New positions in the C-Suite
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Episode 25 Transcript:
Chris Curran: Growth Igniters Radio, Episode 25. New positions in the C-Suite.
This episode is brought to you by Business Advancement Incorporated − enabling successful leaders and companies to accelerate to their next level of growth. On the web at www.businessadvance.com. Now, here’s Pam and Scott.
Pam Harper: Thanks Chris. I’m Pam Harper, founding partner and CEO of Business Advancement Incorporated. With me − looking at me − is my business partner and husband, Scott Harper. Hi Scott.
Scott Harper: Hi Pam. It’s wonderful to be here. Always a pleasure. If this is your first time listening, the purpose of Growth Igniters Radio is to spark new insights, inspiration, and immediately useful ideas for leaders to take themselves, and their companies, to their next level of success.
So Pam, what are we talking about today?
Pam Harper: We’re discussing how the C-Suite is evolving as the business environment is changing so profoundly. As you’ll recall from our conversation in episode 20 with Peter Gleason, the President of the National Association of Corporate Directors, he was mentioning that there are a number of new C-Suite positions that are becoming increasingly important in a variety of ways.
This is a trend that’s increasing; that was the sense that we got. It begs the question of what’s driving this trend, what the positions look like, and how do we attract and select the best talent to fill these positions? Especially if they never existed before.
That’s why we’re very happy to be speaking today with Jane Howze, Managing Director and founder of the Alexander Group. Jane has more than 30 years experience in executive search, and has recruited executives worldwide in banking, energy, not-for-profit, technology, manufacturing, legal, and professional services.
Scott Harper: … A whole range of industries.
Pam Harper: A whole range. This also, of course, includes C-Suite positions. She also directs board searches for the firm and is actively involved in the firm’s diversity practice. She’s author of Best Practices for Executive Search Firms for the Inside the Minds book series.
So, with that, welcome, Jane to Growth Igniters Radio.
Jane Howze: Good morning Pam. Good morning Scott. I’m delighted to be here.
Pam Harper: Good morning. Before we get to discussing the topic, we’d like to learn a little more about you. Can you briefly tell us what led you to become the founder of the Alexander Group?
Jane Howze: Absolutely. I am a former banker and a former lawyer. I was not particularly happy, or very effective, in either one of them, actually. But I have always liked introducing people to each other. I think I’ve introduced 7 of my friends to their spouses over the last 30 years.
One day I read an article in Fortune Magazine about Korn Ferry, the largest search firm in the world. It was like a light bulb went on, and I thought that was the firm I really wanted to join. After working there a couple of years, I really wanted to take some of the things I loved about banking and law − which are long term client relationships − to the search industry.
Not that Korn Ferry didn’t have that, but when you’re a smaller firm, you can do a little bit more nurturing. You can take a little bit longer, have a little more personalized search experience. I started the Alexander Group 30 years ago with someone else from Korn Ferry, and somebody from the search firm Russel Reynolds. I think we’re in our 32nd year now.
Pam Harper: Congratulations on that. Now, the Alexander Group has many offices around the world right?
Jane Howze: Yes. We have offices in Houston, New York, Salt Lake City, San Francisco, San Diego, and the UK.
Pam Harper: So it gives you a lot of perspective.
Jane Howze: It does. It allows us to do work all over the world. We’re doing quite a bit of work in Europe, and Australia, and even Africa now.
Scott Harper: Okay. Now, we’ve been hearing a lot about this trend towards how more companies are creating new types of C-Suite positions. We’ve heard about Chief Information Security Officers, Chief Technology Officers, and so on. What’s driving this trend?
Jane Howze: Well, Scott, I want to kind of give a bigger picture view. We have always had new titles. They have always evolved. What is behind it? I think as we’re becoming more complex, there are different skill sets that are needed. I think also you can look at these titles internally.
I think they’re an issue of respect for somebody who brings certain talents to the table, but I also think it’s a signal to the outside world that this function is important to our company. I think you’re seeing different functions are important to different companies.
For example, the title Chief Privacy Officer. You know, that might not be as important to a manufacturing company as it would be to a Target, or to your financial institution.
I think it’s important to think about what is the purpose, and what are we trying to signal. It’s always been there, but I think you’re reading about it now, so it’s coming up and you’re going “Well, how do we recruit for this?” They’re different skill sets.
I’m going to go out on a limb here and be a little bit curmudgeonly, and say that there are some titles that seem just a little contrived to me, that seem more ego centered than really functional. Maybe that’s more in the minority, but I just have to let my curmudgeon self grumble a little bit.
