CEO Conversations: What Boards Expect

TRANSEARCH India invited a panel of CEOs and board members, to discuss the topic – "CEO Conversations: What Boards Expect". The panellists also debate the importance of agility, culture, succession planning and diversity as key tenets of good governance and purpose-led leadership.

The panellists are:

Anita Belani, Harit Nagpal, Ranjit Gupta, Sriram Khattar, Sunil Gulati and Uday Chawla. The discussion is moderated by Suresh Mahalingam.


As passionate experts in the executive search and leadership consulting industry we build leadership teams for our clients every day. Learn more about TRANSEARCH International and our wide-ranging approach to leadership acquisition and management assessment.

Cultivating Diversity And Inclusivity In The Workplace

The pressure to increase diversity in the workplace continues to rise across sectors and is a prime focus for business leaders around the globe.

What is the difference between diversity and inclusion?

Diversity in the workplace encompasses many dimensions, including race, ethnicity, gender, age, religion, disability and sexual orientation; it can also include differing personality characteristics, thinking styles, experiences and education levels.

Inclusion means that the organisational culture and practices make employees of diverse backgrounds feel welcome, accepted and treated equally.

Numerous studies have shown that cultivating diversity and inclusivity in the workplace makes good business sense. For example, McKinsey’s workplace diversity study, "Delivering Through Diversity", found that companies whose executive teams rank in the top 25% of racial and ethnic diversity are 33% more likely to reap financial returns above the national median for their industry. Diversity has also been shown to be a key driver of innovation, creativity and productivity.

Attracting and retaining top talent

Most importantly for HR professionals and recruiters, a diverse and inclusive workplace is crucial for attracting and retaining top talent. Candidates are drawn to diverse organisations because it signals that the employer values people's differences and treats their staff equally. When it comes to retention, a culture of inclusion will make top talent feel valued, heard and understood.

Diversity is particularly important to younger employees. A 2019 survey by U.S. consultancy John Zogby Strategies found that 51% of millennials and generation Z agree that a "fair representation of race, ethnicity and religion is paramount to creating the ideal workplace." Forty-eight percent of generation X (40-54) and 42% of baby boomers agree with that statement.

The path to diversity and inclusion

Companies that have invested in diversity and inclusion over the years are reaping the rewards. The path to diversity and inclusion starts with moving it from an HR initiative to a business strategy. While this strategy may look different at every company, the key elements are:

  • C-suite support.
  • Employee commitment and collaboration.
  • Improving diversity in recruitment.
  • Fostering inclusiveness in the workplace.

Creating a diverse and inclusive workplace is no easy feat but it's clear that this is the way forward. How you screen and source talent, conduct interviews and onboard new employees are all opportunities to integrate diversity into your processes. Put simply, the companies that do this well will outperform others as recognised workplaces of choice among top talent.

Adapted from "Leading the Charge for Diversity and Inclusion" by Frank Galati.


As passionate experts in the executive search and leadership consulting industry we build leadership teams for our clients every day. Learn more about TRANSEARCH International and our wide-ranging approach to leadership acquisition and management assessment.

The Succession Imperative

If you don't have the leadership you need, regardless of what else works, you still don't have much. As for a crisis, it might not - as has often been suggested - create leaders but it lets you know about the capability of the ones you have.

The leadership challenge describes a talent management system with a good many moving parts:

  • The capacity to attract talent
  • The talent acquisition process
  • Executive integration
  • Performance management
  • Leadership development
  • Building great teams
  • Traditional and tech-enabled teaching/training
  • Coaching/mentoring
  • Expediting the organisation's diversity and inclusion goals

And at the centre of that system, the straw that stirs the drink? The organisation's approach to succession. If talent management is the vehicle that supports business longevity, succession - an often misconceived, misaligned and misunderstood process - is its engine. It is a critical investment that you cannot afford to get wrong.

The narrative around succession is, invariably, drawn to big jobs with big companies. The reality is that every poor succession decision destroys value. In family businesses this is especially the case. Unfortunately, the evidence demonstrates that organisations don't exactly excel at succession.

Ultimately, the true measure of a leader isn't what they achieve while in office - it's what they leave behind. That even after the heaviest storm … you can still clearly see their footprints in the sand.

Insights from "It's Time To Rethink Succession".


As passionate experts in the executive search and leadership consulting industry we build leadership teams for our clients every day. Learn more about TRANSEARCH International and our wide-ranging approach to leadership acquisition and management assessment.

