Tag Archives: CEO

Is Short Term Executive Thinking a Problem?

7 Aug

All executives, and most other employees, are judged on a daily basis by what they are producing and particularly results measured against goals contributing to achievement of the business plan.  In a fairly large organization, metrics may be tracked on a daily basis within an operating division and at head offices far away.  Everyone is watching to see whether the numbers will be met today, this month, this quarter, this year.

Sustainability and working towards the future is critical, in principle, but results today, for most individuals, are what matters for survival and personal advantage.

Many executives, particularly CEOs and those responsible for Sales, may turn over frequently.  No matter who is the leader of the pack today, it is inevitable that for most, their days are numbered. New stars will be welcomed to take their place and yesterday’s heroes will be out the door and poised to be the hope of tomorrow at another organization, as the cycle repeats.

The executive knows he/she has to get results today and knows that the opportunity to dazzle an organization and, possibly, within an industry is limited.  Because of that, the focus is on results NOW, and at all costs and within his/her business lifetime.  These high profile executives are generally very smart people who understand long term planning and long term opportunity very well.  They can talk about it, prepare long term plans and projections, but if they are unlikely to be around to see it happen, all the focus has to be on results today and within the time frame of the current plan.

Of course, the executives all have their separate goals based on their specialty areas (e.g. Sales, Manufacturing) and the CEO counts on them all being achieved in order to meet business plan goals for the total organization. It is probably well understood that optimum results of one executive can often be at the expense of another.

Are they – the executive team – all pulling together in the same direction?  Does overall corporate success by superb teamwork take precedence over their individual successes in their own functional area?  That is extremely unlikely.  Their individual goals (functional and personal) come first and determine their success. They must take every action necessary to achieve them.  The VPs are working together, but not always marching under the same flag.

They may respect one-another but most likely spend significant time fighting, complaining about one another and each one doing whatever is necessary to meet his/her goals regardless of the impact on other goals and even the impact on future results.  Today is what counts, for the CEO also, who acts as referee!

How Does Human Resources Fit In?

It is not so easy.  HR is constantly told that it has to align with business goals and talk the talk of business colleagues.  If the executive relationships are somewhat dysfunctional, as I suggest, how does the VP HR determine what to align to?  HR has the vision and programs to contribute to the future, to sustainability and to contribute to productivity in many ways but do the executives really care? What do you think? Are they more interested in what HR can do for them today – to get problems and roadblocks out of the way, not the promise of great things in the future? Is it more important for HR to determine the true values and operating style of the organization and focus on responding within the real rather than pretend environment?

Should the success of most organizations be acknowledged as based primarily on the smart, day to day, and often reactive decisions of executives rather than a long term somewhat safe plan? Elements of both are essential, but how would they balance in real life? The question of executives to HR is likely to be “what can you do for me today?” rather than soliciting HR’s vision of the future.

My belief is that executives will want HR to address very practical things to help them achieve what each of them has to achieve today.  For example:

  • Hiring the right people without delay and firing people cleanly and quickly when they are no longer needed
  • Keeping the union under control (getting rid of it is generally preferred) and finding ways around limitations – similarly finding a way around restrictive and annoying legislation
  • Looking after employee problems and preferably without involving executives any more than absolutely necessary
  • Doing all the nice things to make the company look good and seem like a great employer and giving executives as much credit as possible e.g.  including them in photos and announcements and inviting them to participate in or lead high profile presentations
  • Keeping the employee records in order and making HR programs as easy as possible to comply with e.g.  performance management which should be more focused on results in real time rather than historically

If real business is often more immediate than imagined, are the standard HR approaches listed below really important to the CEO and VPs except as compliance rhetoric or in meeting formal planning requirements? For example:

  • Acting as an equal business partner and giving input to VPs about their operations and how best to achieve results
  • Being too proactive, with HR initiatives that may theoretically bring great results, but not helping achieve goals today or within the foreseeable future
  • Reminding executives that negative actions today can possibly help immediate results, but are likely to have a backlash in a year or so.

