How to Get the C-suite on Board?

Now is the time to invest in leadership development

Cost control efforts, including layoffs, are increasing across multiple industries. Leadership development initiatives can be an easy target. However, this is often the best time to invest in your organization’s leaders, when even more is going to be asked of them. So, how do you get the c-suite on board?

Some of your CEO’s top areas of focus for 2024 are likely to be: attracting and retaining top talent, continue with digital transformation and drive growth – and, you guessed  – reduce costs at the same time (source:  Conference Board 2024 CEO Outlook Report). And, they need leaders who can support these priorities. 

This opens the door for you to guide the c-suite on how to invest limited resources in leadership development that will be most impactful. How do you get the  C-suite’s crucial support for leadership development?

Frame it up: 2 Questions to ask yourself

Start by framing your conversation to address their biggest concern – positively impacting business results.

What is the business case for your organization?  Thinking like a CEO is critical to winning their support.

  • What are executives most concerned about in 2024?In a nutshell, it’s Growth, Technology, and Talent. If you want to dig deeper, take a look at the 2024 CEO Outlook survey from the Conference Board, and the most recent Fortune/Deloitte CEO Survey Insights

  •  Find out not only what is most critical to your c-suite, but how they are talking about it. Be conversant in your company’s mission, business strategy, KPI’s / OKR’s and financial performance. Have direct discussions with senior leaders about what’s critical to them. Be prepared to provide relevant data (employee engagement, client satisfaction, attrition and talent acquisition, absenteeism, etc.). Business strategy documents, annual reports, and formal communications to leaders and employees are also good sources to prepare for discussions.
  • Create a direct link between your organization’s pain pointsand how the leadership development will help ease it. See more below.

What is the ROI / Impact?  If you have been able to demonstrate a strong ROI of past leadership development initiatives at your organization, that’s gold. If you don’t have that data, you can point to studies from reputable organizations that show a link between leadership development and business performance. Use this kind of data sparingly and targeted to your C-suite’s biggest concerns. This graphic from joshbersin.com provides compelling high-level support:

A diagram of a company Description automatically generated

Or some of these statistics could pique their interest:

Talking with the C-suite

In addition to data and framing it up, positioning your business case is critical. Here are some ways to talk with your c-suite about leadership development.

Alignment:“We need to improve our leaders’ ability to align with the organization on business strategy, goals, and culture.”

  • Alignment needs to be regularly reinforced at all levels of the organization, from the most senior leaders to the most junior employees. For example, innovation is one of our core business imperatives. Leaders at all levels need to create environments on their teams where people will share new ideas and step out of old ways of thinking, Strong leadership development can show them how to do this and apply it in their real work.
  • Better aligned leaders make better decisions. They are also faster at adopting new technology.Our business’s innovative strength will be a direct byproduct of helping our leaders and their teams to better align with our business strategy and goals.
  • Leadership development is best when customizedso that critical skills are taught and practiced in ways that reflect our strategy and values. And I will ensure any development program does that.

Engagement:“We know from our engagement surveys, leaders and managers want the organization to invest in them” (if you don’t have engagement surveys, use some of the statistics discussed above). Opportunity for development is one of the top motivating factors listed in virtually all studies and surveys on engagement.

  • The bottom line for better engaged managers and employees is better performance. Teams that are engaged work more productively; they’re more likely to got the extra mile to achieve organizational goals, and they collaborate across teams more willingly.
  • In our continually changing business environment, leaders are desperately looking to boost their ability to stay on top of their people challenges.
  • Developing our leaders has a trickle-down effect on the teams and employees. They will be better led and therefore more engaged themselves. That results in better retention, lower hiring costs, and increased productivity.
  • Showing our leaders how to build empathy and trustwith their team members builds connection and embeds engagement more deeply in the organization.

Performance:  “When our leaders have their teams better aligned and better engaged, they will perform better.”

  • Our leadership development will emphasize effective communication and collaboration, which leads to better working relationships and less operational friction. That means fewer misunderstandings, mistakes, and wasted time and resources.
  • We also need to improve team and individual accountability. That includes mutual accountability amongst team members and their leaders. When leaders share more accountably with their teams, it drives engagement and performance.
Growth:  “When our leaders are better aligned with our strategy, and have more engaged and productive teams… they will be better able to help grow the business. Their professional growth helps drives team and organizational growth.”
  • Leadership development hones skills like adaptability and continual learning. That helps create an organization that is agile in the face of constant change.
  • Over time it builds muscle-memory for how to shift gears quickly and effectively from one business imperative to a more urgent or critical one.
  • Well-developed leaders are also better at identifying organizational growth opportunities and mitigating risks that threaten that growth.

Of course, you will find language and examples to make this framework more specific to your organization. That will make it resonate more with your senior leaders.

The value of effective leadership development is that it supports and accelerates the business strategy. It helps create a culture of adaptability and innovation. All of which helps your organization stay competitive in relentlessly changing markets.

All of which makes leadership development a wise investment, and not merely a cost.

