Vision determines where you go. Strategy determines how you’ll get there. Your leader determines whether you will make it or not. Your CEO is the ultimate expression of your identity, your purpose, and your direction. They are the epitome of your brand. Leadership will make or break the world’s largest corporations, and the world’s strongest countries. Finding the right CEO for your organisation is critical.
In the current millennium businesses have been forced to adapt to unprecedented levels of volatility as the coronavirus pandemic has changed the way companies work, customers consume and people interact. Leaders saw their roles expand to meet the challenges at hand. Not only were leaders tasked with guiding their companies through massive market upheavals, but they also took on a larger role as community leaders, advocating for their employee’s safety and contributing on political and social trends.
Today’s CEO is not 2018’s CEO. Current candidate assessments are fundamentally flawed as there is no one size fits all approach to finding that ideal fit. Key to success is your CEO’s sense of personal identity, vision for him or herself and their sense of purpose i.e., you may have a very technically strong CEO, however their sense of identity is “I am not a CEO, I am a CFO and it is time for me to move out of the CEO role. My vision is to repatriate back to London over the next two years….” You can quickly see how this candidate, although great on paper would result in a failed hiring experience.
There may not be a one size fits all approach, but there are some core questions you can ask and signs to look out for, which will weed out those unfit for the role.
Most boards start CEO interviews with the question “Tell me about yourself” this question can actually give the advantage to a fraudster and a phony over a top performer. A top performer will be able to answer questions like:
- How did you generate NET profit over the last twelve months in your current role?
- How will this new organisation generate net profit over the next twelve months?
- How will it generate more net profit than last year?
- How will it generate more net profit than the competition?
Interviews must embed the vision and strategy of the business at its core, and be tied to the bottom-line performance of the organisation. The Phillips Group looks to understand the vision of the board, the key objectives, and business milestones which must be achieved and then goes ahead and puts together that set of questions which will give you your answers.
When interviewing a potential CEO of an organisation you are measuring their ability to fulfil the vision for your company, therefore finding out whether they are able to assess whether your existing team has the right capabilities and who does not have the capabilities to deliver against what has been envisaged, is critical. Before you can hire you CEO, a Board must be clear on a few things:
- What is currently top priority as a skillset to take your business to the next level?
- What is your company’s vision?
- How long do you need your new hire to stay in place for?
- What is their vision for the company?
- What does leadership mean to them?
These two questions are often never asked. Underpinning the realisation of the vision, is the competencies which are required by the CEO or executive leadership team in order to be successful. This will be different for every company, for every business case, for every economic environment. For example, if a company has lost its bottom line due to runaway costs, it will require a very different type of CEO than a company which is looking to take market share and grow top line sales. Each business case requires a different type of leadership with a different set of competencies. Each CEO Assessment or senior executive assessment must be custom made and tailor built. This is a bespoke process.
References are useless, fraudsters will have great references, they will be surrounded by sycophants who work to protect them. Top performers on the other hand will leave a trail of bodies behind them as they dismantle inefficient structures and fire underperformers. A top performer can often have a rumour mill following them and haters throwing stones at them.
The truth is, interviews are poor indicators of performance. Think if Ghandi interviewed for the job of throwing the British out of India, he would have been disqualified at first glance. However, he was the only person for the job.
Paradoxically, the reasons you get promoted to a star blazing CEO, is often the same reasons you will get fired. We want innovation, well that means breaking tradition, we want to beat the market, that means taking new risks, etc.
Today’s most successful enterprises have leaders that can simultaneously transform the business, while driving performance. They welcome innovation and change. They’re digitally minded. They’re optimistic and proactive. And, they’re inclusive.
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