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Building a Senior Staff Powerhouse

by Miki Saxon

Whether you’re the CEO of a Fortune 100 or the owner of a small biz you need a senior staff. “Senior staff” doesn’t necessarily mean a bunch of vice presidents (although, for convenience, I’m going to use that title in this post), but it does mean the top people in your company who manage different functions (with or without staff). They are the people the CEO relies on

  • as a sounding board;
  • for both tactical and strategic intelligence;
  • to tell it like it is—even when he doesn’t want to hear it
  • to see and understand the big picture;
  • to lead the effort in employee acquisition, motivation, and retention;
  • to support and strengthen the culture she envisioned;
  • to not sabotage another group or start a turf war, and
  • to help stamp out politics whenever and wherever it rears its ugly head.

And more, but you get the idea.

The first item on your agenda when creating a senior staff is to determine what parts of your business/company (beyond the standard ones of finance, development, marketing, and sales) need to report directly to the CEO for peak performance. You never want function that is truly critical to our success reporting through, and responsible to, someone else, because personal agendas can get in the way.

It may be customer service (or whatever it’s called); it could be IT; if you are large enough to have a real HR department (not just a benefits admin) it should definitely report directly. Support functions are often left to report to the CFO, which can prevent them from being used fro real strategic advantage.

Where does one find talented VPs? Now and then you’ll be lucky enough to actually hire one complete with all the bells and whistles, but more likely you will find a current VP, or talented director, with some of them, or with the right potential.

Be aware that one of the main things that sets good VPs apart from other managers is a strong strategic ability, that means they see the entire team and understand how their department fits into the whole. I’ve known many C-level executives who never grasp this, as well as director level (and lower) managers who get it.

All of your staff needs a real understanding of business, including financials, and it’s your responsibility, as their manager, to make sure that they get whatever training and information is needed to do their job as a member of your senior staff.

Further, if you want the most powerful senior staff possible cross train them in each others functions and challenges. Think of the phenomenal value of a CFO who understands the intricacies of manufacturing as more than a set of numbers; a VP of Engineering who understands financials and inventory turns; an HR head who understands what actually happens in the different departments, etc.

Think of the power inherent in a senior staff that understands what it takes to turn an idea into a product and a product into revenue.

Think of what a difference it would make to your ability to do your own job.


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