What Turmoil in European Football Taught Us About Stakeholder Capital

Occasionally, something enters the public discourse that represents a unique teaching moment. The turbulent events in April 2021, focusing on the English Premier League, provided such an opportunity. What we witnessed was an unforgettable series of actions that opened a window on a poorly understood concept – "stakeholder capital".

Kick-off

It all kicked off when the football (soccer) scene across Europe was thrown into turmoil. On April 18th, twelve of the biggest and wealthiest clubs in Europe (six from the English Premier League) announced that they had formed their own league (modelled on the NFL in the US).

Their goal? The opportunity to increase shareholder value. A move that would, literally, have amounted to billions of euros for each of the "chosen" clubs. As for the turmoil, a closed league – no promotion or relegation – of elite clubs would have inevitably destroyed the inherent competitiveness of the other major football leagues across Europe. Amongst the English clubs that would have been pushed towards insolvency are those with working class roots that go back to the early days of organised football in the nineteenth century.

J. P. Morgan secured the financing for the new league to the tune of £4.6b. Amazon, it was reputed, was in line to sign them up for broadcast rights. To the rest of world football the surprise move was presented as an arrogant fait accompli. A done deal!

Half time

Before the ink was dry on their agreement, however, the so-called "super league" was issued a red card. The unanticipated backlash from all of the other stakeholders – players, managers, fans, government, media, the press, etc. – was so great that the new league was carried off on a stretcher within 48 hours. Apart from having to give up the potential long-term gain, the twelve clubs involved reputedly (collectively) lost an immediate investment of 150 million euros.

Stakeholder value, as represented by the many, totally overwhelmed the financial opportunity being pursued by the powerful and uncaring few.
 
The Liverpool owner was forced to make a groveling video apologising personally to the fans for his lack of judgement. It's not very often we see billionaires admitting that they scored an own goal. A key figure in the breakaway league – the Chief Executive of Manchester United – announced his resignation. Others in the conspiracy (the Real Madrid President for example) decided to look beyond the negative banner headlines, ignore the thousands of protesting fans, push aside the wide-spread accusations of naked greed and perpetuate the view that they did it for the "good of the game".

If I could offer such individuals any advice it would be to avoid a night out in the north of England any time in the next decade or so.

Final score

As an aside, the "collapse" the failed owners facilitated endorses a leadership competency that should not be underestimated - "cultural reach".

No matter how well-honed a leader's instinct to financial opportunity, failing to fully understand the cultural setting the business operates in can only be described as "an act of crass mismanagement". After three years of planning in secret, that the owners would make this move in the midst of a pandemic is further proof that someone's cultural antenna needs a little tuning.

What can the rest of us learn from this? Apart from the need for transparency and empathy in the midst of a crisis, know that no matter how skilled or aggressive you may be success is, ultimately, about knowing how to read the game.

The company's footprint on the environment matters. Diversity and inclusion are central to how you build great teams. Talent vote with their feet. Reputation in the public domain is hard won and easily lost. Add the need to move decision-making as close to the customer as possible, the proliferation of choice, the expansion of Gig employment that COVID has brought about (work from anywhere), word-of-mouth marketing and the influence of social media to the mix and one starts to understand the ways in which the locus of power is moving from the shareholder (20th century) to a much wider range of stakeholder groups (21st century).

That companies quoted on the London stock exchange now must report (under corporate law) both "the employee voice" and "organisation culture" is a further indication that the times they are a changin'. Tomorrow will be different. Thought leadership is to help light the way.

Key questions

  1. Diversity and inclusion. Because aspects of "diversity" are clearly apparent, organisations are, invariably, fully aware of their ongoing progress (or lack of). "Inclusion" is far less obvious. Does your organisation's strategic agenda embrace an approach to inclusion as it applies to all of the stakeholders?
  2. Cultural reach. Are talent management decisions - hiring, promotion, succession, leadership development, coaching - informed by the organisation culture needed to bring tomorrow's business model to life? In that you can't manage what you don't measure, this implies measuring both the culture you have and the culture you need.
  3. Leadership capability. Is the talent, capability, experience and mindset displayed by the current Board of Directors congruent with the emerging organisation, technology, market and societal challenges your business faces?

Article by John O. Burdett, Orxestra Inc., © 2021. John is the founder of Orxestra Inc. and strategic partner to TRANSEARCH International. For more on leadership philosophy in the 21st century download "Leadership, Learning and Agility: the WAY OF THE DOLPHIN". It is a complimentary download from the TRANSEARCH website.


