John Philbin, Partner, Spectacular at WorkJohn Philbin, Partner
Over the last 25 years, John Philbin, Managing Partner at Spectacular at Work, has worked with numerous CEOs from different industries and identified the elements necessary for a CEO to be successful. They have the ultimate responsibility to make their companies spectacular places to work, where great people are inspired to do amazing things.

To help CEOs achieve this feat, Spectacular at Work focuses on understanding the specific company and leadership needs by examining their operating model, organizational structure, competitive position, and culture. As a result, the company is able to help clients with their CEO succession and planning process.

Below is the conversation that Manage HR magazine had with Philbin to understand how his company helps clients compete, win, and create cultures where their people thrive.

Building a Spectacular and Balanced Culture

There have been a set of transformations today that are prompting the next generation of employers to pay attention to their employees’ needs. In some way, it has humanized the modern organization, and companies have recognized that the relationship between the employee and employer needs to be more reciprocal. To do that, companies need to focus on not burning out their employees and getting the very best from them by focusing on building spectacular and balanced cultures.

The idea behind the conception of Spectacular at Work has been all about bringing leadership experience and know how to organizations. We enable our clients with best practices that they can leverage and thrive with, particularly when it comes to using their people and culture as a competitive advantage. This also includes helping clients put together the specific elements that they need to stay ahead of the other players out there.

We tend to work with organizations that are looking to use their HR function to be more successful. The experience and expertise that we have as a team ensures that we are able to understand peoples’ psychology in how they bring their intellectual, emotional, and cognitive selves to work.

Making CEO succession Planning Seamless

When an organization engages us for CEO succession planning, there are a couple of things that we consider. First, we identify the key stakeholders of the company which include the board members and the CEO, as well as the members of the leadership team. The idea is to identify how an organization functions today and the key pillars of their future strategy. By doing so, we help organizations identify their needs.

Next, we help them recognize individuals who can be at the forefront of understanding and realizing those needs. Based on a variety of techniques, we help clients in making an educated choice. We consider things like engagement survey results and other tools that can be used to measure their organizational health using leadership and talent risk analysis.

By examining the variety of characteristics surrounding an organization’s direction and its current health, we help the stakeholders set a process to develop the top candidates internally. We work with the senior leadership within the company, over a one year time period, to assess and develop candidates for the role of a CEO. We do this by using tools such as 360 degree feedback processes, coaching, and supporting candidates while they change their role.

Once the board selects their next generation leader, we often continue to help the new CEO build a transition plan, specifically through an exclusive program: The Leadership Collective. The Leadership Collective takes place over the course of nine months, and participants are immersed in a learning environment where they receive intensive feedback and coaching and a six-session leadership course that provides guidance from those who have walked the road they are on now. We create a high impact learning cohort that acts as the place where it is OK for participants to not know or not be the expert. Joining a close-knit group of other highest-of-the-high-potentials is central to helping make the team better. This provides highly interactive, undiluted access to world-class peers, advisors, and experts that cannot be found anywhere else. The Leadership Collective is sleeves-up planning, preparation, and mentorship built on the collective wisdom and experience of people who intimately know what it takes to lead a successful company.

Use-Case: Choosing the Next Eligible CEO Candidate

In one instance, we collaborated with a multi-billion dollar European-based global company in a multi-year process and had about three years with the current CEO—who had a great legacy—who wanted a smooth transition to the next CEO. The board and the CEO worked together to identify a slate of six internal candidates.

The experience and expertise that we have as a team ensures that we are able to understand the people’s psychology as to how they are bringing their intellectual, emotional and cognitive selves to work

For each of those candidates, we did an assessment to determine the essential development needs and level of their current leadership skills. We then put these candidates in different business roles to expose them to novel situations that helped us analyze their agility based on their performance and how they create the next generation of change in the business they took over. During this process, they all had individual coaches, mentoring meetings with the CEO, and opportunities to connect with the board at dinners and presentations. As a result of this process, the board eventually chose the next eligible CEO candidate.

Fast forward five years and the organization has been doing exceptionally well regarding shareholder value and work culture. In addition, it has become a healthier company because it did a great job determining its future leader.

The Last Words about being Spectacular

We’ve seen too many companies try to run their business without planning for the human element. We know that when you do the work to get really People Literate and then develop your leaders, you’re not just doing a nice thing for your employees–you’re doing the smart thing for your business.

Our advisors and coaches have extensive experience across industries, especially healthcare, financial services, health and wellness, and professional services. It is our job to ensure our clients have a stable and predictable flow of future leaders that are aligned with their company’s brand and culture and are ready to make a big impact. We work with leaders to achieve their business goals and make their companies spectacular places where people build careers that help them thrive. In short, we help you to be spectacular at work.