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Chief Enabling Officer
Sylvia Grant, Consultant, Australia, Member
In a predominantly knowledge-based organization, it would be more productive for a CEO to see himself as a 'Chief Enabling Officer', and adopt the philosophy of the book "Employees first, customers second" by Vineet Nayar.
The CEO as chief enabling officer would use his/her position to empower personnel in a knowledge-based organization, encourage innovation, employee participation in decision making, idea development, skills transfer or cross-skilling, and lead the synergies towards excellence in customer service. A confident CEO would also encourage employees to participate in problem solving, even at the highest organizational levels, eg a CEO could have a website where he/she could describe problems and invite suggestions for their resolution.
Vineet Nayar's book is particularly relevant because the author shares his own experiences, and demonstrates that this approach is effective. Under the leadership of Vineet Nayar, HCLT has been voted the ‘Best Employer in India and Asia’ by Hewitt, the ‘Best Employer in UK’ by CRF, and also won the ‘Workforce Management Optimas Award for Human Resources Innovation’ in USA, was rated among the ‘World’s Most Democratic Workplaces by WorkBlu’, and was recognized by Fortune as the ‘World’s Most Modern Management’.
I am not easily impressed by either books or new ideas - however, Vineet Nayar's book [Employees First, Customers Second] is like a breath of fresh air. In today's knowledge-based organizations, where more and more employees are Gen-Y who would absolutely reject the 'Command and Control' leadership style, Vineet Nayar's approach becomes even more relevant. The fact that he has actually put his ideas into practice makes it all the more significant. Employees of service provider organizations these days not only come into direct contact with the customer, but also with the customer's employees. I believe it is not difficult to accept the fact that employees who work in an environment that is energizing [rather than enervating], dynamic, and facilitating, within a culture that is inclusive and transparent, are employees who practise personal discipline, thought discipline, and action discipline.

Chief Enabling Officer
Padmanabhan, Civil Engineer, United Arab Emirates, Member
For a considerable number of years, I have acted in this manner for our department. I am not the CEO, though.

Customers First Always
Eric Schmitz, Consultant, Belgium, Premium Member
CEO's (and others) can be successful with the wrong strategies. And this seems one of those wrong strategies. A company and his CEO are there to provide value to the customer... Isn't that the main reason of their existence?
On the other hand, value has to be created by employees. And employees deserve respect, real respect.
Basically there is no priority within this two parties. Both have to be satisfied.
So seeing the CEO as chief enabling officer is partly correct. Not many employees are working directly to give the customer the expected value. All other functions are only acceptable if they help this value stream. This is also the case for the CEO.

CEO's Role is Changing
sudhakaran, Professor, India, Member
The CEO must come out of the "Command and Control" mind set and start "Connect and Collaborate".
Three Cs of importance here are communication, collaboration and conflict resolution.

Reality Check
Ted Garrison, Management Consultant, United States, Member
It's hard to get CEO's to realize they aren't that important - they are just a cog with a specific task to do like the rest of the people.
They don't have all the answers. They shouldn't be giving orders.
Once they lose those two positions it's hard for them to accept the fact they don't deserve to be paid on average 400 times what the workers are paid.
In a scale they might be the most important person - but without the supporting cast they would accomplish nothing. Put the best quarterback on a team with no receivers or running backs and watch him fail. CEO's are no different - they simply need a reality check. That's why I like the chief enabling officer concept.

Attitude is the Key... not a Label
Kenneth W. Hein, Strategy Consultant, United States, Member
Utimately, it is a leader's attitude, in this case the one called the CEO, that will determine how they fulfill their duties and responsibilities. Referring to Leading at a Higher Level, by K. Blanchard, we discover that it is the leader who possess and leads with a "Servant's heart," who is most likely to achieve all of the expectations that others of you have previously shared.
Without an attitude of serving, most of those in what would normally be referred to as a leadership position, will most unfortunately exhibit behaviors expected of kings, potentates, and politicians. None of which are about placing the welfare or needs any other before themselves; including customers and employees.
Perhaps then, it is the position of CSL (Chief Servant Leader) that would more likely produce the behaviors that will generate the greatest harvest, for any enterprise.

