CEO For a Day: A View From the Top
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 first post in the series of responses.
The first time I had the top leadership position in a global organization, I had 3 priorities from a culture/people perspective that I knew would positively impact our financial performance:
- Re-engage employees
- Restructure operations so that leadership was closer to employees and customers
- Provide greater organizational focus on quality of service
We had the best employees in the industry doing the most cutting edge work in our field. And I wanted to ensure that were able to retain and develop those colleagues – and attract more of them. So we did a lot of work around diversity/inclusion and professional development. In everything I did – publicly with lots of colleagues in attendance or privately in one-on-ones all over the world – I did my very best to consistently model the leadership and culture-specific behaviors we wanted to see more of. And critical to that behavior was giving recognition – saying thank you – to our colleagues who were making us great.
When I restructured the top of the house to provide more senior leaders within easy grasp of local colleagues and customers, I chose those leaders whose behavior was consistently congruent with our values as well as having been extremely successful in generating business results – both were required in the new structure. Rewarding business performance is easy. Making culturally appropriate leadership behaviors as important as business outcomes is difficult. As a result, we lost a few senior leaders who had been passed over. But this was a critical message to our colleagues: walking the talk was now mandatory.
At the same time we ratcheted up our focus on understanding what quality outcome metrics were critical to our growth and stepped up our expectations for meeting stronger KPIs.
A balanced approach of high expectations for both business outcomes and behaviors that fit our culture raised the bar for everyone – and I’m proud to say our teams more than met the challenges. During a time when demand for our services skyrocketed, our quality outcomes surged, the engagement and satisfaction of our colleagues strengthened, and our top and bottom lines improved significantly – all of which enabled us to become the industry leader in our field. And made it possible for us to recruit additional rock star talent to the organization.
I can honestly say that this first experience of being at the very top of an organization was as hard as I thought it would be – it takes courage to change “the way we’ve always done things” – and a lot more fun than I thought it would be.
Photo credit: iStockphoto
About the author: China Gorman is CEO of the CMG Group, connecting HR to business and business to HR, and author of the Data Point Tuesday feature at www.chinagorman.com. Connect with her on Twitter as @ChinaGorman.