One of the most important responsibilities of the board is to select and install the CEO. But average CEO tenure in North America is just five years, suggesting that active support for the new CEO from day one is critical to corporate success.
The board must take the lead in providing this support, but a deeply experienced executive advisor can also play an important role along several dimensions, ranging from getting the CEO off to a faster – and more focused – start, to increasing the chances of success, and establishing a culture of trust between the board and the CEO.
In a 2010 study sponsored by William Johnson, then CEO and Chair of H. J. Heinz, twenty-seven CEOs of major North American and global companies
were interviewed to pinpoint the challenges they faced when taking up their new roles… and beyond.
To a person, these leaders maintained that their business experience was sufficient to enable them to succeed at the head of their organizations. What they lacked, however, was adequate support for meeting challenges related to leadership, decision-making and dealing with external demands. These CEOs wanted guidance in:
- Prioritizing business issues to deliver outstanding results
- Aligning the executive team
- Building trust-based relationships with the board and other stakeholders
- Dealing with the isolation that comes from being at the top
We address these challenges and draw a direct link between the advisory engagement and pre-agreed metrics, enabling boards to assess the value of the work.
WHAT WE DO
The cornerstone of our engagement with the CEO and the Board is the development and active pursuit of a formal Leadership Plan that specifies the key areas of the CEO’s focus for the ensuing nine to twelve months,
- To create the Plan, we delve into the business context with the CEO to identify the top three to four business priorities related to achieving business objectives. We serve as amanuenses of the Plan, which lays out “what success will look like,” defines specific objectives and measures of success, and pinpoints required actions.
- We provide the CEO with tools and processes to build an aligned team.
- We help the CEO restructure his or her time, identify trusted sources of support, and plan their interactions with the Board and other key stakeholders.
HOW WE PROVIDE SUPPORT. As business advisors, we bring the perspective and judgment that come from 40 years’ experience working with CEOs and their teams across a broad range of sectors, involving private, public and not-for-profit organizations. We are singularly focused on supporting our clients to achieve their business goals.
TYPICAL AREAS OF FOCUS: BUSINESS, PEOPLE AND BEHAVIORAL ISSUES CARRY EQUAL WEIGHT
Approaches and tools to assess the senior team and to build a high-functioning, aligned organization: CEOs and leaders of business units and functions must not only have clear strategies and priorities, but must also ensure that their direct reports are fully on board with the strategy and are able to execute it.
Other relationships that the leader needs to develop: Developing and sustaining relationships with key members of the Board is critical, but important links with key customers, regulators, suppliers and communities also require reconsideration and cultivation.
CEO-specific skills: Governance, finance, communications capabilities, talent management or investor/media relations may be among the areas in which the CEO will need to invest.
Shifts in leadership style and behaviours: Behaviors that led to success earlier on may need to evolve markedly.
Time management and personal challenges: It is imperative that the leader regularly re-thinks how to spend his or her time and considers how best to balance the personal and family pressures that come with the job.