The Essence of Executive Effectiveness

May 17, 2012 by  Filed under: Management 

In the ongoing quest to gain understanding into the nuances of successful leadership and management as part of my executive coaching practice, I have developed distinctions between the behaviors that drive success in these respective areas. At the risk of oversimplifying things, I believe that engagement and alignment activities provide a useful lens through which to evaluate leading and managing. Not the only lens, but a helpful construct around which to develop capability in these important areas.

To effectively lead a high performance organization, leaders have to be expert at engaging the workforce at all levels, but they also have to be skilled at the managing processes that ensure alignment. These are separate and distinct skills, just as leading and managing are fundamentally different.

Many organizations have recognized this distinction by utilizing a “divide and conquer” strategy inside the c-suite, whereby the CEO is “Chief Engagement Officer” and the COO is “Chief Alignment Officer.” The CEO is responsible to see to the development of strategy, vision, mission and other actions that create the identity of the firm. The COO on the other hand, is the ultimate executor in the organization, who ensures that the right actions are taking place in the right order to achieve important outcomes. While the CEO and COO roles both have heavy doses of engagement and alignment activities, I think it is fair to think of the CEO as “capital E” and the COO as “capital A.”

Most leaders do not have the benefit of a partner responsible for one or the other; they are responsible for both engagement and alignment actions. So they must learn to deftly navigate between leading for engagement and managing for alignment. Most of us have strengths and natural personality “hard-wiring” that bias us towards one of these activities over the other. This is not unusual or a cause for discouragement. The key is to be credible in both, and to know when to manage and lead in the right balance.

But balance is a challenge when our personality hard-wiring biases us to one over the other. The key is to build structure around those actions that are not supported by our natural strengths. This takes a managing process designed to supplement our strengths and is by definition an alignment action.

As with most challenges, achieving this balance is easier said than done. But when it is done well, engagement and alignment is the essence of executive effectiveness.

Matthew Angello is the Founder and Principal of Bright Tree Consulting Group, LLC and a former board-level executive in Fortune 500 companies. He offers highly personalized and effective coaching for individuals seeking to unleash their potential, move their performance to the next level and prepare for future challenges. Visit our website to learn about our services and enjoy our free downloads- http://www.brighttreecg.com.

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