Executive Development Plan
Steven Cesare, Ph.D.
A business owner from Indiana called me the other day to talk about his company’s growth plan. Despite well-publicized social, domestic, and economic hardships across the country during the past several years, the business owner has maintained a capitalistic, disciplined, and successful organization with offices operating in Indiana and Illinois, with ground waiting to be broken for the next branch office in Michigan.
His field operations are working well. Defined by vigilant examination, his company’s staffing levels are on point, cost containment indices are within budget, and customer metrics (e.g., job quality, renewal rates, and satisfaction) are in line with stated expectations. Similarly, his human resources program has recently been redesigned by your favorite Industrial Psychologist, to achieve legal compliance, business goals, and a forthright company culture, all the while eschewing bureaucratic elements as anathema.
Current success is nice. Future success is better. Sustained success is best.
To catalyze continued organizational achievement, I reminded the business owner that he is the company visionary, role model, and leader. His direction, pace, and insight define the extent, details, and probability of desired ongoing success, avoidable narcissistic lethargy, or heaven forbid, fatalistic decline.
With that preamble stated, I challenged the confident, but not yet cocky, business owner to put himself and his management team on a set of interlocking training and development plans to perpetually fuel organizational value, EBITDA, and market share. In specific, I “asked” him to solicit feedback on his executive-level skill set and the degree to which his performance is lacking, meeting, or exceeding essential expectations, spanning current and longitudinal timeframes (i.e., 18 months).
That narrative assessment represents the foundation upon which his performance goals, development plan, and required resources would be determined. I reminded the business owner that an executive development plan is a race run on a treadmill, not a track. The destination is visualized and virtual, not actual or absolute. It must continue annually, not be defined temporally. Accordingly, I informed the owner of my standard first-year format for executive development plans. Said framework structures an executive’s attention, goals, and ego onto four pillars, allocated across the four quarters of a fiscal year.
Business Acumen: Because I know their information is outdated, I suggest executives attend a workshop, begin a weekly reading regimen, or align with a coach to learn more about the concepts that business owners think they know when in fact, we know they don’t; topics like budgeting, forecasting, pricing, metrics, and taxes. Business owners must humbly reacquaint themselves with these fundamentals to solidify their competence as they advance toward enhanced, recalibrated proficiency.
Industry Awareness: Because I know they spend too much time in their office, looking admirably at themselves in the mirror, I suggest executives join a local group (e.g., Chamber of Commerce, business roundtable, community panel), read trade magazines like Lawn & Landscape, listen to pertinent podcasts, and/or attend a regional or national conference (e.g., Leaders Forum, Green Industry Conference, Elevate). This exposure will reawaken their calcified consciousness to see the myriad, radiant complexities, technologies, and ideations prevalent in their competitive environment.
Interpersonal Skills: Because I know all of us can be better communicators, treat others with more respect, and be reminded of the “golden rule.” This is not complex; executives should enroll in a one-day off-site training event that prompts them that they are ultimately in the people business through which their verbal, non-verbal, e-mail, and active listening skills must be improved.
Customer Service: Because I know the entire business model begins and ends with the person paying us. All of us, especially executives, must be more authentic, visible, and engaging with those clients, vendors, and business partners on whom they rely to attain personal rapport, organizational trust, and continued collaboration. Again, I recommend they attend a one-day off-site event to remind them of basic customer service principles and that they are the role models by which all their employees will treat their customers.
Sustained success will not be attained, without the business owner’s sustained development.
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