CEOs running the world’s top companies don’t start out that way – they pull ahead of their peers with behaviors and practices that make them the “best of the best.” Stephen Miles and the team at TMG coach some of the world’s most successful executives, helping them continuously up their game even as business conditions grow more complex every day. Learn the secrets of the highest performers, and use this intelligence to power your career.
The coronavirus pandemic is challenging leaders at unprecedented levels. Executives are facing the complexity of severe business impact and employee health concerns while they and many employees work from home. But many leaders haven’t led during a crisis, says Stephen Miles; they react poorly, amplify stress, and ignore critical information and advice. Miles provides tools for leading powerfully during this crisis, including how to make decisions, communicate, and engage employees with empathy.
The incredible challenges companies are facing today are creating shocks to the system that every CEO needs to prepare for, says Stephen Miles. From the stunning impact of the coronavirus to the increasingly rigorous ESG expectations placed on every company to the exceptional level of performance demanded of leaders 24/7/365, the best CEOs are shifting the way they and their teams approach these daunting problems. Miles takes us through 10 keys that are critical for companies to survive today.
During times of sudden change, how leaders respond is critical to driving the best outcome. Leaders who are less effective make decisions too quickly or not at all. The best leaders are like the best athletes: they slow the game down around them and make it easier for other people to participate. Stephen Miles and Taylor Griffin explain how great leaders communicate with and leverage their teams, absorb rather than amplify stress, and create the context for people to be successful.
Nearly all leaders wait far too long to deal with underperformers. “I wish I had handled the problem sooner” is what Taylor Griffin says she hears from every person she coaches. Leaders are evaluated on how well they select and develop talent by whoever is the lowest performer on their team, so managing underperformance is critical. Griffin explains how to recognize signs of habitual low performers, how to give meaningful feedback and how to address issues swiftly to minimize damage to the team.
The General Counsel acts as air traffic control for all legal issues across a company, says Billy Stern – from HR, compliance, and IP to a host of business risks. But while a lawyer is typically a “no” person, the best GCs have a “yes” mentality, working with the CEO to think expansively as a true business partner. Stern explains the complex job of GCs as they serve this and other roles including succession advisor, company “heavy,” contract enforcer, and fierce legal and regulatory advocate.
The most critical decisions around an employee’s future at a company usually happen when they aren’t in the room. But most organizations have an “agent problem,” says Stephen Miles: its leaders aren’t effective agents or advocates for valuable employees, and talent discussions can get dominated by fast talkers or bullies who push forward “their” people who are less qualified. Miles explains steps you can take to represent your best people most effectively and create a stronger team overall.
Working with colleagues and clients who come from many cultures, countries, and backgrounds is a hallmark of global business today. But how effective are you when working with people who are not like you? To succeed in an economy that is increasingly diverse, says Taylor Griffin, individuals must adapt to culture and gender differences as well as to a broad range of personality and communication styles. Griffin walks us through some of the challenges and opportunities in dealing with difference.
As we move from a knowledge-based to a “social economy,” leaders must build what Stephen Miles defines as their “social intelligence quotient” or SocQ. This skill goes beyond having one-to-one empathy to being able to connect with the broader public in a way that communicates a company’s purpose and values yet is in sync with the community’s standards. Miles explains how leaders’ SocQ and ability to connect one-to-many are essential to organizations’ survival under the global magnifying glass.
They’re hard to get along with and difficult to manage, but they bring disproportionate value creation to a company, says Stephen Miles. He dubs them “high-beta” executives, and explains how their breakthrough thinking and willingness to take on a business’s most difficult problems can result in massive opportunities for a company and its future. Miles describes the leadership style required to manage the idiosyncratic “high betas” and how to create a place for them to be wildly successful.
Many high-performing executives promoted or hired into a new senior role are “uniquely unqualified” for the position – they have never done that job before. This carries significant risk for the organization, as even the best people can fail when facing scope or scale beyond their experience. But companies can mitigate risk, Stephen Miles explains, if they give people adequate developmental support and ensure that there is strong enough capacity in place to support new talent coming onto a team.
One of the most effective tools to get the results you want, Taylor Griffin explains, is to think of your job as asking questions. Whether you are CEO or anywhere along the path to running a company, being Socratic in your interactions is the way to learn more, gain clarity, and understand the reasoning behind how decisions are made – good and bad. Taylor discusses the tone, timing, and context to consider when asking questions and how leaders can model a learning culture for their organization.
Leaders can find it tough to get their teams to engage in real debate around a topic. Why? When people’s ideas are challenged, many take it too personally. Workplaces can also fall victim to groupthink by over-collaborating. Stephen Miles explains how leaders can elevate growth by fostering “idea conflict” – pushing hard on the idea, not the person – and creating a space where different voices can challenge one another to advance their thinking.
Private equity firms want the best management teams in place when they purchase companies. If your company is being evaluated by a PE firm, what do you need to be prepared for when it comes to your job? Where can you bring value to the company under its new ownership? Courtney Hamilton and Billy Stern discuss talent assessment in a private equity takeover and how employees can position themselves as the right talent to drive investor goals and growth.
Meetings are the most expensive use of company resources, yet they are still too long, poorly organized, and a waste of everyone’s time. But they don’t have to be. Stephen Miles describes what’s necessary to make meetings productive, efficient, and on-topic.
Working for a tough boss doesn’t mean that you are powerless in your job, says Taylor Griffin. There are strategies for adapting to a range of challenging leadership styles – from finding information elsewhere in the organization when a boss is uncommunicative to diffusing heated conversations with a boss prone to anger. Griffin explains ways to be effective in your role even in difficult situations and how working for a demanding boss can be one of the most valuable experiences of your career.
When new owners take over your organization, how do you protect your job? As five consecutive years of acquisition top $3 trillion and robust private equity markets continue to chase company investments, the reality of M&A today makes changes in management inevitable. Courtney Hamilton explains the best ways to prepare yourself for company takeovers and how to arm yourself with vital information about the company and its new leadership.
For some companies, success can be dangerous: a “stasis mindset” can take root, with a complacent “we know best” attitude capable of bringing down even the highest-performing companies. Stephen Miles explains that the best leaders actively fight off this mentality by embracing a “growth mindset” – they seek out new challenges and learn new ways of thinking by looking beyond what they already know. He discusses how both individuals and organizations cultivate this critical leadership mindset.
Boom or bust, the smartest CEOs put plans in place well before the next downturn arrives, says Stephen Miles. Without scenario planning and taking steps toward “recession inoculation” during periods of growth, leaders can be caught by surprise when the economy turns, forcing them to make decisions with less time and thought. Miles discusses how CEOs are planning with their top teams and speaking with their boards and investors about how to weather the next recession.
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