What It Takes to Be a Leader in a Pharmaceutical Firm

Pharma Medicine Pill Capsule Pharmaceutical Industry 3d Illustration“Change fatigue” is a phrase that a report from the McKinsey Company uses to refer to leadership in the pharma industry. Indeed, even before the COVID-19 pandemic, pharma wrestled with globalization, the quest to reduce costs, regulatory issues, and efforts to add value while remaining customer-focused, among other challenges.

An overview of pharma-leader responsibilities includes aligning services with institutional goals, generating maximum revenue, collaborating with the leadership team to reduce costs, and managing technology investments. Senior pharma leadership teams may include such roles as Chief Medical Officer, Chief Ethics and Compliance Officer, Chief Quality Officer, Senior Director, Executive Director, Assistant/Associate Vice President, Vice President, and Therapeutic Head. Some emerging executive positions observed by Adam Millinger and his co-authors include Transformation Leaders, Ecosystem Leaders, and Enabling Leaders.

A comprehensive study of the career paths of 50 pharma CEOs by Nathaniel Brooks Horwitz reveals that the average age of pharm leaders is 58. Only three companies in his study are led by women, Horwitz points out.

The pharmaceutical industry, of course, has been particularly impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic. “The COVID-19 lockdown has exposed deep dependence of the global economy on various aspects of pharma and healthcare companies,” writes Sonny Iqbal and Niveditha Viswanathan of consulting firm Ego Zehnder. The authors cite an emerging need for leaders to make rapid decisions, as well as to trust decisions that come from decentralized sources. Leaders need to be agile, responsive, and resourceful at this time, Iqbal and Viswanathan note. For Dana M. Krueger and Saule Serikova, the concept of “purpose” is key to pharma leadership in the pandemic. “Across all the activities of pharma companies,” the authors write, “from their investments in product development to directly impact patients in need, to the research and supply alliances they are building, to the charitable donations they make – the COVID-19 crisis has reinforced the need for pharma leaders to commit to, communicate, and exemplify the purpose that is at the center of their strategies and organizations.”

 

Preferred Background: Education and Experience

Horwitz’s study provides valuable insight into the kind of backgrounds that propel pharma leaders to the top. Horwitz made the surprising discovery that 35 of the 50 CEOs he studied have no advanced scientific or medical degree. MBAs, he notes, are by far the most common advanced degrees. He describes the typical career path of the leaders he studied: “a college STEM degree, an MBA or entry-level job in sales or operations, followed by a couple decades of conventional upward mobility through management roles of increasing geographic and financial responsibility.”

The management roles typically included in the “upward mobility” Horwitz describes may be country manager or a director of a minor franchise, followed by head of sales for a region or head of development for a small division, VP of sales or operations or R&D, and then a promotion into a role as SVP, EVP or president of a continent or franchise, and finally the C-suite as either COO or CFO. “A few leap directly to CEO,” Horwitz says.

 

Desirable Characteristics

An array of hard skills, soft skills, and personal traits are keys to success in pharma leadership. In the white paper, The Leadership Challenge in the Pharmaceutical Sector: What Critical Capabilities are Missing in Leadership Talent and How Can They be Developed?, Jean Brittain Leslie and Kim Palmisano report that the ability to build collaborative relationships was identified as the most important skill. Additional characteristics from this and other studies include the following:

Predominant Leadership Styles in the Pharma Industry

Globally, leadership styles in the pharma industry have been extensively studied, with many scholars and experts arguing for a mix of leadership styles. In 2016, Partha S. Mukherjee, director of analytical development at Bristol-Myers Squibb, promoted the situational-leadership style, while also giving a nod to the transformational style, noting that “transformational leaders have integrity; they are excellent communicators, self-aware, empathic, lead with humility, take accountability, and they inspire by emotional intelligence.”

Experts also point to a trend in leadership styles oriented toward building relationships and leveraging teams. In a chapter in Value Creation in the Pharmaceutical Industry: The Critical Path to Innovation, Aubyn Howard observes that “the rapid rise of the Pluralistic–Social paradigm over the last 20 years has brought more collaborative styles of leadership which enabled the emergence of conventional forms of open innovation.”

Leadership style can be especially significant for women making their mark in the pharma industry. Barbara Morgan, an executive at Lubrizol Life Science Health, advises women to embrace various styles, noting that “highly extroverted and assertive leadership styles” manifest themselves differently in women than in men. “We have to be inclusive and open,” Morgan writes, “to allow female leaders to be authentic to themselves and not feel pressured to personify the accepted leadership style.”

 

Resources

Several excellent guides to leadership paths in the pharma industry are available:

 

What It Takes to Be a Leader in Healthcare

Because labor costs typically consume 50 to 60 percent of a hospital’s operating revenue, less-than-stellar leadership can have a significant impact. “Healthcare organizations represent a system of processes, people, and other resources that must be led effectively to achieve the desired outcome of high-quality, safe patient care,” writes Carol J. Huston, a nursing leader and nurse educator.

While healthcare leadership encompasses a number of diverse roles, the functions of healthcare leaders usually include planning and overseeing healthcare services in compliance with laws and regulations while striving to improve quality and efficiency, often with the assistance of new technologies. “Effective leadership,” notes the blog of Advent Health University, “has been positively associated with increased patient satisfaction and lower rates of adverse health results.”

