3 Lessons in Executive Leadership

In a new report, ZRG Partners looked back with Marathon Digital Holdings CEO Fred Thiel on putting together the company’s executive leadership team. Clarity, transparency, and trust, says the study, are essential.

September 8, 2023 – Every executive team must assess what is needed to meet the challenges of growth, scale, and investor expectations. This is particularly true when selecting an executive leadership team, according to a new report from ZRG PartnersSummer Anderson. In her study, Ms. Anderson revisited how over two and a half years, ZRG partnered with Marathon Digital Holdings, a publicly traded technology company, to build the right team for the client. During a recent conversation with Marathon Digital Holdings’ CEO Fred Thiel, Ms. Anderson looked back to identify what made each of the eight executives hires for the team successful. Here are three key elements that emerged from that discussion:

1. Clarity

Building a team requires having options, but what enables those options? “Clarity and communication make options possible,” Mr. Thiel told ZRG. He expanded on that axiom, noting that if you are not communicating with a bias toward clarity, you will misconstrue, overlook, or misunderstand what your options may be given a hiring situation.

“Clarity extends beyond communications,” said Ms. Anderson. “Without clarity of purpose, forward momentum stops cold.” Looking at the open frontier of cryptocurrency mining, Mr. Thiel said the mission of Marathon was to “be the purveyors of picks and shovels to crypto miners. Having a one-sentence mission enables you to communicate the intended purpose and outcomes faster. Think of it as a refinement of the old elevator pitch.”

“This was a powerful differentiator in presenting the Marathon Digital brand to executives outside the immediate category,” said Ms. Anderson. “This level of clarity and the brilliance of vision spoke volumes about the existing leadership and what they intended on accomplishing.”

2. Transparency

Transparency is another critical element to building successful and cohesive executive teams, according to Ms. Anderson. “As your search partner, we can best serve you when we’re aware of what we might hear in the market,” she said. “Pre-emptively addressing any questions or concerns the market may have accomplishes two things. The first is it  demonstrates self-awareness on the part of the client and our firm. This posture allows us to tell the whole story of any situation and position things as you, our client, most desires. Shortly after the cryptocurrency market turned, our team happened to be in the market for Marathon Digital.” Mr. Thiel’s ability to share his vision for diversification was intoxicating to ZRG’s audience. Despite any concerns the firm may have had, ZRG’s robust and diverse panel of candidates was highly engaged, and interested in hearing more because the client was transparent.

“The positioning is highly intentional here,” Mr. Thiel said. “Let’s compare where we are today (market, outlook etc.) to where Google was long ago before the value of data was unearthed. Marathon is uniquely in the middle of several very valuable technologies that will enable quick adjustments as markets continue to pivot. Blockchain is one of the more secure methods of exchange. Bitcoin is a finite and limited resource that will grow in value over time, and, we currently take pressure off the electricity grid on-demand, and work with renewable power sources which has established us as a carbon neutral operation.”

For more than 20 years, Summer Anderson has been spearheading executive searches within technology. She has a track record of guiding executive-level leaders to immediate clarity, simplifying complex organizational matters, and building senior executive teams. Ms. Anderson is an advisor to senior executive clients and candidates within Fortune 500 security, cryptocurrency, and semiconductor companies. Her focus encompasses most aspects of the technology industry, including product executives for cloud- and SaaS-based solutions, security, digital transformation, and AI platforms.

“Second, transparency also sets the tone for how all our clients desire to be viewed: ethical, transparent, and careful with others’ time,” Ms. Anderson said. “When highly desirable candidates know that we are authentically sharing information about the client, trust is developed. This leads our candidates to be more transparent with us, in their desire to return the favor and openly offer where their experience falls short of the requirements.”

3. Trust

As a discipline, ZRG prefers to conduct one-to-one executive leadership team meetings before launching a search. “This provides essential information about how the client team sees the role, and what problems that person should be responsible for solving,” said Ms. Anderson. “With this level of awareness, our team can identify any divergent themes among the group and help the existing executive team realign. This practice as you might imagine may feel like an extra step but can shave weeks off the search process.  And, as an added bonus, we’ve also seen it encourage better communication practices inside our clients.”

Related: Four Trends That Will Shape the Future

“Transparency breeds trust,” she said. “Trust and understanding breed clarity. Building leadership culture and processes on these three establishes a firm foundation for the headwinds every business must face.”

Finally, Decisiveness

“A successful search process requires a decision point and data is the ingredient to simplify that pivotal moment,” Ms. Anderson said. “Our finalist for one of our Marathon searches was far and away the best candidate with several additional options close behind.”

“We knew that the unique skill-set and ability to manage our variables was a tall order,” Mr. Thiel said. “When we found the person with all the qualities we were seeking, it was time to pull the trigger as we didn’t know if there would be another one quite like them close behind.”

Top 5 Trends Impacting Senior Leaders Half Way Through 2023
Organizations around the world are facing historic disruption that hasn’t been seen in generations. With continuous shifts in the economic and employment outlook, the rapid rise of technological advancements, and other unprecedented factors that are helping to define today’s workplaces, it’s imperative that organizations grasp these trends and harness them to their advantage. “As we enter the second half of 2023, these movements continue to be top of mind for business leaders,” says a recent report from real estate-focused executive search firm 20/20 Foresight.

“This decision was difficult, but with knowledge and data gathered from the market,  we had every indication that we had found a great cultural and skill match,” said Ms. Anderson. “With clarity, transparency, and trust established, the final decision can be easily made.”

ZRG has led multiple search for Marathon Digital Holdings. These include: chief financial officer; chief technology officer; head of strategy (now chief growth officer); VP of mining operations; director, energy development; associate general counsel; and an advisory board member. Ms. Anderson was the lead consultant on all of these assignments and she partnered with functional specialist managing directors according to each functional need.

ZRG Partners, founded in 1999, is a progressive mid-sized global executive search firm. With the financial backing of private equity investor RFE Investment Partners, ZRG is among the fastest growing firms in the search industry. It provides a full suite of executive, middle-management, and customized search solutions through its offices in North America, Europe, South America, and Asia. The firm finds leaders across a broad spectrum of business markets, including aerospace, consumer, education, healthcare services and solutions, industrial, life sciences, non-profit, private equity and venture capital, and technology.

Related: Attracting Top Talent in the Age of AI

Contributed by Scott A. Scanlon, Editor-in-Chief; Dale M. Zupsansky, Managing Editor; and Stephen Sawicki, Managing Editor – Hunt Scanlon Media

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