Category: Women of HR Series: CEO For A Day

CEO For a Day: Focused Leadership

Posted on September 26th, by Donna Rogers, SPHR in Women of HR Series: CEO For A Day. Comments Off on CEO For a Day: Focused Leadership

Women of  HR were asked, “If you were CEO for a day, what would (or did) you focus on to improve an organization's productivity, employee engagement or ability to recruit?”  This is the final post in the series of responses. You can see the other responses here.

Today’s post is about what I would do if I were a CEO for a day.  As I sat down to write, I thought to myself, “I am a CEO of my own consulting firm”.  However, I immediately realized that I have NOT “only” been a CEO for very long because I am always doing something else in addition to running my own business (currently teaching & ILSHRM).  So this post is not just about if I were a CEO for a day at a big name organization like Apple, DOT Foods, or Crayola, it’s about my being a focused CEO – a CEO of a company where I didn’t have to also worry about a second job or a volunteer role within my field.  After all, the series description did say to discuss what would we focus on for a day.  Specifically, what would we start, stop, or change to improve an organizations productivity, employee engagement, or ability to recruit.

So to begin I would start my day by “walking around” and engaging discussion with the staff.  I can’t tell you how many books I have read over the years that suggest management by walking around as a positive management technique that drives results.  Most recently I finished a book called “How Full is Your Bucket” which describes a manager who started his business trips to all the organizations sites by researching who had done what at the location he was heading to.  The morning before his meetings he would search out those individuals and say “I have been hearing some good talk about you” then proceed to be specific about that person’s performance.  This was his way of positively filling the employees bucket which improved performance and engagement.

Next I would research the organization's reputation in the area, on the Internet via social sites, and among employees relative to what it was like to work there.  In one day it is certainly not possible to stop everything that could be putting a damper on the possibility of the organization to be considered an employer of cho

ice but I would at a minimum put together a STOP plan to help the organization push forward to improve its ability to recruit.  Included would be things they could start or change as well to improve their position among other organizations within the community.

By the afternoon, I would bring the management team in for a 15 minute conversation each to determine who had a positive outlook versus those that might have been considered downers, complainers, or pessimists.  This is also an idea from the bucket book.  A study was done with couples immediately after their wedding.  The researchers talked to them for only 15 minutes and counted how many positive vs. negative things they discussed in that time period.  With this little time frame they predicted within 95% accuracy that would stay married after 10 years.  If I use this same philosophy I think I could pretty much predict which managers were negatively affecting employee engagement and productivity just by the way they communicate.  So the most important thing I could change about the team is to remove the bad apples because even one bad apple can work quickly to sour the others and if I were only going to get a day to make a difference I would want to leave the organization with optimistic, positive thinking, go-getters.  People leave their managers not the company.

Finally, before the days end I would meet with the entire organization to share my vision, get them involved, motivated, and encouraged that they have what it takes to move the company to the next level.  With a little help from the finance team as we prepared through the day I would share not just the enthusiasm and excitement but the actual numbers to prove the ideas set forth through the day by the positive thinking management team where indeed a reality?  As with everything all good things must come to an end.

My day as CEO ends but tomorrow is the beginning of a brand new era for the organization.

Photo credit: iStockphoto

About the author: Donna Rogers, SPHR is a full time Instructor at University of Illinois at Springfield, owner of Rogers HR Consulting and the Director of the Illinois State Council of SHRM. She has over 20 years in the HR field and currently teaches Human Resources Management, Organizational Behavior, Organizational Development, and Strategic HR Management. She practices what she teaches for almost 100 clients in the central Illinois area. You can find her on Twitter as @DonnaRogersHR.


CEO for a Day: It's Not About Pleasing Everyone

Posted on September 20th, by Dorothy Douglass in Women of HR Series: CEO For A Day. Comments Off on CEO for a Day: It's Not About Pleasing Everyone

Women of  HR were asked, “If you were CEO for a day, what would (or did) you focus on to improve an organization's productivity, employee engagement or ability to recruit?”  This is the sixth post in the series of responses.

