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All you naked emperors...


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In the past several years, I’ve spoken to many groups of CEOs and business owners. I’ve also spoken to hundreds of HR executives. Many of these talks were about business strategy (i.e., the integrated set of actions that will give us a competitive advantage). I asked both CEOs and HR executives if they could clearly articulate their strategy. About 80 percent of the CEOs believe they have a clear strategy. About 10 percent of the HR executives feel the same way.

Now the CEOs and HR executives weren’t necessarily from the same companies, so my old statistics professor wouldn’t let me try to publish the results in a scientific journal. However, if most CEOs believe they have a clearly articulated strategy and most HR executives (who usually report to a CEO or a level below) believe they don’t, that’s a huge disconnect! It means that either many CEOs are breathing their own exhaust or those who work for them are stupid.  Executives and managers who work for CEOs are not generally stupid. There are far too many naked emperors running around!

One of the greatest benefits of a clearly articulated strategy is team alignment — getting everyone pulling in the same direction. Your team members may be brilliant, but if they all have different agendas and perspectives about how the company is supposed to operate, you’re most certainly wasting lots of time and money and frustrating your people. A company with an operational-efficiency driving force will and should spend its money differently than one that has a product driving force. It should also hire different types of people.

Two strong people of equal strength pulling a rope in opposite directions won’t move the rope. Two strong executives trying to lead an organization in opposite directions may do worse than that; they may destroy what already exists. I once had a ringside seat to observe a large company that had a chief technology officer and a chief marketing officer who — in the absence of a clear strategy — made up their own. Most of us would do the same. However, the CTO spent several years and millions of dollars building things that nobody wanted. The CMO spent the same amount of time and money building marketing campaigns that didn’t intelligently reflect the company’s services or customers. Both were brilliant people; the fault was not theirs.

If you have a crown on your head, put on some clothes! Nobody benefits from naked emperors.

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Todd Ordal

Todd Ordal is president of Applied Strategy®. Todd helps CEOs achieve better financial results, become more effective leaders and sleep easier at night. He is a former CEO and has led teams as large as 7,000. Todd is the author of Never Kick a Cow Chip On A Hot Day: Real Lessons for Real CEOs and Those Who Want To Be (Morgan James Publishing, 2016). Connect with Todd on LinkedIn, Twitter, call 303-527-0417 or email todd@toddordal.com.

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