Execution & Enabling
Gary Wong, Consultant, Canada, Premium Member
As per Wikipedia, "enabling" has a double meaning. I prefer the positive view where one authorizes resources, primarily time and money, to allow another person to take action.
While it's one thing to provide resources (enable), it's also critical that these resources are deployed properly to deliver intended results (execution). Therefore, I see the CEO having 2 roles:
- One is to connect & collaborate (i.e. work horizontally in networks and processes) and the other is to
- Ensure time and money are being spent wisely (i.e. governance in the vertical org hierarchy).
The corporations that are moving to a "role-based" organization structure get this paradigm.

Supposition of CEO
karel sovak, Professor, United States, Member
While knowledge management is important, a CEO cannot put one over the other - employees and customers have to be the same priority. The issue with one over the other is an internal/external supposition.
Focusing too much on the customer can create issues internally; while focusing too much on employees causes alienation from consumers.
Talent management teaches us to recruit and retain those who understand our organization best - those who share our values. Additionally, we target customers who share those values as well, thus a winning combination. Enabling someone to take control of one of those elements over the other can lead to profit-oriented only organizations.
Perhaps the servant-leader style would be better - with the greatest characteristic of a leader being self-awareness, as Hal Adler (leadership landing) presents.

Employee First Works!
Charles Tombazian, Management Consultant, United States, Member
The 'employee first'-mantra has been successfully proven to deliver extraordinary business results.
Ex-CEO of Southwest Airlines, Herb Kelleher, preached this mantra religiously, even firing customers over disputes with employees. But a more statistically significant study was made by several Harvard professors in: The Service Profit Chain (Heskett, Jones, Loveman, Sasser, Schlesinger, 1994) and their subsequent articles through 2008.
2 of those professors, Schlesinger and Loveman, went on to run companies (Limited Brands and Harrah's, respectively) using the principles they taught and wrote about. I think we know the results of those case studies-- hugely successful!
I am thrilled to see a more recent validation of the causal chain-- happy, engaged employees create great customer service and loyalty resulting in increased revenues and profits.

Sam Walton on CEO
R. Ganesh, Manager, Saudi Arabia, Member
I think the confusion is cleared by the following, said by Sam Walton. "Organizations are successful, when all the employees know that the CEO is the most important person in the organization and when the CEO is understanding that he or she is only 10% of the puzzle".

Employees and Quality First and Customer Second
Klaver, Project Manager, Netherlands, Member
Every manager should enable his/ her team (strategic, tactic and operational) to execute (perform) at its best and deliver quality to their customers (internal / external or both) by giving them the tools they need and by managing by example.

CEO as Leader Enables Certain Eco-systems to Evolve
Mansingh Jaswal, Director, India, Member
In order to create sustainable competitive advantage, it is important to have an ecosystem where knowledge conversions lead to innovations, where customers are cared for, where employees shed their inhibitions and share their knowhow, where coaching and teaching is a self proclaimed responsibility.
CEOs as leaders enable such eco-systems to evolve.

Chief Enabling Officer
Mary Igo, Strategy Consultant, United States, Member
I hadn't thought about it that way, but I have to agree that if you are taking care of employees, not necessarily enabling but teaching and mentoring, you will have a loyal staff that will treat your customers well.
Since you can't be at the front line all the time, you need them to be ambassadors when you aren't there.

The Corporate Culture Will (Automatically) Reflect the Views of Top Management
Erdohegyi Gabor , Management Consultant, Hungary, Member
A corporate culture is a set of principles, values, rules, patterns of attitude, good traditions, etc. The culture consciously aims to deliver a clear and unambigous frame of corporate and employee behaviour.
The corporate culture usually is a kind of mirror image of the relevant views of the top management.

