Sunday, April 26, 2009

Client Service And The CEO

As Owen Van Natta takes the reins as CEO of MySpace, he'll be challenged to deliver for loyal customers and inspire the participation of new ones. What's more, he'll have to earn the trust of current MySpace employees and determine, as Jim Collins would say, whether he has all the right people on the bus to take the company boldly and successfully into the future - all as the founders step aside to serve as company advisors.

What makes the task even more daunting are the seven suprises for new CEOs. Michael Porter, Jay Lorsch, and Nitin Nohria introduced the seven surprises in an October 2004 Harvard Business Review article on CEO leadership. The authors remind us of the influence and the limitations of the CEO. Essentially, they can lead but they can't control. The seven suprises include:
  1. You can’t run the company (The sheer volume and intensity of external demands take many by surprise. Almost every new CEO struggles to manage the time drain of attending to shareholders, analysts, board members, industry groups, politicians, and other constituencies)
  2. Giving orders is very costly (No proposal should reach the CEO for final approval unless he can ratify it with enthusiasm. Before then, everyone involved with the matter should have raised and resolved any potential deal breakers, bringing the CEO into the discussion only at strategically significant moments to obtain feedback and support)
  3. It is hard to know what is really going on (Certainly, CEOs are flooded with information, but reliable information is surprisingly scarce. All information coming to the top is filtered, sometimes with good intentions, sometimes with not such good intentions)
  4. You are always sending a message (A CEO's words and deeds, however small or off-the-cuff, are instantly spread and amplified, scrutinized, interpreted and sometimes drastically misinterpreted)
  5. You are not the boss (Although the CEO may sit at the top of the management hierarchy, he still reports to the board of directors. At the end of the day, the board—not the CEO—is in charge)
  6. Pleasing shareholders is not the goal (CEOs must recognize that, ultimately, it is only long-term value creation that matters, not today’s growth expectations or even the stock price)
  7. You are still only human (CEO Should recognize he needs connections to the world outside his organization, at home and in the community, to avoid being consumed by his corporate life)
Even if Van Natta is not surprised by any of the challenges of the new job, earning the confidence of all his stakeholders will ultimately be shaped by how people come to perceive his priorities and how he inspires others to embrace and deliver on those priorities.

How do you see his challenge?

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