“Don’t let a loud few determine the nature of the sound. It makes for poor harmony and diminishes the song.”
― Vera Nazarian, The Perpetual Calendar of Inspiration
Our ability to embrace change in this volatile world and adapt to its dynamic demands is possibly our only ticket to win. The way we do business is changing because the world that the business caters to is transforming at a blink-and-miss pace. Is our evolution in step with our surroundings? If the 2018 Deloitte Global Human Capital Trends is to be believed, we are not quite there yet. In the relatively more static world of the past, the approach of leadership teams was to divide and conquer, but now there is an urgency to move toward what is being referred to as a symphonic C-suite paradigm. This paradigm dictates that we look past the leaders who sound great alone and seek out a leadership acapella who are harmonic in unison to deliver a truly captivating performance. Psychologists that subscribe to the Gestalt school of thought often best sum it up as, “the whole is more than the sum of its parts.”
To bolster this argument with facts, here are some telling figures. Of the 11,000 respondents on Deloitte’s Human Capital Trends survey, 85% said that C-suite collaboration is important or very important, however, 73% said that C-Suite leaders rarely, if ever, work together on strategic projects. This “disconnect” is critical to address because the numbers further suggest that companies where leadership collaborates are likely going to experience a growth of 10% or more. As the research stands, harmonic functioning of the C-Suite has become the most pressing human capital issue in organizations today and continues to gain more prominence.
This is not an unexpected development. Silos have been discussed in many boardrooms now for over three decades, but this issue fails to resolve itself over time. This could potentially be because leaders do not consistently model ideal behaviors. When people collaborate, and leaders do not, the outcomes remain unchanged and do not optimally drive the benefit that collaboration should. The idea of solitary enterprise has become entirely obsolete in our highly connected world. Therefore, it is time to recalculate Dunbar’s number for the most optimum functioning of a business’ C-Suite. The problem is not simple, and neither will be its solution; however, when we look back, history testifies to the value that strategic alliances bring. The synergy of the Wright brothers made flying possible and Drs. Watson and Crick discovered double helix of the DNA molecule despite not even knowing each other well. Lennon and McCartney redefined popular music forever and NASA, through eight years of collaborative effort, managed to put a man on the moon in 1969. The feat achieved by the Apollo program is particularly staggering in today’s world view. To think that 400,000 engineers, scientists and technicians worked together without a single laptop or mobile device is unfathomable today. Collaboration achieved through steadfast vision, focus and willingness to cooperate can change the world. In fact, dare I say, it’s the only thing that ever has.
Collaboration is at its best when the goal itself is larger than the individual. L’Oreal is embracing this brainwave and has promptly adopted it in their new credo – The Team is the New Hero – to manage performance in a more realistic manner. Depending on the nature of the business, leaders are partnering to create a seamless experience for the end user. For instance, in digital businesses, Chief Marketing Officer and Chief Information Officer come together to create interactive online tools. A company offering brand protection services requires Chief Risk Officer to play a seminal role whereas technology companies require Chief Research Officer and Chief Innovation Officer to partner regularly. General Electric, as an example, emphasizes the importance of its G3 Team comprising CEO, CHRO and CFO working in tandem. Depending on priorities of the business and its offerings, companies of the future will need to decide how to incentivize this change in their ways of working. It needs to be clarified on how best to encourage C-Suite leaders to partner together and brave the multifaceted challenges new consumers have put before them.
Having established that leaders working together strategically and harmoniously is paramount for a promising future of work, it is time to direct this thinking inward at Talent Plus. From the perspective of what we do, it will be interesting to think about the symphony of talent. What are the talents that are critical for leaders to exhibit collectively, rather than just at an individual level? How can our offerings be leveraged to meet these needs of the future? Our wealth of research on high-performing behaviors can add value to our clients in not just identifying high-performing individuals but in composing high-performing teams. These teams will look different depending on the nature of the business and what they are trying to accomplish. It will be worth our while to spend time finding the answer to this excellently posed question, what does it take to create symphony in the C-Suite? What are the talents critical to the Conductor and what should different performers bring to the table? This beautiful allegory buttressed with the scientific wisdom we have at our disposal could help the C-Suite achieve symphony and hit all the right notes.
Somya Kouma, M.S.
Somya Kouma, M.S. is a Leadership Consultant for Talent Plus. She is passionate about helping people and organizations become more successful at what they do through the creation, implementation and perfection of strengths-based measures for selection, development and coaching.