Leadership roles in healthcare include population-health leader, patient-safety leader, patient-experience leader, change-management leader, staffing/scheduling leader, in addition to C-Suite positions like Chief Compliance Officer (CCO), Chief Executive Officer (CEO), Chief Financial Officer (CFO), Chief Operating Officer (COO), Chief Learning Officer (CLO), Chief Medical Information Officer (CMIO), Chief Medical Officer (CMO), Chief Nursing Officer (CNO), Clinical Department Manager, and Chief Quality Officer (CQO).

Arguably, the COVID-19 pandemic has affected healthcare more than any other industry and has required an adaptive leadership style. Writing for the New England Journal of Medicine’s Catalyst site, physician Kevin Lobdell and his co-authors assert that the healthcare system is not well structured to address a pandemic in an interconnected and interdependent world. “Prioritizing engaged leadership, and emphasizing a more team-oriented approach to care delivery and collaboration across institutions,” Lobdell et al write, “will improve systems in the short-term, and ultimately, set conditions for long-term change.”

The pandemic is not the only leadership challenge healthcare leaders face. Tim Flanagan of HealthCare Recruiters International also cites revenue outpaced by spending, increasing regulations, demand for new levels of quality and cost transparency, a surge in non-traditional competitors, expansion of population health, and rapidly changing technology.

Preferred Background: Education and Experience

Because leadership roles in healthcare are diverse, no typical path of education and experience exists, but for the top leadership role of hospital CEO, a Master of Health Administration or Hospital Administration degree is common, along with at least eight years’ experience in administrative, healthcare, and management positions, notes the University of Scranton’s page on executive-leadership strategies in the medical field.

Desirable Characteristics

An array of hard skills, soft skills, and personal traits are keys to success in healthcare leadership. Comprehensive resources on competencies in healthcare leadership include the Healthcare Leadership Alliance Competency Directory, downloadable as an Excel spreadsheet, Leadership Competencies for Health Services Managers from the American College of Healthcare Executives (ACHE), and the Health Leadership Competency Model from the National Center for Healthcare Leadership (NCHL). Additional leadership characteristics include the following:

healthcare leadership skills table

Predominant Leadership Styles in the Healthcare Industry

Researchers have found that simply deploying a leadership of any kind has a positive effect in healthcare. Danae Sfantou and co-authors write of their research, “Leadership styles were found to be strongly correlated with quality care and associated measures,” going on to document associations between individual styles and positive outcomes: “Transformational and resonant leadership styles are associated with lower patient mortality, while relational and task-oriented leadership are significantly related to higher patient satisfaction.” The researchers found increased patient satisfaction closely related to transformational, transactional, and collaborative leadership.

Bhagyashree Sudhakar Joshi studied 41 healthcare leaders, learning that they used 10 leadership styles (autocratic, democratic, bureaucratic, laissez faire, paternalistic, transactional, charismatic, transformational, visionary, and coaching) to some extent, with the majority adopting a democratic style. Joshi concluded that hospital leaders should adopt a mixed leadership style.

While many healthcare experts like Joshi argue for a mix of leadership styles, others promote one specific style as most appropriate for the healthcare field. Victor Trastek, Neil Hamilton, and Emily Niles make a case for Servant Leadership in an article for the Mayo Clinic. “Servant leadership [is] the best model for health care organizations because it focuses on the strength of the team, developing trust and serving the needs of patients,” the authors assert. Tony P. Ospina touts transformational leadership, noting that “transformational leadership is not a ‘cure all’ remedy for the current issues in healthcare, but it addresses many common challenges that are faced.” Similarly, scholars Alenka Žibert and Andrej Starc point out that “transformational leadership is often associated with greater efficiency and positive organizational results, and consequently achieves a higher success rate of change.”

Resources

These excellent guides to leadership paths in the healthcare industry are available:

What It Takes to Be a Private Equity-Backed Company Leader

When businesspeople refer to private equity-backed company leaders, they are typically referring to CEOs hired by private-equity (PE) firms to run new acquisitions in their portfolios (these portfolio companies are sometimes abbreviated as “portcos”). PE firms may hire other leaders, such as CFOs and other C-suite executives, but CEOs are the main focus.

Much of the literature about private-equity backed CEOs emphasizes differences between the environment in which portco CEOs operate and that of CEOs of other companies. “Effective leadership in this space is very different from other types of ownership platforms,” writes John Myers, managing partner, Kensington International, noting “the acquisition of a company by a private equity firm is a seismic change for its leaders and employees.” Executive-search expert Chris Reinsvold points to a tight timeline with an anticipated ending since the PE firm’s goal is typically to eventually offload the portco at a profit. As private-equity search specialist Joe Hunt writes, “private equity is looking for CEOs who can drive and deliver performance in a defined timescale, optimizing the crystallization of value on exit.” Board interaction is different because often, “the majority of the board directors are principals in the private-equity firm,” Reinsvold says. CEOs in portcos invest their own funds in the portfolio company, with, Reinsvold says, “greater emphasis on the CEOs having enough ‘skin in the game.’” But, while the portco environment may be different from the environment at other companies, CEO skills and characteristics are not so different. Successful portfolio company CEOs are very similar to non–private equity CEO profiles, asserts What makes a great PE portfolio company CEO?, a report from Russell Reynolds Associates.

The same report shows portco CEOs offer a stronger skillset over other CEOs in certain areas, indicating superior skills among portco CEOs in juggling priorities, empowering others, exhibiting an even-keeled demeanor, and maintaining humility about their own achievements.

