We have been blessed with the opportunity to serve hundreds of CEOs since we started our leadership advisory business.
Our clients lead Fortune 1000 enterprises, mid-market companies, and smaller, growth businesses.
We continue to grow with them and learn from them. So, in this new series, we will share the best leadership advice that one of our CEO clients has received.
The best leadership advice I ever received was about dealing with the challenge of identifying emerging risks when leading and managing complex businesses and operations.
I was being interviewed for potentially managing a large-scale advanced technology development program involving multiple sites, a large workforce, and several subcontractors. The executive interviewing me asked what seemed to be a simple question, “As the leader of this program, how would you know the existing and potential risks you will be facing?”
Of course, I responded with everything I knew about risk management. I explained how I would use a risk management matrix that combines factors such as the probability of the risks occurring, and the potential performance and financial impact of the risks, to identify the highest priority risks and develop mitigations for them.
The executive listened patiently, and when I finished, he gave me feedback I have applied since that day. He said the only way for a leader of a large and complex organization to find out what risks he might be facing is to promote an environment where those who are involved in actual execution, including those on the front line, feel comfortable to surface and identify for senior management the risks they are seeing.
He agreed that I could use the risk management tools in my work, but especially when leading multiple sites and work teams, those closer to the work can better know and sense issues and future risks. If you create an environment where they feel encouraged and invited to share, you would be in the best position to know what is happening and where you might face hidden risks.
Since that day, I have strived to promote and create such an environment. Making it a priority to walk around and meet people from all levels of the organization, encouraging active dialogue and participation in meetings, demonstrating listening and responsiveness to issues, and more.
No doubt, it’s a continued challenge, especially with the extremely changing dynamics of today’s business environment. But, I am certain that following this advice has the potential to pay great dividends to leaders.