Two Secrets To Success At The C-Level
Congratulations. You’ve got a seat at the proverbial table! Whether you’ve got a c-level title or not, your seat on the leadership team gives you quite a bit of influence as well as a lot of responsibility to balance.
I’ve been coaching and consulting with C-Level leaders for nearly 30 years and have seen two patterns that almost ensure success at this level. Both are a mindset shift from what it took to be successful anywhere else in the organization. As they say, “what got you here, won’t get you there”.
1. Acknowledge & Balance Your Constituents
Whether you’re the CIO, CHRO, CFO, COO, CRO, or an important head of something that puts you in the room with a ‘Chief of’ title, you have a multi-faceted role that impacts all levels of the organization.
- Your Team – Let’s say you are the new CHRO. You’ve likely got a large team to run…about half focused on HR Operations and the other half focused on delivering strategic HR services to internal clients. Both are critical. You’re likely very familiar with those, having built a career in HR. I’m guessing you know what those areas need to be successful and hopefully, you’ve built a great leadership team of your own to keep them running. The challenge you now have is that they are not your only concern.
- Your Peers – You are now a peer coach to the leadership team and it is your job to make sure the dynamic on that team is working well and that you have strong influential relationships with your peers. Your role in adding strategic HR services and value to the leadership team is another one that cannot slip.
- Your Boss – Yet, there is a third constituent you must also manage. You are now the confidant of the CEO and the HR representative to the board of directors. Your role there is to provide HR strategy, advice, and counsel at the highest level.
Any of these roles can be a full-time job, but if you let one of them take over at the expense of the others, the three-legged stool collapses. Becoming acutely aware of who your major constituents are and figuring out how to manage your time effectively to balance your contributions to all of them will be critical to your success. If you can somehow make them all believe they are your most critical constituent, so much the better.
It’s the same for every role at the leadership table. You now own the operations of a function, the influence and support of a peer team, and the involvement of the CEO and the board. Awareness of that balance is your first step to creating it. Master that balance and you will maximize your contribution and master your role.
2. Steward The Organization
This goes back to your role as a peer on the leadership team. It is no longer enough to be the best HR, finance, IT or Revenue expert. Your seat at the table means you are now responsible, fiscally, and otherwise, for the whole organization, whether you technically “own” it or not. You do. The steward mindset means that you will really seek to understand how ALL the pieces fit together and help drive decisions that are in the best interest of the whole organization rather than those that give your function or business the advantage. Being a steward takes collaboration to a whole new level and will require each person on the team to put themselves in each other’s shoes, understand how the pieces fit together, and represent each other well — even when someone is out of the room.
I once met a couples counselor who told me, “I’m the counselor to the couple, not to either individual. When the couple wins, I win.” Being a steward works the same way. The mindset is that while you may be an expert in your function, your client is now the company, and your function takes second place to the whole.