Successful enterprises create a culture where new ideas are encouraged from anywhere in the organization and from any level
By John Wysseier, CEO and President, The CEI Group
As I’ve said here before, to survive in an age of constant change driven by continuous advances in digital technology, companies need to adopt a culture of constant change, which is to say, a culture of positive disruption. Because business culture starts at the top, it’s the job of the CEO to create a disruptive culture.
As Jean-Pierre Clamadieu, CEO of chemical giant, Solvay SA, recently said, disruptive culture is not a solo act. The CEO “is not a transformational hero carrying the weight of transformation alone. A CEO needs to have a strong team to support change.”
While the same applies throughout an organization’s entire management structure, I want to focus now on the C-suite. After all, if the rest of the C-suite hasn’t bought into disruption as an organizational value and reinforced its importance, the vision isn’t going to happen.
What’s needed is for the C-suite to act as a team to transform the entire organization into one that embraces and comfortably generates change. In many organizations an executive team approach to promoting change is left wanting.
As cited by management consultant Jack McGuinness in CEO Magazine, recent surveys by Team Coaching International, McKinsey and the Center for CreativeLeadership found that more than three-fourths of surveyed executives rated their senior leadership teams as ineffective. McGuinness also cited surveys that found that 95 percent of executives believe that building an effective C-suite team would yield significant organizational results.
In many cases, the composition and workings of the typical C-suite encourages inertia. Traditionally, members of the C-suite are chosen based on superior functional performance more than their ability to contribute to the needs of the enterprise. McGuinness notes that today’s competitive business world demands executives with capabilities far beyond previous functional roles within an organization.
This situation explains the expressions of CEO frustration that McGuinness heard:
• “Each team member is extremely talented, but they just don’t seem to be on the same page without me inserting myself.”
• “Our leadership team meetings are stale – we report out functionally, but we don’t challenge each other or push for innovation or to continually get better.”
• “While we all seem to like each other, it is very rare that the team or subsets of the team get together to address important enterprise-wide issues without me in the room.”
A CEO cannot be everywhere all the time, so he or she must depend on the executive team to carry out and communicate the mission, vision, and strategy and to uncover relevant issues, opportunities and perceptions from the farthest corners of the organization. Team members cannot just not blindly parrot a corporate message, but impart information within the context of a specific audience and context to ensure acceptance and understanding.
To drive a culture of disruption, therefore, CEOs need their C-suite members to act as a team of creative co-leaders who support a common strategic vision and serve as its dynamic ambassadors. Specifically, according to the Center for Creative Leadership, this means that each member of C-suite must intentionally attend to the following areas of collective effort:
Strategic focus: Embracing the vision. Spending time and energy at the strategic level. Balancing risk and innovation. Anticipating future needs and opportunities, and ensuring future sustainability of the organization.
Collective approach: Taking an enterprise-wide view. Working together as a collective enterprise asset. Putting the good of the enterprise over individual or personal gain. Breaking down internal silos and co-create solutions.
Team interaction: Valuing differences among team members. Listening and communicating effectively. Asking each other for input. Trusting and respecting each other. Keeping themselves open to different points of view.
Each member of the C-suite must have the desire to constantly learn – new technologies, new business trends, changing market realities, changing departmental, employee, and customer perspectives and needs. It means being humble enough to accept that traditional ways of running their departments and the business as a whole may be insufficient for future success. Successful enterprises create a culture where new ideas are encouraged from anywhere in the organization and from any level.