Chief executives and other high-level leaders have some pretty broad mandates. Not only are they expected to please shareholders and execute on a broad strategic vision, but they are also increasingly charged with creating dynamic companies where employees love to work, trust is abundant and success trickles down to every level.
That’s often easier said than done.
The nuances of mastering a company culture require a different skill set than profit maximisation does. A number of LinkedIn Influencers weighed in this week on what it takes to succeed beyond the core bottom line, from the traits of a great chief executive to the keys to building a high-trust culture and how to leverage multiple generations in the workplace.
Here’s what some of them had to say.
David Sable, chief executive officer at Y&R Advertising
When Y&R’s former chairman and chief executive officer passed away in early January, the death led Sable to “think about the qualities that made him such a great CEO”, he wrote in his post What Makes a Great CEO?
Sable pointed to five key traits that made former chairman Ed Ney an effective leader — traits that translate to any great chief executive.
“The ability to think both large and small. You can’t be a leader without having a vision that’s rooted in something big and motivational but bordered by detail and hard work,” wrote Sable.
“A great talker, an even better listener. A strong leader… likes to hear voices other than their own. They listen, whether they are walking the halls or wandering the internet,” Sable wrote. “They listen to seasoned veterans but also to people just starting in the business. They answer every email and they find the time to communicate face-to-face, that’s how they learn.”
“The baby and the bath water. So many CEOs and other executives think they are there to throw out the baby with the bath water. Their fear of being mired in the past leaves them unmoored and rudderless, detached to the core of their business and surprised to find that they are drifting,” Sable wrote. “In our world today, the pressure to be digital in a world where digital is everything, leads people to forget that not everything is digital. A knee-jerk agenda to appear current often leads to something that has remained true through the ages — failure.” The key, wrote Sable, is to “have the courage to change” but also have “the smarts to stay true” to the core of the company.
Joel Peterson, Chairman of JetBlue Airways
“Integrity… is an internal cornerstone of trust,” wrote Peterson in his post Building a High-Trust Culture: Invest in Respect. “But leaders should also be looking to spur the outward growth of trust across an organisation.”
How? “By practicing the art of respect,” he wrote.
“Respect is, in some sense, the currency of trust — the way it’s exchanged and circulated among people. It’s any easy concept to pay lip service to, but like any facet of behaviour and attitude, respect requires focus, awareness and practice,” Peterson wrote. “Leaders show and encourage respect when they empower team members, celebrate their contributions and help them learn from missteps.”
Sounds simple enough, but it’s not always easy to tell whether you’ve succeeded in building high-trust company. One way to know: “When you find leaders showing respect to people at every level, especially those from whom they stand to gain the least,” offered Peterson. Ask yourself, “Does a CEO view a receptionist as “help,” or as a team member who may rise through the ranks with the memory of being treated well by the chief? Do vice presidents seek out feedback from people well outside their inner circle — and act on it?”
For executives who want to create an atmosphere of respect, “Positive always beats negative,” wrote Peterson. “Steer clear of attacks, sniping and even trash-talking the competition. Going negative reveals a general lack of respect and self-control. Your culture will be better served by celebrating what your own team is doing than by tearing down the competition. If you talk behind someone’s back, your team will start to wonder what you’re saying about them when they're not around. Honouring those not present is a good way to show respect for those who are.”
Bill Pieroni, global chief operating officer at Marsh
With life expectancy on the rise and people working longer, “we have an aging workforce comprising four distinct generations,” wrote Pieroni in his post Three Success Factors to Leveraging Multiple Generations in the Workforce.
“Traditionalists, born before 1945, represent… 5% of the working population. Baby Boomers, born between 1945 and 1965, represent… 35% of workers. Generation X, born between 1966 and 1985, represent… 35% of workers. Finally, Millennials, born 1986 or later, represent… 25% of the working population” wrote Pieroni. “Each generation has differing values, perspectives, and behaviours that must be considered to establish and sustain a high-performing organization.”
To leverage these generations, first it is important to know the key events and characteristics that shape each group, from the Great Depression and World War II (Traditionalists), to television and suburban sprawl (Baby Bookers), to the fall of the Berlin Wall and the dot-com bust (Generation X), to September 11 and social media (Millennials).
“Leaders that are able to effectively bring together all four generations simultaneously to execute against the organisation’s strategic intent will gain a distinct competitive advantage,” wrote Pieroni.