The Ultimate Tie-Breaker

The Ultimate Tie-Breaker

Stanley H. Davis, Founding Principal, Standish Executive Search LLC

Whether they acknowledge it or not, most business owners and executives know when their organization has outgrown its current leadership. Like our dated electronic gadgets, some leaders who were right for their original mission may have been obsoleted over time.  But acknowledging the need to address a change is thorny. It’s not uncommon for businesses to endure a leadership mismatch by substituting quick fixes to avoid stepping up to a tough decision.

When assessing the performance of a faltering leader, it can be tempting to rely on hope – that in another one, three, or six months, the executive will finally click. That’s not likely, and in each passing month, the company overpays for deficient results.  They’ll miss new offerings, markets or customers.  Essential operating improvements will go unrealized. For major sales, collaborations, mergers or acquisitions, the enthusiasm of a potential partner will be dampened by an unimpressive colleague.  Finally, they’re not a match for fast-moving competitors.

The Right Leader                                                                                                                                    

Different leadership traits are demanded by each stage of a business’s evolution — conception, launch, growth and maturity — and also by changes in company structure or ownership.

As an illustration, a $5 million-business will not realize its growth potential if led by $5 million talent. That is to say, best leaders in a growing business should have experience and abilities beyond the size and complexity of their current company. They’ve previously lived and understand what a successful business with sales of $10 to $20 million needs to look like, and what it takes to get there.

A leader should never be someone whose selection is settled upon. Weak leadership is a competitor’s dream.  If current leadership is not stretching the business or its team to be the best they can be, it is time to take a look at what they’re bringing to the table.

The right leader will be organizationally committed, goal-oriented, selfless and confident enough to hire others of equal talent to build an exceptional team.

Beyond business acumen, their personal chemistry and their success in molding a positive company culture are critical.  Without the right chemistry and culture, they’ll have difficulty collaborating with peers, marshaling the support of subordinates and establishing credibility with anyone.

The multiplier impact of uniting a great leader, a solid culture, and a cohesive team is stunning.

When It’s Time for a Change                                                                                                                                                     Most companies have not constructed talent pipelines to prepare internal talent as replacements for key positions. Thus, it’s easy to understand why an organization wouldn’t rush to replace even an underperforming leader. Plus, an executive search takes time and money, whether the company engages a search firm or tries its own hand.  Further, it will take even the best new executive about six months to get up to speed. Like any business-critical investment, success will be gaged by rapid, quantifiable returns.

After six months, new executives should begin to more than pay for themselves. But if a right selection wasn’t made, the missed fit will drive added costs (rather than profits) – this atop the costs of the search, the ramp up, and unrealized improvements. It’s crucial that every business gets their executive search right – the first time.

Each company needs to understand their cost of retaining underperforming leaders.  In its competitive deployment of strategy, capital, and people, the right leadership will be the ultimate tie-breaker.



Stanley H. Davis

Stan Davis founded Standish Executive Search LLC to support mid-size and smaller companies positioning for accelerated growth, transformation or succession, with crucial executive search and support services to meet their unique business requirements.

Stan is recognized as a leader in organization building and business transformations, addressing the toughest business challenges to publicly traded, privately held and not-for-profit organizations -- expertise he brings to his mid-size and smaller executive search clients.

Stan began his career in labor and employee relations in the steel industry. He subsequently held various management positions in human resources and organization change and development for General Electric, and then served as Vice President and Senior Vice President of three corporations under common private investor ownership.

He was the lead human capital executive for Huffy Corporation where he was responsible for the human resources and organization development functions for the Corporation and for its portfolio of service and consumer products companies. He then served a two year engagement as Chief Human Resources Officer for the American National Red Cross in Washington, DC before focusing on executive search.

Stan has been active in his communities, including service as: President of Haven of Schenectady (NY); Board Member for Hospice of Schenectady (NY); Co-Chair of the Rhode Island Governor’s Health Care Reform Commission; Member of the State Employee Pension Reform Commission (RI); a founding Board Member for the Center for Non-Profit Resources (OH); and Board Member for the HR Leadership Forum (DC). He currently serves as Board Chair of the Boston Exit Planning Exchange and vice chair the Rhode Island chapter of the American Red Cross.

He is a graduate of Cornell University’s School of Industrial and Labor Relations.

Specialties:Focuses on the operations, objectives and cultures of mid-size and smaller companies engaged in manufacturing, business services, family-owned business and not-for-profits to identify and engage the right new executives. Stan provides essential advice and support -- before, during and after each search -- to assure a successful and lasting result.

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