Sheila Madden, CEO, Madden Coaching & Consulting

The Top Reasons For leadership Failure

  • Problems developing interpersonal relationships
  • Difficulty building and leading teams
  • Inability to adapt and manage change
  • Functional and narrow focus versus strategic total business focus
  • Failure to deliver results

5 Things to Ensure Executive Success

1. Hire the right people

2. Onboard them well

3. Set clear goals and expectations and make sure compensation plans create accountability and reward success

4. Provide internal and external executive coaching

5. Measure/assess progress frequently and formally (3, 6, 12 month written reviews for the first year)

Let’s take them one at a time.  First,  Hiring the right people.

It is as much art as science to make the right hire decisions. Here are some basics that I have found which work to increase the predictability and accuracy of executive hiring.

  1. Ensure the candidate’s knowledge, experience and strengths are aligned with your business strategy for today and tomorrow. Executive hires are expensive. Don’t hire someone who you are not sure has the capabilities to help you lead the organization through multiple stages of financial and organizational growth.
  2. Verify that the candidate’s motivation matches the organization’s needs. Ask the person what she/he knows about your company. You would be surprised how many people haven’t even looked at the flag!  How do they see their skills helping take the organization to the next level? In which of their past roles did they thrive and why? What are their financial goals? This is especially important with start-ups because leading a business to a successful IPO is different than building a business to sell.
  3. Assess  experience, character and  culture fit with behavior based questions.  This is where you want to make sure that the candidate is a leader who shares your vision, mission and values. This means that they line up with what (vision, mission, strategy) you are doing and with how (values and leadership character) you are doing it. There is no right or wrong here, every culture is different. The critical factor is alignment. Behavior based questions are those that ask for real examples of actual situations the person has faced. Avoid theoretical questions or yes and no questions and, oh yeah, avoid giving the answer away in the question 🙂  You’d be surprised….
  4. Do an in-depth white boarding or working session on a real business challenge or have the candidate present what their 90 day plan would be. Have the team she/he will be working with engage in this process and help evaluate the candidate.  Throw in some curve balls to evaluate their flexibility and ability to think on her/his feet. This gives the company a chance to see what working with the candidate will be like and gives the candidate a chance to further assess the company and the match.
  5. Evaluate the candidate’s emotional and social intelligence. 90% of executive success depends on this. Probe competencies such as self-awareness (What will be a challenge for you in this role?),  impulse control (Walk me through a situation that made you really angry), ability to hire and build teams (Outline your current organization. Which of these people did you hire? How did you find them? What results have you achieved? How did you do it?),  coaching skill (Describe the difference between coaching and feedback. When have you used one and not the other and why?)empathy (How have you used empathy in leading global teams?).
  6. Hiring manager, especially if you are the CEO ….personally do in-depth reference checks using behavioral questions.   Don’t leave this to someone else because you will hear and pick up things that even a great executive recruiter may miss. Remember, the purpose of the reference check is not just to validate what you think you know about the candidate, but to gain insight into how you can help this person be successful. Look for themes and patterns and NEVER ignore a negative gut feel or response in this process. Probe further until you resolve it one way or another. Whom to ask for as references? Former bosses, peers, subordinates, board members and  investors. If it is a C-level role, don’t miss asking for board members. If the person can’t provide them, that tells you they either haven’t worked at that level or they haven’t been able to establish relationships at that level. Write specific behavior based questions to use (or ask your senior talent management person or executive search person to write them for you). Last, before you call, always  “qualify” the reference using Google and Linkedin at minimum. Who are they, what have they achieved, are you impressed with them, are they relevant?  (Goes to assessing the credibility of the witness so to speak)
  7. Always do background checks to verify employment, work and criminal record. For CFO and any finance roles, also include a national credit check

Let me know if this was helpful and if you have any questions. If you have any other tips that you have found helpful, please share them.

Next Blog, On boarding Well!

Copyright 2010, Sheila Madden. All Rights Reserved.