Tag Archives: CEO

An Exit Strategy at the Start?

leadership_exitIn a recent presentation I created a bit of a stir by suggesting the best time for an association CEO to craft an exit strategy was at the moment they accepted the position.  Some in the audience thought that planning an exit strategy at the outset, meant you were entering into the new responsibility hokey-pokey style—one foot in, one foot-out.  Sort of like planning for a divorce on your wedding day or starting a new dating relationship with a scheduled break-up planned in advance.  The analogies miss the point.  Prenuptial agreements aside for the moment, employment contracts and economic reality all suggest something different is afoot and exit strategies are a vital part of beginning anew.  The absence of employer-employee loyalty, once endemic to corporate America has become a veritable pandemic and the non-profit world is not immune.  Companies laid-off over 832,000 employees in the first quarter of 2009 alone.  And turnover at the C-level is a growing trend in both the for- and non-profit sectors.  According to Challenger, Gray & Christmas which tracks public and private company CEO departures there were 1,484 chief executives who went to the door in 2008. 

My point is that in accepting a new position it is important you have a vivid concept of what the goals and expectations for your leadership tenure will be.  Said differently, why are you taking the position in the first place?  Have you established a set of personal milestones to assess your progress and satisfaction with the work?  Does the work and your results align with your strengths, self-image and the expectations?  And perhaps more importantly what will you do if it doesn’t?  While most of us would agree leaving a post is the choice of last resort, knowing you have a plan, including the resources and support to do so, seems prudent rather than predictive.

Which left me wondering how often CEO’s and other leaders assess their own successes, goal achievements and personal satisfaction in their current positions.  Do you have personal milestones in your current or new position or is it simply all about putting the work first and worrying about yourself later?  How do you measure and manage the melange of goals—yours, theirs and the collective “ours”?   Do you have an exit strategy?  More importantly, should you?

Say It Ain't So, Seth!

In a recent SpearTalks interview Seth Godin opined that “Trying to convince a CEO of anything is a little like trying to convince a cop not to give you a ticket. It’s possible, but rarely worth the effort, given the odds.”  Hmmm.

What truly caught my attention was his notion that it is “rarely worth the effort”.  I disagree.  While you may not win the day by pressing your point of view on the CEO, it is equally possible you will stir some sense of consciousness and at the very least spark some discomfort with those long held CEO notions of what works.

By the nature of my work, I engage with dozens of CEO’s on a regular basis.  While they are not easily persuadable, they are in my experience amenable to considering alternatives and with the leverage of solid information even likely to accept and adopt a new perspective.  A recent discussion with a CEO about the potential and value of social media illustrates the point.  Initially, she seemed to miss the value proposition of social media entirely.  Her basic position simplified was “who needs it!”  When I persisted by pointing out that the younger managers on her staff had likely been using Facebook to communicate with friends and colleagues since before their high school days, she seemed to grasp the idea.  Her questions flew fast and furious.  Who controls it?  Who operates these sites?  How much time does this require?  What resources do we need to implement it?  What are the risks?  Is there a measurable ROI? 

When I reminded her that that someone else could easily start up a company page if she didn’t, the lights went on and someone was now clearly at home in her decision tree.  Seth’s right in saying it doesn’t always work, but I’d argue given the right fight, it’s worth the rare effort still.