Executive Insider

Are you overlooking the powerful role your B suite play in retention?

B-Suite Leaders are the modern middle manager, evolving from order-taker to impact-maker as businesses become flatter and decision making is devolved further down the hierarchy. They are experienced leaders who are too junior to be ‘in the tent’ but carry the lion’s share of responsibility for culture and performance.

They are the meat in the corporate sandwich – juggling the relentlessly conflicting demands of corporation versus workforce, with very little investment in how to do that often thankless task. Boston Consulting Group now recognise the B-Suite as the “forgotten but critical cohort”, and this long-term neglect is causing some of today’s issues in corporate culture, confidence and continuity.

Let’s start with Culture. The B-Suite are essential for building – and breaking – Trust. They hold the relationship with your workforce and as a result can make or break your corporate strategy. They also have a vast influence over the real culture of your organisation – how day to day decisions are made, and what behaviours are rewarded and affirmed.

It also impacts confidence. Gartner tells us that only half of all business leaders feel confident leading their teams today – and we all know that a lack of confident leaders breeds a lack of confidence in leaders. People don’t leave companies – they leave leaders.

Leadership continuity. The lack of B-Suite leaders ready and willing to step into C-Suite roles is getting worse, and interest in the leadership ladder is waning fast. DDI’s 2021 Global Leadership Forecast reported that 77% of organisations report a leadership gap, which is now getting worse thanks to the great resignation – we’re seeing record numbers of leaders opting out of leadership entirely. This lack of promotability sends a negative message to the workforce about their own future prospects and career paths, and puts too much pressure on the leaders left behind.

So the B-Suite need retraining to shoulder these responsibilities in a more contemporary, high-impact way.  They’re a big group, training them is expensive, and traditional approaches don’t work on them – they’re too experienced for simple skills-building. It is undoubtedly a challenge – but one with significant upside.

The most important upside will be found in the pivotal role that the B-Suite play in rebuilding trust – which is at an all-time low at the moment and is a key cause of attrition.

  • Gartner research shows that since the pandemic 41% of employees have lower trust in their teams and 37% have lower trust in their leadership.
  • The Edelman trust barometer tells us that distrust is now society’s default emotion.
  • Accenture tells us that only 1 in 6 workers feel connected to their workplace colleagues

Importantly, there is a widening gap between workforce and leadership that is fueling the trust disconnect.  Only the B-Suite can bridge this gap.

Deloitte tells us that Executive Leaders routinely underestimate how much their people are struggling by a factor of 2.

  • 90% of Executives say they understand how hard the pandemic has been, but only 47% of staff agree.
  • Only 56% of workers feel that their executives care about their wellbeing – compared to 91% of executives who think that their people know they care.

So if you’re losing staff to the quiet resignation or the great resignation, if your business is struggling with culture, confidence or continuity, then you need to invest in your B-Suite urgently.


Written by Rebecca Houghton.
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Rebecca Houghton
Rebecca Houghton, author of ‘Impact: 10 Ways to Level up your Leadership’ ($29.95), is a Leadership and Talent Expert and founder of BoldHR. Rebecca builds B-Suite leaders with C-Suite impact by working at an organisational, team and individual level. Her passion is helping to evolve how leaders think, take action and relate to others, working with leaders and leadership teams to achieve greater impact.


Rebecca Houghton is an opinion columnist for the CEOWORLD magazine. You can follow her on LinkedIn.