Private-equity-backed companies evince an emphasis on organizational culture, both in terms of performance and in terms of a CEO’s fit with the portfolio company’s culture. “The right corporate culture at a portco is essential for generating the business results required by the company’s PE sponsor,” states Alix Partners’s 2020 Fifth Annual Private Equity Leadership Survey, “and a portco’s culture depends to a great degree on who’s at the helm.” This emphasis on cultural fit is sometimes blamed for weak representation of women in portco CEO roles. “Humans tend to connect socially with those who share similarities to themselves,” notes an article from private-equity talent platform Falcon. A 2019 analysis by BoardEx of privately held US and UK businesses owned by PE and venture-capital firms showed that in the 12,221 companies studied, only 7 percent had female CEOs.

 

Preferred Background: Education and Experience

The aspect of a prospective portco CEO’s background considered most important for success is having had total P&L responsibility, the majority having held that responsibility as a general manager or CEO, states the Russell Reynolds Associates report, which also cites sales leadership and operational experience as key to “high growth and returns.” Relevant industry experience is also prized as a success factor, asserts the report, which goes on to state that prior portfolio company CEO experience “is actually not necessary.” Other studies claim the opposite, with a Harvard Business Review article noting that experience as a CEO in a publicly traded firm fails to prepare people for success in the intense PE environment. The literature on private-equity-backed CEOs is silent on education requirements, but job postings suggest master’s-degree-level training.

 

Desirable Characteristics: The Need for Speed

The trait most frequently cited for success of portco CEOs is speed of execution. Words and phrases such as “sense of urgency,” “warp-speed,” “agility,” and “quickness” are often mentioned with regard to this role. While hard skills take a back seat for portco CEOs, an array of additional soft skills and personal traits are keys to success in private-equity-backed leadership of portfolio companies:

Another frequently mentioned condition for success for the portco CEO is alignment with private-equity sponsors.

 

Predominant Leadership Styles in Private Equity

Rick DeRose of search firm Acertitude notes that “PE leaders must embrace a range of leadership styles,” which is another way of saying the primary leadership style for portco CEOs should be a situational approach. DeRose discusses a transformational style deployed by leaders who “thrive amid rapid change” and possess “the ability to persevere, even when overwhelmed and overloaded,” as opposed to a “maintenance” style characterized by feeling “most comfortable with the status quo.” DeRose suggests that “extreme transformers” are the key to a portfolio company’s exponential growth. The Russell Reynolds Associates report points out that CEOs who are too independent and lacking “regard for rules and processes” often don’t succeed.

The importance of leadership in helming a PE firm’s portfolio companies is timely in the age of COVID-19. “In private equity,” writes Marcus Beale, managing director at Drax, “leadership is a vital aspect of value creation. Leaders and their leadership teams, along with the culture and the environments they create, have the potential to deliver exceptional returns. Whether wartime or peacetime in leadership style, the Covid crisis’ effect on portfolio businesses has only amplified this fact.”

 

Resources

These reports shed additional light on success factors for those interested in the private-equity-backed company-leader role:

·       What makes a great PE portfolio company CEO?

·       Alix Partners’s 2020 Fifth Annual Private Equity Leadership Survey  

·       The Missing Ingredients: Three Things PE Investors Should Look for in a CEO

·       What It Takes to Lead: Challenges for the New Private Equity CEO

 

What It Takes to Be a Leader in a Private Equity Firm

Those who aspire to lead at the director level and above in the private-equity (PE) industry have no lack of opportunity. Private equity has been on a growth trajectory since the 1980s when very few PE firms existed compared to today’s $4 trillion global sector, according to a 2020 study by Prabhpal Grewal, Charles Hendren, Johan Öberg, Jonathan Croog, Markus Massi, and Maxim Khristenko of Boston Consulting Group (BCG). The authors speculate that “the industry’s success to date is a drop in the bucket compared with what the next ten years could hold.” Despite the growth, experts describe PE leadership roles as among the most competitive in finance and best suited to high achievers.

Top leadership roles in PE include Vice President, Director or Principal, and Managing Director or Partner. An emerging role is that of Leadership Capital Partner (LCP), estimated to be found in 80 percent of large private-equity firms, writes Dan Hawkins, founder and president of Summit Leadership Partners, who explains that the LCP oversees talent and organization performance of the firm’s portfolio companies. “Key attributes of the most impactful private-equity talent executives,” Hawkins notes, “include strong business acumen, a hands-on approach, functional expertise in talent, the ability to partner with company CEOs, and enough confidence and ego to work with investment partners as a peer.”

A consistent thread running through contemporary reporting and commentary on the PE sector is the need to increase diversity in PE firms, given consistent research that shows diverse teams outperform homogeneous teams. Experts note that diversity needs to include not just more ethnic and gender inclusiveness, but also greater varieties of leadership styles. A 2016 study by Financier Worldwide Magazine refers to “cookie cutter leadership teams.” Study authors Richard Thackray and Tom Thackeray, suggest “the bias (conscious or unconscious) that nudges leaders to hire and promote people ‘just like us’ remains strong.” The authors point to the risk that lack of diverse perspectives may result in sub-optimal investment decisions.