I’ve been pondering on this subject for some time.  I have thought of some of the usual answers that we HR professionals might have, “Heh heh, CEO for a day!  Let me get out my list, and let’s start making some personnel changes!!!” “Policies, job descriptions, performance reviews – everyone.  NOW!”

But are those ‘evil’ HR thoughts realistic?

I just graduated from an arduous, 25-month, graduate-level educational program that my company invested in my attending.  As part of our third year on campus, we had to do a company simulation, first learning our way around the software and baseline company financials, then assuming leadership roles and making strategic decisions for almost two weeks.  Each day’s decisions were likened to one quarter of business.

Though I wasn’t selected as the CEO of our team, I did assume the Chief Credit Officer role, and each of the 5 of us had an integral role to play on our team.  Each of us would come face-to-face with strategic decisions over the next several days that would land us in financial difficulty and in harm’s way of surviving as a company, or would land us on the leader board with rising stock prices, EPS, and leading our simulated community of banks.

We began our daily (which was little under 3 hours each day – yes, we attended classes the rest of the day) review of the local & national (simulated) economy, our bank’s financials, and our competitor’s financials.  As well, our CEO needed to guide us with an overarching strategy for the day (quarter) as we went about our work.  We began working very independently of one another, making decisions to affect our balance sheet and income statement through our own areas.  Day 1: we guessed.  And we were mildly successful.

Day 2: Not so much.  Our bank teetered and failed to meet important goals, resulting in a not-so-hot set of financials – including many areas in red.   As each of us grew more comfortable with one another and with our roles on our team, the CEO’s need to effectively communicate, discuss, and determine the strategy with the team as a whole became critical to our success.

I won’t bore you with each day, except to say, as we “gelled” as a team, we became moderately successful.  In the end, all teams were called to action in terms of providing a shareholders’ meeting, and sharing plans to merge, acquire, or remain independent.  Each CEO had to negotiate with other teams, strategize, and then sell their management, and more importantly, the (simulat

ed) shareholders on a plan.

I learned a lot from this activity.  Mostly, the CEO job is harder than I realized.  It is not enviable.  Rarely, does the CEO please everyone, and sometimes must make hard decisions and take risks based on a broad spectrum of knowledge.  So, if I were CEO for a day, my immediate plan would be this:

  1. Communicate effectively with and get to know my top management team, quickly.  Determine if I have the right key players in the right seats.  And if I don’t, then I need to make the tough calls to move them out, down, or to seats that better fit them.  The top team must also work well together and understand overall objectives and how their decisions affect one another.
  2. Know the business of my business, and in particular, the financials.  Understand strategic decisions and how they can affect the balance sheet and income statement. (Important for HR success as well!)
  3. Excel as a communicator to all employees and shareholders.  Make the time to get in front of employees, at all levels, and interact.  And I mean really be there.  Hear their thoughts and ideas.  Implement ideas if we can, and explain if we cannot.  Deliver specific praise when possible – ‘catching people doing things right.’
  4. Share the vision of our company first with employees and then with the community. Describe the strategy in understandable terms for employees what my expectations are for performance and for accountability within the organization.  Utilize my experts in each area, rely on their decisions, and hold them accountable for their actions.
  5. Take a few risks.  Admit my mistakes, and move forward.

Whew, and now that my day as CEO is over, it’s back to the HR job – communicating effectively, helping managers be successful through effective utilization of their human resources, understanding the business of our business, strategizing about best use of resources – wait a minute, this sounds a lot like  the CEO….

About the author:  Dorothy Douglass is an HR professional who has served in HR and management roles for 20 years+ who considers herself  fairly tech-UNsavvy.  She is the VP of HR for MutualBank , has been with them for 10 years  and is in her third year at the Graduate School of Banking in Madison, Wisconsin. She is one of few HR professionals privileged to attend the full 3-year banking program rather than the 1-year HR program. Masochist?  Maybe.  But it's made her a better banker, for sure.


