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Le rôle malaisé du PDG dans l’évaluation de la performance de son équipe de direction

2 mai 2015

L’une des activités les plus cruciales et … décisives d’un PDG (PCD) est de constituer une équipe de hauts dirigeants d’une grande qualité. Son succès personnel et celui de l’organisation dépend ultimement de la cohésion et de l’efficacité de son équipe de direction.

Alors, lorsqu’un problème de performance chez l’un ou plusieurs de ses lieutenants est identifié, il doit nécessairement procéder au rétablissement de l’équilibre, de l’équité et de la performance de son équipe. Mais comment ?

Quels sont les facteurs déterminants dans les mesures correctives que peut apporter le PDG ? Comment doit-il agir pour faire face à la musique ?

C’est un sujet d’une grande complexité, qui exige une solide dose d’analyse de la situation, de coaching et de courage. D’autant plus que l’expérience montre que les équipes de direction sont destinées à échouer un jour ou l’autre !

Voici l’hypothèse qui sous-tend toute la discussion de l’article de Mark Nadler, récemment publié sur le blogue du Harvard Law School Forum on Corporate Governance.

Our approach is grounded in some basic notions concerning the complexity of senior-level jobs and the profound consequences that can result from deficient performance at the top. Experience and observation lead us to this troubling but inescapable conclusion: The composition of the executive team virtually guarantees that some of its members will fail.

Each member of the executive team is required to play multiple, complex, and essential roles—and what’s more, to play them in concert with the CEO and with each other. That’s why it’s so difficult, and so crucial, to create and maintain an effective cast of senior characters. Basically, each member is expected to play these roles:

– Individual contributor, providing specialized analysis, perspectives, and technical expertise to the rest of the team
– Organizational leader, managing the performance of a major segment of the enterprise and representing that segment’s interests in the corporate setting
– Supporter of the CEO, promulgating the CEO’s agenda both publicly and privately
– Colleague and peer, demonstrating public and private support for fellow members of the executive team
– Executive team member, taking an active and appropriate role in the team’s collective work
– External representative of the team and the organization to the workforce at large and to outside constituencies
– Potential successor to the CEO or a potential member of the next generation of top-tier leadership

 

With each team member playing so many vital roles, just one ineffective, unqualified, or disruptive member can undermine the team and damage the organization in countless ways. The consequences can range from an impotent executive team to the breakdown of a key operating unit to the alienation of essential customers. Within the organization, the perceived tolerance of a senior executive who fails to meet objectives or openly flouts the organization’s values creates a huge credibility problem for management in general, and for the CEO in particular.

L’auteur explore les avenues qui se présentent aux PDG dans les cas de gestion de la performance de son équipe, en considérant plusieurs enjeux liés à la dynamique interpersonnelle des équipes de direction.

La lecture de cet article sera très utile aux PDG aux prises avec des problèmes de procrastination à cet égard.

Bonne lecture !

When Executives Fail: Managing Performance on the CEO’s Team

Picture, if you will, the chief executive officer of a Fortune 500 company slumped over a conference table, holding his head in his hands, anguishing over whether the time had come to pull the plug on one of his most senior executives. “Tell me,” he asks in despair, “is it this hard for everybody?”

Yes, it is.

Of all the complex, sensitive, and stressful issues that confront CEOs, none consumes as much time, generates as much angst, or extracts such a high personal toll as dealing with executive team members who are just not working out. Billion-dollar acquisitions, huge strategic shifts, even decisions to eliminate thousands of jobs—all pale in comparison with the anxiety most CEOs experience when it comes to deciding the fate of their direct reports.

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To be sure, there are exceptions. Every once in a while, an executive fouls up so dramatically or is so woefully incompetent that the CEO’s course of action is clear. However, that’s rarely the case. More typically, these situations slowly escalate. Early warning signs are either dismissed or overlooked, and by the time the problem starts reaching crisis proportions, the CEO has become deeply invested in making things work. He or she procrastinates, grasping at one flawed excuse after another. Meanwhile, the cost of inaction mounts daily, exacted in poor leadership and lost opportunities.

This issue is so critical because it is so common. Embedded in the unique composition and roles of the executive team are the seeds of failure; it’s virtually guaranteed that over time, a substantial number of the CEO’s direct reports will fall by the wayside. The stark truth, as David Kearns of Xerox once remarked, is that the majority of executive careers end in disappointment. Nowhere is Kearns’s observation more poignant than at the executive team level. Of all the ambitious young managers who yearn to become CEOs, only a fraction will achieve their ultimate dream. Even among the relative handful who achieve the second tier, only a few possess the rare combination of intelligence, competence, savvy, flexibility, and luck to go out on top. The pyramid is steep and slippery; the closer you get to the top, the harder it is to hold on.

There are lots of ways for senior executives to stumble, and when they do, the shock waves can rock the enterprise. At the most senior level, each executive’s performance is magnified; one dysfunctional individual can stop the entire executive team in its tracks and wreak havoc throughout the organization. Consequently, decisions about replacing executive team members are highly leveraged, with far-reaching consequences often involving thousands of people and literally billions of dollars.

Despite those organizational consequences, the decision by any CEO to remove a direct report is, in the end, an intensely personal one. This isn’t a matter of reasoning your way through a strategic problem or even of deciding to lay off multitudes of workers halfway around the globe. Instead, it involves the face-to-face acknowledgment of failure by a powerful, successful member of the inner circle, quite possibly a long-time colleague. There is no way to take the pain out of these decisions; instead, our intent here is to suggest ways to make them somewhat more rational. There are processes and techniques that can help CEOs deal with executives who are in deep trouble, and methods to sort through the conflicting considerations that inevitably muddle the final decision. When the time comes to actually dismiss someone, however, there are no slick approaches or decision trees that can substitute for character and courage.

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