Hey CEOs, Are You Helping or Hindering Your Executive Leaders?

Stacey Ashley Blog

Hey CEOs, Are You Helping or Hindering Your Executive Leaders?

I’ve been coaching a number of senior executives and noticed some themes arising. These people are each very senior, very experienced leaders, making good contributions and acknowledged as performing well. Yet each of them feel they are being stifled. They feel their ability to contribute is being limited, and that they are being prevented from making an even bigger difference. And what is worse, they name their leader as the one who is getting in their way, the CEO, the MD, the Group Executive.

I’ve been reflecting on this.

What is going on?

Why would this be happening in a world where we need all the leadership help we can get?

Our role as leaders is to maximise the chance for our people to realise their potential and to contribute at the highest level. Yet in these cases, it is their leader who is the limiting factor. For example, these individuals are telling me that in executive meetings, they are being shut down by the CEO or ignored by the MD. They are telling me that when they give voice to ideas, their ideas are not even considered. They are simply discarded by the Head of the organisation. These individuals are not always included in key conversations, and often miss out on critical information.

Where does the future of the business come from if we are not looking for opportunities, options, and possibilities?

It’s like being the head chef and doing all the cooking yourself. If you are the most senior leader in your business or in your business unit and you only look to yourself for ideas and options, you are limiting what is possible in the future to a capacity of one. Why not tap into the extraordinary people who surround you? Your people, your senior leaders?

Our role as leaders is to help people find their strengths, not to stifle them. These people have so much to offer and yet they are not being given the opportunity. In reality, the opportunity is being actively taken away from them. And let me be clear, these are no shrinking violets. They are insightful, articulate, experienced individuals with much to offer. And they want to contribute more.

What do you think might happen next for these people? Individuals who really aspire to do more, these very senior, very experienced, very good leaders.

“People leave people, not organisations.”

Quote by too many people to name

Performance equals potential minus interference. Part of leadership in an organisation is to maximise and optimise performance. Leaders have a responsibility to remove the interference for their people. To remove roadblocks, to get rid of obstacles.

But what if you are the interference?

What if you are the one who is in the way?

What if you are the limiting factor?

Here are a few thoughts for your consideration:

1. Firstly, think about your own self-awareness. How are you working with your direct reports, your most senior contributors, and leaders in your organisation? What is the state of the relationships you have with these people, and what can you do to elevate them?

We all know that people do business with people they know, like, and trust. So what can you do to contribute to a relationship of know, like, and trust, so you feel more comfortable and confident working with these people, listening to what they have to say, trusting their judgement, and using their expert advice and guidance?

2. What might you do to elevate your listening skills? To actually hear what they have to say before shutting them down. How are you adapting your own perspective?

3. What about how you create the time and space to spend with them? To stop cancelling and rescheduling your regular catch-ups with your senior leaders and use this committed, precious time in a really constructive way to look at the options and opportunities, and the ideas and insights they bring to you?

4. What can you do to create Executive & Leadership meeting environments where everybody has a voice? To create opportunity for all individuals across your leadership group to contribute to the peer discussion that happens at that level, rather than only the favoured few, and to contribute to the decision making that follows these conversations.

5. If your senior people are not giving you what you need and want, then please have an expectations conversation with them. Get really clear. These are senior people. They will know what to do with feedback. So, offer them your observations, share with them what you need from them, so that you both get what you want out of the relationship. You get what you need, you feel supported, and they get the voice that they need to share their great ideas and make a bigger contribution.

We know that people leave managers and leaders rather than organisations. Right now, it’s imperative that we keep our good people. That we sponsor them, support them, and encourage them, rather than shutting them down and stifling them.

Your senior leaders want to contribute.

I implore you to look to yourself and how you might be interfering with their possibility.

I’d love to know your thoughts.

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