Sunday, July 21, 2013

What Should a CEO be Really Good At?

With all types of media, from the press to social, CEO’s are more in the spotlight today than ever before; where it wasn’t that long ago that you only ever found out about the CEO and their exploits from either their annual accounts; the odd news bulletin or press article; and possibly a book written about their time in office; and this of course was mostly CEO’s from the large corporates.

With profits often being the key focal point of shareholders; service being one of the key focal point of customers; sustainability and job satisfaction being a key focal point of employees; and continuity and the ability to pay a focal point for suppliers; along with other interest groups looking at key issues around social responsibility, CEO have to be knowledgeable and aware on so many fronts - and all of the above potentially being discussed in some form of media 24/7.

Although business is constantly evolving, the basic foundation and generic applications are still the same – the problem with 24/7 scrutiny is that it can often miss the point that short-term ‘issues’ are a means to an end for a long-term sustainable vision; i.e. those looking in from the outside at a moment in time, can’t relate the short-term nuances to a long-term goal – hence the organisation can look in crisis or badly managed, when in fact it is simply going through a period of well-planned, structured change; and this can ‘encourage’ unnecessary back-tracking or changes, to satisfy short-term perceptions, that impacting long-term realities.

A CEO’s responsibility is to their organisations stakeholders, which includes shareholders, customers, employees and suppliers – but in a global, modern world there is now access to another group of stakeholders outside of this ‘common’ group which now includes potential shareholders, customers, employees and suppliers – which could include virtually everyone out there in ‘social media land’ depending on the organisation, its products and/or services – which is good, as long as CEO’s don’t allow themselves to be diverted from long-term goals, just to satisfy short-term reactions of the media and the masses.

This is a key issue of debate as many business discussions these days will elude that organisations spend too much time focused on short-term goals to satisfy stakeholders, without enough time spent focusing on the longer term, which is where sustainability and market optimisation comes from.

Also in today’s business world where many countries and businesses are still recovering from the global recession, more sme businesses are being started; some just one man/woman entities and others small business partnerships, as individuals look for niche opportunities in different markets.

This can often mean that the role of a ‘CEO’ differs considerably depending on many key factors, which include the size of the organisation; and where it is competing on the various life-cycles, including its products and/or services life-cycle; and the industry and market life-cycle; which can have a significant influence on the role of the CEO.

So in a 24/7 world of potential scrutiny and where many industries are still struggling or just emerging from the financial crisis, what should a CEO be really good at?

In my view and in no particular order of importance;

They need to know their market and industry; and be people who know when it’s sensible to follow and when it’s sensible to pioneer and innovate. They have to understand the concept of risk; and the risk/benefit equation and know how to manage change.

They have a solid long-term vision for their organisation; that goes beyond ‘muffty-fluffty’ words and rhetoric; to the ability to visualise the detail of the implementation needed to reach their vision; and are constantly evaluating their environment against this strategic vision.

They have excellent communication skills – they know how to build relationships; how to talk, influence and motivate different stakeholder groups.

And finally they know what they know; know what they don’t know; and readily admit things that they think they know, but where they might be wrong – i.e. they genuinely know their strengths and weaknesses and aren’t afraid to be open about them. 

So with organisations and their CEO’s more in the spotlight today than ever before, is this new found 24/7 attention good for ‘business’; and does it help or hinder the CEO becoming better in their role? Where one of the first questions a CEO needs to know is ‘what do I need to be really good at’ to succeed in my role and optimise my organisations future? 

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