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Executive Management and Leadership

Patrick Lencioni wrote the book, Death by Meeting, over a decade ago; and despite many more articles and books about how to improve team interaction, too many meetings continue to be boring and unproductive.

Have you ever sat through an hour-long meeting and thought halfway through that it feels like you have already been there for an hour and a half?  If not, you can stop reading. If you are still reading, that is no surprise. Sadly, I think most meetings feel like they go on and on and oftentimes not much, if anything is accomplished.

For more than 20 years I have heard companies and consulting firms articulating the guiding principle “think global, act local.” While in principle this guidance seems reasonable, it has often turned out to be disastrous for companies. This is due to a lack of clear direction and strategy for globalization when company leaders decide to make it a strategic priority. With this historical mind-set engrained, one tends to see international deployment strategies fail to meet expectations. Below are a few specific examples I’ve observed from 12 years of international experience.

Why do so many people fear change? We’re often influenced by our fears and anxieties when we are faced with decisions; but by giving into these, we inhibit our innovative and development capacity. Once you’re aware of this as an individual, and you realize that you have the ability to remove any emotions related to change—that’s the moment. This powerful moment knocks the walls down and builds a new step forward towards success. This allows you to navigate through change so that it works for rather than against you.

When I speak to various professionals and executive leaders, a key theme that comes up repeatedly is advice on key career management tips. Having just thought about it deeply during a long flight, a distillation of my career-long learning is as follows:

1. Back yourself.

Self-confidence cannot be outsourced! When you encounter tough people or new situations, the only person who has full knowledge of your past success is you. Get inspired by Edmund Hillary's words to Mount Everest: “I'll come back to you. You cannot grow taller but I can.”

Being an expat has taught me to develop an explorer adventurer mindset, but you don’t have to be an expat to develop such a mindset, and use it to your advantage. An explorer adventurer mindset enables you to encounter strangeness, and embrace it. Your subordinate’s behavior can be reacted to at face value, or you can take the time to use this mindset to understand the root cause of their behavior, which may be cultural.

There’s a buzz around Witt/Kieffer, a feel-good factor that keeps getting better. In the last three-years they have grown revenue by 54%, filled more than 94% of their searches and watched their quality scores keep rising. What’s more impressive is that they’ve delivered these results without aggressive expansion, new sector coverage or audacious international growth. Charles W.B. Wardell, III (Chuck to anyone who knows him), who joined Witt/Kieffer in 2011 as President and CEO, explains: “When I submitted my business plan to the board it was about doing more for our existing clients. Over the last three years we’ve had the same customers with the same executives. I didn’t buy anything and didn’t go out and hire any ‘rainmakers’.”

We live in an increasingly globalized world and one where good talent is of huge value to business success. Long gone are the days when talented individuals were exclusively gobbled up by universities and businesses in London and New York. Now Shanghai, Seoul, Dubai and Sao Paulo, among many others, are well known business locations and truly on the map for candidates seeking relocation. But what about those cities that are less well-known, yet still need to attract talent to grow and prosper? How do they attract executive talent ‘off the map?’

As we’ve learned in more detail in my previous post on The Rise of the CCO and CSO, the emergence of social media has fueled an emergent, real-time customer interaction paradigm among consumer-oriented companies. Every year we are moving toward more automated data, giving us opportunities to exchange value exchange points, or points of interaction. These interaction points can be up to 100% automated, and materially change the legacy business environment’s competitive landscape. C-level executives need to monitor and manage their organization’s points of interaction with the same rigor they use to manage any new distribution channel.

Have you ever been a part of a company’s failed attempt to boost quality, merge with another company, restructure the business or improve company culture? Chances are that as an executive leader, you have experienced this. As one of the many aspects of leadership, implementing a successful change management strategy is a vital part of any successful leadership team strategy.

Social media is moving like a train with no brakes, providing a real time feedback mechanism for a multitude of companies. Consumers, both individual and corporate, now have multiple feedback forums. These forums can be used to tell others that, in an attempt to get to a live customer service representative, it takes seven automated screening prompts. After these prompts, you reach a live person who is likely from a developing country and is taught to respond to customer issues with only pre-prepared scripts.

The Legacy of Combined CIO/COO Roles