The Number One Thing CEOs Wish They’d Done Differently

I’m quite fortunate to be part of the team at CEO Connection, working closely with our CEO members on a daily basis.  One of the real perks of my role is the opportunity to meet with small, intimate groups of these executives five times a year in different locales around the world

At these meetings they have a chance to truly reflect on – and be open and honest about – mistakes they’ve made, and they share experiences and insights that enable them to leave with renewed and energized visions and strategies.

Talent First

In each session the question invariably arises, “What do you wish you’d done differently when you first took the job?”  And in each session the response is overwhelmingly the same, “I wish I’d moved faster on talent decisions.”

Why? Because often their gut tells them that the people are not aligned properly with the needs of their roles, and that the roles are not aligned with the business needs that are driven by the organization’s new vision.  But there may be fear about sending disruptive signals by making dramatic changes, and by making them quickly.

And yet, upon reflection, that is hands-down what they wish they’d done.

7 Keys

I believe that by doing the following seven things it is possible for CEOs and other C-suite executives to address talent alignment issues in a proactive and positive way, so that the organization is galvanized for forward movement toward its vision as quickly as possible:

  1. Make managing and growing your talent a top priority.  This means making it one of the top three items in every staff meeting and every strategy discussion.
  2. Communicate openly about the importance – and the benefit to everyone in the company – of having positions aligned with the vision and strategies of the company, and of having the right people in those positions.
  3. At the same time, be committed to finding roles for the current employees that best align with their strengths, and thus “set them up” for success.
  4. Be open about your willingness to work with employees who may be in positions that are not a great fit – to help them via coaching or mentoring – so that both they and the company are better off because of the process.
  5. Make sure that talent decisions align with the values of the company.  Top performers that disrespect others and play by their own rules – and may have been allowed to do so under previous leadership – must be dealt with because of their impact on the organization’s culture.
  6. Remember that everything communicates.  Not addressing talent issues of non-performance speaks volumes.
  7. And remember the power you have to communicate, through words and actions, a genuine desire to see everyone succeed – and to mean it.

What advice do you have for CEOs who are reluctant to make talent decisions, but who know in their gut they must be made? I’d be honored to hear from you.


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