The Customer Always Comes First
Michael Park, Strategy Consultant, United States, Member
I understand your thinking. Investment into your people is important and a viable competitive advantage, of course!
But the customer always comes first. There can be no employee or employer without the customer, first and foremost. Business school didn't even need to teach me that. Running my own business didn't even need to teach me that. Common sense taught me that.

Chief Empowerment Officer
Dea Mandery, Project Manager, United States, Member
I think this is a great concept, and agree with the posts that indicate what an enormously positive impact it can have on the bottom line overall. I've seen these results with agile teams I've led and coached as a consultant (more than one org, product, market, technology, and domain).
Maybe there would be less heartburn when we use the term "Chief EMPOWERMENT Officer." Empowerment was such a buzz word for a while that it all but lost its meaning; however, when you create true empowerment, you get great results.
Good people make good decisions when they're empowered.

Enable Employees to Satisfy Customer Needs
Jeff Gordon, CEO, United States, Member
We must never forget that business exists for only one reason: to create customers. Anything the CEO does to enable their employees to innovate must always be in alignment with this purpose.

Employees Commitment Translates Into Long Term Customer Satisfaction
KATHRYN STEINER, MBA, Entrepreneur, United States, Member
If employees are onboard with the company strategic vision, it will propel them to contribute to what Kathleen Allen (2007) describes as " enduring company vision is what makes a company independent of any individual person-in other words, enduring. It also provides a context within which decisions are made... It is what makes the difference between a company that achieves superior long term performance and one that is simply successful."
Ultimately the customer benefits as Allen (2007) lead to the fact that "companies with vision have etched themselves into society's very foundations and changed the way we all carry out our lives".

The Term 'Enable' as in Chief Enabling Officer
Dr Gary Jones, Business Consultant, Australia, Member
The term 'enabler' stemmed initially from a psychological perspective that describes a person that assists a person carrying out errant behavior. Such as the wife of a drug addict or alcoholic that buys them the drugs or alcohol.
Today the term has a more general term as it does here.
The enabler here is somebody that supports behavior to reach a goal (mission then vision of a company).
This management style should be in every managers repertoire. Having said that it is the responsibility of the CEO to foster this type of thinking. To paraphrase P. Drucker a famous economist - a company is like a large orchestra, with only one conductor (CEO) and all of the orchestra plays to his tune.

CEO is Like the Conductor of an Orchestra!
Arif ur Rehman, Professor, Pakistan, Member
You can’t ‘flute’ a symphony... For that you need an orchestra!
And for the best ‘recital’ you need the conductor who senses every pulse, feels every sinew of every member of the orchestra, and then he simply ‘fiddles’ with his baton, and the audience is spellbound.
The chief enabling/empowering officer is no different. This is the magic that works in all domains.
For example as a professor of business communication, I go into a class with no plan. The first 3 – 5 minutes of visual contacts, body language and a smile or two tell me the ‘shape’ of my students priorities, needs and levels of receptivity they are in with. And then I simply play to their tune. The students are awestruck on the hugeness of learning that has taken place. That’s the chief enabling / empowering officer, I guess, we are talking of.

Who likes Chief Enabling Officer
Samir Desai, Manager, India, Member
In a lighter vein: all those who are not CEO would like the concept of chief enabling officer...

The Chief Enabling Officer
Arif ur Rehman, Professor, Pakistan, Member
The moment you decide to 'carry' people along - while fully aware of their needs and capabilities - you are the chief enabling officer.

Enabling CEO
Renella Bandinelli, Italy, Member
In a predominantly knowledge-based organization, leadership attitude has to be devoted to improvement.
Improvements must be shared in all organizational job positions which are relevant to customer service. If any job position is not relevant to customer service, it represents a cost to cut off.
Argyris and Schon speaking about Organizational Learning give a clear sight about how to act for improving.
In my experience, acting in a public school as “Chief Enabling Officer” is a possibility, but in my country there are too many unions, bonds and constraints, avoiding this approach to be completely successful.
I look forward to furter sharing of experiences with colleagues on this subject.