CEO for a Day: Thoughtful Business Leadership

Posted on September 19th, by Nisha Raghavan in Women of HR Series: CEO For A Day. 1 Comment

Women of  HR were asked, “If you were CEO for a day, what would (or did) you focus on to improve an organization's productivity, employee engagement or ability to recruit?”  This is the fifth post in the series of responses.

“Wow! It is really fascinating to hear people call me a CEO of my company even if it is for a day! Let me make this a 12 hour work day for myself. I am getting one shot at this and I need to maximize my work day to make a few hard decisions and to inspire everyone in communicating why we do things the way we do!”

So, how would it be if I, an HR professional, were CEO for a day?  When Lisa asked me, my mind pondered a lot of questions. What is the culture of my organization? What are the values and behavior I want to instill? What kind of behavior do I want to see rewarded? Am I rewarding and engaging the right employees so that they will continue to stay with us?

Eliminate Toxic Managers

All these questions directed me to first study my current manpower. Do I have the right people in place to do their job and help others get their jobs done? Are they engaged?

Before investing on engagement I need to know if I can rely on my employees at least for the near future. I don't want to see someone quitting the  day after receiving training, monetary or other rewards. I have seen employees wait to get their pay raise or incentive only to quit and join some other organization – timing their departure to their advantage.

Having said that, I am going to rely on my experience and my HR eyeglasses to create a list of toxic managers. These are the managers who mess up the organization’s culture and values and make a bad impact on employees. So, let me just flush them out before it hurts the immune system of the organization.

Hire for Culture

To replace toxic managers and get the right people in leadership roles, I will consider the opinions of peer leaders. The people I would consider are those who consistently deliver outstanding results, are willing leaders and have the right attitude. And I would be reviewing all new pending hires before any offers are made.

This will make sure that we hire for our culture.


Although recruitment and employment engagement is an ongoing process, I do feel having been given only a day as CEO, it's necessary and critical that I gain the confidence of my employees in me. I will target a few things on this day:

  • Instill our Culture. I will create a value-based culture in which employees are be truste

    d to do the right things because they know what the organization stands for and believes in it. To strengthen this trust in our culture I would stretch myself to all employees by making myself accessible at every level. I am going to draw inspiration from speaker, writer and visionary Simon Sinek, who says, “Trust doesn't come from making the right decision. Trust comes from giving people an honest assessment for why the decision was made.”

  • Walk the Talk. As CEO, I am actually one among  our employees so I will emulate the behavior that I want to see from them. I will not over promise and under-deliver because that can poison the work culture I want to instill. And I will not put up with someone else doing that. I want people to inspire and to be inspired.
  • Reward Results. I will make it obvious to everyone what good performance means. Everyone needs to understand their commitment to execution which will in turn open up opportunities for growth. I will ensure that there are career advancement opportunities within the organization for employees that will result from their effort and work.
  • Seek Feedback. I will provide a platform for every employee to open up andshare their views and suggestions with me. Their suggestions don’t have to be only about their immediate work or even about the organization. I want to get their best ideas about anything in life. This will get them to think creatively and one person’s ideas could be another person’s solution. Best suggestions will be awarded and implemented.

I know it is only a day that I can use this authority and hearing this, some of you might think that it is such a short notice and so I may not be able to implement all of these things. But my answer to this is if you are a thoughtful leader you can create a big impact on the people in less than a day. If  I create the foundation well then the rest will follow naturally.

Photo credit: iStock Photo

About the author: Nisha Raghavan is the author of Your HR Buddy blog. A former HR Generalist with extensive experience in Talent Management and Development, she specializes and writes about Employee Relations, Organization Development and how companies can keep their employees more engaged through Employee Engagement Initiatives. Her experience in the corporate world was as an HR Deputy Manager at Reliance Communications Limited, India.