As PE firms increasingly recognize that diverse leadership means better performance, opportunity will open up for women leaders in the sector, who are currently in short supply. Just 5.2 percent of private-equity firm board seats are held by women, reports a survey by data provider Preqin. The study also shows women comprise less than 18 percent of private-equity employees globally and just under 10 percent of senior roles. A comprehensive 2019 study, “Moving Toward Gender Balance in Private Equity,” by the International Finance Corporation, reveals only 15 percent of senior investment teams are gender balanced, and nearly 70 percent are all male, despite the fact that “the performance of gender-balanced investment teams is correlated with higher returns.” Blogger Brian DeChesare compares PE firms to “frat houses.”

Preferred Background: Education and Experience

An MBA is valuable (in fact, getting hired right after an undergrad degree is rare), but two to five years of investment-banking experience before or concurrent with the MBA program is critical. While high academic achievement and prestige of the business school (think Harvard, Wharton, Insead, and Stanford) are low priorities to hiring managers in many fields, they are important in private equity.

Experience in investment banking is, by far, the top route to PE leadership, but strategy consulting and accounting can sometimes provide a foothold into the sector, according to the site Askivy, a recruitment and training platform. DeChesare, however, downplays the likelihood of breaking in from a non-investment-banking role, emphasizing that a background that includes transactions is key. He also emphasizes the importance of cultural fit with the PE firm.

Desirable Characteristics

An array of hard skills, soft skills, and personal traits are keys to success in private-equity leadership. DeChesare notes that the higher up the leadership chain an individual progresses, the more important soft skills are, especially skills associated with nurturing relationships.


In addition to the above, readers who seek an insider, “tell it like it is” view of the traits needed in the sector should check out DeChesare’s The Private Equity Career Path: The Complete Guide

Predominant Leadership Styles in Private Equity

As noted above, the PE sector comprises little diversity in leadership styles. The Financier Worldwide Magazine study of 51 managing partners, partners, and principals of European private equity firms revealed the majority of leaders gravitate to just two leadership styles, among the eight styles the study identified – collaborator, energizer, pilot, provider, harmonizer, forecaster, producer, and composer. Two-thirds fell into “forecaster” or “pilot” as their predominant leadership style. Study authors Tom Thackeray and Richard Thackray describe the forecaster style as “anticipatory,” focused on conceptual thinking, and possessing a depth and breadth of knowledge. Those with the pilot style offer strategic vision, the ability to manage complexity and build teams, along with a clear point of view.

Noting that both these styles come with blind spots, the authors also lament that “the least prevalent style is that of the ‘energizer’, a style characterized by the ability to build enthusiasm and inspire buy-in and engagement in others.”

Resources

Several excellent guides to careers and leadership paths in PE are available:

·       A Guide to Private Equity Careers

·       The Private Equity Career Path: The Complete Guide

·       How to Get Into Private Equity: Step-by-Step Guide

·       Career Guide to Private Equity Jobs

·       2020 Global Private Equity Survey (focuses on CFO role)

Outlook for the CRO Role

What You Need to Know Right Now to Level Up as a Chief Revenue Officer

CRO OutlookChief Revenue Officer is one of the newest C-Suite roles, with articles first appearing about the role around 2012. CRO has its roots in Silicon Valley, spurred by the quest for revenue generation around digital products and services, especially the software-as-a-service (SaaS) sector. In 2018, Sean Callahan cited stats from the book The Future of Sales: Rise of the Strategic Seller that pointed to a 73 percent increase in Chief Revenue Officer titles on LinkedIn.

CRO is easily confused with, and often overlaps with, other executive functions connected with sales, marketing, the customer experience, finance, and revenue growth. Each organization tends to put its own spin on the role. The overlap is enough to motivate articles on the difference between CRO and CSO (Chief Sales Officer), the difference between CRO and VP of Sales and the difference between CRO and CFO. Chief Revenue Officers are sometimes referred to a Chief Growth Officers.

We can gain insight into the CRO role through two unique 2018 blog posts – one by CEO of a Silicon Valley startup and the other by the candidate he hired for the CRO role. CEO Eyal Lifshitz, who founded BlueVine, says he wanted to hire a CRO “mainly because we were growing and our sales and account management operations were becoming more complex. We were also ramping up marketing spend.”

Eric Sager, the CRO hired, in turn describes BlueVine’s need for the role: “BlueVine created the chief revenue officer position to take on the challenge faced by many companies, especially startups, where marketing, business development, sales and account management usually operate in silos. This frequently leads to friction and misalignment because teams don’t all report to and work with the same executive leadership.”

Key Competencies for the CRO Role

“Technology,” “data,” and “customers” are words that frequently appear on lists of competencies for CROs, but perhaps the word that appears most frequently is “alignment,” meaning aligning all revenue-generating departments: marketing, sales and customer experience. The cost of misalignment? “Every company I’ve seen in the last 20 years is drastically overpaying for revenue,” writes Rick McPartlin in his blog The Revenue Game, “because there’s no common strategy or alignment.” Alignment clearly requires relationship-building skills, among others.

