Your job as a CEO

feb18“Talent is the No. 1 priority for a CEO. You think it’s about vision and strategy, but you have to get the right people first.”  Andrea Jung, CEO Grameen America and former Chairman and CEO of Avon Products Inc.

Recently I was asked to make a short presentation to some SME CEOs on how to ensure they had the “right people” in their business. This is how I opened; “Your job as a CEO, as a leader, is to create the conditions which allow your people, and your business, to flourish.” 

Then I asked’ “How was it for you when you had the ‘right person’?”  and “How was it for you when you had the ‘wrong person’ – whatever that means to you?” A very insightful discussion followed …..

“Imagine you are creating a beautiful, flourishing garden”, I said, “there are three things to consider. You need to PLANT for success, NURTURE for success and remember to do the WEEDING”. PLANTING for success means hiring for Attitude, Diversity/Difference and Skills. NURTURING for success means recognising that all business is an experiment, and whilst we can’t know outcomes in advance, we can set out to create the right conditions for flourishing. This kind of nurturing means being purposeful about your culture, understanding what motivates your people and acting on that, and providing enough of a framework for people to work within, without being overly controlling. Remembering to do the WEEDING means recognising that underperformance and misplaced loyalty become expensive if not addressed, so action is essential. Remember that weeds kill plants if left alone.

I handed out some bags of gold foil-wrapped chocolate coins. “What would you like your business to be worth in five years?” I asked. “That figure is the equivalent of your bag of chocolate coins. Now remove coins from the bag representing the people, or teams, making that less likely.” For some, they were the only ones holding themselves back, and they removed one coin. For others, there was a group holding them back and more coins were extracted. Either way, this game seemed to concentrate the mind.

After allowing some personal reflection time and giving a quick summary, I asked “How are you enabling or constraining your people right now?”

That might be a question for you too.