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  • Writer's pictureJessica Davey

The Importance of Knowing Who the Leadership Team is Before Accepting (or not) a New Role

When deciding whether a job and company is right for you, ‘culture and values’ – and quite rightly – come up on top with everyone I speak to.

However, I’ve noticed the meaning of culture and values varies hugely, dependent on the stage we are at in our careers.

In our early 20s, “Do they have a good company culture?” loosely translates to “Do they have a prosecco tap, is there a ping pong table and can I bring my dog to work?” (although perhaps that’s saying more about 21 year old me than it is you!).

However, as we progress our careers into Heads Of, VPs and C-Suite Executives, culture and values are viewed incredibly differently.

As much as the overall company culture and values are still hugely important, it is the Founder/CEO and leadership team specifically who become even more significant to us. What are their underpinning values, make-up, principles and ethics?

When I speak to Senior Executives about why they want to leave their current role, at least 50% of the time the reason is a misalignment with the Founder/CEO and/or leadership team.

  • You do not feel that you have a voice.

  • The Founder does not value your role in the business – you are constantly having to seek buy-in, budget or both!

  • The leadership team do not have the same drive, ambition and determination as you – and consequently, that holds you back from achieving what you want.

  • They have a different approach to you (is it more of a blame culture rather than focusing on motivating and problem-solving; are they more chaotic and you are more considered?).

  • They do not care about the same things that you do (perhaps they are focussed on commercials and you are more customer-centric; perhaps they do not believe in the value of data, but you feel like shaking them (not advised) because the reason why they’re going wrong is all in the numbers; or they do not value Risk and Compliance as a necessary function and you’re spending more time trying to convince them than actually working on the day-job).

When I ask a Senior Executive what is important to them and they answer ‘culture and values’, I encourage them to dig deeper.

At your level, are you truly interested in Yoga Thursdays?

Or is it more about the values and ethics that underpin the individuals sitting at that leadership team table beside you?

Having said that and to be clear, I truly believe that a diverse mix of personalities and approaches (and gender, races and backgrounds, but that’s a whole other kettle of fish – don’t get me started!) is healthy for every leadership team (it would be unhealthy to have a clones of the same person and if you see that, back away!).

However, fundamentally, in order for any relationship to work (I promise you are reading a blog from an executive search agency, not a dating agency … although perhaps Belong could diversify?) you need to have the same values. You are not looking for a new bestie, but you will be spending more time with these people than your own family.

You need to be able to trust, discuss, challenge, debate and deliver results together.

This is not a one-night stand; you will be joining the company for the foreseeable, investing a huge amount of your time and life into this business.

Like entering any relationship (it’s suddenly dawned on me why I’m single if I write long lists of my expectations like this), consider what is important for you and what do you need to make it work?

  • Do you believe in the Founder/CEO – and do they believe in their own company and vision?

  • Does the leadership team have a similar approach to you (e.g. do they motivate and encourage or is it a blame culture)?

  • Is there a real need for your role and if so, is the business truly bought into that and ready for you to work your magic?

  • Are the leadership working towards the same north star? If you have met with lots of different business leaders, and some are planning a trip to Pluto and others are planning a trip to Mars, this is a red flag.

  • Are they reputable - what are their backgrounds, what sort of companies have they worked for before and do you know anything about their successes (or failures) in the market?

  • Perhaps not relevant to everybody, but are they at similar life stages to you? If you are a Mum or Dad with 3 kids at home, but they’re not and expect you to be on conference calls 6am – midnight, it’s not going to work.

  • Let’s not beat around the bush – are the Founder/CEO and leadership team genuine and kind people? No one wants to work with d***heads.

I cannot stress enough to take your time when deciding whether the job and company is right for you.

At your level of seniority, the company should be integrating multiple leadership team members into the interview process (and if they are not, ask to meet them – even a quick 10 minute phone call can confirm if it is the dream role, or change your mind completely and save you months/years of headaches).

As much as they are interviewing you, you are interviewing them.

Accepting a role should be a very easy decision to make because that means you are fully happy with everything and everyone you have met. If it is a hard decision, that means something is not right – listen to your gut.

I hope that’s helpful to you and, as always, you know where I am if you would like to have a confidential chat - any time. Ideally about your career rather than love life, but watch this space for a C-Suite dating agency… 😉


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