In 2021, twenty percent of the workforce left their positions. For some leaders, this was just another massive headache in these uncertain times. But more and more organisations have begun to realise that while the Great Resignation has brought attrition issues, it also has created the opportunity to acquire new talent, and that can include the C-suite. It has been said that every crisis is a great opportunity and now is an opportunity to find the future of leadership. However, there are ways to leverage this moment properly. One of the key things to be aware of as you assess potential new hires is being certain they can live the way your ogranisation wants to live.
Choose leaders that understand how your organisation wants to live.
Understanding how your organisation lives is key to identifying the right talent for your leadership team. You need a clear sense of your corporate culture, values and goals, and definition of success. This entails everything from how you communicate to how your teams are organized. Be transparent about your expectations and encourage candidates to be clear about what they can offer. Someone who wishes to spend weekends doing triathlons, or with their family or pursuing a hobby doesn’t mean they can’t be an effective leader. But if your company expects leadership to be available at the weekend then they may not be the right fit for your organisation.
When executives transition into new opportunities, their ability to succeed is not just a matter of getting behind the mission of the company. It is also about understanding the culture of how the organisation works together. When a CEO brings in new talent, he or she must integrate them into the new team. This means that before hiring, one not only must make sure the leader can do the job technically, but also do they want to climb that hill – do they want to drive the product to market, innovate technologically, etc.
But then, one must go further and ask: what about the culture this executive will set? And will your existing team want to work in that culture? It is well understood how much leaders shape corporate culture. But if they are not bought into the way the rest of the team lives (which reflects how the organisation lives) then they will not be able to make that team come together effectively for the long term. All too often, new leaders don’t fully understand ‘this is how we work’. Both sides must take ownership for this miss, by the way. I see CEOs not ask it enough, and I see leaders in new roles not recognise their inability to transition to a new way of working.
For many years I led a multinational team in London for an American organisation. My team was comprised of people based all over the world, and we had to set expectations of when we would all be available. Some of that was tricky due to simple logistics of different time zones. But there also can be different individual expectations of what is the ‘right’ amount of availability. You can make it work – we did – if you have a lot of conversations. But you must all have similar definitions of how the organisation lives.
When leaders move to a new organisation, it can be difficult to change expectations to match their new employer. After all, they have been hired based on their past performance which reflects the way they have been working for years, even decades. This new hire has set patterns and an established a way of working, and therefore they are likely to go into a new team and explain that’s how they like to work. When something has worked a certain way for twenty years, it’s hard to give that up. Yet if those habits of success are not examined, and then stop working, everyone is headed for a lot of headaches.
Leaders that align with the way your organisation wants to live is essential to success.
Organisations are moaning about the Great Resignation but the most insightful see that this is actually an opportunity to pick up great talent. But like many opportunities, it also carries its own seeds of destruction. Get clear on your expectations of how you want to live and making sure the new talent is aligned. The reward will be leadership for years to come.
In terms of my background and expertise, I have spent my entire career working as a trusted advisor to senior leaders wanting to improve the effectiveness of themselves, their teams, and their companies. Prior to starting my own consulting firm, I led the global executive assessment and development team for Cisco. Earlier in my career, I held leadership roles with RHR International, PepsiCo, Ashridge Executive Education, Hult International Business School, and the Central European University, Budapest, Hungary.