THE CORNERSTONE EAGLE is the newsletter for senior executives, friends and partners of the Cornerstone International Group around the world. The Eagle is majestic, free and towers above all else when gracefully gliding the currents in the air. The Cornerstone International Group likewise feels close affinity with the Eagle, in professionalism in our practice, honesty and integrity in all our interactions, and making positive changes in our work and processes to improve and create added value for our clients and candidate
Archives for December 2022
By Larry Shoemaker, President
An article published by McKenzie & Company in June, Resilience for Sustainable, Inclusive Growth, noted that “today, the world is beset by several crises of global importance,” then went on to discuss a number of these in detail. Five months later these same crises are even more severe. The Conference Board’s Measure of CEO Confidence™ fell to 32 to start Q4, reflecting the deepest level of pessimism their quarterly CEO survey has found since 2008-2009.
From all indications, difficult times will persist for quite some time. The steps leaders take today will greatly influence how they navigate the challenges and ensure their organization’s future.
Success tomorrow requires focus on what you can impact today. Your short-term actions determine how successful your organization will be. Each organization and situation has different challenges, but there are some actions that every leader must take to increase the probability of success. Not surprising, many of these actions concern people.
A Way of Thinking
Difficult times have resulted in a new term, “productivity paranoia.” In September, Microsoft published a survey from 20,000 people in 11 countries which reflected people are working more than ever, while leaders are questioning if their employees are being productive. The perception gap is huge – 87% of employees report they are productive at work, while 85% of leaders say that the shift to hybrid work has made it challenging to have confidence that employees are being productive. Perhaps the question should be whether activity or impact is the goal, and how it is being measured. There must be transparency in defining what is more important. Once it is agreed on, it must be communicated. Any lack of clarity will erode trust.
Culture is a critical key to success. My simplified definition of culture is “how we do things around here.” Leaders must examine their organization and ensure it is prepared for a rapidly changing, complex environment that includes ongoing disruptions which could have long-term consequences. Open, two-way communications are required. Dialogues must ensure the term “status-quo” is removed from the organization’s vocabulary and replaced with “adaptability.” Employee engagement, based on mutual respect and trust, is required. Everyone must believe they have responsibility to contribute to the organization’s success and will be held accountable for their performance. A clear understanding of expectations, and a commitment to deliver them, is every employee’s responsibility.
A Way of Acting
Decisive, quick actions propel organizations. It is important to do things right, but too much analysis leads to slower decisions and missed opportunities. Willingness to take calculated risks and respond quickly sets the tone for resilience. The inclination to make decisions without having as much information as preferred establishes an“ action oriented” culture, but to be effective, it must also include willingness to accept responsibility for those decisions. Every decision or action will not be right, but organizations and individuals with resilience will rebound from mistakes and grow stronger. In many organizations, employees who are prepared to make decisions are not permitted to do so. Passing this authority and responsibility along to employees expands their potential to contribute as well as their personal development.
People are the building blocks for resilient organizations. Employees that are capable, feel they are part of the organization’s success, and want to provide input, are required. Every current employee in the organization may not have this ability, but many will, and with training and development, many more also can. An additional insight from the earlier-mentioned Microsoft survey is that about 75% of employees noted they would stay at their current company longer if they could benefit from learning and development. Resilience includes providing your current employees tools for their success, which in turn enhances your organization’s success.
Every new hire is an opportunity to bring the “right individual” into your organization and is an important step for the organization’s future. Perhaps this statement by Joe Trammell, owner of Texas CEO Magazine, says it best “each time you hire, you have a choice to either hire the best possible candidate or to hire whoever is most affordable or available. Look for talent always. Also, make sure you have a culture that encourages skills development, creativity, and job advancement. Otherwise, you risk wasting and losing the talent you worked so hard to recruit in the first place.” Resilient organizations require the right employees – those that fit their culture and are committed to their performance. The time and effort to make certain you achieve a successful hire is an investment in your future.
Change is inevitable. Resilient organizations can quickly recover from disruptions, and even become more successful. Culture is the framework within which resilience resides. The environment must encourage. Employees who are committed and connected have a positive impact on business results. Those who know what they are accountable for typically perform well.
Resilience includes having a culture that is based on responsibility and accountability, the right people, and efforts to prepare them to succeed. People must have the ability to think creatively, be curious, and want to be part of the organization’s success. These personal characteristics must be part of the evaluation process for new hires and internal promotions, and leadership must support them in every decision. Getting there is a journey, but well worth the process. It isn’t free, but if done with purpose, it is well worth the investment.
We at Cornerstone International Group help clients around the globe build resiliency. Are you and your leadership team focusing enough on resilience?
Larry Shoemaker is President of Cornerstone International group, and founder of Shoemaker & Associates/Cornerstone Atlanta. He has helped clients build and develop leaders to meet organizational challenges for more than a quarter century.
Early in True Grit (the 1968 novel and movie adaptations) Mattie Ross encounters the man she intends to hire: Reuben “Rooster” Cogburn. Mattie has been warned that Cogburn, ageing, overweight and a drunk, is moreover a “crazy vagabond.” But when they meet, she recognizes he has the quality she needs to accomplish her mission. A 14-year-old girl, she needs help tracking down the man who killed her father. As she says to the baffled gunfighter, “They told me you had true grit and that is why I came to you.” She hired him, and in the end, they got their man.
The word grit has had an interesting journey, starting from greot, an Old English word for earth, sand, or gravel. From the early 19th century, the abrasive denotations of the word world began to connote positive personal qualities. “I admire your sand,” the town horse trader grudgingly admits to Mattie.
Angela Duckworth is a professor of psychology at the University of Pennsylvania. Her research focuses on the relationship between achievement and character: is there a missing link between IQ and talent, and ultimately success? Her findings suggested that one word conveys the, well, grittiness needed to achieve goals. Her 2013 TED Talk, “Grit: The Power of Passion and Perseverance,” has attracted over 28 million viewers. Her 2016 book of the same name became an instant bestseller. As an executive recruiter, I sensed that her research findings could provide valuable insights into selecting the right candidates for executive positions. In fact, they are valuable lessons for anyone who wants to maintain their edge:
- Strike a balance between competence and confidence. Trust your abilities but work hard to improve them. Put aside your ego to listen to others.
- Find trainers/ mentors who will praise your accomplishments but challenge you to extend your boundaries.
- Practice deliberately to become a better version of yourself. Malcolm Gladwell says that mastery requires 10,000 hours of practice, which are not always fun. But mastery requires pushing aside complacency and boredom.
- Find a support group that can help you through the rough patches.
- Most importantly, never quit on a bad day. There are times when emotions blur objectives, when it is easy to simply slide off the wagon. But then you’ll have to live with the regret of not sticking it out to the end.
These are important personal standards. They are also character traits that executive recruiters are looking to discern in executive hires, those who need to have the grit to carry out formidable challenges.