In your career-marketing communications, showcase these additional CRO competencies:

  • Sales, marketing, and CRM expertise
  • Data-driven approach
  • Tech savvy
  • Collaborative, a team-builder
  • Self-starter who can execute and implement change
  • High-energy
  • Customer-focused
  • Strategic
  • Able to balance short- and long-term goals

Level-Up Tips

Here are a few suggestions for those seeking to break into the CRO role, expand their horizons in an existing CRO role, or even rise beyond the CRO role:

  • Seek out companies in which revenue-generation is growing complex. Look for organizations whose “revenue starts being driven by multiple channels supported by a marketing team that’s spending hundreds of thousands of dollars a month,” Lifshitz advises.
  • Demonstrate that you are a closer. Sales will always remain at the core of revenue generation. “As a CRO,” writes Jim Herbold in VentureBeat, “no matter how broad or limited your reach may be in a company, you still need to close deals and build lasting and profitable customer relationships.”
  • Develop the mindset of a revenue strategist. Because some experts suggest that revenue-generation is rarely treated strategically, those who can apply strategy to revenue growth will stand out. “After the business plan,” asserts McPartlin, “most companies – 99% — just go out and hire salespeople and a marketing person and get to work. Surprisingly, there’s very little focus on revenue strategy.” McPartlin suggests that CROs and prospective CROs have a good grasp of what the revenue strategy looks like so they can execute the corporate strategy. In contrast to sales and marketing executives, the CRO “leads the strategy for generating more profitable revenue over the long term,” McPartlin says.
  • Be able to execute. CROs come from diverse backgrounds. Those with successful operations experience may have an advantage in executing short- and long-term wins for the organization. “It takes operational excellence to deliver results for your customers and drive revenue,” says Lisa Utzschneider, chief revenue officer at Yahoo.

Outlook for the CHRO Role

What You Need to Know Right Now to Level Up as a Chief Human Resources Officer

CHRO OutlookThe perceived skills gap, the rise of human-resources technology, and the fierce competition to hire and retain the best talent are among the reasons the role of human resources in general, and specifically Chief Human Resource Officers (sometimes called Chief People Officers), have gained new importance.

In recent years, the CHRO role has taken on a greater strategic focus, as well as a mandate toward change management, organizational transformation, and innovation. “The key charge for the CHRO functionally,” notes a 2014 study by Heidrick & Struggles, “is to turn talent management into an instrument of business transformation that advances strategy, develops agile leaders, and coalesces in culture.”

The Society for Human Resource Management (SHRM) also notes these aspects of the CHRO role: succession planning, talent management, organizational and performance management, training and development, and compensation. The CHRO also conveys HR needs and plans to the executive management team, shareholders, and the board of directors.

Agilon CHRO Rick Thompson perhaps summed up the role best when he said in an interview by employee Samantha Holland, “it comes down to, ‘Are we really giving our employees what they need to be successful?’”

Key Competencies for the CHRO Role

The list of competencies that industry experts prescribe for CHROs is quite lengthy compared to other C-Suite roles, perhaps reflecting the eclectic background that many gurus suggest for those in this role. Some, of course, apply to all C-Suite roles – business acumen, ethics, leadership, communication, strategic focus, as well as understanding of board governance and ability to negotiate effectively with the board.

In your career-marketing communications, showcase the CHRO competencies on this list that you possess:

  • HR expertise, including learning and development, compensation and procurement costs, benefits administration, critical evaluation, talent acquisition and market knowledge, compliance and legal knowledge, proficiency in executive compensation, and financial planning and forecasting. SHRM suggests 15 years of experience.
  • Change and transformation management, as well as innovation and disruption
  • Relationship management
  • Culture creation
  • Global and cultural awareness
  • Consultation
  • Commitment to diversity and inclusion
  • Ability to read people
  • Comfort with ambiguity
  • Emotional intelligence
  • Ability to use data
  • Operational thinking

Level-Up Tips

Here are a few suggestions for those seeking to break into the CHRO role, expand their horizons in an existing CHRO role, or even rise beyond the CHRO role:

  • Beef up your HR education. A graduate business degree is almost always valuable. In addition, writing for Chief Executive, Fran Hawthorne cites two educational programs recommended by HR experts:
  • Plan your career with a mix of HR positions and roles in other parts of the business. Ram Charan, Dominic Barton, and Dennis Carey assert in the Harvard Business Review that would-be CHROs should progress up the ranks through line positions, “where they have to manage people and budgets.” The authors go on to suggest that “all leaders headed for top jobs should alternate between positions in HR and in the rest of the business. You will stand out because, as Gartner reports, “only 20 percent of Fortune 250 CHROs have working experience outside the HR function.”
  • Attain international experience. Global experience among CHROs is increasing. “CHROs need to have much more of a global perspective than their predecessors,” writes Flavio Kosminsky and Kathleen Cannon. Some experts suggest several years of experience abroad, while others assert that even a few months can be valuable.
  • Seek out HR-friendly organizations. “Look for CEOs who understand that it is people who add business value,” advises Barry Lawrence with the HR Certification Institute. “Get clear answers about the leadership team’s HR expectations,” he says.
  • Don’t rule out a quest for CEO. “With the heightened attention to talent and culture,” writes Heather Landy on Quartz at Work, “and the increasing interest in having those functions led by well-rounded executives, it isn’t difficult to imagine a day when the CHRO job becomes a natural pathway to the CEO role.” Similarly, Harvard Business Review reported in 2014 on a research study by Ellie Filler and Dave Ulrich that concluded: “Except for the COO (whose role and responsibilities often overlap with the CEO’s), the executive whose traits were most similar to those of the CEO was the CHRO.” Although the article focuses on why companies should consider CHROs for CEO roles, it also describes characteristics of CHROs who advance to the top role.

