Title Proliferation

By Mike Myatt, Chief Strategy Officer, N2growth

Title ProliferationI have recently been doing quite a bit of work in the European Community and more particularly in the UK. One of the things that I’ve found interesting is that many of our European brethren are not familiar with the term “C-suite executive”. As the yank from the colonies I’ve found myself attempting to rationally explain the phenomenon of “Title Proliferation” (which is comprised of “Title Escalation” and “Title Inflation”) that we’ve experienced in the US over the last several years.  After a few explanations and a little reflection, I thought this topic worthy of today’s blog post (or blog venting session as the case may be).

It wasn’t that long ago that we only had a handful of C-suite positions: Chairman of the Board, Chief Executive Officer, Chief Operating Officer and Chief Financial Officer…Oh what a wonderful era when Corporate America was a simple place where a president was a president and not a division manager posing as a president.

All kidding aside, in this author’s humble opinion there are legitimate needs as well as corresponding uses and benefits for certain titles when applied appropriately for true corporate benefit. That being said, I’m never thrilled to be called on by someone who introduces themself as something more than the reality of who they really are…Clever marketing is one thing, but gross embellishment is quite another.

Let’s see if we can’t make sense out of this debacle by first defining the difference between title escalation and title inflation. Title escalation is the creation of a new position which in turn truly requires the creation of a new corresponding title. Title inflation on the other hand is bestowing a grandiose title upon someone who is either underqualifed or otherwise not legitimately deserving of the title. I believe the phenomenon of title inflation in the US to have been started in the banking industry…I woke up one day and suddenly found that anyone who was not a teller was a Vice President of something or other Let’s examine a representative list of just some of the current C-suite titles (excluding the ones mentioned above):
·         Chief Strategy Officer
·         Chief Scientific Officer
·         Chief Information Officer
·         Chief Technology Officer
·         Chief Investment Officer
·         Chief Innovation Officer
·         Chief Talent Officer
·         Chief Marketing Officer
·         Chief Knowledge Officer
·         Chief Compliance Officer

I’m sure that by the time this article gets posted there may be a few other titles that need to be added to the list. All puns aside, there have been times when I found myself completely in awe of the talent, experience and intelligence possessed by individuals that have held the aforementioned titles. In other circumstances I have been totally embarrassed for corporations that have allowed their entities to be represented by such extreme examples of form over substance.

So where did all these titles come from? If I’m candid, I can’t say for sure, so what follows is my best attempt at reconstructing American title history and therefore should not be taken as fact. As I noted earlier, I believe that banks induced the inflationary period that has so tightly gripped Corporate America with regard to titles only to have insurance companies and other financial services firms follow suit. In America, as goes Wall Street, so goeth the rest of Corporate America. Yes the herd mentality is still alive and well
Title Escalation on the other hand (at least where used appropriately) simply evolved over time to keep pace with corporate growth and maturation. By way of example, when corporate finance became so fractionalized by complexity and specialization, it was necessary to draw a distinction between investment and finance and thus the duties, roles and responsibilities were divided between the Chief Financial Officer and the new role of Chief Investment Officer. The same holds true for advancements in all practice areas and disciplines As technology became more advanced, staffs and budgets grew as did corporate dependencies a various platforms, environments and toolsets and thus the need for more senior leadership positions such as Chief Information Officers and Chief Technology Officers. When marketing evolved beyond buying media in print, TV and radio mediums to managing multiple brands across multiple mediums on a global basis the Chief Marketing Officer was born and the list goes on

When all is said and done, I believe necessary and appropriate title escalation by design is a valuable and needed evolutionary phenomenon that constantly pushes the envelope of innovation and is good for business. It is the unnecessary, illogical and harmful aspects of title inflation that I take exception to.

