5 Things Every CEO Should Know About Talent Alignment

by  Lisa Petrilli  |  Leadership Development

I wrote a post for this Lead Change Blog a few months ago entitled, “The Number One Thing CEOs Wish They’d Done Differently.”  In that post I talked about how invariably when CEOs are asked, “What’s the one thing you wish you’d done differently when you took your role” they say, “I wish I’d moved faster on talent decisions.”

You see, when taking on the role of CEO they can often see that people are not properly aligned with the roles they are in, and/or that the roles in the organization are not properly aligned with the leader’s vision.

Magnetic Leadership

After writing that post I had the pleasure of participating in the Magnetic Leadership Program offered by ProfitAbility Business Simulations as a facilitator and leadership coach.

During the simulation teams of eight executives are assigned a CEO and COO, and then given a business challenge.  The team has one hour to plan how they’ll approach and implement the challenge, and then a pressure-filled 10-minute period in which to execute.

The intent of the simulation is to bring leadership strengths and weaknesses to the surface for immediate learning experiences and follow-up coaching.

Talent Decisions

During the simulations I played the role of the customer so that I could observe the entire planning and implementation process as more of a bystander.

What was most fascinating to me as an observer was watching how and when talent decisions were made.  I was keenly curious to watch this play out, having just written the aforementioned blog post for the Lead Change Group!

Simulation One

In the first simulation, the COO (who was given the responsibility for talent management per his instructions) asked everyone to read the business challenge and let him know what role they wanted to fill.  Seems reasonable, right?  After all, most employees like to be asked what they’re interested in.

He made sure that there was a person dedicated to each role after some polite give-and-take between a few people who were interested in the same role, and then turned the discussion over to the CEO to discuss vision and strategy.

Guess what? They were not successful in the business challenge and lost money because the talent allocation did not meet the requirements of the strategy they chose.  They had chosen to implement a low cost/high volume strategy that needed more people in “manufacturing” than they’d allocated.

Their mistake? They made talent decisions before knowing the vision and strategy for their business.

Simulation Two

In the next simulation, with a different CEO and COO and a few new team members, the team learned from their experience and determined their vision and strategy first.  They decided to pursue a high quality strategy, with the objective being to fully satisfy every customer need via the quality of the product produced.

Guess what? Since they hadn’t had enough people in “manufacturing” in the first round, they didn’t have enough people with the “experience” needed to implement a high-quality strategy and meet all of the customer needs.

Their mistake?  A lack of balance between experience needed and the strategy pursued.

Another failure; and another period of great learning.  Simulations three and four surfaced even more talent management lessons and insights for their leaders.

Five Critical Talent Alignment Considerations for CEOs:

These Magnetic Leadership simulations clearly highlighted the five most critical considerations for a CEO – or any leader – to address when designing their team:

  1. Roles in an organization must be aligned with the organization’s vision and the strategies that will be pursued to bring the vision to life
  2. Individuals filling the roles must have the proper experience to perform in their role in order to successfully implement the strategies
  3. When leaders look to give team members new experiences to broaden their skill sets, they should consider the impact this initial lack of experience – in particular roles – will have on the ability to implement strategies.  Higher staffing levels may need to be considered for a period of time while that individual gains experience.
  4. Roles within each function of the organization must be properly allocated and staffed to be able to successfully meet the objectives of the larger organization.  Address gaps immediately, and plan for long term needs!
  5. Individuals should be a great fit for their role in order to empower them for success and each employee should understand how their performance is directly linked to the performance of their team and the organization as a whole, and how their role is aligned with the company’s vision.  This is critical.

What do you think? What have I left out?

Please let me know in the comments and please join me, my Leadership Chat Co-Host Steve Woodruff, and Meghan M. Biro, the Host of TalentCulture Chat tomorrow night, Tuesday evening, June 14th at 8:00 pm Eastern Time on Twitter for our first-ever Joint Leadership Chat/TalentCulture Chat!

Our topic will be: How Magnetic Leadership Attracts Best Talent

Use hash tags #LeadershipChat and #TChat to join the fun.  You won’t want to miss what promises to be an epic Twitter event! (Cue dramatic Hollywood music…)

We look forward to seeing all of you there!


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What People Are Saying

Meghan M. Biro  |  13 Jun 2011  |  Reply

Important and impactful thoughts Lisa. You capture the idea of creating a magnetic leadership program succinctly here. Simulations are important for people to understand the dynamics involved. Often leaders who are “magnetic” have trouble when actually creating the next steps – this typically means attracting (recruiting) and nurturing (retaining) the right talent to support your business goals and dreams. Always a necessary step for growing leaders/organizations.

I’m particularly excited about our joint chat as we get an opportunity to collaborate our communities and merge intersecting ideas. Leadership, talent acquisition and retention = the vital ingredients that are essential to sustaining any workplace culture. People make this happen. Onward we go!

Lisa Petrilli  |  13 Jun 2011  |  Reply

Thank you, Meghan. And I strongly agree with you in regard to simulations; they certainly bring natural leadership traits and weaknesses straight to the surface!

I’m thrilled to be joining forces with your community as well tomorrow night. I know both communities are made up of people who want to excel at leadership and who know that a very critical piece of this is, as you say, recruitment and retention of the best people. Yes, onward – and upward! See you tomorrow night.

Juan F Suarez  |  13 Jun 2011  |  Reply

Hi Lisa,
I’d like to add that meaning and purpose seem to be critical for better alignment. Sometimes organizational leaders pursue alignment of individual performance with organizational performance to achieve results, but I believe that aligning individual meaning and purpose with organizational meaning and purpose achieve greater levels of performance.

Alignment is, no doubt, a critical leadership function. Meaning and purpose are, in my opinion, key references for leaders to achieve alignment.

Thank you for your very valuable contributions,
Juan F Suarez

Lisa Petrilli  |  13 Jun 2011  |  Reply


Excellent point and I absolutely agree. I was getting at that a bit in point #5 – employees have to be the right fit, which includes knowing the role is aligned with their own sense of purpose in order to bring them a sense of fulfillment, which also comes from clarity of knowing that what they are doing is aligned with the greater vision for the organization. You said it much more eloquently than I did. :) All the very best and thank you for taking the time to read, reflect and to comment. It means a great deal to me!

Mike Henry  |  14 Jun 2011  |  Reply

Thanks for the thoughtful post Lisa. One thing I thought of that you may have wrapped up in the “fit” bulled (#5) is that the role must fit the person too. If the job doesn’t accomplish the person’s vision, they’ll bail. They might be capable and have the proper experience, they may enjoy their teammates, but if they don’t like the work or if they feel the work takes them farther from their dreams rather than bringing them closer, eventually, you’ll lose someone you thought “was a great fit.” It has to fit them back.

If you can’t tell, I just got finished reading The Element by Ken Robinson. Thanks again.


Lisa Petrilli  |  14 Jun 2011  |  Reply


Beautiful point. I think you and Juan were both expressing this critical need for alignment not only from the CEO and company’s point of view, but from the employee’s perspective as well.

And it’s a poignant reality. If we don’t love our jobs and if they don’t fit with our own personal vision and mission then our hearts aren’t it in, and thus we’re not really in it.

Thanks for your insights and inspiration, Mike!

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