CEO Spotlight: How to Create Prosperity In the Face of Adversity

The role of the CEO is the toughest role in the company, it’s the most important and the least understood.

When you’re CEO, putting out fires and solving problems under pressure comes with the territory. During times of transition or high-growth, you might even face your do-or-die moment.

Let’s say you’re in the middle of an important executive search, which is floundering or perhaps it already failed so you’re doing a second-round search. As a result of the tumult, your team’s performance is tanking.

Or maybe your performance metrics have been sinking for some time now and you’ve got to make a hire fast to fix the problem.

In either scenario, your board is measuring how well you can lead your team through this challenge. They’re evaluating you based on your ability to hire well and get performance results back on track.

What to Do When Performance Numbers Suck

As a CEO, you’re responsible for driving the highest possible performance results. This task is of course much easier said than done. Teams miss their KPIs, MBOs and performance metrics for any number of reasons. And sometimes despite the strength of your leadership, you know your own expertise in making it better is limited.

So how do you get performance back on track fast? Skillful leaders are able to achieve results through their team the same way a good coach builds team performance by leveraging individual talents and filling the gaps. Sometimes CEOs and coaches feel torn about what to do when it comes to making tough calls on talent. Here are your options:

Train: You can send someone to get the training they need to improve individual and team performance. It’s a good idea to develop the skills in your team, but this option takes a significant investment in time. In the months that it takes for this person to learn new skills, he or she might have the theoretical or academic understanding of how to solve a problem — but the person will still lack the the years it takes to develop mastery. If your business is in high growth mode, any individual’s capacity to learn — no matter how strong a team member he or she might be — will likely be outpaced by the needs of your company.

Outsource: You could outsource a problem area to a consulting firm. This might be a good plan for skills that are not strategic to your vision and goals. Keep in mind that this option is expensive and you are not guaranteed quality. If you need to increase performance in an area that is strategic to your mission and vision, then you need to build the capacity internally.

Recruit: That leaves a CEO with the best option for developing capacity in a high-growth company. Recruit and hire a world champion to fill the gap your team is missing. And remember that hiring must be done with mastery. Dabbling in recruiting and making the wrong hire will only add to whatever problems you’re already facing.

Nothing: The last option is to do nothing. CEOs do this all the time by choosing not to hire an expert. Sometimes it’s worse and they take on yet another set of responsibilities for themselves to prove their personal significance. This is the most painful option that often causes the kind of skull-crushing brain damage that creates suffering for everyone involved.

Theodore Roosevelt said, “In any moment of decision, the best thing you can do is the right thing, the next best thing is the wrong thing, and the worst thing you can do is nothing.”

Make the right executive decision and remember that the best utilization of venture capital is to acquire the right human capital.

How to Save a CEO & Board Relationship

When teams begin to consistently miss their KPIs, MBOs and other metrics, the consequences of low performance fall squarely on the shoulders of the CEO.

Achieving high-growth at a startup is difficult, and it can be an even bigger feat to sustain the same level of growth as a company matures. Series B funding comes with greater expectations for founders and CEOs. Boards can easily decide that in this pivotal moment, given the performance metrics or lack thereof, it may also be time for that dreaded conversation about a succession plan or an immediate replacement plan.

So what can you do as a CEO when you’re in the midst of a turnaround plan or have already launched an executive search and the board is worried about continued deterioration in performance?

First, understand that when any board expresses this concern to the CEO, what they really mean is, ‘You better make something happen fast.’ The hard truth is that they’re not talking about your team’s failure to perform, they’re talking about your failure in leadership performance. And if you’re incapable of solving this problem as a leader, you might have reached the end of your tenure.

Making the right or wrong executive hire in this situation can be your saving grace, or give the board more reason to give you the boot.

The weight of this pressure on a CEO can unfortunately make a hiring process all the more difficult. Board members might want to step into operating roles, make introductions and suggest potential candidates to fill the role. This is well-intentioned, and occasionally seems like a promising idea. As a CEO, you feel obligated to meet those candidates and the feeling is awfully similar to being set up on a blind date by a friend who means well but doesn’t fully understand what your wants and needs are.

These kind of referrals still limit you to Level 2 Recruiting — a blunt, passive recruiting strategy based on referrals, networking and candidates that are leftover from other searches or unemployed (often with good reason). If you end up hiring the person the board recommended and it doesn’t work out — as CEO, you’re still the one responsible for the whole mess.

The biggest factor determining the success or failure of any CEO is his or her ability to recruit and hire well. And when something as important as an executive search — and potentially your own position in an organization — is on the line, you want to make sure that the job is done with mastery.

Rather than you or your board members dabbling in recruiting and using up the precious time and energy you need to drive your team’s performance, bring in the right expert — not just someone referred by the board. Partner with someone who has built companies like yours before, who understands core competencies and culture fit and can elevate your search to Level 3 Recruiting™. Level 3 Recruiting™ is about precision extraction and a refined selection process that secures the top 1% A+ executive leaders.

This collaborative process is the best way CEOs, even in the midst of crisis, can make sure they secure the best hire, drive growth and actualize their full potential for leadership.

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