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The 7 Steps in the CEO’s Journey to Victory

Transformative change in business belongs to storytellers who understand the hero’s journey. The concept of the hero’s journey that takes place in practically every great story came out of Joseph Campell’s 1949 book, “The Hero With a Thousand Faces.” The journey begins with a call to adventure. With the help of a mentor, the hero embarks on a quest, makes allies and faces difficult challenges along the way. The hero perseveres, wins and returns home, armed with new knowledge.

While we typically associate this format with Hollywood movies, game-changing business leaders have almost always followed a similar path. YPO recently held a global conference call with high-impact leadership expert David Morris, Founder of the HiPER Solutions Group, on “The CEO’s Journey to Victory — Applying Hollywood’s Hero Formula to Your Business Transition.” In the HiPER framework, the CEO isn’t the hero but the producer or enabler of the journey the actual hero — or the director — is on. Here are seven steps from Morris to help you draw from the Hollywood approach to successfully lead a journey through transformation:

Business as usual

The journey starts with business as usual, which typically translates into 5 to 10 percent iterative growth, a traditional organizational structure, consistency and reliability. When things are going well, it is difficult to create a sense of urgency that results in transformative success. A quest worthy of a hero’s journey does not simply maintain the status quo. “It’s very important that you use the business as usual as the benchmark to warrant whether or not it’s worth going down the storyline,” says Morris.

Call to action

Take a look at the current state of affairs and think carefully about a call to action. Identify something out of the norm. Make sure the mission is worthy and that you can be victorious. “The reality is 50 percent of all of these transformations, these storylines, fail because it’s not defined upfront,” says Morris. Limit and define the objective, determine the metrics and make it exciting.

The shoulder tap

The next important step for the producer is to tap the right director. This hero will recruit the team, take on the outcome, determine the goals, delineate the metrics and lead things forward. “The person you want to recruit likely does not want the role,” says Morris. “They recognize that what they are about to do could be destructive to them.” The reluctant hero needs an interpersonal demeanor in order to elicit information as well as a growth mindset, motivation and an analytic mind in order to be able to evolve, thrive on adventure and connect the dots. Typically the director has a track record of achievement on a non-linear path.

Team, allies and enemies

The first job of the director is to assemble a high-performance, dynamic and diverse team with different ways of thinking. “We want to see action orientation, a play and strategic orientation, agile thinking and creative thinking,” says Morris. Assessment and independent data will help you uncover the thought processes of potential team members. Establish a set of team norms best suited to the urgency of the project and the team’s different work styles. Making sure you have the right Cast of Characters™ — including the allies and enemies who will help you avoid or put up barriers along the way — is critical to success and the future phases.

The crisis moment

Now that the hero has a mission, mentor and cast of characters, the hero will face a crisis. Morris says that as an integrative thinker, the HiPER director will have the resilience and the ability to triangulate the data as well as the courage to seek help from the team. At this juncture, the director may try to quit or face self doubt and the producer plays a critical role as the mentor, guiding the hero and enabling the desired outcome to come to fruition. “There are going to be moments when that director is going to run into obstacles,” says Morris. “If they don‘t have the air cover and mentorship from that producer, they will fail.”

Breakthrough solution

The crisis has presented itself, the producer has mentored the director and the director’s resilience has been tested. Now, the focus turns to solving the problem. The best solutions emerge not only from the director but also from the team whose diverse points of view challenge one another. The director needs to be able to lead that meeting — to facilitate, encourage participation from all members and bring it to a solution. “Through that healthy discourse, some new idea is going to emerge,” says Morris. “Ultimately you need to have some divergent thoughts come out that no one person could have come up with and you have group buy-in since they are all a part of it.”

Celebrate victory

The final leg of the journey is the victory celebration. Recognize the team members who made the breakthrough outcome possible. Make it meaningful and public. “When you celebrate that victory, it’s going to be easier to recruit other heroes down the path, and, of course, provide all the momentum to grow the organization,” says Morris.

Melissa Fleming has previously worked for Catchafire, Fast Company, Harper’s Bazaar, Stanford Social Innovation Review, Time Out New York Kids, Town & Country and Vogue, among others.