The third annual CEO Connection Mid-Market Convention at the Wharton School in Philadelphia this week gives these CEOs a chance to capture ideas and learning for their companies, make connections for themselves and their careers, and identify resources for their teams while working together to impact the world. Thought I’d share the main ideas from each day after each day.
The main takeaways from yesterday, Day I, were about:
- The impact a CEO can and should have, which is why the most important efforts must start at the top of the house.
- The need to take some things more seriously than perhaps most of us are taking them. This includes protecting trade secrets, talent management, organizational alignment, education, healthcare and personal branding.
- The opportunities for mid-market companies to partner with others to do a better job of leveraging resources together. These partners could include other companies and the various governments that are all part of the ecosystem.
The no. 1 job of a CEO is to own the organization’s vision and values. We learn time and time again that CEOs that take the time to clarify a vision, make sure all are aligned around it and follow through to shepherd implementation, analysis and continual improvement make phenomenal impacts.
What opening speaker and outgoing Philadelphia Mayor Michael Nutter and his team have accomplished during their eight years in office is astounding. They’ve turned Philadelphia’s momentum around with a focus on leadership, leadership capacity, a clear agenda, a focus on results and bringing joy to the job (and the city). As a result, high school graduation rates are up, crime is down, infrastructure investment is up, taxes are down, jobs are up and they’ve had eight straight years of population growth. Nutter is convinced that momentum is what compelled Pope Francis to pay a visit last month. Maybe not, but it seems that not just mid-market CEOs but some of our leaders in Washington could learn from what’s happening here.
As we worked through different issues and opportunities in panels and workshops, a recurring theme was how necessary it is for the most important things to flow from the top. Some argued that the chief security officer should report directly to the CEO, as should the chief talent manager, the head of communication among others.
Take This Seriously
Trade Secrets. If you’re not terrified about the risk of losing your trade secrets, you’re naïve. The main risk is neither foreign governments, competitors nor hackers, it’s your employees. When they feel unfairly treated (as all of us do from time to time), they take steps to get back at you. Gone are the days when your trade secrets flow out in paper copies or emails or jump drives. They are leaving your premises as pictures on smart phones. Be warned. Get ahead of the curve on this one by learning to recognize early signs.
Talent Management. Big opportunity for mid-market CEOs. You generally don’t have the resources of the Fortune 100. So you must own talent management yourself and share tools and best practices.
Organizational Alignment. Almost by definition, mid-market companies where innovation meets scale are too big for the CEO to know everyone and too small to have yet deployed the most sophisticated communication and alignment tools. So, as CEO, invest your time in ensuring alignment through all levels of the organization.
Personal Branding. The main takeaway here is that you had better control the narrative – or someone else will. Audit your own personal brand and then invest in it.
You’re Not Alone
The good news is that you don’t have to do this all yourself. As a mid-market company, you can partner with other mid-market companies in the ecosystem and work with your local, state, province or national government. The U.S. Department of Commerce’s Van Freeman told the group that “Partnership is about leveraging others’ resources for the common good.”