CEO: Enabling, but also Navigating, Engaging and Controlling
Joseph Pangilinan, Turnaround Manager, Philippines, Member
The role of a chief executive officer is to lead the company in its efforts to execute the chosen team strategy, in order to achieve specific goals. In this sense, enabling the team to execute the dream - in the context of preparing and organizing them for flawless implementation - is just one role.
Navigating, engaging and controlling are also CEO roles.
Ensuring an ecosystem that enables and does not disable strategy execution - say to commandeer resources, invest in audit systems or legal infrastructure, might be the board's role in some cases, and not the CEOs.

CEO - Leading Through Serving
Arif ur Rehman, Professor, Pakistan, Member
I've always held that internal customers (our employees) come well ahead of external customers.
Thus ‘employees first, customer second’ doesn't sound something new or extraordinary.
What actually makes the difference is the creating, maintaining and sustaining of a corporate culture, where each employee, irrespective of his status, always feels he is at the core of the communication process.
Other than information that may be very sensitive, knowledge sharing with all is best for mutual trust and better customer relations and retention.

CEO -- > Chief Enabling Officer
Charles Tombazian, Management Consultant, United States, Member
OK, so we have lots of validation from around our globe that employees come first and the CEO's job is to create the culture and environment where employees are enabled/empowered to serve the customer in extraordinary ways.
Now let's turn this very popular discussion to the next logical question -- Why doesn't it happen?
In the face of all the statistical and case studies showing this causal chain between employee engagement, customer loyalty, and profits, many leaders and their teams are still doubting Thomases!
Need more objective proof? I don't think so. But what does stand in the way then?

A General CEO is Needed After All
Dr Gary Jones, Business Consultant, Australia, Member
Charles you have hit the nail on the head. Its a very complex situation. The variables such as employee engagement, attaining customer loyalty and profit are sub units of a corporations strategy and how to obtain the best goal orientated performance of all employees.
Where there are variations or doubting Thomases can stem from several core reasons:
- Being unaware of policies or procedures that may enhance the corporations objectives
- Implementation problems
- Willingness to try new methods that may not be considered
- The core competencies of managers and employees.
There is not one magic formula to follow. If that was true, we would all follow that formula and massage it for variables that are particular to the organization.
We are talking about the chief enabling officer - that is one part of the formula for successful leadership and management style. Understanding and developing core competencies within the organization is another - the list goes on. There are many parts to a sum.

Chief Enabling Officer
Dinaz, HR Consultant, Member
I totally understand the perspective from which this blog has been written. From the holistic point of view leaders as enablers are like "multipliers" as Liz Wisemen and Greg M have put forth in their book.
Leaders need to create a smarter work force. The CEO thus has the responsibility of enabling and creating more "multipliers". As a CEO one needs to have a positive and profitable effect on organizations:
- Getting more done with fewer resources,
- Developing and attracting talent, and
- Cultivating new ideas and energy to drive organizational change and innovation.

Real Leadership
Arif ur Rehman, Professor, Pakistan, Member
Real leadership begins with legal compliance, and sensible stewardship.
This must shade well into ethical governance, aligned to professional distinction whereby grouping knowledge and usable data to highly functional teams emerges.
As a result, positive change in a creative, practical and expandable manner, wherein everyone is motivated, becomes evident.

How to Create an Enabling Work Environment
Sylvia Grant, Consultant, Australia, Member
Predicated on the assumption that employees who work in an 'enabling' environment will consistently deliver quality service, it begs the question: "What organizational structure would best facilitate an enabling workplace, and what behavioral characteristics are required in a CEO that would best complement this".
Please share your thoughts.