Do you think that executives are looking for that type of support? Are they seeking HR words of wisdom or a dynamic HR able to respond to issues and make things happen quickly to support the organization in real time? Do you believe that the executive short term thinking I describe is reality (for survival) and if so should it be more openly acknowledged? Do executives need HR help consistent with their business challenges today, largely leaving the future to take care of itself? 

What do you think? Thank you for your interest.  I look forward to any thoughts and comments you may have.



How Can HR Best Support the CEO and Managers?

3 Nov

There are many business leaders (particularly CEOs) who are superb at visualizing the interplay of “hard” business factors and making critical decisions, but not so good at leading people beyond those in the immediate functional business team.   The CEO may not want to be. Isn’t that why HR is there? The CEO does not want to get too involved in day-to-day distractions and counts on HR to look after a number of things, mostly to do with the people.

HR may not agree. HR may want to be seen primarily as a business strategist, equally aloof to day-to-day distractions, more at ease at the “table” than on the shop floor, but that may be a mistake. The VP HR may be sensitive to the frequent criticism that Human Resources people do not understand the business well enough and overreact to distance himself/herself from the HR “touchy feely” stereotype. It is essential that HR fully understands the business, but it is what HR does with that knowledge that is most important and people management may indeed be a priority.


From my experience (the HR perspective), there are a number of basic people related things the CEO looks for from HR, for example:

  • When the HR person is escorting the CEO around the business premises, he/she knows the names of employees and can “tip off” the CEO in time for the CEO to dazzle people by appearing to know who everyone is
  • HR is a supreme problem solver and particularly efficient in handling issues with the CEO’s staff, or complaints etc. that have been submitted directly to the CEO, including petitions
  • HR is able to quickly recruit great people to fill critical vacancies to ensure continuity and avoid complaints to the CEO from people who think HR could do better.   This is probably the biggest challenge to HR as internal client expectations are often unrealistic. Or are they?
  • Meeting legal and compliance requirements with the least disruption or the need for the CEO to get directly involved, particularly if there are complaints e.g. human rights or occupational health and safety

If HR is able to meet the types of people issues described above, then the VP HR is more likely to be trusted and respected by the CEO to equally contribute on business matters. Does that make sense?


  • Line managers/supervisors want HR to be helpful and deal with their problems as quickly as possible, particularly problem employees when the supervisor may be anxious to discipline or terminate. Managers want HR to tell them how they can do it, not why they cannot do it!
  • Line managers/supervisors may NEED (not necessarily want) thorough training to meet their responsibilities as effectively as possible, and minimize the number of crises or avoidable conflicts, particularly on people related issues
  • Managers want HR to communicate helpfully in the language of their operation rather than complicated HR jargon that too often seems focused on telling them why they can’t do what they want to do. They are more likely to respond positively to HR advice if it is shared in an atmosphere of mutual respect rather than delivered in lecture style

HR helping by ensuring that appropriate management training is provided, can give the manager/supervisor greater confidence. The manager can use the acquired knowledge to anticipate and avoid problems and instead focus more on proactively promoting opportunities. By developing greater people expertise, the relationship between HR and the manager is likely to be mutually supportive rather than unbalanced when adequate training and support has not been received by the manager and philosophies can be very different.

Humility and recognizing reality (by all parties) is necessary to develop a winning formula. The CEO, for example, must recognize what he/she is good at and acknowledge necessary support he/she must count on from the executive team or others within the organization. In the same way the CEO may need PR support in developing skills to handle the media and publicly presenting the interests of the organization, the CEO may need HR support to set the scene in the way employee and workplace issues are handled on a day to day basis.

The smart CEO may learn how to respond and say the right things in presenting to and socializing with employees, but will count on HR to ensure that the workplace, from an employee relations perspective, is as effective as possible and the policies and programs in place are best designed to meet specific business needs. This winning formula may earn HR a place at the table, but not just as a talker, but a doer in the most practical and necessary way! What do you think? Do you believe that the people support we give to the CEO and to managers is essential to our HR success?

Thank you for your interest. I look forward to any thoughts and comments you may have.



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