As passionate experts in the executive search and leadership consulting industry we build leadership teams for our clients every day. Learn more about TRANSEARCH International and our wide-ranging approach to leadership acquisition and management assessment.

Leaders Who Capitalise On These Opportunities Will Set Themselves Apart

The pandemic is moving us into the future and creating a host of opportunities - a professional renaissance. In 2014, global futurist, best-selling author, and speaker Jack Uldrich remarked: "the future does not belong to 'a place.'" The pandemic has fast-tracked us towards this future.

As a result, we are experiencing a dramatic, systemic, and permanent change in many areas of life, particularly in our workforce. Enormous productivity advantages await companies that can take advantage of potential increases in productivity, skills, and compensation rates by hiring the best people wherever they live.

Companies that can execute a seamlessly integrated approach that maximises the value from this potential exponential growth in creativity, diversity, and efficiencies will see productivity expansion and increased profits. Of course, this is easier hypothesised than executed, but with the entire world working on seamless integration and explosive value coming from incremental and step-change value creation. It is a good bet to see dramatic improvements soon; this is what we might expect.

Leaders who capitalise on these opportunities will set themselves apart with greater agility, emotional intelligence, and authentic communication. The winning leaders of the future will be empathic, engaged with their teams, and skilled at delivering impact on challenging problems.

Insights from "Location, Location, Location - Not Anymore" by Chris Swan.


As passionate experts in the executive search and leadership consulting industry we build leadership teams for our clients every day. Learn more about TRANSEARCH International and our wide-ranging approach to leadership acquisition and management assessment.

Know What You Are Looking For - Making Talent Acquisition a Competitive Advantage

The critical dimensions of fit

Talent acquisition is ultimately about managing risk. Risk, in turn, is about fit. There are five critical dimensions of fit:

  1. Fit with the organisation's values.
  2. Culture fit - this implies measurement of today's culture and the culture the organisation needs to be successful in the future.
  3. Performance fit - building a scorecard for the role.
  4. Leadership fit - role-specific competencies.
  5. Team fit - this demands a meaningful assessment of the team.

All dimensions are essential. Even if you are driving a Ferrari; if one of the four wheels and/or the steering wheel is missing … you are not going to go very far.

Organisation values

The organisation's values represent the CEO's and, by implication, the leadership point of view of the top team. The challenge being that although many organisations proport to have robust organisation values for perhaps the majority they amount to little more than window dressing.

Where the organisation's values are either absent or only of secondary importance the default action is to shape behaviour by introducing "rules." Rules not only ensure that even simple decisions take longer to make but they quickly become enforceable boundaries that those who are interested in protecting "turf" are quick to erect.

For a measure of the team, see John O. Burdett, TEAM: Align, Build, Connect & Develop (2015). The "Taking Your Team to the Next Level" Assessment looks at the team through four distinct lenses:

  1. What does the team need to know?
  2. How effective is the team leader?
  3. Where and how can those on the team become better team players?
  4. What does the team need to do to accelerate through the performance/learning curve?

Leadership competencies

Generic leadership competencies answer the question, "What does it mean to be a successful leader in this organisation?" Role-specific leadership competencies answer the question, "What does it mean to be a successful leader in this role?" There is a time and place for improvisation and informed guesswork. That said, an apt definition might describe such a behaviour as "gambling".

Defining success in a key role that has just become open isn't the time to wager a bet. A miss-hire can easily end up costing 15 times or even 20 times the annual salary. This is to say nothing of the opportunity cost, the disruption to the team and/or those times when hiring a key executive amounts to betting the business.

Orchestrating fit

Somewhere in orchestrating fit a new reality emerges. For the first time since the birth of the Industrial Revolution, the team has truly become the building block of organisational success. The network organisation, the power of expertise, the speed of change, the need to release the creativity and talent of employees at every level, the portability of talent, and that innovation is indelibly linked to diversity and the freedom to act, all mean that we need super teams far more than superstars.

President Teddy Roosevelt suggested that leadership meant, "Talking softly and carrying a big stick." The only reason a team leader should carry a big stick today is to strike themselves sharply around the head if, for a moment, they forget that they work for the team … not that the team works for them.

Insights by John Burdett. Orxestra Inc., © 2019.

Insights from "Talent Acquisition - The Battle For Tomorrow".


As passionate experts in the executive search and leadership consulting industry we build leadership teams for our clients every day. Learn more about TRANSEARCH International and our wide-ranging approach to leadership acquisition and management assessment.