But yes, in all seriousness, there are titles now that you don’t see, that you didn’t see years ago. What we saw happen was some of the first titles you started seeing in the late 90’s was the title Chief Diversity Officer.
Pam Harper: True.
Jane Howze: Chief Compliance Officer.
Scott Harper: Yes.
Jane Howze: Chief Talent Officer. Those are pretty common now, and you don’t really think about it, but back in the late 90’s, early 2000’s, those were big deals, big changes. How did you find those kinds of people?
Pam Harper: Just to clarify also, because a lot of our listeners are in middle market companies, this is a trend that we’ve been starting to see in more middle market companies as well. Is that correct?
Jane Howze: I think you’re seeing it in medium sized companies, but I think you are seeing it done a little more thoughtful. Here is the thing to think about. As I tell my clients when they’re sometimes saying “Well, we want somebody to do this and this. It’s a new function.”
I say “Okay. Are you committed to this title for the long haul?” Because just like it sends a message to the government, to the community, to the business world when you create this position, if you don’t support this position, hire the right person for this position, and you give up on this position that looks equally bad as well.
“Well, they used to have a Chief Privacy Officer, but that didn’t work out and now they don’t.”
Pam Harper: That’s true.
Jane Howze: There’s a lot of things I think human resources, and CEOs, and the Senior Management Team need to do when they’re creating these new positions.
Scott Harper: It requires a lot of thoughtfulness then?
Jane Howze: Yes, exactly. Where does the position report to? What’s the career path for the position?
Pam Harper: That’s true.
Jane Howze: Especially if you recruit somebody new. Are we going to put this person in this role and that’s where they’ll be forever? You’ve got to craft a story, and how will this person grow, or you won’t keep them. The one thing I think you need for these new positions, maybe more than other positions, is you need some longevity.
Pam Harper: Longevity?
Jane Howze: In terms of you don’t want someone coming, staying 6 months and going “Well, I never got support for the position. I’ll leave.” I think it’s really important for a new position that you have somebody who’s going to be committed to the position.
That’s why, to me, the search process for a new position is important when you’re making a statement, internally and externally, that this, for us as a company, is important.
Pam Harper: That’s true. We’re going to take a quick break right now. When we come back we’ll speak more with Jane Howze about the expanding C-Suite, more examples of these new positions, and what it takes to find this top talent. Stay with us.
Scott Harper: You’re listening to Growth Igniters Radio with Pam Harper and Scott Harper. Brought to you by Business Advancement Incorporated. We enable successful companies to accelerate to their next level of innovation and growth.
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Pam Harper: Welcome back to Growth Igniters Radio with Pam Harper, that’s me, and Scott Harper. Today Scott and I are talking with Jane Howze, Managing Director and founder of the Alexander Group about the growing development of new positions in the C-Suite.
Jane, how can people find out more about you and the Alexander Group?
Jane Howze: Well, our website is www.thealexandergroup.com. We do quite a bit of writing. I think we have over 400 columns, articles, blogs, white papers that we have written about various trends in the industry. They’re all on our website.
Pam Harper: Other wonderful videos as well, I might add…
Jane Howze: Exactly. We place a high degree of importance on communicating with our clients. We’ve been very active in social media.
Pam Harper: That’s great. Let’s go back to our discussion on the C-Suite. We’ve talked about how you came to being the founder of the Alexander Group, and how you’ve been observing all of this growth in the C level positions. What is the difference, to you, between a C-Suite position, and a Vice President position? For example, if we have the Chief Information Security Officer, but we also have the Vice President of Information Technology?
Jane Howze: I think what you need to do with all of these titles is go underneath the title. To me, a lot of the newer positions that you’re seeing coming up are narrower. For example, Chief Information Security Officer might have been under the CIO, or it might have been part of the CIO’s responsibility 10 years ago.
Similarly, let’s look at another title we see coming up − Chief Cultural Officer. Well, what is that? That was probably something Human Resources did before. They may still do it. It may still be under Human Resources even. There are a lot of these positions that are a little piece of a bigger puzzle.
You see that a lot, as you talked about, in Information Technology − the Chief Privacy Officer. Again, Chief Technology Officer. Where does it fit? I think you can’t just look at the titles. You’ve got to look at who does the position report to? Where do we want to put it in the organization? What is the function? Then the third thing is, what is the career path for that as you plan these new positions?
Pam Harper: Now, in a company where the Vice President was accountable for this responsibility, so it has to be something of an adjustment for everyone if that Vice President is no longer accountable for what they had been accountable for?
