A large healthcare organization was preparing for a CEO transition. The top CEO successor was a seasoned leader within the company who had demonstrated great success leading his business from strategy to results. Over his career he had been rewarded for revamping the organization and realizing explosive growth. However, his challenge was that he was a doer – task oriented and laser-focused on the bottom line. He tended to move quickly, demonstrate agility when making important decisions, and bring (if not drag) others along with him.
Our goal in coaching was to help him adapt his leadership style for the CEO role, which required an enterprise-wide perspective, a renewed focus on developing key people, and the ability to draw from the collective wisdom of the organization.
At the outset of the coaching program, we administered the Bates ExPI™ to take a robust appraisal of his ability to influence across the organization. Through multi-rater feedback, we were able to draw a picture of his strengths and gaps within the three dimensions of executive presence – Character, Substance, and Style. We found that while he received high marks from his direct supervisor, these ratings were almost always higher than ratings from peers, direct reports, and others in the organization.
Specifically, he received lower marks in the facets of Restraint, Concern, Inclusiveness, and Interactivity. As a doer, he wanted quick results and was rewarded for action, not team building or the development of others. This had led to a view by some that he was isolated, if not a bit arrogant, in making quick decisions and dominating critical discussions. While he was perceived as able to successfully manage the business, not all were as confident in his leadership of the people.
Addressing Feedback on Executive Presence
In response to the ExPI feedback, we held a three-way meeting with the leader and his supervisor. It was agreed that, while it had been necessary to quickly execute to rebuild his business in the marketplace, his assertive and often aggressive style would be self-limiting in the CEO role. To ensure the long-term success of the organization, it was necessary for him to exercise more restraint, show more patience, and focus on developing not just the business dynamics but the professional skills and capabilities of his most important staff.
Our coaching program focused on his ability to lead at the enterprise level and realize the execution of strategy through others. We worked on some key strategic and tactical objectives to help him succeed:
- Building influence with cross functional teams
- Showing more restraint in meetings
- Encouraging others to express their views openly and honestly
- Scheduling more one-on-one time with direct reports
- Projecting his real but hidden concern for others
The ultimate result was a more interactive work environment with greater engagement from his staff. Results have continued to be at or above the aggressive growth targets established for the company. Most importantly, the key stakeholders within the organization agree that this leader is now clearly in transition to take over the business and is more comfortable embracing the full leadership role that such a move will require.