3 Lessons in Executive Leadership

Every executive team must assess what is needed to meet the challenges of growth, scale, and investor expectations. This is particularly true when selecting an Executive Leadership Team. Our publicly traded technology company client, Marathon Digital Holdings, leaned on us as a firm to intentionally build the right team over the last two and one half years. During a recent conversation with CEO Fred Thiel, we looked back to identify what made each of those eight executives hires successful. Here are three key elements that came out of that discussion.

1. Clarity

Building a team requires having options, but what enables those options? “Clarity and communication make options possible,” Fred told us. He expanded on that axiom, noting that if you are not communicating with a bias toward clarity, you will misconstrue, overlook, or misunderstand what your options may be given a hiring situation.

Clarity extends beyond communications. Without clarity of purpose, forward momentum stops cold. Looking at the open frontier of cryptocurrency mining, Thiel stated the mission of Marathon was to “…be the purveyors of picks and shovels to crypto miners.” Having a one-sentence mission enables you to communicate the intended purpose and outcomes faster. Think of it as a refinement of the old “elevator pitch”. This was a powerful differentiator in presenting the Marathon Digital brand to executives outside the immediate category. This level of clarity and the brilliance of vision spoke volumes about the existing leadership and what they intended on accomplishing. 

2. Transparency

Transparency is another critical element to building successful and cohesive executive teams.  As your search partner, we can best serve you when we’re aware of what we might hear in the market. Pre-emptively addressing any questions or concerns the market may have accomplishes two things:

  • Demonstrates self-awareness on the part of the client and our firm. This posture allows us to tell the whole story of any situation and position things as you, our client, most desires. Shortly after the cryptocurrency market turned, our team happened to be in the market for Marathon Digital. Fred’s ability to share his vision for diversification was intoxicating to our audience. Despite any concerns they may have had, our robust and diverse panel of candidates was highly engaged, and interested in hearing more because the client was transparent.

    In Fred’s words “…the positioning is highly intentional here. Let’s compare where we are today (market, outlook etc.) to where Google was long ago before the value of data was unearthed. Marathon is uniquely in the middle of several very valuable technologies that will enable quick adjustments as markets continue to pivot. Blockchain is one of the more secure methods of exchange, Bitcoin is a finite and limited resource that will grow in value over time, and, we currently take pressure off the electricity grid on-demand, and work with renewable power sources which has established us as a carbon neutral operation."
  • Second, transparency also sets the tone for how all our clients desire to be viewed; ethical, transparent, and careful with others’ time. When highly desirable candidates know that we are authentically sharing information about the client, trust is developed. This leads our candidates to be more transparent with us, in their desire to return the favor and openly offer where their experience falls short of the requirements. 

3. Trust

As a discipline, we prefer to conduct on-to-one Executive Leadership Team meetings before launching a search. This provides essential information about how the client team sees the role, and what problems that person should be responsible for solving. With this level of awareness, our team can identify any divergent themes among the group and help the existing executive team realign. This practice as you might imagine may feel like an extra step but can shave weeks off the search process.  And, as an added bonus, we’ve also seen it encourage better communication practices inside our clients. 

Transparency breeds trust. Trust and understanding breed clarity. Building leadership culture and processes on these three establishes a firm foundation for the headwinds every business must face.

Finally, Decisiveness

A successful search process requires a decision point and data is the ingredient to simplify that pivotal moment.  Our finalist for one of our Marathon searches was far and away the best candidate with several additional options close behind. Fred stated, "We knew that the unique skill set and ability to manage our variables was a tall order. When we found the person with all the qualities we were seeking, it was time to pull the trigger as we didn’t know if there would be another one quite like them close behind.”  This decision was difficult, but with knowledge and data gathered from the market,  we had every indication that we had found a great cultural and skill match.

With clarity, transparency, and trust established, the final decision can be easily made.   

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