CHRO Trends to Watch

  • CHROs are less experienced in traditional HR functions than in the past. On the flip side, however, they are more experienced in diverse aspects of business, which is seen as adding greater value.
  • A CEO/CFO/CHRO triumvirate is seen as powerful. This prescription comes from the Harvard Business Review’s Charan, Barton, and Carey: “Just as the CFO helps the CEO lead the business by raising and allocating financial resources, the CHRO should help the CEO by building and assigning talent, especially key people, and working to unleash the organization’s energy. Julia Modise, writing in HR Future, concurs: “The CHRO is seen as a strategic partner to the CEO and CFO.”
  • The CHRO role appears to be woman-friendly. More than half (57 percent) of Fortune 200 Chief Human Resources Officers are female, reports a 2017 study by The Talent Strategy Group.
  • Human Resources is gaining greater respect. In 2015, Charan, Barton, and Carey reported on research by McKinsey and the Conference Board that “consistently finds that CEOs worldwide see human capital as a top challenge, and they rank HR as only the eighth or ninth most important function in a company.” By the end of 2018, “the CHRO has progressed from fighting for a seat at the table to playing a key role in the executive team,” writes Modise.

Reinvention: Options for Reinvention (Part 2 of 2)

This is Part 2 of a two-part series on career reinvention for senior-level executives. Part 1 explores a dozen key activities for reinvention.

Reinvent yourself motivational phrase sign on old wood with blurred background

As we saw in Part 1 of this series, the desire for reinvention often springs from discontent, if not downright unhappiness. Senior-level executives who have lost the mojo of their careers may recognize the need for reinvention – but they are flummoxed as to what such a reinvention might look like. In this part of the series, we explore options.

Reinvention often focuses on career, but can be broader than that, such as a reinvention inspired by…

  • Your bucket list: Is there something you’ve always wanted to do and are determined to do before you leave this planet? Perhaps crossing that item off your bucket list will require you to reinvent yourself.
  • Something you always put off: Similar to a bucket-list item, your long-delayed ambition could finally come to fruition as part of your reinvention.
  • Something that interested you as a child: Our childhood ambitions can be intense and passion-producing. We may have abandoned them years ago for reasons that don’t exist today – parental pressure, discrimination, daunting entry requirements. Or we may have recognized back then a misalignment of skills that can be remediated today. It’s not too late to recapture that childhood dream.

When career is the main focus, reinvention can entail fairly simply work modifications, such as …

  • A new employer or role in the same arena in which you’ve already been working: A simple change of employers – or even roles within your current employer may accomplish your reinvention goals. An advantage here is mitigating some of the reinvention risk that is particularly acute for senior-level executives.
  • New employer in an arena or role that is new to you: Perhaps you’ve discovered your skills are easily transferable to a different industry and/or role. Or maybe you’d like to take your talents from the for-profit world and ply them at a non-profit, or in education or government.
  • New geographic location. A simple change of venue might not qualify as a reinvention, but if it accomplishes your reinvention goals, the label is unimportant.

As mentioned in Part 1, reinvention means scrutinizing your skills to identify the skills that motivate you, that you are good at, and you enjoy using skills. You also need to pinpoint your “burnout skills,” those you may still be good at but are tired of using and would rather not use anymore. Some experts have suggested creating a matrix that lays out

  • skills you are good at and enjoy using
  • skills you enjoy using but that need development
  • skills you are good at but no longer enjoy using
  • skills you don’t enjoy using and are not that good at anyway.

Part 1 also refers to mitigating risk by making temporary stabs at reinvention before making a permanent commitment. Some common options for reinvention can be attempted in small doses while you are employed in your current situation…

  • Entrepreneurship: One of the most popular forms of reinvention is starting your own business, but you can certainly do so while still employed. More and more workers these days, even at the senior-exec level, have “side hustles.”
  • Teaching: Teaching evening, weekend, or online classes enables you to use a new skillset and test out your interest in educating others – while you continue to hold your job.
  • Consulting: This form of entrepreneurship is a natural for executives; ideally you would offer consulting that does not compete with what your employer offers.
  • Volunteering: You have endless opportunities to try different skillsets and discover new disciplines by serving as a volunteer while still working.

With the possible exception of volunteering, any of the above could become your ticket to leave your current job eventually, thus reinventing yourself.

One more significant option for exploring reinvention while avoiding risk is to propose to your employer that you take a paid sabbatical. Most universities and some employers offer paid sabbaticals; if yours doesn’t, it can’t hurt to propose one to your boss.

Once you have committed to reinvention, you’ll want to plan strategies to market your reinvented self. If you’re changing careers, you’ll want effective career-marketing materials, such as your resume, cover letter, and Linked-In profile, that position you for your reinvented career and help you mitigate possible age discrimination. A reputable career practitioner can help you with these materials.

……

As a career coach, I’ve helped numerous executives transition into more fulfilling careers. Schedule a call with Beverly today for a complimentary discussion http://www.harveycareers.com/discussion.

Beverly Harvey
Executive Career Coach
Forbes Coaches Council Member
Credentialed Career Manager
Certified Career Management Coach
386-749-3111
beverly.harvey@harveycareers.com
http://www.harveycareers.com/discussion

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Reinvention: A Dozen Keys to Reinvention (Part 1 of 2)

This is Part 1 of a two-part series on career reinvention for senior-level executives. Part 2 explores various reinvention options.

If you’ve had a “Peggy Lee” moment as a senior executive, in which you asked yourself, “Is that all there is?” with regard to your life or career, you are far from alone. Though author and teacher Regena Thomashauer writes, “reinvention is always initiated by unhappiness,” this unhappiness is sometimes more like a low-level discontent, a feeling of wanting something more or different.

