The role of the CEO is to have ‘effective’ conversations. If his or her conversations are effective, then the organization will generate results, and if not, the results of the organization will get impacted.
In my experience of interacting with some top CEOs, several of them miss these basic, and yet critical conversations, with their teams. And interestingly, some others avoid having these conversations — because each of these aren’t necessarily easy conversations to have.
Often, it is learning to take the bull by the horns. And many CEOs I know who have mastered these conversations and have generated great results.
Here are what I assess to be the 5 key conversations CEOs must have with their teams. These are not discretionary conversations. These must be had for the sake of results of the organization:
1. Co-create a Future that the Organization Commits to
If the organization is not working to achieve a well-crafted future, my claim is the organization is in drift. The first key role of the CEO is to co-create with their team an empowering future for the organization. A future that will take care of the core reason for the organisation’s existence, and empower its people to get to work daily.
2. Have the Senior Management Team, and People under Them own the Future
This is the organization’s future — not just the CEO’s future. This future must be fully owned by the senior management team of the organization. Which is one of the reasons why this future must be co-created with other senior people in the organization. Because others have participated in the creation of the future, they are more prone to own the future. It is not unusual that a few members of the senior management do not own the future. This is when the CEO needs to step in and have the appropriate ownership conversation with these team members. The CEO needs to ‘listen’ and understand their concerns and effectively deal with these concerns.
3. Take Care of the Mood of the Organization
Teams can either be in disempowering moods or empowering moods. When teams are disempowered, they are disempowered about how the future looks to them. The mood of a team is directly related to how they assess the future of that team / organization will be. And when they are empowered, it is because they assess the future is achievable, and that this future will take care of what matters to them. In my opinion, the CEO is directly responsible for the mood of the organization. If the mood is disempowered, then there are missing conversations the CEO needs to have.Imagine the difference in the results of the organization when a team is disempowered as against a team that is empowered.
4. Inculcate a Culture of Learning
Learning in this case doesn’t mean theoretical learning. Learning means enabling people to do what they haven’t done before; allowing them the opportunity to fail; encouraging people to go out of their comfort zone – on a regular basis; inviting people to play big games – those that they haven’t played before; coach and provide coaching support (top CEOs spend a majority of their time coaching their teams).Teams that are not expanding; those that are not questioning status quo are teams that are not growing. Sooner or later, their results will slow down.
5. Manage the Promises of the People to Fulfill the Larger Promise
The job of the CEO is to effectively manage promises of their teams. This is a skill largely not present in a lot of CEOs that I have coached and interacted with. Many CEOs are expert ‘doers’. What is missing is the skill to effectively seek promises and to then ensure these promises are managed well. There are generative leadership conversations around managing actions that CEOs need to first understand and then practice to gain mastery.
As I have stated above, these conversations are not discretionary. Results of any organization are directly related with whether or not these conversations are happening, and if so, how effectively are these being managed.
Of course, there are many conversational distinctions that the CEO needs to master, but in my assessment, these are the absolute key conversations.
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