This is a photo of Mark Goulston, M.D.
Mark Goulston, M.D.

It may seem obvious what the various roles in the executive suite are accountable for and who they are accountable to. However, it is often helpful at least on a quarterly basis to have a meeting to not only articulate it but also report on what each executive is doing and how each executive is performing in their role.

Why?

Because too often executives develop tunnel vision on what they’re accountable for and who they’re accountable to and lose sight of the fact that each of their fellow executives is feeling the same pressure in their role.

Furthermore, one of the things each executive has in common with the others is the fear of disappointing or angering whoever they are accountable to. In fact, it is that fear that often perpetuates this tunnel vision and sometimes less than collaborative or cooperative spirit between each other.

By sharing accountabilities with each other and what and how they’re doing with them, it causes a mutual “baring of necks” which will have the effect of causing executives to cooperate more with each other.

  • CEO – accountable for the company’s vision of success and strategy
  • Chairman – accountable to shareholders
  • CMO – accountable for aligning vision and strategy to market
  • COO – accountable for making strategy executable that enables senior management to execute it
  • HR – accountable for getting people to execute the strategy and for efficiently dealing with anyone that threatens to derail the process (and must be empowered by the CEO to do that vs. being essentially directed to put “lipstick on a [high-performing] pig.”

Every quarter the above five people need to meet for a day and follow these steps:

  • CEO (and assistant) sets a time for meeting and Chief of Staff organizes participants, date, location, and duration.
  • CEO articulates as clearly and specifically as possible a vision of success three, two and one year down the road. Without a clear and specific vision of success, silos and departments are likely to compete against each other and act like the tail wagging the dog, and if they’re all competing to survive they will rip that dog (the company) apart.
  • CEO introduces Chairman who weighs in on the expectations of an avatar of shareholders, because if the company disappoints and angers shareholders they will go away.
  • CEO needs to emphasize that satisfying shareholders, or better yet exceeding their expectations, is essential if the company is dependent on public money.
  • CEO asks CMO to speak regarding the alignment of the company’s messaging and the perception of its services and products by customers and clients. He also needs to weigh in on what will likely exceed their expectations, meet their expectations or disappoint/anger them.
  • CEO asks COO to speak on what he/she requires in order to gain full buy-in and cooperation by employees.
  • CEO asks HR to speak on what the COO has explained and add what he/she thinks is necessary to motivate employees to commit to and to sustaining actions. Furthermore, HR should weigh in on what going forward he/she feels is necessary to engage and retain top and key talent and prevent them from leaving.

A shared vulnerability like this may seem counter-intuitive and some, if not all, executives will resist doing it. But it is often the best catalyst for executives to pause and do more to help each other.

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Dr. Mark Goulston is an award-winning business psychiatrist, a consultant for Fortune 500 companies and the best-selling author of seven books. His latest book, Talking to Crazy: How to Deal with Irrational and Irresponsible People in your Life can be found on Amazon. Catch up on Dr. Goulston’s previous articles here.

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