Reinvention may be sparked by changing priorities or a desire for something new. Sometimes it’s reactive – in response to losing a job, for example. Other times, it’s a proactive decision to make a radical change. Blogger John Mashini writes about a third kind of reinvention – one that springs from failure. This one is reflective reinvention, which Mashini says “occurs when you fail at something, but you still have a strong desire to continue in that particular endeavor.”

Whichever type of reinvention is pursued, the stakes are higher for executives as they have more to lose in terms of reputation, income, and self-worth.

That’s why it’s helpful to consider some key actions if you feel like you might be ready to reinvent yourself:

Own your grief at ending a phase of your life. Acknowledge the feelings of loss that come from no longer enacting your career in a certain way for what may have been a very long time. Prepare yourself to let go of what no longer fits your goals.

Determine your reinvention purpose. What do you hope to accomplish by reinventing yourself? Clarify your goals.

Assess your skills and values. Immerse yourself in self-discovery. Now is the time to determine what truly motivates you, drives you, and keeps you engaged. What do you highly value in your work? What skills do you want to keep using, and which ones are you sick of using? Are new skills required for your reinvention goals? How will you acquire those skills? How can you re-package those skills for new opportunities?

Evaluate your risk tolerance. As mentioned, executives have a lot to lose if reinvention goes sour. How much are you willing to risk? Your degree of risk-averseness may temper your reinvention plans.

Engage in proactive learning. This time of uncertainty provides an opportunity for learning. If you are unsure which direction to take with your reinvention, additional learning can point you down the right path. And if you know exactly what your reinvention will look like, learning will help arm you with the skills and knowledge you need for the New You.

Enlist your support team: Don’t try to go it alone; gather a team to support your reinvention. That outside perspective can be critical to your efforts. Your team might include a career or transitions coach. Including one or more mentors also makes sense. Identify where you need extra support, for example, with gaining the skills needed for reinvention. Your greater network is also a vital asset in your reinvention. You may need to add a significant number of new contacts to your network if you are changing fields.

Define the new you. Having executed preliminary exploration, clearly articulate exactly what your reinvention looks like. Be able to tell people about it with pride and optimism.

Write your career story, culminating in your clear vision of reinvention. Reviewing the highlights of your career will show trends and patterns. Ideally, your story will show a natural progression to your reinvented self.

Break it down into smaller steps. Reaching the goals of your reinvention may be a huge and daunting undertaking, but you can keep from feeling overwhelmed if you break the process down into more manageable pieces.

Experiment. Your reinvention is not set in stone. You can try some temporary explorations if you’re not completely ready to commit to reinvention. If you have lingering concerns, you can experiment while still holding onto your former life. If you want to learn more about roles, companies, and industries that are different from what you’ve been involved with, consider informational interviews. While these are usually conducted by job-seekers closer to entry-level, there is no reason executives can’t partake. You might also consider a “side-hustle,” such as consulting while hanging onto to your current job/career. Volunteer work and teaching also give you an opportunity to stretch your muscles, deploy unfamiliar skills, and explore new arenas without giving up your livelihood. See more about these options in Part 2 of this series.

For accountability, communicate your goals. Tell as many people as you can how you’ve reinvented yourself. Doing so will reinforce and strengthen your commitment.

Say no to anything that does not serve your new purpose. Once your reinvention is under way, don’t get derailed by engaging in activities that don’t support your new life. Take on only the “mission-critical” tasks that support your reinvention.

Unquestionably, reinvention is especially challenging for senior-level executives. Remember that you have the advantage of having built both knowledge and networks over a long career and thus have copious resources to guide your reinvention.

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As a career coach, I’ve helped numerous executives transition into more fulfilling careers. Schedule a call with Beverly today for a complimentary discussion http://www.harveycareers.com/discussion.

Beverly Harvey
Executive Career Coach
Forbes Coaches Council Member
Credentialed Career Manager
Certified Career Management Coach
386-749-3111
beverly.harvey@harveycareers.com
http://www.harveycareers.com/discussion

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Five Things to Know about the Millennial Hiring Mindset

millenial businessmen having conversation inside the officeWith millennials predicted to comprise more than 35 percent of the workforce by 2020, it’s inevitable to see members of this millennial generation in hiring-manager positions, recruiting and hiring senior-staff members who may be far older and more experienced than they are.

Understanding the way millennials think about work, jobs, and career is key to making the right impression in the interview, getting hired, and fitting in with a multi-generational workforce. Here are five general observations:

1. Leadership, teamwork, and communication are always in vogue. Millennial hiring managers seek these traits just as much as their counterparts in other generations. millennials are especially obsessed with collaboration, so stories that demonstrate your team-leader and team-player competencies will play well in interviews with them. As for communication, remember that millennials are visual learners who grew up consulting YouTube to learn how to do things. They are not big readers and have actually been conditioned to skip large blocks of text. That means they are unlikely to appreciate huge amounts of detail on your resume. And they might just resonate with a pitch deck about yourself that you bring to the interview.

2. Millennials respect experience, but as hiring managers, may not be willing to pay for it. Hiring managers in this generation recognize that experience is valuable, but they are more focused on the specific contribution you can make and how productive you are. They do not necessarily associate years of experience with a premium salary. It’s important to describe in the interview how you’ve contributed your productivity in similar situations, rather than emphasizing your vast experience. Show that what you bring to the company – not your years of experience – makes you worth your requested salary. It’s also important to show that a wealth of experience will not impede your ability to react quickly to changing dynamics. You want to show that you are not fixated on looking at new situations through old lenses.

