Category Archives: 2017

You Can’t Build a Puzzle if all the Pieces are Round

Category : 2017

Those jigsaw puzzles with pieces that are all the same size and shape were designed by people who love to inflict pain on others. Imagine what kind of person would create a puzzle with pieces that are only round. That person seems to be driving how teams are built in companies today . . .

From Starbucks to Salesforce to Staples, workplace diversity is getting some much-needed attention. The Census Bureau says the U.S. population is over 35 percent multicultural. That fact and some uncomfortable analytics are promoting companies to actively pursue greater diversity in their teams.

Beyond it being the right thing to do, building greater diversity across our enterprises has a direct impact on results. McKinsey & Company found “a linear relationship between racial and ethnic diversity and better financial performance: for every 10 percent increase in racial and ethnic diversity on the senior-executive team, earnings before interest and taxes (EBIT) rise 0.8 percent.” Boston Consulting Group’s study of 171 companies found “a clear relationship between the diversity of companies’ management teams and the revenues they get from innovative products and services.”

But one dimension of diversity we don’t hear much about—where the round puzzle piece is dominant, is cognitive diversity. Harvard Business Review researchers Alison Reynolds and David Lewis define cognitive diversity as “how individuals think about and engage with new, uncertain, and complex situations.”1

The impact of cultural diversity is lost if companies continue to hire “in their own image” or if recruiters take the safe route and only present candidates who are highly skilled and highly compliant. To streamline and accelerate decision-making, many senior leaders build teams of executives that think alike and readily agree, when what they need is a better process for making decisions within highly divergent points of view.

From problem solving to decision making to innovation to market expansion, executive teams accomplish more when there is both cultural diversity and cognitive diversity. In other words, the most productive teams don’t readily agree. They engage in what Patrick Lencioni calls “productive, ideological conflict: passionate, unfiltered debate around issues of importance.”

That kind of diversity will make people uneasy. It will challenge the insecure. Cognitive diversity will force static organizations to change their xenophobic cultures and willingly consider issues from multiple angles, giving equal consideration to unpopular options when making decisions that solve real problems and accelerate profitable growth.

Cognitive diversity is apparent in teams that pursue—

  • Collaboration more than cohesion.
  • Alignment more than agreement.
  • Unity of purpose more than unanimity of thought.

Regina Dugan, head of Facebook’s secretive Building 8 hardware team is right. “You have to get to the place where you aren’t made comfortable by the fact that everyone is the same, but rather feel inspired by how different we are.”

Executive branding helps a leader define that difference and use it productively to advance a career—and bring value to an enterprise.

1Harvard Business Review, March 30, 2017. Teams Solve Problems Faster When They’re Cognitively Diverse.



A Step Up or a Push Out? The CFO’s Choice

Category : 2017

Google the phrase “CFO Departures” and the headlines aren’t pretty—

  • Shares Shed 7% in Reaction to CFO Departure
  • CFO Abrupt Resignation Doesn’t Pass the Smell Test
  • Company Climbs Following Q2 Sales Update, CFO Departure
  • CFO to Leave After CEO Departure
  • Company Files for Bankruptcy, Announces Departure of CFO

To eliminate some of the ambiguity surrounding CEO and CFO departures, financial journalist, and owner of Exechange, Daniel Schauber, developed the Push-out-ScoreTM. Schauber’s model measures nine dimensions of publicly available data surrounding departures including the form and language of the management announcement, the notice period, the official reason given (“to pursue other interests”), and succession. Recognizing the link between executive changes and stock price, Schauber tries to determine the likelihood an executive was forced to leave.

A scatter diagram for 226 departures over six months confirms why researchers struggle to define the relationship between CEO performance and CFO termination. Generally, stock price volatility increases with a higher Push-out-ScoreTM. But, if shareholders think a CFO departure reflects deeper financial issues, a departure can raise a stock price. In short—it’s complicated.[i]

How do a Push-out-ScoreTM and a fluctuating stock price connect with executive branding? If a CFO doesn’t have a strong personal brand, there is a higher likelihood a CEO transition will mean a job change for the CFO as well.