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Becoming A Great CEO

By Mike Myatt, Chief Strategy Officer, N2growth

So you’re the CEO…You’ve worked long and hard to climb the corporate ladder, or you bet the family farm and took the entrepreneurial risk of starting your own enterprise…either way, you’re intelligent, passionate, committed, experienced and ready to lead your company onward and upward.  Whether self-appointed or bestowed upon you, now that your business card reads CEO how do you really measure-up? In today’s post I’ll look beyond the title and take a look at what it takes to become a truly great CEO…

Let’s start out with the numbers…only about 1/1000 of 1% of the total worldwide workforce will ever become a CEO. Furthermore out of those that defy the odds and become the Chief Executive more than half of them will fail. Of those CEOs that succeed only a small percentage will be regarded as truly great CEOs. So why is it that so many of the best and brightest either fail or just endure as opposed to maximizing the tremendous opportunity afforded to them?

In addition to having served as a CEO in four of my own ventures as well as having also held that position in the corporate world, much of my career has been spent as a professional advisor assisting very successful executives and entrepreneurs in managing their careers. This experience has allowed me to form very solid opinions as to why a cross section of professionals with similar traits and characteristics can have such a variance in performance. My experience is that most CEOs do not possess a true understanding of their job description and of those that do many cannot adapt to perform as needed based upon unique or changing contextual, situational or environmental scenarios.   

It is true that the proverbial buck stops with the CEO, and that the CEO is ultimately responsible for the success or failure of a company. The final responsibility for operations, strategy, finance, branding, advertising, PR, marketing, corporate culture, HR, compliance, sales, etc. all rest with the CEO. Therein lies the main problem for most Chief Executives…While one person clearly cannot do it all, the CEO also cannot abdicate responsibility. On one end of the spectrum many CEOs either misunderstand the difference between ultimate responsibility and day-to-day responsibility, or on the other end of the spectrum they cannot or will not accept responsibility for anything.

The truly great CEOs clearly understand their role and are masters of execution. They realize the influence they possess and the powerful impact that their decisions and actions have both internally and externally. They niether take on too much responsibility nor do they ignore their responsibility. Rather the great CEOs focus their efforts on the following 3 key areas that create the most leverage and velocity.

Mission #1Vision…Successful CEOs set the tone for the company. A truly great CEO understands that his/her primary role is to create the corporate vision and mission and use those to determine the appropriate corporate strategy. Great CEO’s realize that few things are as important as unifying resources and actions with opportunities. Strategic decisioning must be aligned with vision and mission.

Mission #2: Culture…Great CEOs set the tone for corporate culture from the top-down. Successful Chief Executives do not allow culture to evolve by default over time, rather they engineer culture by design to support and foster an environment which will enable sustainable success. Great CEOs realize that it takes top talent to create successful companies, and absent the right corporate culture you cannot attract or retain top talent. Great CEOs heavily influence culture…Everything from how they dress, to what they say and who they say it to, to the positions they adopt as well as to the company they keep make a very visible statement by which they will be judged and held accountable.

Mission #3: Talent Management…Great CEOs focus on team building. They not only know how to attract and motivate top talent, but they understand how to deploy the talent in the most meaningful fashion by applying the best talent to the most significant opportunities. Great CEOs understand that they cannot do everything and therefore do everything possible to surround themselves with the best executive team possible.

The successful CEO understands that they are responsible for vision, mission, strategy, culture and talent management and that executives and management are responsible for goals, tactics and process. Great companies are focused, collaborative and innovative which only happens in an organization created and led by great CEOs.

Let’s Talk Politics…

By Mike Myatt, Chief Strategy Officer, N2growth

I have only rarely commented on politics since this blog’s inception as I have not really desired to turn our most valuable corporate information channel into a bully pulpit for my political musings. That being said, I have received frequent requests of late for my opinions on current political events. Since our readership appears desirous that topical attention be given in the areas of politics and world events I have decided to succumb to the pressure and provide limited commentary on some of today’s more heated political debates. In today’s post I’ll hi-light some of the more controversial topics being covered in the media and give you my perspective on said topics

As most of you already know my political philosophy is best represented by that of the Grand Old Party. While I try not to put my brain in neutral and blindly follow the party line, I find that in most cases the conservative agenda is most closely aligned with my personal views. That being said there are certainly areas of conflict that I struggle with where the republican platform runs contrary to my personal value system. As an example I am pro life but against the death penalty. While this position seems very philosophically consistent to me, it nonetheless puts me in conflict with my party of choice, but I digress