3. If the watchword of real estate is location, location, location, the watchword for older executives under scrutiny by millennial hirers is flexibility, flexibility, flexibility. Demonstrate that you value diversity. Show you are not tech-averse but open to learning new technologies. Prepare for interviews with stories of responding effectively to the kind of rapid change millennials have experienced all their lives.

4. Millennials raise their eyebrows at careerists who’ve worked at one place for a long time. The good news is that job hopping is scarcely an issue for millennials who hire. Instead, the opposite is true; they look askance at those who seem to have stayed in one place too long. Their generation has tended to seek personal growth by moving from job to job. If you have been at your most recent job a long time, prepare an explanation about how you’ve grown in your work and have not stagnated. By the way, if the millennial interviewing you will be your supervisor, don’t count on him or her to stick around for a long time.

5. Millennials admire work-life balance. Stories of the long hours you’ve toiled and personal sacrifices you’ve made for your work are not likely to resonate with millennials, who tend to dedicate themselves to meaningful work, values, and balance between their professional and personal lives. In interviews, be sure to share the volunteer and community activities that make you a well-rounded contributor.

Final Thoughts
Being considered for a position by a hiring manager many years your junior can be intimidating. But once you understand the millennial hiring mindset, you can navigate interviews with these young hiring managers with ease.

If you need help with your interviewing skills, consider coaching with us.
Give us a call at 386-749-3111
Send us an email at beverly@harveycareers.com
Schedule a call with Beverly at www.harveycareers.com/schedule

Could You Benefit from Presenting a Pitch Deck in Interviews?

A dozen years or so ago, a popular trend in the job-search world was the idea of a career portfolio – a physical, tangible set of artifacts, often in a binder, showing skills, experience, strengths, and more. The job-seeker, armed with the portfolio, would look for opportunities to present parts of it in interviews.

Portfolios aren’t talked about as much these days, but that doesn’t mean that visual representations of your employability aren’t still a good idea. But just like the fat books of software documentation that have shrunk down to a single card, portfolios have become more streamlined – as pitch decks. After all, even the most compelling career portfolios have likely been allotted only a small amount of time in interviews; a visual that can be covered much more quickly makes greater sense.

Employers also understand the pitch-deck concept more than they do portfolios, and some employers even request that candidates conduct interviews in presentation style or bring a pitch deck with them.

What are the basics of pitch decks for careerists?
     • A pitch deck has 10-20 slides.
     • It should be very visual and contain very little text; you will provide the narration.
     • It should provide a platform for storytelling.
     • It’s the perfect medium for showing measurable performance – graphs, charts, and tables showing sales, profits, growth, successes in cost-cutting, and more.
     • It should be customized for each interview and showcase research you’ve done on the prospective employer. Consider even using some of the organization’s branding – colors and fonts – which has the psychological effect of making it seem as though you already work there.

What slides should you include?
In the world of pitching venture capitalists with startup ideas, slides describing the Problem/Opportunity and the Value Proposition/Solution are a given. With strong research and tailoring, you can create a pitch deck that targets the specific problem the employer would be trying to solve in hiring you and an overview how you would solve it (you don’t want to give too much away). The “Underlying Magic slide,” recommended by gurus such as Guy Kawasaki, describes why you are a better bet than the competition to solve the employer’s problem. It’s your “secret sauce,” your differentiator, your competitive edge.

If your work is project-driven, you can then include 2-3 slides with project highlights. The slides should show what the project looked like, what it accomplished, and how much it moved the metrics. If collaboration will be an important part of your next job, be sure to show how you worked cross-departmentally or across branches of the company. A pitch deck for investors always includes a slide showing the startup team; if relevant to the next job, you can include a slide showing who and how many report to you, as well as the overall team structure.

You can also include a slide that includes your job target – the job you are interviewing for. This slide is obviously very specifically tailored and shows how you are a fit for that organization.

Testimonials can be part of your pitch deck, especially if they are concise and punchy.

Introducing the portfolio
The ideal tool for presenting your deck is a tablet, but a slim laptop will work, as will printing your deck.

If the employer has not asked you to give a presentation in the interview, listen for opportunities to bring your deck into the interview. Any question to which you would likely respond with an example or story is one that you can consider answering using your pitch deck. Behavioral questions, based on the premise that past behavior is the best predictor of future behavior, typically offer the best opportunities to integrate the deck into your response. Say the question is, for example, “Tell me about a time when you had a very short timeline to meet your goals. How did ensure you would meet the deadline?” If you have an appropriate example in your deck, you can respond with, “Sure, let me show you the results I got on a software implementation that had a tight timeline.”

Tell your stories and show the illustrative slides in your deck using the formula Problem (or Challenge or Situation) –> Action –> Results.

Final Thoughts
Don’t forget about the option of using your pitch deck as an online artifact. You may need to create a version with more text to explain the images. You can then convert to PDF and make it available on your own website or LinkedIn profile. Or add a voiceover and make a video of it.

If you need help with your interviewing skills, consider coaching with us.
Give us a call at 386-749-3111
Send us an email at beverly@harveycareers.com
Schedule a call with Beverly at www.harveycareers.com/schedule