CEO for a Day: Listen, Take Note and Act

Posted on September 18th, by Krista Francis in Women of HR Series: CEO For A Day. Comments Off on CEO for a Day: Listen, Take Note and Act

Women of  HR were asked, “If you were CEO for a day, what would (or did) you focus on to improve an organization's productivity, employee engagement or ability to recruit?”  This is the fourth post in the series of responses.

Do you remember when you were a kid and played a game with friends, asking each other:  what would you change if you suddenly, magically became the President? As I recall, our responses ran along the lines of: outlaw homework. Buy every homeless person a house. Give every kid a bike or a pony, whichever they prefer. Pass a law that dessert comes first. Ship all our extra food to poor people in Africa.

I fondly remember those sweet, innocent answers as I accept the challenge to write about being CEO for a day.

I work for a mid-sized nonprofit, and I’m fortunate because not only do I have a seat at that coveted table, but our Board chooses to make their HR Director the Acting Executive Director whenever the boss travels. This summer, when our Executive Director traveled to Asia, I had the opportunity to be CEO for a day, thirty times over.

My boss’s vacation fell during a very busy time, and to say the experience was interesting is like saying the Pacific Ocean is wide. I suppose we all fantasize about being the boss for a day. Oh, the sweeping reforms we would enact and the legacy we would leave! Zappos and Google would seethe with jealousy witnessing the amazing workplaces we’d create!

Yeah, right. Although I had a distinct vision for the direction in which I wanted to lead, the reality felt very different for several reasons.

  1. Practicalities. As one small example, our accounting department was working on getting signatory authority for me, but didn’t complete the process before my boss left. And so, although I had written authority to sign contracts, I could only sign for one of our many bank accounts. If you’re only CEO for one day, the reality is you’re probably not signing much of consequence.
  2. Resistance. I heard several times, “We can’t decide this because he’s not here.” I would push back, saying, “Oh, yes, we can,” and then I would hear it again. And again.
  3. Resources. While I was CEO for a day, thirty times over, I was still Director of HR. Not during a boring, uneventful time, but during a period of marked expansion, which meant both roles were extremely busy.  Exactly how I kept my sanity during this month is still not clear to me.
  4. Reversal.  As much as I knew that while I had authority to make decisions today, I was quite aware that my boss had as much or more authority to overturn them tomorrow. I backed away from one decision I was itching to make because the consequences of my boss reversing it would have been devastating to a key employee’s onboarding experience.

Also during my tenure, we got hit by the derecho which significantly impacted operations. A co-worke

r and I spent all weekend with our workers and customers, rallying the troops and ensuring people had what they needed; we continued to respond to the emergency late into the next week.  And two of our executive team members each vacationed for a week or more, making it more challenging to move on key initiatives. Before I knew it, my thirty days were gone. I’d hired a record number of new employees during an insanely busy time, responded to a lot of operational issues including the storm, and helped move our expansion along, but I can’t say I accomplished near what I dreamed.

On the other hand, if I had, would the changes have lasted? Who’s to say?

Reflecting on all this, I turned to my teenaged son and I asked what he would do if he was the boss for a day. He thought about one of his three jobs and replied:

  • Hold regular staff meetings to improve communication and teamwork.
  • Hire an industrial psychologist to improve and streamline disorganized processes.
  • Assign work in a more logical, fair and transparent manner.

Wow, at his age, I probably would have answered, “Put more Diet Coke and less Dr. Pepper in the vending machine.” Knowing next to nothing about his workplace, I can’t comment on the value of his responses, but considering he just graduated from high school, his answers  surprised and impressed me.

Listening to him, I realized that it probably doesn’t matter what the HR pros would do if they were CEO for a day. Sure, we could come up with a list of dream workplace ideas, but so what? Maybe the person we really need to ask is my son. He’s young and he’s inexperienced, but he’s obviously figured out that some things could be better and he has some definite ideas for making that happen. What would happen if his boss asked him–and all his co-workers–the same question and really listened?

And so, my challenge to you tomorrow is to ask your staff what  they would do if they were in charge for a day. Ask them:  How would you change our team/department/branch/organization? What ridiculous rules, policies and procedures would you discard so that you can focus on doing great work? What would you add that's missing?