Jane Howze: Yes, it is. It is. Here’s another really interesting example. The compliance part of a company used to be under legal, and it reported to the general council. It was not even called compliance. It might have been regulatory. Now it’s compliance, and I usually tell my clients, who are a lot of medium sized companies who are introducing this new title and position, “You need to have the Chief Compliance Officer report to the CEO.”
It does cause some internal issues, especially if you’re saying to the general council “We’re taking compliance out and we think it’s important enough that it needs to report to the CEO.” You know, it’s part of the evolution, I guess, of a company, but when I tell clients that are introducing new positions “Those are some of the things I think you need to plan for. How will the positions work together?” Which makes who you recruit to the new position that much more important.
Scott Harper: So this is much more than just inflating the title. This is really new responsibilities, new structures. That’s a challenge.
As you’re going out looking for people like this Jane, what are some of the unique challenges of finding the right candidate for a whole new position that hasn’t been there before?
Jane Howze: Well, this is such a great question Scott, because most recruiters, when they’re doing a search, say if you’re looking for a CIO − okay well, let’s go call other CIO’s. It’s pretty simple. We’ve been doing this for decades. You look for people in similar positions.
But what do you do when the position is new, and there is only a very finite number of people who hold this title? My answer to this is, again, get beneath the title. What is this person doing? Many times when a position is new, I’ll go back to the Chief Diversity Officer…
15 years ago, not that many companies had a Chief Diversity Officer. Search firms were challenged. “Well, we need to find someone who will be over that.” You had to be a little bit creative and look at what is this person going to accomplish? What do you want them to do? You may have 2 Chief Diversity Officers and they may have totally different goals.
For example, one Chief Diversity Officer was charged with creating a national campus recruiting and internship to get diversity candidates into the pipeline from college. Another Chief Diversity Officer was working with the board to add diversity there, and working with the C-Suite. You have to look at the function rather than the title, and be a little more creative.
Maybe there are people who are leaders in the diversity community − you recruit for those positions that may not have that title. In a way, that makes it a lot of fun for search firms. Most of us really cut our teeth on being creative and trying to think outside the box. These new positions certainly give us that opportunity to do so.
Scott Harper: So, in essence, you have to tailor the position for the company, and you’re really looking at skill sets and accountabilities, and not worrying about “Are there other people out there called that?”
Jane Howze: Exactly. There may be people who are called that, who really aren’t what your client is looking for.
Pam Harper: Okay. So the more that we focus on the function, and the role, the more effective we’ll be.
Jane Howze: Exactly. Identify not only what the person will do, but how he or she will be judged, by what accomplishments, and what the career path is for the person.
Pam Harper: Okay. We’re going to take another quick break. When we come back we’ll continue our conversation with Jane Howze about a few immediately useful ideas that you can incorporate into your planning to attract and select top talent for the C-Suite. Stay with us.
Scott Harper: Is listening to Growth Igniters Radio providing you with new insights, inspiration, and immediately useful ideas that you can use to take your company to its next level of success? Well, if so, imagine how much more you and your company could get from a highly customized, in person, Growth Igniters event as part of your next company off site. Go to www.growthignitersradio.com, click “contact us” at the bottom of the page, and we’ll get back to you to discuss how we might best help you to achieve your most important goals.
Pam Harper: Welcome back to Growth Igniters Radio with Pam Harper and Scott Harper. Over the last 2 segments Scott and I have been talking to Jane Howze, Managing Director and founder of the Alexander Group, about the growing trend of new positions in the C-Suite.
Jane, can you tell us again how people can find out more about you and the Alexander Group?
Jane Howze: Absolutely Pam. Our website is www.thealexandergroup.com. We have a plethora of resources for discussions like this, as well as other discussions that other companies are considering and facing.
Pam Harper: Great, thanks.
Now we’re at the part of our discussion where we want to get down to some specifics. Let’s talk about the actionable ideas that our listeners can immediately use.
In the case of the newly created C-Suite positions, we’ve talked about the fact that these people are not a dime a dozen. You have to look beyond the surface. What kind of criteria should CEO’s and boards use to evaluate candidates if they can’t find someone with the exact experience?
Jane Howze: You know, one of the things that we’re seeing for almost every position is, you don’t get to be in any C-Suite position unless you have good soft skills − good management skills, what we call in our business, just “good athletes.”
What I would say, and what I’ve counseled boards to look at, is this is a new position. Not many companies have this position, but this is an important position to you. Let’s break down the functions that are important. Maybe someone hasn’t put together an entire privacy program before, but what have they done that are pieces of that that would lend you to believe they will be successful in this role?
