“Pruning” Your Executive Team?

Vector illustration conceptual of human resources management with a businessman selecting a candidate from job applicants for hiring promotion or dismissal“One of the big …responsibilities is making sure that your team constantly is the best team at the moment that you are…growing the company…or even in six months time….to take it where you want to take it.”

These are the wise words of 24-year-old CEO, Brian Wong, during my interview with him on the “From Founder To CEO” podcast. Brian and his team have taken the advertising industry by storm with Kiip. Team Kiip has successfully built and continue to scale a category-creating mobile rewards network that is redefining mobile advertising.

But, how did Brian arrive at such wisdom and success? By finding, shaping, and pruning a great team.

Despite our culture of turning anyone with success into a single, solitary heroic figure, most Founding CEOs know that the strength of their company lies with building an effective executive team.

It all starts with finding the right people to fill clearly defined roles. It’s not an easy endeavor. Here’s what Brian admitted in my interview with him. “…I’ve had a terrible track record hiring C-level executives…our first COO left within two months and our first CRO left within seven days…”

I have no doubt that many of you can relate. But, as Joel Trammel, Founder & CEO of Khorus and author of “The CEO Tightrope,” writes, ”The composition and quality of the executive team may be the most important decision a CEO makes.”

Ok. Fine. You get this, right? Find good leaders. Then, “shape” them. “Shaping” means coaching, developing, resourcing, and listening to your executive team members.

But, what about the pruning part? Jack Dorsey, the CEO of Twitter, refers to this as “CEO as Chief Editor.” In my experience, this is the most vexing action for many Founding CEOs.

“Pruning” means possibly shifting an executive team member to a better suited role or even removing them from the organization. Reason? It’s often about performance. This is tough work for a Founder who may have started the company with someone and is therefore reluctant to take these types of actions.

Questions To Ask Yourself

So, what should you ask yourself if you are contemplating some “pruning” of your executive team? Here are some questions that have served me well.

  1. Did you ask him or her what they think about their performance?
  2. Were you clear about the knowledge, skills, and abilities you needed in that role when you hired him or her?
  3. Did you hire or promote the right person?
  4. Have you been clear about your expectations of him or her?
  5. Have the role’s responsibilities grown and outpaced his or her skills?
  6. Is there role confusion amongst your executive team members?
  7. Does your underperforming team member need a resource to assist in their success? (i.e. coach, training, feedback, tool, etc.)
  8. Do you understand his or her motivators? Are they aligned with the needs of the organization?
  9. How much time and what data do you need in order to determine if your executive team member needs to be reassigned or removed?

Lastly…for number 10, I would like to quote Dan Shapiro, CEO of Glowforge and author of “Hot Seat.”  He writes on page 176, “When CEOs feel like their value is questionable and their competence is in doubt, they are prone to leaving themselves a place to come home to. And, I think that’s why you see so many CEOs hire crappy people for the job they used to do.”

10. Wow! …so….Did you hire a weaker or less experienced person because you unconsciously see yourself being “sidelined in the one thing” you are good at (to quote Dan Shapiro)? Hmmm.

My hope is that these powerful questions will help you better think through the “pruning” of your executive team. As Brian Wong puts it, “Your number one job is to hire great leadership teams.”

Do you have questions to add?

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