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A cohesive leadership team is the foundation of a healthy and productive business.
Imagine a hypothetical situation where a non-owner CEO of an advisory firm with multiple partners is hired and put in charge of transforming the firm to an enduring, generational business that thrives beyond its founders. After several months, this newly hired executive is perplexed by a gap between what the partners say and do. Even the partners are largely out of alignment as to the future of the firm despite their public statements being similar.
Here is a candid memo that implores the partners to be relentless about aligning their vision for the firm, both in words and deeds.
Since we began our conversation about the possibility of me joining our firm, and all throughout the formal interview process, I earnestly wanted to do all that I could in my power to help make your vision a reality. Our families met and felt that there was a good relational fit both professionally and personally. When I was offered the job after a lengthy vetting process, I was eager to dive in and make contributions to your vision of transforming our firm to an enduring, generational advisory business.
As I mentioned during the interview process and repeatedly thereafter, the first step is to build and maintain a cohesive leadership team – you, the partners, and me. For our firm to move forward, it is imperative to have a leadership team that can engage in productive, yet brutally honest, discussions and decision making on important issues.
A cohesive leadership team should be willing to be vulnerable and readily admit mistakes and weaknesses. It would also put our firm’s priorities above our personal ones, which calls for the wisdom to be able to distinguish between corporate and personal interests. As such, the leadership team should be able to define success collectively and make decisions decisively in a timely manner, with a strong bias toward action and results.
We are making progress here, but we still need a lot of work as we are still largely out of alignment.
Allow me to elaborate.
What I interpreted as my marching orders during the interview process and during the first several weeks and months of my tenure was that the partners wished to transform our firm to an enduring, generational business. You wanted to build a firm where your sons and daughters can join and work if they so chose. My understanding was that the partners lacked sufficient time to devote to this undertaking, and therefore, hired me to be the executive in charge to make this happen. I took that to heart and went to work, trying faithfully to first understand and then execute the partners’ vision and wishes. I believed that I had room to run and do what I thought needed to be done as the partners were busy with servicing clients and dealing with the day-to-day issues of managing their client bases and getting caught up on outstanding items.
After some time, however, I gradually began to sense that the marching orders I believed I was given were not the actual orders that the partners thought they had sent. When I sensed this growing difference, I tried to improve my communication – holding more meetings with the partners and then documenting our decisions and progress in more detail to update status more frequently.
In the earlier months of our meetings, you would speak and I would listen intently to absorb where it is that you wanted to take our firm. To state the obvious, there was so much work to be done to make your vision a reality. Naturally, I would have significant issues to discuss, such as strategic planning, building a company culture and the like, which required thoughtful and lengthy discussions. Yet, you were more interested in “fixing” immediate and urgent matters, oblivious to far more consequential issues that were required of us if we indeed wanted to accomplish what you told me you wanted to accomplish. You would often get stuck on a single item that could have been easily handled by a staff member, and rarely had time to move on to “big picture” issues that were important and consequential.
By Hoon Kang, read the full article here.