Contact us for more information on how we can help you build leaders who enhance connection, performance and growth in your business.

4 Must-Do Items on Every Leader’s January Checklist

We’re starting another year. Like any other, it will be filled with opportunities and challenges, achievements and disappointments, zigs and zags. During these first couple weeks of the year, position yourself and your team for success in the months to come. Here are 4 actions that will help you start the year personally centered, organizationally aligned, and ready to go.
How can you and your team get off on the right foot in 2023?
Reconnect to your North Star.  What is your big “why?” Why do you do the work you do? How is it helping you live your values? How does your work advance your personal and career goals? Your business goals? What needs to change to move you further along this year?
  • There are hundreds of tools online to help you do this.  Here’s one.

 

  • If you’re already sure of your North Star, here’s a quick tool for moving you forward: with your north star in mind, create a “Start-Stop-Continue/ Improve” list. Focus on specific behaviors like “start spending 5 minutes preparing for every meeting/discussion by writing down how it aligns with my purpose and my goals and the top three things I want to accomplish.” Or “stop complaining in front of my team and focus on solutions.”

 

  • No matter what you do, write your thoughts down and put an alert in your calendar to check in with them on at least a quarterly basis. As this year ramps up we will be distracted by fire drills, urgent requests, and changes in plans. Aligning to your North Star will allow you to focus more fully on adding value and saying no to non-value-add activities.
Clarify goals.  For many of you, December and January are about setting annual goals for yourself and your team. Make sure you and your team are clearly aligned. Engage your team members in individual conversations about how frequently they want to check in on goal progression and the best way you can support them. Also, decide how you will reprioritize when inevitable change comes along. Even if you did this as recently as December, a quick check-in is important. People lose focus over the holidays, things change quickly and clarifying expectations at the beginning of the year leads to better alignment and happier team members.
Assess your personal routines.  Research shows that having routines can allow us to be more creative.  By creating routines around repetitive leadership tasks, we are able to direct our free cognitive resources to learning and creativity.  What are your current routines? What else could you routinize? For example, set up ‘do not disturb’ on your messaging while you’re doing concentrated work.  That way, responding to messages becomes routinized, and you’re able to respond at a time when you can focus more fully on the messages. Another way to improve your leadership is to consider your daily habits… what do you do almost without thinking or planning? What should you start/stop/continue?  Here’s a great list shared by 21 executives.
Do a mental health check.  How are you feeling as you start the year? Take an honest look at your emotional and mental health. Many of us are energized and ready to go. Many others are still feeling overwhelmed, burnt out, and daunted by what lies ahead of us. Commit time each day to taking care of yourself. Go for a walk. Connect with friends. Read. Do something that feeds your energy. Your company likely has confidential resources that you can access to help you understand and improve your health.
Being intentional around these four areas, you’ll position yourself for a great start to 2023.
What else do you do to start your new year with intention?

Who’s Going Back to the Office? Who *Should* Be Going Back?

It’s usually not a simple choice – for companies or for individuals. Companies are making very different decisions. If you’re unsure who should go back to the office, how many days per week, and to do what type of work… here’s a bit of help.

Companies are making very different decisions.

Many people are thinking about being back in the office and what post-pandemic work life looks like. They’re asking questions like “why do I need to be in the office? When do I need to be back in the office? Why aren’t we all back in the office?”

The answers seem as varied as the people asking them. We are hearing weekly what different companies are doing, and the decisions are far from consistent.

  • The largest 4-day work week pilot to date is underway in the UK. For six months, 3,300 people, in 70 companies, across a wide variety of industries are testing the feasibility of a 4-day work week. During the program, workers receive 100% of their pay for working only 80% of their usual week, in exchange for promising to maintain 100% of their productivity. Joe O’Connor, CEO of 4 Day Week Global says “More and more companies are recognizing that the new frontier for competition is quality of life, and that reduced-hour, productivity-focused working is the vehicle to give them that competitive edge,”
  • Elon Musk made news because of a leaked internal memo to Tesla workersin which he says “Anyone who wishes to do remote work must be in the office for a minimum (and I mean *minimum*) of 40 hours per week or depart Tesla… not a remote branch office unrelated to the job duties.’ His reasoning seems to be that by not being in the office at least 40-hours per week, you are “phoning it in.”
  • Akamai went in the opposite direction. Full disclosure – I’ve had the privilege of working with them several times. They announced that as of May 2022, 95% of their nearly 10,000 employees around the world have complete flexibility to decide whether they work at home, in the office, or both. In making this decision, they analyzed all roles in the company against the same criteria, regardless of location, and determined 95% could be done with complete flexibility. Flexibility has been part of their culture for years but never to this extent. The analysis bolstered their belief that employees should decide what is best for them.
So, who’s doing what?  A Robin survey of more than 10,000 offices globally found that:
  • Nearly 20 percent of American office workers are back one day a week
  • About 10 percent are back two days a week
  • Just five percent are back three days a week
  • Even fewer are back four or five days a week
  • More than 50 percent do not use the office consistently every week.