While the Republican Party is certainly not perfect I tend to struggle far more with the academic elitism and moral relativism of the Democratic Party. Aside from the usual whining and ridiculous rhetoric, events of late in the Democratic Party have hit new lows The current Democratic Congress led by Harry Reid and Nancy Pelosi would have you believe that they are tantamount to the ethics police protecting you from the evil Republican Party. The reality is that if you examine a list of the actual House Ethics Committee violators since 1975 you’ll find that there are 56 Democrats on the list compared to only 25 Republicans. The reality is that both parties have some house cleaning to do, but with the Pelosi congress having the lowest approval rate in history (currently hovering around 11%) perhaps we should start there…

There are any number of items that I could address, but for sake of brevity the following bullet points are among a few of the topics that I believe warrant attention in today’s post:

  1. The Presidential Candidates: I don’t believe there is such a thing as a perfect candidate for the office of President of the United States. That being said, it is of great interest to me how anyone could look at the current crop of Democratic candidates and even attempt to compare them with the candidates on the Republican side…Let’s take a look at my thoughts on the leading Democratic candidates:
    Hillary Clinton: A person that cannot be trusted…No candidate in recent history can flip-flop faster than Hillary as her opinions consistently sway with the latest polls. She has demonstrated no personal conviction whatsoever other than to a flawed economic and health care policy. I am the farthest thing from a sexist, but I can’t imagine having a female president at a time when our enemies (the Islamic Fundamentalists) clearly don’t respect women. I guess there is also something that bothers me about having Bill Clinton back in the White House. Anyway, I don’t really believe Hillary to be electable, but never underestimate the power of persuasion…
    Barack Obama: Since when does being well dressed and being an elegant public speaker qualify someone for the office of President? Likeability aside, a candidate who makes publicly false accusations about our military, threatens to bomb our allies and have unilateral meetings with our enemies is someone to be very, very afraid of…Common sense and experience would be great resume additions for Obama.
    John Edwards: Enough said…
    Okay, the Republicans are far from perfect, but there are at least candidates with the experience and character to get the job done. You know where they stand, because they’ll take a stand. As I mentioned above, there are no perfect candidates in the race for President, but I would vote for any of the Republican candidates (even Ron Paul) before I would vote Democrat because you know what you’ll be getting…
  2. The War on Terror: This isn’t “Bush’s War” as the left-wing liberal media would have you believe. It is a war on terror that we didn’t start, but must fight in order to protect our way of life. I don’t like war any more than the next person, but sometimes just adopting the easy or popular position simply won’t due I will never support burning of a US soldier in effigy or public desecration of the US flag. I am thankful we have a President that understands the importance of doing the right thing regardless of what the polls happen to reflect. This is in direct contrast to what the democratic party is doing Whether it is the pork laden and extortionist Retreat Deadline Bill (can you say veto?), Nancy Pelosi somehow confusing her position as Speaker of the House with that of the Secretary of State by traveling to Syria when the administration has asked her not to do so (unethical and borderline treasonous behavior) or Hillary Clinton’s campaign promise to end the war within her first 12 months in office (like that will ever happen), the democrats care more about exploiting a perceived weakness in public opinion than they do about protecting our freedom and those fighting to defend our nation. For a more detailed discussion on my thoughts on The War on Terror please click here.
  3. Hollywood, Politics & Spin: If you believe the democrats and liberal media you would think that President Bush was a person of little intellect. Nothing could be further from the truth Actually both President Bush and John Kerry went to Yale and Bush not only scored higher than Kerry on college entrance exams but he also outscored Kerry on military entrance exams Al Gore by the way was consistently in the bottom 5% of his class at Harvard. Based off President Bush’s military entrance examinations his IQ has been estimated to be in the mid 120’s which puts him in the 95th percentile of the population. Before I would question the intellect of President Bush I would challenge the discernment of the average democrat as I really wouldn’t want to have Charlie Sheen or Alan Alda speaking on my behalf. Has our culture’s current fascination with celebrities actually turned into such an obsession that we really care what Rosie O’Donnell, Sean Penn, Woody Harrelson or Sheryl Crow think about geopolitical issues? While I don’t believe this to be true, the democrats certainly do Democrats are apparently so enamored with the glitz and glitter of Hollywood (and their checkbooks) that their senses are being dulled. No matter what Hollywood would have you think the planet is not a reality TV show. Many of the same celebrities who have spoken out against the war on terror actually supported former President Clinton’s military actions in Afghanistan, Sudan and Kosovo. Comedian Janeane Garofalo, a very outspoken critic of war on terror, admitted when questioned why celebrities didn’t protest Clinton’s military actions, that “it wasn’t very hip.” For the majority of celebrities who are anti-war, they do not hold that opinion because of their informed political beliefs, but because it’s the cool thing to do. Here’s my advice If the thinking of Barbara Streisand, Robert Redford, John Travolta or Robin Williams start to resonate with you then move to Hollywood and join them for a session in rehab.
  4. Other Issues: While I’d like to go into more detail on all of these topics the nature of the medium requires me to exercise a certain amount of brevity. That being said, I just won’t ever understand a party that places more value on animal rights than protecting the life of an unborn infant. You cannot ever convince me that it makes more sense to save the trees but kill the children Global warming is a farce that has no basis in scientific fact. In fact 17,000 of the world’s leading scientists have signed a petition sponsored by the former president of the National Academy of Sciences attesting to this fact. Lastly, while any adult should have the right to live their life in alignment with their sexual preference, they should not have any right whatsoever to legislate preferential treatment or cram lifestyle choices down the throats of those who do not share the same beliefs. I am not militant about my heterosexuality, because I do not define myself by my sexuality. I do not believe gay marriage is something that is in the best interests of society.

