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How To Expand Your C-Suite Without Creating New Silos

The following is a Best of 360Connext post.

The titles at the highest levels of business used to be simple. CEO. COO. Then came the CTO and the CMO. And now there is much overlap and confusion over who does what, exactly?

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As more companies enlist the titles of Chief Customer Officer and Chief Digital Officer, the convergence becomes ever more interesting.   One of the most challenging aspects of customer experience is setting boundaries around duties within organizations. And now, with the rise of moving businesses to become more digital, the intersection is more daunting. And yet…

  • In 2011, Forrester reported more than half of Chief Customer Officers were not included in their company’s executive management teams.
  • Some predictions forecast 1 in 4 will recruit a Chief Digital Officer by the end of 2014.
  • There are now calls for executive teams to add Chief Social Officers and Chief Content Officers.

If there’s anything that kills customer experience, it’s the territory wars inside organizations. Looking at the future of the C-Suite, I can’t help but wonder if we are creating silos and fiefdoms instead of trying to destroy them. As executive teams expand, I offer a few questions to hash out before posting that job.

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1. How do we reward collaboration at the highest levels?

Too often, leaders are jockeying for slices of the budget or the best and brightest talent. This attitude kills collaboration between different parts of your organization. Leaders who say they want collaboration often don’t reward it. People do what works for them. If I’m the Chief Customer Officer and know we need an improved app to please our customers, I might be better served stealing those tech geniuses from the CIO or the CDO. Instead of fostering collaboration, rewards are often about hard and fast numbers in very concrete columns. If you want collaboration among your C-Suite stars, then provide real incentives to do so. Help everyone help your customers and make sure everyone wins when they work together.

2. Who are we serving?

If the leadership is referring to shareholders exclusively, the customers are forgotten. If your team is killing themselves to please the industry analysts, the customers are losing. Put customers front and center. And let them have a voice by including customer-centric key performance indicators in your reporting.

3. How do we break a tie?

As the C-Suite becomes more crowded, it’s important everyone feels heard. If ties are broken by the whims of the CEO or the idea of the moment, your best people will quickly go somewhere they feel has more stability. Communicate over and over about what is guiding this team. Not a long-winded speech, but an idea or theme. If everyone can agree on what the mission is, the choices of what to do next become more obvious.

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4. What are we really asking these leaders to do?

Chief Digital Officers are not necessarily replacing Chief Information Officers. So where is the line? Do they know? What about the Chief Marketing Officer and the Chief Customer Officer? Where does one role end and the next take over? It’s so tempting to think another role, another department or another leader will fix all the ills. But that’s just not the case. Leaders show the way to their teams, and if they are confused or worried about overstepping, their people will pick up on that. Define and redefine and encourage lots of communication between these key roles. There is so much change right now we are probably witnessing a fairly big evolution of the C-Suite. It’s ok to experiment. But make sure those working on your behalf understand how their role impacts the customer experience. What roles do you think we’ll see next?

Image credits: clagnutBill Ward’s Brickpilekuma chan via Creative Commons

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