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Surprise: Low Performing Partners Almost Always Have Two Key CEO Attributes

By Joey Havens

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Let’s start with a bold statement (an assumption based on experience and lots of supporting evidence)—most firms have partners and managers who are not hitting on all cylinders to reach their full potential. But these low performing partners/managers generally have two key CEO attributes that might surprise us.  In fact, these two key attributes are exactly what our legacy thinking might use to rationalize why they should be partners. A few weeks ago, we talked about our current leadership gap, which is worsened by our legacy thinking. Let’s dive in as we may find ourselves justifying past decisions based on highlighting these two important attributes.

In a recent Harvard Business Review article, the authors studied the differences in high performing CEO’s and low performing CEO’s. But it’s what these two groups have in common that may surprise you. The study pointed out that low performing CEO’s scored 100% on INTEGRITY and 97% on WORK ETHIC. How often do we experience this rationalization in answering questions as to why a team member is a partner, still a partner or being considered as a partner? Is it possible that we weigh these two attributes too highly or quickly? Shouldn’t they be minimum expectations for all team members? These two attributes are really simply baseline expectations.   

Has our legacy focus on these two attributes distracted us from hard discussions on attributes that would lead to higher performance and impact for the partner and the firm? Such as:

  • Decisiveness
  • Anticipatory
  • Impact/Results
  • Emotional IQ
  • Sponsor
  • Feedback Skills
  • Leadership Development
  • Insights
  • Collaboration Skills
  • Agile
  • Lifelong Learner
  • Vision

Could our legacy weighting of technical ability, work ethic, and integrity be required strengths that, taken to excess, become weaknesses as they cause us to not have accountability or proper weighting of attributes that have proven to be differences in high performers and low performers? Are we creating a C-suite of cruisers?

Stepping back and evaluating how we are promoting our partners (CEOs) has to be one of the critical paths for our future relevance and success. #HardDecisions