Business Assessment: Don’t Forget the Corner Office!

I have performed a number of business assessments deskwhere the owner or senior leader requests an outside viewpoint on how things are working within the company. While there is definitely a lot to examine, analyze, and report recommendations for improvement, the area that is normally off limits is the role and influence of the corner office (owner/senior leader) in the running of the business.

The occupant of the corner office is very open to discovering issues in key departments or operations that, if corrected or modified, can improve profitability, efficiency, and quality but they are less open to self-examination when the assessment discovery process leads back to the corner office. I find there is a direct correlation between the successful outcome of implementing assessment recommendations and the transparency and openness of the corner office to an assessment of their effectiveness.

How can a responsible senior manager expect the rest of the business to be examined without willing to subject themselves to the same level of examination?

Corner Office Assessment
An assessment is similar to the annual physical that we go through in order to discover any conditions that need attention and hopefully treatment before they become serious medical conditions. The degree of the examination can vary from the superficial to intrusive. As a responsible person, we put up with the annual experience in order to maintain good health.

Those in the corner office should consider an assessment of their “leadership” on a regular basis. The frequency and duration between assessments can vary depending upon the rate of growth and challenges that they and the business are experiencing. In a more dynamic or chaotic environment, this might be at least annual, whereas a more stable, less dynamic, environment an assessment every three to five years may be more appropriate.

What does a corner office assessment include?
The objective of the corner office assessment is to determine how the role of the senior leader complements the strengths and weaknesses of the business. While there are common attributes that each senior leader must master, the difference between an effective and less effective leader is their ability to recognize and adjust their style and involvement (i.e. delegation vs. micro-management) to the strengths and weaknesses of the organization and prevailing business challenges.

Here is a list of leadership characteristics that I have used to assess an owner, senior manager or department manager.

Tangibles: Duties/Capability Intangibles: Character
·       Vision and Strategy

·       Change Agent

·       Judgment/Decision Making

·       Coaching/Mentoring

·       Eliminates Barriers

·       Use of Outside Counsel

·       Team Builder

·       Industry Knowledge

·       Monitors Business Functions

·       Image

·       Competence

·       Execution

·       Ethics/Integrity

·       Leadership

·       Communicator

·       Trusted

 

Granted this is an exhaustive list, but the role of the person in the corner office is an important one carrying the ultimate responsibility for the performance of the business and organization. It is very common to find leaders who are effective in a number of these areas and yet fall short in others due to lack of passion, outside their comfort zone or total disregard. However, where a leader falls short, the organization still has the need for that duty or characteristic to be performed.

An assessment process that evaluates the leader in these important areas will reveal weaknesses. Where the assessment also includes a 360-degree view (feedback from the leader’s immediate work group), a more complete profile of the strengths and weaknesses of the leader will be captured. The result of the assessment process is that the leader can then put a priority on characteristics that were lacking.

What is the benefit of the corner office assessment?
The successful adoption and full integration of recommendations from a business assessment are doubtful if the corner office is not working on the high priority needs of the business, such as, day-to-day direction, motivation and development of the organization, and execution of the business.

Example:
In one company that I worked with, the assessment process identified a number of positive actions to take to improve the operation and effectiveness of the business. The wild card in the process was the owner who had a habit of exploding at key people when he found that they were doing something incorrectly. Consequently, this behavior resulted in people withdrawing into themselves when he was around and high turnover among high paid positions.

I was able to catch him in this destructive mode and pointed out how damaging it was to everything he was trying to fix. To his credit, he realized his mistake and brought this behavior under control. The result was increased productivity, reduced turnover and increased profit. The high turnover in high paid positions stopped.

On a later visit, they reported that the owner was now listening and taking the time to work with them on the root causes for various problems, in order to reduce and eliminate problems.

Summary
If you are the person in the corner office include yourself, as well as the business, in a regular assessment. There are many ways to accomplish an assessment.

  • Self-assessment by key individuals.
  • Automated assessment involving key managers that profile the organization and the business.
  • Using a third party consultant.

Each option will reveal important improvement areas that need to be addressed and corrected to improve the overall performance of the business.

The corrective actions recommended by an assessment process will lack effectiveness if the corner office is not open to an assessment.

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