More for New CEOs (2 of 2)

August 30, 2023
5 Minutes
Made Not Found Text
In SaaS businesses, operating results are earned every single day; and good businesses are made, not found. Writing here about building organizations, learning from the experience, and appreciating the ride.
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Previously, Part I of this post introduced an artifact that Lock 8 Partners uses to support the learning & development of portfolio CEOs. We refer to that artifact as the CEO Development Rubric (CDR), and its purpose is to codify expectations for SaaS CEOs around their unique role and responsibilities. The CDR is comprised of eight core disciplines that we believe CEOs must develop and deliver for their orgs. For review, the disciplines are bulleted below (see Part I for full write-up).

1. Leadership

2. Vision & Strategy

3. Execution / Resource Management

4. Communications

5. Analysis

6. Learner / Owner Mindset

7. Resilience

8. X-Factor

Part II of this post seeks to explain how the CDR gets used, in service to helping CEOs advance their professional development and perform to their full potential.

First, it’s worth unpacking why the CDR is needed at all. The answer relates to the singularly important role CEOs play in the outcomes of their organizations. If CEOs perform well, so too do their organizations. Period. And yet, many boards of directors treat exemplary CEO performance similarly to how the Supreme Court once defined obscenity — it’s difficult to define, “…but I know it when I see it.” Likewise, it’s easy for CEOs to be overwhelmed or confused by the never-ending supply of how-to advice (a.k.a. “fad diets”) flooding their inboxes every day. In either case, the stakes are too high to simply allow CEOs to chart their own course and then applaud or critique the outcome. Instead, we try to remove the guess work by clearly defining the behaviors that we’ve observed will help CEOs to be most successful. Thus, the CDR.

Next, it is important to recognize that the CDR does not / should not stand on its own. Rather, it is one of many tools aimed at collectively fostering performance accountability and constructive self-reflection among CEOs. Accompanying the CDR, the other artifacts are:

CEO Support: Per comments above, there is too much at stake to let even highly intelligent, highly motivated first time CEOs “sink or swim.” For this reason, Lock 8 invests heavily in support initiatives for CEOs. Because…if we are going to ultimately want to hold CEOs accountable to a set of outcomes and standards of behavior, we first need to give them a fighting chance to succeed. The slide below highlights some of those support initiatives.

2. Company Goals: Each business goes through a rigorous process to establish thoughtful, balanced, measurable (SMAT) annual objectives. These goals provide the ultimate report card for the CEO and the business. Achievement of these Company Goals is how variable compensation is earned; and all team members’ bonus comp is tied either directly or indirectly to goal attainment. Company Goals are critically important in terms of assessing / rewarding CEO performance. But they are admittedly not super-helpful from a professional development perspective for the CEO. Hence…

3. Performance Discussion Document: The Performance Discussion Doc (PDD) is the key artifact supporting semi-annual performance reviews of the CEO. As in most things, the hope here is to keep things simple. The mechanics of the PDD are as follows: the CEO and the Board Chair each independently write up a set of bullets in response to three core questions regarding the prior six-month period:

· What went well?

· What went badly?

· Where should the CEO focus over the next six months?

This no-nonsense approach ensures that CEOs receive direct, consistent, and constructive feedback. But, like Company Goals, the PDD has developmental deficiencies. While it is great for fostering healthy discussions about a CEO’s actual impact on the business, it fails to provide the CEO with a clear picture of what best-in-class performance looks like. This is precisely the role of the CDR — to serve as a complement to these other resources by offering a specific, concrete, digestible summation of the highest priority behaviors CEOs should seek to exemplify.

Finally, the application of the CDR is modeled exactly on the Performance Discussion Doc. The CEO and Board Chair each independently rate / write-up of how the CEO recently performed against the CDR rubric; and then they have a direct, dispassionate, constructive discussion about their views. In this way, the CDR is certainly an assessment tool…but it is first and foremost it is a developmental aid to CEOs.

To finish where this started, all CEOs (not just 1st time CEOs) need support in order to execute on their massive mandate on behalf of their organizations. And no single artifact or process is up to the task. Rather, it takes a village.

· Support Initiatives: help the CEO build required skills and capabilities

· Company Goals: establish the scorecard to assess CEO and organizational success

· Performance Discussion Document: fosters a discussion about the ongoing, on-ground reality

And…for us, the CEO Development Rubric (CDR) is the missing piece that rounds these all out by clarifying a vision for the specific behaviors that will best position the CEO for success.

More for New CEOs (2 of 2) was originally published in Made Not Found on Medium, where people are continuing the conversation by highlighting and responding to this story.


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