• Leadership

Being an Enterprise Executive

Understand the mindset of all your company's stakeholders to be a true leader says Michigan Ross Prof Ray Reilly

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One of the benefits of managing in a ‘start-up’ is that the business model and the company’s ultimate objectives are usually crystal clear. For executives in complex established organizations understanding the business ‘in the round’ is not always so easy – but it is key to becoming an ‘enterprise executive’.

The problem is particularly acute for high performing team leaders and unit managers who are promoted into roles with general management responsibilities; people who had siloed success managing a function but must now consider the entire enterprise with every decision they make.

For both new and established leaders to have a significant impact, whether designing the company’s future or initiating a response to sub-par business performance, a deep understanding of the company in the round – its place with key stakeholders and of how those stakeholders think – is essential.

Ross Executive Education’s Enterprise Executive Program, led by Professor Ray Reilly  deals specifically with this important career defining issue, helping executives develop the right perspective to lead their enterprise in the context of the multiple, complex relationships in which it operates.

This extract from a recent article explains Professor Reilly’s thinking behind the program:

The first step is understanding your company’s business model. It sounds obvious, but it’s a question that often stumps even top leaders. Managers need to be able to map the company’s place in a web of stakeholders that includes customers, suppliers, employees, and investors. Knowing how all the dots connect leads to asking better questions about how and why things operate.

Next is to understand the mind of these stakeholders and their interests:

  • Customers want products and services from your company that are better in some sense than they can get anywhere else.
  • Employees want the best culture, learning experiences, salary, and chances for advancement.
  • Suppliers want good prices and a partnership that produces a stable relationship.
  • Investors want a better return on their money than they can get with another company.

The trick for managers is making decisions that balance and connect all of those interests.

“Focus too much on one and it falls apart,” Reilly says. “For example, you can always make your customers better off by charging less for your product. But rely on that too much and someday your revenue will fall short of costs and you won’t be able to serve anyone.”

Seeing the world from the point of view of all the stakeholders puts your company in a better position to know when and how to meet their needs.

The course invites participants to think about their own business model, then how to re-evaluate it once exposed to the broader perspective.

“By the end of the program participants will have described their business model, identified its weaknesses, and crafted ideas for improvement. They are encouraged to return to work with at least one change recommendation that is fully supported by a compelling business case,” he says. “It’s the start of one of the key responsibilities for an executive – how to constantly refine the way you do business.”

Learn about the Ross Executive Education’s Enterprise Executive Program

Corporate cliches are for yesterday’s business. Today's business calls for a new kind of leadership, one that sees beyond yesterday’s cliches and creates meaningful change, the kind of change that yields long-term, sustainable results.

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