My general thought − and this goes for everything − is that executives have patterns. They have track records. People repeat patterns. I always look for people, even if it’s a little stretch for them, if you find someone who has been successful at everything they have done, and are good at reaching, that’s a really good sign.
Obviously you don’t want to hire somebody for a Chief Talent Officer who has no sense of how do you plan for talent, but at the same time, good athletes are good athletes. I think that holds true in new positions. I think that’s kind of how you have to look at candidates who don’t check every single box because they’re new boxes, or a combination of skill sets.
Pam Harper: Sure. That makes sense. I would imagine also that the strategic orientation has to be very different. It almost gets away from a skill set, in a sense, doesn’t it? Somebody who is really oriented towards the big picture as opposed to the tactics.
Scott Harper: So a “Chief” is strategic.
Pam Harper: Right.
Jane Howze: Yes. Well, you’re also asking someone to come in − if it’s a new C-Suite position and there’re not many of them − you are asking someone to come in and be a visionary, and see the potential of a position. You’re also asking people, by taking this position, they are giving a message internally to the other employees, but also externally, perhaps to the government, perhaps to the business community. They have to be able to articulate that vision of what they are going to build in that function.
Pam Harper: Jane, have you seen an optimal size for the C-Suite? Is there a point where too much of a good thing is going on?
Jane Howze: I think yes. I think there is. I think it was maybe Forbes a couple years ago, wrote an article calling it “C-Suite equals Silly Suite.” There’ve been so many positions, and so many names, there were so many that it almost diminished the importance of finally getting to a C-Suite position.
I think, again, the important thing is to look at what is this position going to do? Is it a long term position? If it’s a short term position, do you really want it reporting into the C-Suite? If it’s just somebody to get you through a regulatory issue or something, and a lot of what we do is plan and strategize with our clients.
I don’t know the magic number. I think it depends on the company, the industry, the particular CEO type − how many direct reports somebody should have, but you want to have enough time to mentor, and spend time, and have impact on your team. If your team is 19, 20 direct reports, you just really can’t do that. It’s really hard.
You dis-serve yourself and the people that are reporting to you because they will not get enough of your time to have your stamp on them.
Scott Harper: Of course, creating a great executive fit goes both ways, right Jane? How can companies make themselves irresistible to top talent for C-Suite positions, whether they’re new or old?
Jane Howze: Well, it’s intriguing. I’ll answer it because it’s partially 2 different answers. I think for the new positions, you’ve got to create a compelling story that we are committed to this function. We will provide resources for you to be successful in this function. And we will promote this function internally as well as externally.
Then your classic C-Suite positions − the CFO, the CIO, the COO, those types of positions − it’s pretty much the same thing. I think when candidates are looking at a company, they want to see several things. A company that has a future. I think the way you recruit a successful CFO, CIO, is you talk about the vision for the company, and you talk about how they could have impact.
I think, at the end of the day, we all want to have impact. We all want to make a difference. Executives want to go someplace and make that company better by their contribution. That has to be the internal message, and that has to be the external message.
Pam Harper: So, just to sum it up, the more that the top executives and the board, in this case, are looking at “What do we really need in terms of planning for the C-Suite,” and at the same time looking at “how can we engage people in that vision that we have for the company,” then we’re going to be irresistible to that top talent for the C-Suite positions.
Jane Howze: Yeah, I think that’s right. I think for every company you need a story of, “This is our narrative, and this is how you fit in. This is how you make a difference.”
Pam Harper: Okay. Any final thoughts on expanding and building a powerful C-Suite?
Jane Howze: I think a word of caution before you automatically create a new title. Give some thought to what the title is and what the function will look like 2 years down the road. Give some thought to what the career path would be for that individual. Give some thought to where the position will report.
Before you go outside − I’m counter productive here for myself − but is there somebody in house that could assume this role and grow into it? It’s something that needs to be planned quite carefully at the front end so it is a long-term addition to the company’s management team.
Pam Harper: Okay. Well, those are all good thoughts. Jane, thank you so much for being our guest today on Growth Igniters Radio.
Jane Howze: My pleasure. I really enjoyed it.
Scott Harper: And thanks to our listeners for tuning into Growth Igniters Radio with Pam Harper and Scott Harper. To check out resources related to today’s conversation, share on social media, find out about upcoming episodes, or open a conversation with us, go to www.growthignitersradio.com, and select episode 25.
Pam Harper: Until next time. This is Pam Harper.
Scott Harper: And Scott Harper.
Pam Harper: Wishing you continued success, and leaving you with this question to discuss with your team.
Scott Harper: What types of C-Suite positions should we consider creating to respond to our changing business environment?