Well, there you have it I’ll remind you to be careful of what you ask for as I’m likely to respond to most questions that have merit   

Companies That Get It

By Mike Myatt, Chief Strategy Officer, N2growth

Today marks the launch of a new category on the N2growth Blog…Companies That Get It. Since I tend to frequently rant about companies that don’t get it I thought it only fair to spend a bit of time in praise of those that do. I will not comment on existing client companies and I will not accept any form of compensation to induce coverage. So moving forward when I happen upon a company that conducts its business in exceptional fashion and/or is innovative in its approach I will give them recognition as a company that gets it…

I don’t plan on giving much attention to the Fortune 500 as most of them really don’t get it, and those that do are already on everyone’s radar screen. Therefore I’ll use this platform to give exposure to companies that not only deserve it, but that will also benefit from it. Today’s inaugural inductee is AKA which is a provider of luxury apartments used as extended stay executive housing.

Anyone who travels as much as I do has undoubtedly come to the same realization about most hotels that I have…Good ones are hard to come by. While I’m a Starwood preferred member and generally choose Westin as my hotel of choice I also have been known to frequent a few of the upscale boutiques. That being said, I’m always left a bit under-whelmed. When you spend a great deal of time on the road hotels are not frivolous expenses but rather strategic business choices. If you’re anything like me I look for great locations, security, a bit of anonymity (“aka”), outstanding service, abundant amenities and most of all a staff that understands the business needs of executives. Aka gets it…

Aka is a very upscale extended stay corporate housing provider. These are not hotels mind you, but distinctive, fully furnished luxury apartments. Each of their nine existing properties are exceptionally well located. They have 5 New York locations, 2 Pennsylvania properties and 2 more locations in the Washington DC area. My only complaint is that they don’t have a broader footprint but that will likely take care of itself in time. For now if you happen to be traveling in the geographies mentioned above I would highly recommend their properties.

Aka properties have the best in executive concierge services, spa-like fitness centers and spacious rooms much larger than typical hotel rooms. The rooms also have luxury bathrooms and kitchens. Some of the properties have private balconies with great views and all properties have complementary high-speed internet access and free local phone calls.

Next time you’re in New York, Philly or DC give them a try because Aka is a company that gets it…