National Black MBA Conference: How to Rule the Corner Office

Cub Foods' Keith Wyche shares 6 unavoidable realities of being the boss

(Image: File)
(Image: File)

The National Black MBA Association Inc. (NBMBAA) is on the fifth day of its 36th Annual Conference and Exposition in Atlanta, where thousands of professionals, students, entrepreneurs, and CEOs gathered to network, learn, share insights and connect via special panels, a keynote luncheon with mogul Earvin “Magic” Johnson and topical sessions to help professionals hone in on leadership, business strategy and career advancement success.

One session, “Corner Office Rules: 10 Realities of Executive Life, was sponsored by Accenture and led by Keith Wyche, author of Corner Office Rules: The 10 Realities of Executive Life.

Check out a few key points from his session on executive leadership, transition success in career advancement and how to manage through challenges:

Accept that the further you advance, the more expectations change. Others may hold you to higher expectations and more readily judge your success, Wyche said. You will be subjected to common suspicions about those at the top ie seeming “unapproachable,” “all about the money,” or “arrogant,” and  all about the money, arrogant competitiveness from your peers will likely intensify.

You may feel isolated the more you climb the ladder, but there is recourse. “Sometimes it is lonely at the top because you are privy to info that no one else can know or has,” Wyche says. “At the executive level, you must surround yourself with those who understand what you’re going through and has been in the position you’re in.

Wyche notes the Executive Leadership Council (ELC), as well as the NBMBAA as great organizations to find support as an executive leader and find like-minded professionals with leadership experience to relate to and find mentorship.

As a leader, you may not always be the good guy, and that’s OK. “You can’t let criticism force you into a bad decision,” Kyche said. He advises executives, when appropriate, take the time to explain reason or rationale behind a decision. People may not like it, but they will understand and oftentimes respect you, he adds.

Know that the gap between how you see yourself and how others see you will widen. Employees may attribute characteristics to you that you don’t truly possess, Wyche says, however perception can be reality, especially when it comes to management. Getting 360-degree feedback will become more important in terms of truly evaluating the reality you see in yourself, the perception of reality in terms of employees, and how the two are related or linked. “It may be necessary to redefine relationship boundaries with some individuals,” Kyche says. “Try to make employees more comfortable with you by letting them get to know you.” For example, if you’re a millennial, and you’re trying to bridge the generational gap, be personable, add value and connect with them on a common interest, topic or life principle. “Make advocates, not enemies,” he adds.

If you’re brought in as a change agent, use collaborative tactics. Leaders who have exemplary track records that have afforded them the opportunity to turn around a department or company, be sure to be inclusive in the strategy of doing so. Wyche suggests first including key players in terms of achieving your goal, chat with human resources professionals if any actions involve adjustments to the company talent pool or way of doing things and trouble shoot solutions with others to find out their objectives and how they do their jobs. Wyche also recommends executing changes in a pilot phase to test out scenarios and solutions.

The impact of your decisions may cause you to experience a tug on your personal values. An executive must find a way to balance preserving  perosnal values while doing what is best from a business perspective, Wyche said. “Understanding situations from multiple perspectives will help you operate effectively through complex dynamics,” he adds.  Sometimes you have to make the tough decisions, and you may have to take a stand on community and social issues based on your long-term goals and your company’s values.