In today’s world of disruption, a single executive can’t do it all themselves. Achievement now favors the leader of teams. Most successful c-suite leaders today are those that take steps necessary to create high performance leaders at every level of the company – not just in the c-suite. Therefore, it is worth taking a moment to re-examine what the most relevant c-suite leadership skills are for today’s senior business leader.
In everything they do and say, the CEO and other c-suite team members will have to model the desired organizational transformation.
So, if you’re really looking to transform your company, it starts at the top. Putting the framework and processes in place for transformation begins there.
It Begins With An Open CEO
The process of leveling up an entire c-suite into a high performance team, capable of modelling the desired organizational change toward high performance, begins with an open CEO. Someone who is open to the idea that they have something to learn.
If a CEO is truly in that small group of people (the 10% of CEOS who believe they have something to learn), then they are willing to see there’s something they can do differently. They are open to new ideas.
The first step toward transforming the senior leadership group into a high performance team is creating open communication inside the c-suite. This doesn’t happen organically. You need to create a safe environment for this to happen – a place where people are encouraged to participate.
Years back when I was a CFO, I remember a recurring situation where I wouldn’t be hearing about my CEO’s decisions directly from him – but rather learning of them haphazardly, second or third hand…
If any of the c-suite executives are out of the communication loop, then the c-suite is not aligned.
CEOs Have Blind Spots Too
It is all very well for a CEO to say they value open communication… The litmus test lies in how many people are actually willing to offer feedback to the CEO.
If people are afraid to give feedback to the CEO, then open communication cannot be achieved in the c-suite. If it cannot be modeled here, it cannot spread to the rest of the organization.
The CEO is responsible for creating an environment of openness and trust… AND the CEO also, with blind spots and things to learn, can therefore benefit from the very process he or she is putting in place for the c-suite team.
Creating Alignment in the C-Suite
After c-suite leaders have begun the process of developing an open and trusting dialogue among each other, they increasingly become able to discuss real issues affecting the business.
Having achieved a level of trust and openness with each other, the next benchmark is to create c-suite alignment. When the c-suite is in sync, their team communication is consistent. The more the c-suite is aligned, the simpler it is to keep everyone else aligned.
When c-suite leaders, led by their CEO, have achieved an environment of openness and trust, and created alignment among themselves, a very robust foundation exists for further development. From here, there are four important leadership skills to cultivate in the c-suite:
#1 – Self Awareness
The development of self-awareness in the individual leader is incredibly important to the larger organization. Our peers help us grow in self-awareness by participating with us in feedback exchanges. The value of increased self-awareness to the development of the team can be expressed as this sequence:
Better awareness leads to better choices, which leads to better results.
#2 – Trust
Trust forms the glue of authentic relationships between people. Trust facilitates improved communication, a more positive experience of the workplace, and even increases our sense of connection in life.
The things that hinder trust are also the things that hinder open communication and development of genuine relationships. Things such as: the fear of failure, the fear of looking bad, or survival-based competitive beliefs like “I can do it better than someone else.”
#3 – Hiring well
Developing the best possible high performance c-suite team means bringing the right people in. It is quite common for senior leaders, from a place of insecurity or the desire for likemindedness, to not hire the best possible candidates.
The problem with this is that if you don’t hire the best people with varied perspectives, you will limit your ability to develop a high performance c-suite team, as well as a high performance organization.
Instead, consider hiring people whose approach and achievements are different from yours, and impressive. Bring people on who are a fit for the desired new collaborative culture, and who will push you to higher levels of achievement.
#4 – Training & Developing The Bench
Having achieved an aligned c-suite leadership team, the next step is developing the middle tier of leadership into a collaborative team of high performance leaders. Since these are the people responsible for translating c-suite directives into daily work activities, training and developing the middle tier will influence the entire organization toward high performance.