22 cities, 45 days, and 143 meetings. Jordan Topoleski, the Global CEO for One Month, recounts his learnings after working alongside CEO Alain Dehaze.

This article was authored by Jordan Topoleski, 2020 Global CEO for One Month. The programme is run by the Adecco Group Foundation, newly rebranded as the Innovation Foundation.


22 cities, 45 days, and 143 meetings. Over the past month, I’ve been shadowing CEO Alain Dehaze as he leads The Adecco Group’s global operations. Placing over 3.5 million people in jobs around the world annually, the company’s impact powers industry development globally.


Coming from the startup space, I’d had a bit of experience consulting with bigger companies, but never working at one – and certainly not in a leadership position. So it goes without saying that I was eager to see the blueprint of how such a large company operated and what leadership looked like at this scale.


At the start of my CEO for One Month placement, I was challenged to expand my perspective, think from a global point of view, and adapt to change at a rapid pace. It’s been an experience unlike any other, and it’s left me with a new perspective on the business world. Here’s what I learned over the course of my month with CEO Alain Dehaze.

Photo courtesy of Jordan Topoleski

 

1. Business is people. Prioritize this in all that you do.

 


I started my CEO for One Month placement at an unusual time: during the pandemic, when so many people had experienced job loss, financial hardship, and struggles with their health, and the health of their family. Because of this, I saw just how important high EQ leadership is. In fact, the Adecco Group’s leadership team taught me P&L is not just profit and loss, but also people and leadership


The key takeaway for me here is the importance of investing heavily in people and nurturing talent development within your organization. There’s a great framework that Alain taught me – what he calls the 3 C’s of people management. The three C’s stand for collaboration, culture, and coaching. And if you look at both startups and Fortune 500 companies, much of their success can be boiled down to how companies value and invest in these.


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2. The people you’re surrounded by will teach you the most.

 


The diversity and range of interactions in the CEO schedule – from a client call in the morning to an investor presentation in the afternoon – necessitates a high level of awareness. The active and ever-changing schedule means you’re always running into new situations.


When faced with this challenge, the best leaders open their ears to feedback and push themselves to learn from those they’re surrounded by. I saw this every day with Alain: he creates a high level of accessibility and transparency. Colleagues across the group feel comfortable approaching him directly every day, and he always remembers names and faces. This sense of inclusion permeates across the organization and builds buy-in from diverse perspectives across the company, ultimately impacting decision making in a powerful way.

 

3. Prioritization is the defining skill of driving change.

 

Every company has unlimited amounts of work on their running to-do list. The need for innovation and growth is a never-ending task, and new opportunities and threats are always emerging. But amid all the noise, one of the most important characteristics of a good leader is cutting through to what’s important.


Defining a list of priorities builds focus that delivers meaningful change. This lends itself well to an execution-driven culture and, perhaps more importantly, drives a clear and consistent message. Staying on the cutting edge of innovation means change, and taking a bold, focused, and committed approach goes a long way in building buy-in across the organization.

 

4. Double down on your competitive advantage.

 


In a large organization, you’re gifted with the advantage of being surrounded by a huge set of resources – the most powerful of which is people. The unique upside of this, compared to a small startup, is you don’t have to do everything. Instead, you’re able to optimize your time working with your strengths and build a team around you to fill the gaps.


Because of this, homing in on your personal strengths and learning how to properly delegate is extremely important. I saw this firsthand with Alain, who is a master at sales and has built a strong team around him that comes with an in-depth skillset complimentary to his – ranging from his CFO on financial planning and budgeting to his CIO on technology development and resource planning.


I learned that having high output is often a function of optimizing the team dynamic and skillsets based on those around you. The best leaders take a systems-first approach and see progress in the context of their team, not just as affected by themself.

 

5. Learn the things you didn’t know you needed to know.

 


In any role you’re working in, there will always be people with more experience, knowledge, and perspective than you. Some leaders may see this as a threat to their leadership; however, this wealth of knowledge is an incredible opportunity to unlock insights to level up your leadership. Leaning on the experience of others is a fast path towards personal and career growth, and large companies often have a huge knowledge set for you to tap into.


The best part about having so many different people with new perspectives and insights around you? Unlocking ideas you may never have even thought about before. You may be facing a roadblock in your work, for example, but someone else can step in with a new outlook and help solve the problem. Consistently broadening your exposure to these new insights allows you to apply your knowledge to more situations, expanding your impact and ability to problem solve.


The experience of a lifetime



It’s not every day that you get to shadow a Fortune 500 CEO, and I’m so thankful for the opportunity to grow and learn as an individual and as a leader. I’m ending my placement with a newfound perspective on what it takes to run a business, and I’m excited to see how I can apply this throughout the rest of my career. From taking a people-centric approach to leadership to drilling down on my prioritization skills, I’m leaving with an actionable set of learnings that will forever shape the way I look at leadership.



Thank you to The Adecco Group, Alain, and everybody that has made this journey so special!

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