The Risks of Title Inflation and the Crowded C-Suite

The Risks of Title Inflation and the Crowded C-Suite

At times, when recruiting, a CEO meets an outstanding candidate whose experience and ambition are bigger than the job they are recruiting for. They get excited about what the prospective candidate can do for the company, and they start to consider ways they can reshape the position and title to get the candidate onboard.

On one hand, it can be exciting to imagine such a powerful and smart executive in the organization. On the other, the move can be high-risk and disruptive, reshaping your culture and leaving other executives and teams wondering what their role is in the company.

Here are the risks:

  • Deceleration in decision-making: Too many C-titles create confusion regarding who the ultimate decision-maker is. Does the Chief Communications Officer report to the Chief Marketing Officer? Does the Chief Commercial Officer also oversee the Chief Customer Experience Officer? The examples can go on and on, but clear lines of reporting and understanding who the ultimate decision-maker is accelerates the business and creates smoother workflows.
  • Misrepresentation with title inflation: Title inflation is a challenge and is too often used as a recruiting tool. Candidates often demand an increase in title when they don't have the skills or tenure to support it. CEOs will offer the title because they are anxious to get the candidate in, but if the candidate can't live up to the title expectations, it leaves the rest of the organization skeptical about the candidate and worse, questioning the CEO's judgment.
  • A crowded executive table: When the executive table gets too crowded, decision-making can get thwarted, and managing egos and frustrations on your leadership team can oftentimes take over important executive discussions. A crowded executive table can be counterproductive to great management.
  • Loss of top talent and culture: Although your new hire may feel like they are solving a problem in your company, consider the impact it has on existing team members and if they will be downsized in their role. Perhaps you already put somebody in a C-suite position who didn't have the skills to stretch into the role, and now you are putting another C-suite leader above them. Can your business really handle the loss of the initial executive? If not, truly consider if hiring another C-suite executive is the right decision. Overlap in executive talent and too many C-suite titles can disrupt your culture and potentially have you losing existing top talent.
  • You may still have a gap: Your hire may want more wingspan and a bigger title, but have they done all parts of the job you are creating for them? If not, you may still have a gap, leaving you to make additional hires or removing the responsibility from under them if they prove they can't stretch.
  • Money: A C-suite hire is typically more expensive than a VP or SVP hire. You know your cash flow, and you know your business plan. It is a big bet to reshape your budget based on a candidate's ambition.

Everyone wants to be a Chief, but titles should not be given out like candy. Your executive leadership team needs to be carefully crafted, and it is a rare occurrence that it makes sense to reshape your organization around a single executive. Start with what your business needs, design an organization that meets the market, and then hire for the positions you scoped.