Lions don't hunt chipmunks. They focus on larger prey. This piece of advice, which sits on a banner every time Hospira Chief Executive Officer Mike Ball takes stage, is a tip well passed down any organization's hierarchy.
For retail and CPG chief executive officers, appropriately appointing and efficiently managing a company's most important executives–the so-called c-suite–should mean setting the big picture instead of micromanaging. "It comes down to the company's mission, vision [and] value proposition," says Tony Frey, senior vice president, services division, at Carlisle, Pa.-based executive search firm The Carlisle Group.
It represents a change in philosophy from the command-and-control approach to leadership, where the CEO barked orders and even high-level executives were expected to do as the top executive wished. To take the company into the future, however, CEOs today need to consider more ideas than their own to keep up with competitors. As a result, many are letting go of some of the reins and encouraging c-level executives to step up with new solutions.
"When we look for candidates for our clients, one of the more important things is to ensure that the person understands not only what the organization needs in the immediate term, but also in three to five years," Frey says.
Candidates fit for the top of the house need to have strategic insight and conceptual ability, says Christine Rivers, vice president who leads Philadelphia-based Hay Group's leadership and talent practice for the retail sector. "The right c-level executive will have the ability to know where the company is headed instead of where it's been," Rivers says.
CEOs can keep c-level executives motivated by involving them in decision-making. They should have an open dialogue about what the company needs to do to bring the strategy to fruition. "If the planning process is kept too constrained to too few people, the execution is not going to be very successful," says Kathy Gersch, executive vice president at strategy firm Kotter International.
Yum! Brands CEO David Novak is known for his people-centric approach, where decision-making was not a one-man process. "Recognize that nothing big gets done by you alone," Novak told Chief Executive reporters this year. "You need to know who's on your team the same way a marketer knows its target audience. Know your people cold. What's in their heads? What are they thinking? And then you've got to say, 'OK, to take them with me to achieve this strategy, what perceptions or beliefs do I have to build, change or reinforce to get them to come along?'"