Why CEO’s Fail: my recount of meeting Mark King, Adidas North Amercia

This January, I had the opportunity to facilitate at the PMA’s Leadership Symposium where I worked alongside leader extraordinaire Mark King, President of adidas North America as he delivered a MARK-talk worth recounting. TED should have been watching.

Mark will soon celebrate one year as President of adidas North America, but it was his stories as CEO at TaylorMade-adidas Golf where he took the start-up organization to become the most profitable golf company in the world that had the audience of 50 captivated.

He called his speech ‘Why CEO’s Fail,’ but the conference delegates heard stories from Mark’s own learned lessons and insights that made us all want to succeed.

Here are my fav take-aways from this humble, awesome business leader on what the profile is for the CEO of today and the future:

 Aspiration: Great companies have great aspirations. Build the story of where the company is going and tell it often. Then create the environment for employees to achieve.

Transparent: Employees should know more. Mark firmly believes, if the information is not legal or financial, employees should work in a transparent workplace. He went as far as to disguise himself as a fellow employee as part of the TV show Undercover Boss so that he could discover just how bad communication was at all levels of his organization.

Vulnerable: Bosses need to show more vulnerability. If you really want innovation in your company, leaders need to learn to be open, inclusive and aware of their weaknesses, because failure and disappointment are part of innovation. For example, Mark believes 360s are valuable tools that should be published.

Freedom: Build more flexibility into your organization. Employees need to contribute to the strategy’s execution at multiple levels. Create an environment where there is distribution of responsibilities to employees and they have the freedom to share and activate ideas.

Insight: Build the capacity to interpret data for insights. It is the insights that can drive the conversation for innovation, not the data by itself.

Mark left the audience with a final pearl on the shifting landscape of human resources: Smart, diligent and loyal is no longer enough in an employee. Now, passion, creativity and initiative is what’s needed.