While a sitting CFO often has deep knowledge of financial metrics and broad organizational expertise, McKinsey found that less than 15% of the CEOS they follow moved to the top job from CFO, CMO, CTO, Chief Counsel, or Head of Strategy roles. KPMG research with 500 executives in six countries found similar results. [ii]

The most frequent reason given for CFOs not making it to the CEO chair is the CFO’s lack of operating acumen. Explaining the P&L to investors is an essential skill for both a CFO and CEO. Owning the numbers and having a direct connection to what created the results (customers and business operations) is often what CFOs lack.

It is universally known that the closer you are to the customer and revenue, the better your chances of surviving a corporate upheaval. Behavior, not spin, creates a personal brand. CFOs wanting to move to the CEO spot are wise to proactively—

  • Make customer visits a priority. The better a CFO understands a customer’s business, the more relevant the CFO becomes to his or her top executive.
  • Strengthen relationships with line of business owners and operators within the company.
  • Get known for owning an opinion of the business—and candidly sharing it.
  • Build a brand as someone with innovative ideas and straightforward solutions.
  • Create a network with CEOs outside the current organization.
  • Join a board outside the company.
  • Develop a succession plan. An indispensable CFO isn’t going anywhere. [iii]

A PWC study puts CEO turnover at 14.9 percent in the world’s largest 2500 companies. That translates to over 370 opportunities for CFOs to consider a move to the CEO chair. Building a brand now could mean a greater opportunity in the future.

Details of the research are at


[ii] CEO Monthly: KPMG reveals nearly a third of global CEO’s feel their CFO’s are not up to the challenge.

[iii] A Deloitte study titled Four Faces of the CFO offers valuable insights about developing the skills critical to moving to a CEO role

Size, Synergy, and a Successful Search

Category : 2017

What do Kraft, Motorola, and Abbott have in common? They all discovered that bigger isn’t always better, and they split their companies.

Why? Focus.

After dividing Hilton into three businesses, president and chief executive Christopher Nasetta rhetorically asked, “Does this allow us to be more focused?” His response was simply, “Of course, it does.”

Building for scale, leveraging assets, brand impact, and standardization are legitimate advantages of size. But, as a company expands, growth often eclipses service. Market perception gets more attention than client experience. Pipeline becomes more important than consistent delivery.

It is easy to highlight the benefits of working with a boutique firm-when you’re the smaller company. After more than 16 years of providing executive talent to a wide spectrum of companies, we’ve demonstrated there are advantages to working with a boutique firm.

Engagement. In a boutique firm, the principal works in the business. He or she knows all the clients, regularly interacts with candidates, and doesn’t disappear after the agreement is signed.  Principal involvement ensures consistent care, diligence when evaluating candidates, and the completion of each search.

Focus. Every search is important.  While a big company can become too big to fail, more focused businesses can’t afford to fail-even once. Market and network reputation are critical for these firms, so each search is as important as the last.

Agility. A fully loaded supertanker cuts its engines 15 miles from the dock, taking about 20 minutes to stop. The Tesla Model S can achieve 60 mph in 2.2 seconds. A smaller firm can quickly adapt to changes in client requirements or evolving business needs; information is easily shared across the organization and decisions are made more quickly. Potential candidates stay connected during the interview process.

At Leapfrog Executive Search, everything we do is focused on delighting you, the client. Our reputation is built on the foundation of our results. Call us today to discover the engagement, focus, and agility that have enabled us to become a leading retained search firm.

Is It Time To Re-Own Your Career?

Category : 2017

As an executive, you have encouraged associates to own their careers. You reminded the people around you that an employer is not responsible for career development. You’ve quoted Covey, Ziglar, Blanchard, and Robbins to encourage people to aim high, plan well, and work hard to achieve their goals.

What about you? After a decade or two of success, what are you doing to position yourself for the best possible career outcome, in your current leadership role or with another organization? How committed are you to owning and driving your career?
Commitment to your career demands an intentional and consistent evaluation of the path ahead, and actively defining and demonstrating your value to your target market. Effective brand managers maintain a relentless focus on the product, it’s look, the price, packaging, and what the target market says about the product. An executive who successfully manages his or her brand, maintains the same focus.