Creating an Enabling Work Environment
Arif ur Rehman, Professor, Pakistan, Member
A matrix structure is highly supportive of the channels of open and informal communication and is also strongly supportive of the management by objectives approach, is the set-up that is needed.
He further needs to have EQ to link personal and subordinate goals to achieve organizational goals. In their book 'Flight of the Buffalo' (1993), Belasco and Stayer proposed the Leader’s Four Obligations that must be implemented at all levels:
1. Transfer ownership for work to the workers
2. Develop an environment where such transference leads the worker to accept his responsibility for his own performance, wherein he aligns with the company’s systems and structures and the leader thus engages each individual’s mind and soul to ‘the soul’ of the business.
3. Hone individual proficiency and competence
4. Create an organizational culture impelling each worker to benchmark himself against himself.

The CEO as Chief Enabling Officer
Dr Gary Jones, Business Consultant, Australia, Member
Hi Sylvia, the first part of your question what STRUCTURE would best facilitate an enabling workplace, my opinion is that it's not the structure that brings success, it's the environment such as the cultural school of thought e.g. the Japanese management style of consensus decision making based on common interest and integration or the learning school of thought, that is organization wide where formation and implementation are intertwined.
The BEHAVIORAL CHARACTERISTICS of a successful CEO are situation specific with the underlying characteristics depending whether you are talking about their leadership qualities or management qualities. Leadership traits would normally contain assertiveness, decisive, competitive, risk taker and motivational and managerial style of motivational, people skills and plan full. As expected - overlaying traits. As a person you would be looking for a leader that had a good understanding of themselves, their strengths and weaknesses, confidence, education, background and people skills.

Creating an Enabling Environment
Sylvia Grant, Consultant, Australia, Member
I believe a flat organizational structure (rather than pyramidal) would best foster an enabling environment, primarily because it reduces hierarchy to the absolute minimum that is required.
The correlation and/or inter-dependencies between the organizational structure and the leadership qualities of the CEO play a crucial role in shaping the organizational culture, values and attitudes.
By the way... It is truly fantastic to have this global exchange of ideas!

Creating an Enabling Work Environment
Charles Tombazian, Management Consultant, United States, Member
Couldn't agree more with Sylvia. People watching people watching people work is a product of the industrial age. 21st century leadership and organizational structure is about self-managed teams, few layers, full access to information, real empowerment to make decisions and a workforce engaged and inspired by serving others (internally and externally).
It's only a matter of time till this new way of working becomes mainstream.

Behavioral Characteristics versus Leadership Traits
KATHRYN STEINER, MBA, Entrepreneur, United States, Member
Gary, I really favor the Japanese consensual management style, however, this method is difficult to implement in many US corporations?
This is not an ingrained trait and may logistically be difficult to implement, particularly in larger US organizations who are structured specifically, with regards to communications.
I better understand the relationship between leadership and behavioral characteristics... The description you provided is useful to me in differentiating and application.

Bill Boynton, Teacher, United States, Member
Dr. Stephen Covey in his book "The Seven Habits of Highly Effective People" talks about the inside-out approach for change from an organizational perspective.
For the purpose of aligning "enabling" into the concept I will start from the outside-in.
Organization... Alignment: ---functional cohesiveness
Managerial... Empowerment:---enabling others
Interpersonal... Trust:, positive relationships,
Personal... Trustworthiness: character & competency
When we work from the inside out we need to make sure we have created the organizational culture that develops the individual character and competencies that allow them to contribute to the direction and success of the business unit.
In other words they are trustworthy to be enabled.

Leadership - the Balance
Arif ur Rehman, Professor, Pakistan, Member
A sane, palpable balance among the three i.e. character, skills and attitude are fundamental to leadership effectiveness.
While Blake and Mouton’s Grid and Hersey and Blanchard’s Situational Theory offer much for leadership success, fundamentally the delegating, supporting, coaching and directing roles have a vital part in durable leader - follower relationships.
The maturity of the followers – a direct bearing on their abilities and attitudes -- stems directly from the intentions of the leader, wherein there must not be a shred of hypocrisy.

Leadership-the Balance-leaders Actions Speak Louder Than Words
KATHRYN STEINER, MBA, Entrepreneur, United States, Member
I suppose motherhood in many respects has prepared me well for leadership, since I always know my daughter is watching my actions, not my words...