Ask theses questions, listen, take note and act; and although you still may not be a CEO for a day, maybe you’ll have just much influence, and effect just as much change, by putting your employees in the boss’s seat.

Photo credit: iStockphoto

About the author: Krista Francis, SPHR, is nonprofit HR Director and sometimes Acting Executive Director. She lives outside of Washington DC with her soccer-crazy hubby, two active teenagers, a neurotic cat and the best dog in the world, Rocky, aka Party like a Rockstar. In her loads of free time, she tries to keep her scooter running, tests margaritas for quality control purposes and blogs at aliveHR. You can connect with her on Twitter as @kristafrancis.


CEO For a Day: Career Conversations People Want

Posted on September 13th, by a Guest Contributor in Women of HR Series: CEO For A Day. 2 comments

Women of  HR were asked, “If you were CEO for a day, what would (or did) you focus on to improve an organization's productivity, employee engagement or ability to recruit?”  This is the third post in the series of responses.

It’s a rare organization that doesn’t somewhere in its mission statement or values express a sentiment similar to “people are at the core of our business success.“  It’s an even rarer one that actually acts on it.  If I were bestowed the mantle of CEO, I’d make it my #1 priority to be part of that very rare group…. and I’d have my work cut out for me.

In today’s business environment, talent is the major differentiator. And developing that talent is one of the most significant drivers of employee engagement, which in turn is the key to business outcomes like revenue, profitability, innovation, productivity, customer loyalty, quality, and cycle time reduction.

Yet engagement remains at disturbingly low levels.  Right Management recently released survey results that reveal that only 19% of employees describe themselves as being ‘satisfied’ with their jobs. That leaves 81% who don’t have the mindset required to delight customers, tap into their discretionary effort, and drive results.

So as CEO, my focus would have to be on development and helping people to grow.  Unlike money, benefits, recognition trips, and other tactics that deliver short-term results, development is a strategy that has legs to carry it beyond this week or month, delivering sustained results over time.

My recent research with Beverly Kaye found that what employees wanted from development conversations with their supervisors (even more than promotions) was a discussion about how to creatively use their talents.  As humans, we’re wired to want to expand our capacity and to contribute. An organization that can tap into that natural wiring will be nothing short of unbeatable.

As a result, this CEO’s directives would include:

Suspending the Individual Development Plan (IDP) and related systems.

Somehow the simple human act of helping people grow has gotten very complicated—processes on top of checklists with how to get your ex back

references to resource guides. For the manager, this can be a huge time-sink and for the employee, the experience is frequently like drinking from a fire hose. For both, it can be an artificial set of activities that gets checked off the to-do list until next year at the same time. So, let’s temporarily de-emphasize the ‘form’ and focus on the ‘function.’

Insisting upon a daily development conversation between managers and every employee.

When it comes to the managers’ role in development, talk’s not cheap… quite the opposite. Talk is actually the most precious and results-driving commodity managers have to share.  Development is all about the conversation.  It happens one conversation at a time, over time. But these conversations must be prioritized to be as important as any other business task. Once this sensibility is well entrenched, the IDP process can be re-instated…producing powerful results because it will be driven by authentic and regular communication.

Evaluating leaders based upon their employees’ development.

Are employees growing? Do they know more today than they did yesterday? Can they do more now than in the past?  Are we growing and promoting those from within? Are employees satisfied with their careers?  These are the metrics that leaders would be measured on if I were CEO.

Growing the business means growing people. CEOs who turn the plaques and platitudes about people into daily development dialogues will tap into the most powerful differentiator available to them… and transform their businesses in the process.