Defining and enhancing your personal brand includes:

  • Maintaining your career resources (resume, executive biography, social media) consistent with your capabilities—and your aspirations.
  • Dressing for where you’re going—not where you are. Make the investment and get the coaching you need to “package yourself” at the top of your peer group–every day!
  • Seeking out and taking advantage of executive assessments, coaching, feedback from people you trust, and targeted executive development programs.
  • Resisting the temptation to create a public “image” that is more—or less than who you are. Reality always trumps rhetoric.

Veteran business leader, Tom Peters captured the power of branding when he said, “All of us need to understand the importance of branding. We are CEOs of our own companies: Me Inc. To be in business today, our most important job is to be head marketer for the brand called you.”

At a company, in an industry, and among your peers, owning your career enables you to define your value, communicate your differentiation and demonstrate your relevance in an increasingly competitive marketplace.

Call us today to explore how you can enhance your brand, and advance your career.


Jim Hess
Joe Jordan

Your Brand Isn’t What You Do. Your Brand is the Impact You Bring.

Category : 2017

Companies aren’t buying what many executives are selling.

In a cut-to-the-chase, hyper-competitive, globally uncertain business environment, Boards of Directors, and CEOs pursuing exceptional talent are looking for people with a history of creating results, not people doing the things that should create results.

If you compile the findings of surveys querying CEOs’ biggest concerns, top executives consistently state their angst is linked to:

  • Leading Digital Transformation
  • Creating Disruptive Innovation
  • Securing Global Data
  • Finding Critical Talent
  • Ensuring Organizational Alignment and Employee Engagement
  • Navigating Geopolitical Uncertainty

Driving revenue growth, increasing cash flow and profitability, creating client loyalty, and improving shareholder value come with the job. If a CEO isn’t achieving these, he or she will quickly add to the statistics about rapid CEO turnover.

This means executive branding isn’t about creating awareness and market perception about what you do. Executive branding is building a reputation, crafting a powerful message, and clearly communicating your impact on what matters to CEOs and Boards, and how effectively you engage with the people around you.

Your brand is:

  • Knowledge – What you know or the answers you can get.
  • Relationships – Who you know or who you can connect with.
  • Results – How what you do produces results that impact what matters.
  • Reputation – Your history of delivering outcomes that drive corporate success.

A scan of executive resumes and LinkedIn profiles reflects a gap between what many committed and successful leaders are talking about and what the people hiring them care about. Whether you want to advance in your current company or are considering outside opportunities, if it’s time to refresh your brand around your results more than your activity, we welcome the opportunity to talk with you.


Jim Hess

Joe Jordan

New Personal Branding Service for Senior Executives

Category : 2017


 New Personal Branding Service for Senior Executives

 Dallas/Fort Worth, TX  (June 15, 2017)  Leapfrog Executive Search, a boutique retained search firm, today announced the formation of  Leapfrog Executive Services,  a new division dedicated to helping senior executives enhance their personal brands.

In response to a market demand by currently employed, C-level executives wanting to pursue new leadership roles, Leapfrog Executive Services will provide resumes, marketing biographies, LinkedIn profile optimization, and social media enhancement to help executives create greater differentiation, increase visibility, and gain personal credibility in the marketplace.

Jim Hess, Founder and Managing Principal of Leapfrog Executive Services and Leapfrog Executive Search said, “In conversations with sitting senior executives, we learned that a C-level executive wanting to initiate the pursuit of a new career opportunity needs a trusted, quality resource, that can provide personalized, confidential, and timely branding and marketing assistance. Unlike outplacement, our services will help executives proactively advance themselves in a market without waiting for opportunities to come to them. We are excited to offer this valuable service and become an organization to which others can confidently refer executives.”

About Leapfrog Executive Search:

Founded in 2001, Leapfrog Executive Search provides retained search expertise that is focused primarily on HR leadership roles.  The company is uniquely positioned to complete searches for talented performers who impact bottom-line performance. Organizations choose to engage Leapfrog Executive Search because of a demonstrated commitment to building relationships with HR leaders, functional leaders, and vendors, giving the firm unparalleled access to talent. Leapfrog Executive Search brings clients broad industry knowledge and solid domain expertise that ensures candidates are aligned with each client’s business challenges, strategic opportunities, and organizational culture.

Media Contacts:

Jim Hess                                                                     Joe Jordan
214-435-5409                                                             214-714-3987