Tag Archives: Dennis Stevenson

The one with reputational competence

We all know what it takes to lead an organisation, right? Of course its easy to spot and very clear-cut as to what will lead to success in a Chief Exec role within a given organisation at a given time. Where’s the sarcasm button on this thing???!

If you think back to your first job/jobs especially those of you who indulged in graduate degradement assessment centres, what do you remember? A battery of tests, exercises, group work, presentations, ad nauseam, etc. The organisation hiring you got as complete a picture of your ability, personality and potential against a job role that was very clearly understood (well at least the HR team thought so) and then made a decision against those criteria.

Now let’s go back to the Chief Executive bit. So the role is in broad brush very clearly understood – big cheese, buck stopper, le grand fromage. But the reality is that leading a modern organisation is FAR more nuanced than that – what stage of the life cycle is the business in? What kind of market is it and what is that market doing? What are the focusses for the business? What kind of functional expertise are required and are they present? What role does the Chairman have and what relationship do they want with you? The complexity of success and failure is 100 (to the power N where N is a whole number between OMG and WTF) times more than the graduate gig.

So what do we do? We pay a very large fee to a third-party who does a) most of the work but b) has most of the contact and communication, to hire someone largely on their reputation. Yes, that’s right…what they have done in the past. Now I know the heart of the competency based interview argument is about being able to demonstrate competence from work already completed but given this person is going to need to create the strategy and inspire the delivery of said strategy maybe, just maybe it’s worth doing a little bit more?

What’s sparked this rantette, you may ask?

Well…it’s been brewing for a few weeks since myriad news outlets were getting stirred up, at the governments bidding around the fate of the HBOS 3 – James Crosby (formerly Knight of this parish), Andy Hornby and Lord Stevenson. There was talk that Vince Cable was all set to have them banished forever from Christendom (or struck off as being directors) for their role in the demise of HBOS and the impacts that’s had on the financial sector and the economy as a whole. It has since gone quiet but at the time and at intervals since the thought has struck me – why does the government need to intervene? Why not just trust organisations to hire competence Chief Cheeses?

That said Crosby has gone on to be a Non-Exec of several respected firms, although the list is shrinking by the day, Hornby hightailed out of HBOS HQ and headed to Boots before landing at Coral (who’d have bet on that…geddit?) where apparently they are loving him and Stevenson has several high-profile NED-ships including (who’d have thunk it) ‘The Economist’…

Most people seemingly don’t want an over regulated state meddling in everything…but… in order to achieve that people need to discharge their responsibilities to the best of their abilities. So firstly, if you are in a very senior role in a financial institution think twice about hiring these 3, you’ll save us a whole load of proceedings. Secondly, if you are in the position to hire (or facilitate the hire) of a CEO, stop and think about the role, your company, it’s life stage, your market, it’s need, your people, your accountability and the fact that you are linking your short-term future to whatever you hire – so hire well!

P.S. The person who thinks this is all hysterical? Fred Goodwin – although his laughter does make him lose count of the millions of pounds in his pension pot



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