Photo credit: iStockphoto

About the author: Julie Winkle Giulioni has spent the past 25 years improving performance through learning. She consults with organizations to develop and deploy innovative instructional designs and training worldwide. Her book, Help Them Grow or Watch Them Go: Career Conversations Employees Want (co-authored with Beverly Kaye) (launching September 18th, 2012 and available on Amazon) is a practical quick-read for managers who’d like to figure out how to fit career development into their already-full dance cards. Learn more about Julie


CEO for a Day: Unconventional HR

Posted on September 12th, by Kimberly Patterson in Women of HR Series: CEO For A Day. 1 Comment

Women of  HR were asked, “If you were CEO for a day, what would (or did) you focus on to improve an organization's productivity, employee engagement or ability to recruit?”  This is the second post in the series of responses.

If I had the opportunity to be the CEO for a day, I'd tell the entire organization to forget everything they know, have experienced or have been told about Human Resources.  We’re going to focus on one thing — making work better!  Making the employment experience what it's supposed to be: mutually beneficial.  

We spend more time at work than we do anywhere else.  I have to believe that all organizations aspire to have people who want to come to work and to have their leadership embrace the effort it takes to make that happen.  Yes, it's a huge undertaking that would be time consuming, frustrating and require baby steps that focus on a consistent message which is simply, to make work better.  I believe it's possible and after all, this is my story!

So what does it mean to make work better?

It means we'd start by focusing on relationships — starting with one of the most important ones: managers and their teams.  Managers who are not effective communicators or who may be uncomfortable confronting tough issues or being transparent will learn how to communicate effectively and productively.  Since building good relationships obviously requires multiple people to work well together, employees will also learn how to be comfortable handling feedback and exchanging ideas with their managers and colleagues.  All of this will be done face to face or via video chat.  How many times have you heard someone say, “I didn't like the tone of that email.”  How many times have you had to run interference between a manager and a team member because of a preventable miscommunication that spiraled out of control?

We're going to eliminate the annual performance review process completely!

Don't worry, we'll have ways to manage performance.  We'll focus on goals and we'll start Feedback Sessions that will be more frequent, yet brief.  Managers and teams will compare notes on the status of their goals, brainstorm about tools that address their individual growth areas, set new goals and provide a clear understanding of how the team's success fits into the progress of the company.  Yes, we need to know what needs to be said for effective feedback but it's even more important to know “how” things need to be said.

We're going to step up to the pla

te and hit a line drive with the empathy bat!

Employees and managers will do deep dives into understanding each others jobs.  Employees will recognize what it takes for their managers to be successful and vice versa.  Doesn't it make a difference to work on a project when you know why the project is important and what the direct relevance that your success has on the goals of the company?  It makes the difference between wanting to come to work and not wanting to come to work.

We're going to gut the employee manual and focus on simplicity and common sense! 

We'll keep the legal stuff in there but we're going to remove some of the dumbest employment policies I've ever seen — the ones that border on being inhuman — like telling people how many bereavement days they get based on how the company defines particular family members.  I'll never forget — I once worked with a young man whose parents were killed when he was a baby and he was raised by his aunt.  But because his aunt was not defined as an “immediate family member” in the handbook, this man had to take most of his vacation time so he could grieve and make the necessary burial arrangements.  You get the point.  I digress.

Last but definitely not least.  Everyone will leave their egos at the door.

Yes, everyone.  Teams can't be built and folks can't collaborate when someone is always vying for the spotlight.  Those who can't handle that can make a graceful exit.  I've always said that people don't leave bad companies, they leave bad managers.  And you can take that to the bank.  Do you think someone who is unhappy at work is going to be helpful and friendly with coworkers and customers?  That would be a resounding “no.”

When we improve our internal relationships, teach folks how to foster those relationships, treat people like adults and work in ways that are progressive and unconventional (think anti-Corporate America) everything else will fall into place — like client satisfaction and profitability.  Wow, what a concept.

Happy to hear your thoughts.

Photo credit: UnconventionalHR

About the author: Kimberly Roden is an HR pro turned consultant and the founder of Unconventional HR.  She has 25 years of progressive experience as a strategic HR and business leader.  Her hands-on and innovative approach allows her to create and deliver HR solutions to meet business challenges and needs by managing human capital, talent acquisition and technology.