“Talent should be part of every conversation in an organization.” -- Alain Bejjani, CEO of Majid Al Futtaim Group.
One of our more important roles at VIM Executive Coaching here in Denver, Colorado, is what I call “Nurturing the Executive Heart.” I am not referring to eating granola or hugging trees (though neither practice is all that bad!), but of fully developing assets with the organization.
I was recently reminded of the importance of this nurturing in comments made by Alain Bejjani, the CEO of a Middle East conglomerate that owns real estate, cinemas, leisure and entertainment centers in 38 countries.
Mr. Bejjani is of the opinion that his successful multi-billion-dollar business is not only predicated on their development of innovative retail and entertainment destinations but also in nurturing highly effective leaders. For Mr. Bejjani, the development of “people assets” is one of their most important mission.
The Majid Al Futtaim Group spends significant time and intensive analysis on the development of one of its innovative shopping centers. What he noticed is that it could theoretically take the organization three or more years to fully plan one of their “experience centers.” Yet classically, once they made the decision to proceed with the development of the property, they only spent a week or so in choosing the executive to run the operation.
What Mr. Bejjani and his organization realized was the huge imbalance in time in the development of a multi-million-dollar center versus the relatively insignificant amount of time in the development of executive leadership. In fact, they hardly spent any money or human resources training on the executive leadership to run the operations. It just made no sense.
They have changed the corporate culture to be as effective on the leadership “conversation” as the resource development side. Bejjani stresses that in virtually every corporate conversation, “talent” is analyzed and discussed. There must be training, evaluation, performance reviews and in-depth development exercises. He sees talent development as one of the biggest tasks that any CEO should be taking on and explored from day to day, hour to hour. This commitment to leadership is running almost counter to current organizational practices. The nurturing of executive development is not a major priority in the current business climate, but it must be.
Ironically, we are living in an age where customers, whether industrial, service-oriented or consumers are demanding more of organizations, not less. Though many organizations view customers through a digital lens, consumers are not computers but people. People are using computers, true enough, but they have the platforms to rate, to comment, to recommend or critique inadequate performance or experiences.
Executive talent in today’s organization is not a matter of hired experience, what is more important is the development of executive leadership. For Bejjani and the Majid Al Futtaim Group, they feel that: “One of the most difficult and daunting tasks is leading yourself.”
For the Majid Al Futtaim Group, and many organizations, training executives to lead themselves is a new phenomenon, but it is really a matter of re-awakening ancient skills. In order for any executive to lead themselves, it must take a great focus on mindfulness and “the heart.” It is impossible for any executive to become more mindful and indeed, more introspective without taking a more inward journey.
It is no longer productive for key executive leaders to view their roles as that of producing “executive clones.” No two executives are identical in their experiences, mindsets, styles and training. However, if trained to be more mindful and indeed, more authentic in their approach to leadership, two executives with widely differing styles can be equally as effective.
VIM Executive Coaching well knows that an effective executive is also one who is compassionate, authentic and mindful. He or she is an executive leader who must be more responsive to workplace challenges and to employee personnel issues. We employ many tools to bring about these positive changes in executive leadership, for it does not happen by accident.
In the new climate of organizations and business, to not develop talent with the same passion as developing a shopping center, for example, is to invite catastrophe. The development of compassion and authenticity in leadership is critical.