The idea of everyone needing to be in the office or at the same site goes back to the industrial and pre-digital work environment. Materials were most efficiently used in a single location. Communication happened face-to-face or by phone. In my early consulting career, I worked for a firm where a large percentage of the consultants coded all day – onsite, in person. The technology was different then so there really wasn’t another option. However, these people spent 90% of their time in their cubes, working individually. With today’s digital environments, you could easily see that being in-person would probably be of little impact on their work.

Recent research finds that working collaboratively face-to-face (F2F) has an impact on creativity. A study of nearly 1,500 engineers in five different countries were randomly paired to create product ideas F2F or via video call. The study showed video conferencing had a negative impact on idea generation but did not make a difference in the ability to critically evaluate creative ideas. Since creativity begins with new or adaptive ideas, face-to-face could be critical to your innovation and problem-solving strategies.

What’s the right model for how we work? Different companies will have different needs, jobs will have different needs, people will have different needs. And, that’s a new way of thinking.  Many roles are much more nuanced than the coder example I shared above, so the choice is not that simple. It will take months, probably years before we understand the benefits and drawbacks of any model. At the end of the day, the answer will probably be, it depends.

“It depends” is not a great response for people seeking answers.  So, here’s a little help figuring things out. If you and your team are still deciding how to manage the Great Transition, you may want to start with looking at the nature of the work. Even if your organization is committed to a consistent hybrid model (i.e., everyone in the office 2 days per week), it may help you determine how to use those in-office days vs remote days.

You can start with a simple 2×3 matrix that allows you to map tasks to three task categories – creative, analytical, or transactional/process — and the degree of interactivity associated with the task – is it primarily individual or collaborative, and the amount of your time you spend on each task.

For example, if I am analyzing the data in a spreadsheet, it is primarily an individual task. If I am one of several people brainstorming a new solution, working collaboratively on this analysis will generate better results. Analyzing different solutions may work as well remotely as FTF depending on the nature of what’s being analyzed.  Also, creative and analytical processes can be co-dependent and concurrent, so working collaboratively, FTF on this analysis might generate better results. Think of this as a continuum between Creative and Transactional.

Here’s an example, below:

We’re working with leaders, teams and organizations right now helping them be successful in the new world of work through customizable programs and consulting engagements.  How can we help you?

5 Minutes. 5 Days. (Re)gaining Joy at Work

Joy and happiness are two different things. Both impact things like creativity, individual productivity, and the company’s bottom line (yes, it’s true). But joy is more sustainable.  Here’s a 5-minute per day, one-week plan for kickstarting your path to getting more joy out of work.

Are you missing joy at work?  Or maybe, you’ve never even put the two words joy and work together in the same sentence.  May is Mental Health Awareness Month. Joy is important to mental health. Finding it at work is very challenging for many of us. However, finding it may be more important than ever.

Isn’t joy just another word for happiness?  Not really. According to Merriam Webster dictionary joy is the emotion evoked by well-being, success, or good fortune. Joy comes from being connected to our uniqueness, authenticity, to others and to something meaningful. Joy is something we create and more intrinsic. Happiness is sparked by an external event or situation. Research shows both joy and happiness impact our creativity, energy, productivity, health, ability to handle stress, and the company’s bottom line. Joy is more sustainable.

Interested in (re)gaining joy at work? After all, we do spend most of our days working. Creating joy needs to be an active pursuit made up of small steps we take every day. I challenge you to take the 5-minute, 5-day challenge to (re)gain joy at work. It works best when you implement it over 5 consecutive days and jot your answers down somewhere so you can look back on them.

Day One: 5 minutes:  Reconnect to your North Star.  What is your big why?  Why do you do the work you do? How is it helping you live your values? How does your work connect with other important things in your life? What about it is driving you right now?

Day Two: 5 minutes:  What is one thing you can influence or change at work that will allow you to align with your North Star more completely – even if it’s a small thing. What is one task you could do? Or stop doing? What is one opportunity you could take to give yourself a few minutes to focus on something more meaningful? Or to laugh? Or to take a deep breath?

Day Three: 5 minutes: What colleague could you help?  Maybe you’re thinking you don’t have time to help a colleague because you have so much on your plate.  What if you grabbed them a cup of coffee when you go to grab one yourself? Could you have a walk and talk to help them think through a challenge while you both go to pick up lunch (that you may be eating at your desk so you can keep working!)

Day Four: 5 minutes: What are your strengths?  What energizes you?  What is one way, in the next week, you could more fully use that strength? How could you craft your job so that you are able to do this more consistently and frequently?

Day Five: 5 minutes.  Reflect and reward yourself.  What accomplishment are you proud of this week? How did you live your big why? What one thing did you influence or change? Who did you lend a hand to? How did you use your strengths more fully? Do you feel more joy today than you did 5 days ago?

Integrate this challenge into your daily routine every week. Assess the impact at the end of 3-weeks and 3 months. Let me know what happens.