Actions Speak Louder Than Words
Dr Gary Jones, Business Consultant, Australia, Member
Never a truer word spoken Katherine. Out is the saying 'do as I say not what I do'. Without textual placement Shakespeare proffered no better synonymous words for leadership (and strategy in general) in his play Hamlet 'suit the actions to the words, the word to the actions'.

The Precarious Balance
Arif ur Rehman, Professor, Pakistan, Member
@Kathryn Pawley Steiner: I fully endorse your views – whatever the relationships we simply cannot have double standards. All conflicts, fundamentally, result from hypocrisy.
Al qur’an, among other things, has time and again reminded humankind of the evil consequences of duplicity. When we take a look at our social and professional relationships, more often than not, we discover deep down in ourselves deceit, duplicity, deception coupled with unfaithfulness as the causes of all our ills.

Productivity: Shrinking Staff, Expanded Sales
Joseph Matovu, Uganda, Member
Certainly the productivity paradigm points to customer supremacy; the humane dimension of human resources notwithstanding.

Supremacy of the Customer: the Unchanging Paradigm!
Arif ur Rehman, Professor, Pakistan, Member
@Joseph Matovu
Supremacy of the customer – whether internal or external – is the only variable that does not change in a sea of continuous change. An organization, an institution, a leader, a manager or anyone of real worth, becomes truly worthy if this supremacy is its/his bottom-line and unchanging paradigm of thinking!

Triple Bottom Line
Charles Tombazian, Management Consultant, United States, Member
@Arif Ur Rehman: love your unchanging paradigm notion Arif that thcustomer reigns supreme.
I do think things are broadening a bit as a result of the new normal turbulence experienced globally 2008-2011. A new paradigm-- Triple Bottom Line -- has emerged, and major companies, like Southwest Airlines, are adopting the principle that we must pay equal attention to People (employees and customers), Profits (financial gains), and Planet (community and environment).
If anyone of the 3 is held supreme, an organization becomes out of balance.
In the coming years, I believe Triple Bottom Line will become standard operating procedure for responsible organizations and the best way for CEO's to enable and inspire their people. Today, I believe it is a differentiator for those leaders and organizations bold enough to adopt the philosophy and scorecard.

Chief Enabling Officer
OGUNMOLA JOHN OLA., Nigeria, Member
Every organisation that wishes to continue to grown and remain in existence must strife to satisfy its customers. This desire for continuity and growth is therefore the propelling force for whatever actions and decisions the CEO takes. It is that which determines what quality and quantity of employees to hire; what motivational strategies are to be used to achieve and sustain the desired level of performance.
Therefore it can be rightly said that while concern for employees is important, the desire to satisfy customer, should be paramount or else the organisation may seize to exist and the workers invariably will be out of work.

Satisfaction of Customers Should not Be at Expense of Employees
KATHRYN STEINER, MBA, Entrepreneur, United States, Member
I think that the upper management and CEO's, and all levels of management should get on the phones and take calls from customers, surprise a few that think never in the world would they think that they would be talking to a manager, or CEO...
Just to show they care enough to get close to the customer, as close as possible, and also to obtain a better understanding of the customer facing role.

Vineet Nayar's Book
Nancy Muttu, Manager, Uganda, Member
Vineet Nayar's book brings out a very important view on management. The right work environment improves productivity which at the end of the day, is beneficial to the customer.
This is what internal marketing teaches... Managing human resources to build internal competencies for external success, its an inside-out approach.
I should add that the title of the book is probably a little bit misleading... It could have been 'Employees first, Customers first'...

Employees First, Then Customers First
Sylvia Grant, Consultant, Australia, Member
@Nancy Muttu : In response to your statement that the title "Employees First, Customers Second" by Vineet Nayar could be misleading and could perhaps be "Employees First, Customers First": my interpretation is that, if organizations put employees 'first', then those employees will put the organization's customers 'first'.
The end result is a win-win outcome for all.

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