As a CEO, it can be lonely at the top and they often struggle to know whether their actions and decisions are helping their company or hurting it. How do they achieve excellence? What separates great CEOs from the good ones? These questions often leave new CEOs overwhelmed and frustrated. Every CEO deserves to have a strong company with a bright future.
We talked recently about how an exceptional CEO should have a direction-setting mindset. A mindset that is bold. A mindset that has vision, a willingness to make big moves early and often, and excels at resource allocation (people, time, and money). Once that CEO sets the direction of the company, they start to focus on company culture, organization design, and talent management.
I’ve been working with a CEO who has always had great vision. But early in his career, he struggled with culture. This soft stuff doesn’t come easily for many CEOs. But, in the famous words of Peter Drucker, “culture eats strategy for breakfast”. This CEO knew he could have the best strategy in the world, but without culture, it wouldn’t happen. His people created a culture club. Their culture of community and treating everyone like family has thrived, and the business has excelled because of it.
Another CEO inherited a very rigid, old school organizational design. After all, this company was over 50 years old, and had an outstanding history. But, the organization became too stable, lacked agility, and revenue suffered for it. This CEO created a culture of collaboration and focused his time on building that culture along with talent retention, talent development, and talent management. After 5 years, he is now seeing a collaborative culture across practice disciplines and geography and with clients. Revenue is growing and the people in this company are thriving.
When CEOs want to scale their business, the organization’s complexity is constantly changing and the need for talent management initiatives is high. There’s a war for talent out there and the best CEOs understand that. Questions come up: “When do I need a controller or CFO?”, “When should I add a dedicated IT person?”, “When is it time to add a dedicated Human Resources person?”. The best CEOs embrace talent management with rigor and discipline. They attempt to identify high value roles and they understand the need to identify people who will protect the CEOs blind spots.
Finally, these CEOs are actively building their bench strength to guard against attrition. This is true especially in sales, where typically 80% of your sales production comes from 20% of your people. The ability to find a home for low sales performers, but still replace them with top sales talent is key.
So, what differentiates the best from the rest? First, it begins with mindsets. An exceptional CEO finds a way to treat the soft stuff like culture, organizational design, and talent management as hard stuff. They attack these items with the same rigor and discipline as they do driving shareholder values for their board and their shareholders.