Article originally published by the American City Business Journals on June 6, 2022.
For almost eight years, I have shared with my Business Journal readers leadership principles learned as I rose to the position of CEO of a global company and served as a director on numerous boards. In this article, I outline seven of these important principles.
Pursue mission-critical objectives with a laser-like focus
These are objectives that must be accomplished. Spare no expense committing both talent and capital resources to ensure these objectives will be achieved. Commit these resources as early as possible. It is better to overcommit resources than under commit them, which may jeopardize the outcome.
Grant decision authority commensurate with responsibility and experience
In some organizations, the authority to make capital spending decisions is not clear, resulting in time spent by the boss approving initiatives that should be approved by their direct reports. This deprives individuals of the opportunity to grow by taking responsibility for decisions they make. It also consumes the boss’s time that can be better spent on other things.
Ask others for their opinions
Even if you have the authority to make a decision, it is not a weakness to ask others for their opinion – it’s a strength. You may want to get a reality check on what you are about to do. It could help you understand the unintended consequences you have not considered. Asking for opinions is part of the process of de-risking decisions.
Operate your organization with as few management levels as possible
Organizations with too many levels of management are slow and cumbersome. Span of control is too narrow. Not only is this a waste of money, but the additional bureaucracy slows decision-making. Flat organizations are nimble and are much more effective.
When assuming a new position, don’t criticize your predecessor
After I was promoted to the presidency of my company’s Canadian subsidiary, I made numerous organization changes. When asked why so many changes were needed, rather than criticize my predecessor for not making them while he held the position, I responded that demands of the business and market conditions required change, and that he would have made similar changes had he remained in the position. This was especially important since he had been promoted to a senior executive position within the company.
Never lose credibility with your organization
While serving as a business unit manager, I watched our CEO lose credibility with his management team by setting stretch financial goals for the company’s annual budget that had little chance of success. Investment spending on new product initiatives and plant efficiency improvements were based on hitting these stretch goals.
As each year progressed, we fell behind those stretch goals. Investments in important initiatives were cut, which adversely impacted employee morale. As a result, the CEO lost credibility. Investment decisions should be based on achieving financial objectives that have a realistic chance of success.
Never lose sight of your objective – to meet/exceed customer needs
Many employees feel the objective of their company is to maximize profits. To the contrary, the objective of every company should be to meet/exceed customer needs and give them a great customer experience while doing so. How well you do this is measured by the profit the company earns. By thinking that profit is the objective rather than a measure of success, employees will overlook what they need to do – focus on the customer.
These principles will help you achieve success regardless of the business you’re in.
Stan Silverman is founder and CEO of Silverman Leadership and author of “Be Different! The Key to Business and Career Success.” He is also a speaker, advisor and widely read nationally syndicated columnist on leadership, entrepreneurship and corporate governance. He can be reached at Stan@SilvermanLeadership.com.