CEOs Have Seven Common Leadership Complaints

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Princeton, N.J. — Oct. 18
Chief executives make seven classic complaints about their leadership team, according to BlessingWhite, a global consulting firm based in Princeton, N.J.

The complaints are clear signs that the senior management team is not functioning well, the firm said.

“As a rule, such gripes or comments made by the president or chief executive officer reflect underlying interpersonal issues confronting the leadership team,” BlessingWhite CEO Christopher Rice said. “Among them is that the CEO gets too much agreement and too little candor, and this is the most frequent reason for a leadership intervention to help with strategic alignment, team building or comparable exercise.

“The challenge is to encourage every team member to speak up, to facilitate more back and forth, even if it means dissent from the CEO’s point of view.”

The firm paraphrased the top seven complaints they most often hear from CEOs before a leadership development initiative is implemented:

  • “Everyone always agrees with me, and that makes me uneasy.”
  • “All I get is data, but not much insight.”
  • “We focus so much on competence that the senior team never gets emotionally charged up.”
  • “All we talk about is results, but we don’t change the way we do things.”
  • “I find myself talking strategy ’til I’m blue in the face, but my team doesn’t get it.”
  • “Some of my best people have left, and no one tells me why.”
  • “A lot of change is happening, but people don’t see how it all fits together.”

Lack of candor among senior teams, Rice explained, is unavoidable to some degree.

“The CEO may be so charismatic that no one else is comfortable contributing, or sounding a discordant note,” he said. “CEOs, however, tend to be intuitive and recognize when they’re not hearing all they need to hear. It’s usually the CEO who sees that something needs to be done to shake up the team.”

Another frequent issue is lack of emotional engagement by members of the team, Rice said.
“This may occur even when an organization is doing well, that is, when the right numbers are coming in,” he said. “In these cases longer-term behavioral issues are often overlooked amid the good news. The great CEOs are the ones who don’t wait for earnings to tail off but intervene so that all the top people are truly involved on a visceral level.”

Many leadership teams become so focused on results and data, said Rice, that there is a natural tendency to overlook fundamental person-to-person issues.

“Top people are inundated with data, daily if not hourly, and if it’s not data, then it’s a torrent of e-mail,” he said. “So team members often find they’re not actually talking with one another but just messaging or trying to stay on top of things.

“Then after a year or two, the CEO gets the sense that team members are drifting apart, that the overall picture is less distinct and it’s time to everyone to get together and speak frankly.”

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