Your Most Important Hire of 2017

By Courtney Feider
 
Every meeting is different in flow, timbre and organization. Every presentation template is different. Executives in the meeting are typically distracted by their phones working on things unrelated to the meeting. Sometimes too many people are included, sometimes too few. The business is productive but could be refined operationally to be more efficient. New talent on the team started their jobs on an optimistic note and they’re rapidly getting jaded. Tenured executives are equal parts burned out and ready to fly—counting down the days and dollars to retirement, or fantasizing about a new career, though it feels too late for that. Young executives are under-mentored, under-valued, and have too little voice to use their passions and communications skill to make a real difference.
 
Welcome to the modern boardroom.  
 
Our World is Changing
Here’s the crux. We have a backlog of issues and no central body to manage them. Modern businesses are struggling with organizational change and transition management, inclusion issues, team stagnation and executive burnout. On the P/L report, this shows up as a lazy curve of escalating income on the good side of things, or a plateau or steep decline for a dinosaur business who is not innovating at all from within.   

  1. THE ALL-GENERATION WORKPLACE: We’re in the most dynamic time in history as it relates to multi-generational workplace and demographic shifts, and fear and pessimism are rampant. The rush to retire for Baby Boomers will level out by about 2026, but then the tiny group Generation X will be at the top of the food change, and the post-millennials (Founders) will be integrating.
  2. OLD v.s NEW: There is a seismic shift happening between “dinosaur” businesses who don’t believe in true change management and are leaning into old systems, yet not seeing recruitment, engagement, or retention of staff, and “evolved” businesses who are offering 20% free time for the pursuit of new ideas, progressive family benefits, placing more female executives in top management roles and designing a more side-by-side leadership model, and are truly and thoughtfully creating a culture of psychological safety and inclusion for all identities at work. These two business types are worlds apart and most businesses fall somewhere in the middle. Sadly, the “middle” businesses are suffering as much as the dinosaurs.
  3. STARTS & FINISHES: We have a fundamental and epidemic problem related to mentorship and succession to the next place in business for individual executives, and succession and organizational transition planning for whole organizations (family succession, CEO succession, or even acquisition). Many businesses haven’t planned well for this stage and now that the time has come, it’s snuck up on them. Young executives aren’t attracted to very traditional and old fashioned businesses because the infrastructure doesn’t fit their reality and they aren’t prepared to dedicate time and energy to something that won’t make a difference in their lifetime.

So the million dollar question is, how do modern businesses scratch the surface of this issue, much less solve the problem? The good news is that it’s not a million dollar question at all. It’s more like the cost of one salary. What is this economical solution? It’s as simple as hiring a Chief Creative Officer.
 
What is a CCO?
Not to be confused with a Creative Director, a Chief Creative Officer is something fundamentally different. This person is an agent for integrated change--part leadership advisor, part strategist, part branding and marketing expert, part creative thought igniter. This person may absorb parts of responsibility you typically see in a CIO, CTO, and CMO in one efficient body. He or she is a high-level, multifaceted strategist who handles change management, strategy, innovation and creativity--and takes responsibility for setting the pace of fundamental organizational change by designing, engineering, educating and implementing a strategic and thoughtful creative disruption process. The CCO is singularly responsible for structure related to the daily practice of practical creativity for innovation and results, while also streamlining the physical space and daily stimuli, and facilitating transformation for teams.
 
Do You Need a CCO?
Chances are your organization can change for the better (and for greater profit) by adding a CCO on staff or even on contract. If you are a leader who has been charged with leading differently or instituting a massive change like an acquisition; if you are considering creating a new product line or moving into a new market; or if you need to compel and retain a consumer audience, then adding a CCO can help. Bear in mind, this isn’t a short term problem or a short term solution. It’s a commitment. The best example of this dynamic is a hire, though in many cases a long-term contract with a talented outsider will also suit nicely (and that consultant may help you strategically hire the right person in-house). This person needs to know the culture and pull it apart piece by piece, putting it back together as progress is made.