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Chief of Something Cool

Chief of Something Cool

Nicola Hopes

21 September 2022

To my utter frustration, I’m coaching some clients right now who (through no fault of their own) have an issue with a lack of clarity in their roles.  

These are c-suite leaders. Talented, focussed people who just want to be great. But they’re unable to flippin’ get on with it. 

In some cases, nobody can agree on the key purpose of the role to begin with. In others the role is new, and the organisation just doesn’t get it. 

Regardless of the reason, this doesn’t just affect the individual but the whole business. 


Research by Obeng and Wilson concluded clarity was the most significant factor in high performance, including on key things like:

  • Objectives
  • Expectations
  • Job description 
  • Role boundaries


Surprisingly, in the research, the pure technical skills for the role came a long way behind clarity in terms of impact on high performance. 

In my experience, there are a few underlying ‘clarity traps’ that cause this issue and will cost you time and money. 

So how do you spot them in your world?  

The clarity crunchers 

Do you (or your organisation) fall into any of the following categories?  

Trap#1 We don’t know what to do with you – this happens when a leader has read an article or attended a conference and decided they need a new Chief of Something Cool. They don’t know what that person will really do or what good looks like for the role. Chaos (and cost) ensues. 

Trap#2 Cultural kickers – either due to resistance to change or avoiding difficult conversations, the context and rationale for the role is never properly carved out. Cut to months down the line and the poor individual is still trying to justify their existence. 

Trap#3 Organisation design via fruit machine – organisations where senior people can hire who and what they want without any regard for other teams. More importantly, without any regard for what’s needed to deliver the purpose and strategy. This leads to several people treading on each other’s toes trying to solve part of the same problem.  

Trap#4 We thought we wanted it but… it’s one thing to sign up to the new role that’s going to shake things up. And it’s quite another to live with it. This is where organisations and people are up for the challenge, right up to the point where they’re actually challenged! Then the wheels fall off. 

Recognise anything? 

If so, now you know the problem, what can you do to fix it?  

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