no resolution? Do you discuss the same issues concerns, people, and customers month after month? Do you find that right when you are getting to the heart of the matter in the middle of an important debate or topic, your meeting is over and you have to postpone for a later date? Do you create goals and plans that do not come to fruition?

These are typical results when you do not spend enough time meeting with your leadership team.

Cons of Not Setting Aside Time for Effective Meetings

Have you considered the amount of time, productivity, and growth you have lost by not setting aside enough time to properly make decisions, to debate and resolve issues, to align priorities and to hold leaders accountable? By avoiding meetings, critical decisions do not get made or are made poorly.

Failure to debate priorities and work through issues can bring organizations to a standstill while leaders wait until the next meeting or for a final decision, allowing your competition the opportunity to thrust forward. While it is counterintuitive to most leaders, spending more time in meetings could actually double or triple company productivity.

Optimal Meeting Lengths

The key to an effective meeting is a commitment to setting aside enough time. Assuming you know how to run an effective meeting (and experience says you probably need help), the executive team should be allocating the following time blocks to work on the business, to debate issues focused on strategy, accountability, setting priorities, new opportunities, evaluating your people, challenging the business model, etc.:

Daily Meeting Length:

10-Minutes a Day for a Huddle with Your Direct Team

Weekly Meeting Length 

1 Hour per Week

Monthly Meeting Length 

1 Full Day

Quarterly Meeting Length 

2 Full Days (1 Day is Strategic)

Failure to have these meetings and to focus on the right topics robs you of significant growth and profits. Contact Activate Group Inc. for a FREE consultation or give us a call at 305-722-7213 to see how a business coach can help you run a more effective organization.

Learn more about effective meetings:

  • Effective Meetings Start On-Time
  • Effective Meetings Focus on Decisions
  • Effective Meetings Require a Purpose
  • Effective Meetings Have Conflict