ArLyne's Diamonds

A running commentary of ideas

Monday, May 02, 2011

Disconnect between CEOs and Top Officers

I saved an article that was in the San Jose Mercury on March 28th, wherein executives complain that their perceptions and decisions are not always consistent across the executive team. Sometimes the CEO has one set of beliefs and his/her executive team doesn’t really execute on them in the way the CEO wants. In other cases, members of the executive team operate independently of shared values and beliefs.

Over the many years I’ve been consulting, I’ve seen this problem over and over. Abstract concepts mean different things to different people. For example: “Constructive criticism” can be helpful or hurtful depending on how it is implemented. “Quality” and “Teamwork” are other abstract concepts often interpreted differently.

Among the areas of disagreement (according to the article) are issues of motivation. CEOs tend to think money is the prime motivator, whereas other executives talk about being part of the decision making process, creativity, work-life balance, and relationships.

My experience is that the Executive Team talks at each other during meetings instead of with each other. They have their staff prepare these glorious power-points and they meet and show off to each other, rather than sitting around the table and sharing information and concerns.
Too, the famous “Tyranny of Pleasantness” operates so that everyone plays nice and no one deals with each other honestly. (My article on this subject is a chapter in my soon to be released book on Conflict Resolution.) Or else, they are so busy jockeying for positions of power that they verbally arm-wrestle with each other.

What’s needed is a CEO who knows how to draw out and integrate her/his executive team so that they trust and help each other. Am I dreaming? No. I’ve seen it happen in really well run organizations.

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