CEO’s are accountable for the success or failure of their organizations. CEO’s are human and for that very reason, shall always be fallible. Things will go wrong, and that is normal. CEO’s, even the omnipotent in character, will never change the reality that they will stumble at certain points of their leadership journey – thinking that the opposite is possible, is living a world of make-believe.
When things go wrong CEO’s should assume responsibility for the mess – simple. That’s what leadership is all about – accountable leadership, we must add
CEO’s or equivalent – at family, peer team, organization, or Nation-State level work with people below them. In the ideal world, leaders define the roadmap to achieve the Vision and their teams, sweat to implement the roadmap and ultimately deliver desired outcomes.
Suffice it said that CEO’s watch over what is happening from the leader’s pedestal – they address bottlenecks as and when they arise, re-calibrate Vision roadmaps and accompanying business value chains, plus isolate who amongst the teams is not carrying their fair weight and either help them learn how to carry weight or fire them. The CEO’s number one job is to get the best out of their teams, without having to do their work directly – a tough balancing act.
Accountability for the CEO, unlike for the teams below them, is final. There is not always room for CEO’s to fix what has gone wrong – theirs is ultimate responsibility for both the rights and wrongs in a given situation. The finality of CEO accountability is something that weighs down even the very best of CEO’s
In the dog eat dog, shark-tank world of modern leadership, CEO’s may opt for the easy way out when things go wrong at their organizations – passing the buck. Because we have the privilege to boss others, blaming individuals and teams that report to us for what goes wrong, is a tool that leaders use in the dog-eat-dog world of leadership.
However, we believe that classic leaders take one for the team and not once, but every time something goes wrong. It is painful to take one for the team, but quintessential leaders understand that it comes with the territory of classical leadership – they do not pass the buck.
At the same time taking one for the team does not equate to letting nonperforming individuals and teams off the hook. After CEO’s take one for the team, they will create time to discuss what individuals and teams have not done well. In a non-sandwiched manner, negative feedback has to be passed on to those that failed the leader, and a remedy agreed
How to take one for the team but still unleash the right accountability treatment on them:
- The buck stops with the leader. So even if it is your juniors that did not deliver the required outcomes, as the CEO you are ultimately accountable. When held to account for the organization’s failings, the reference to what your juniors did or did not do should be minimal, if at all. Take the fire, make sure you sleep on it and for many nights if necessary, before passing on the blame. The more calm and rational you are when giving negative feedback to those that report to you, the more effective feedback will be for your team. Negative feedback only impacts company bottom line metrics when the individuals you lead effectively learn from such feedback. Giving feedback to others while in a ‘box’ only creates negative energy, counters effective learning, and undermines morale and ultimately bottom line metrics at the company
- Only when the timing is right, and your body clock will tell you when the time comes, can you give negative feedback to individuals/team/s. Negative feedback should not at all be sandwiched. Leaders should assertively share with their juniors: what they did not do correct, why they believe it was not done correct, as well as putting on the table appropriate remedies. The leader should allow the other side the opportunity to respond, before agreeing on next steps to correct the status-quo.
- The leader and the led should agree on remedies to rectify the performance failing – discuss what needs to be done different – the support needed from the leader – clear lines of accountability at both individual and team level – and consensual agreement that failure will lead to more stern reprimand
- Continuous coaching and mentoring of the led – leaders do not give feedback and walk away anticipating that the ‘bossed’ will remedy their failings without support. Even if the latter were true, there is no harm conducting ‘accountability pit-stops,’ just in case the team needs support
As the millennials start to dominate the global workforce, human sensitive approaches to ‘bossing’ others are becoming paramount to keeping a relatively stable and productive workforce. While not always visible to the novice OD. eye, the cost of an unsettled staff team is something organizations should avoid.
CEO’s – you will always get the opportunity to unleash negative feedback on the failing and failed, however, how it’s done determines whether active learning for the ‘bossed’ happens or not.
The natural tendency for classic CEO’s is always to take one for the team first, then address the failing in a candid, firm, win-win manner, moreover at the right moment
Categories: You, the Leader!