As we move into the second half of the year, it’s fair to say that the pace of change hasn’t let up.
And that means that CEOs are still operating largely in volatile, uncertain, complex and ambiguous times. The global economy, continuing technological innovations, and the ever-present threat of competition mean that at any moment, anything could change – and it’s not always clear when, how or why it will change.
As the pace of change remains relentless, the pressure on CEOs to evolve themselves in order to thrive remains a constant, too. In this blog, we’re taking a look at some of the pressures we see CEOs facing – and what CEO training can do to help them thrive in these VUCA conditions.
What issues are on CEOs minds?
According to Gartner, CEO priorities are aligning to growth challenges in the market. This includes ensuring that the executive committee, as well as the wider business, is digitally savvy; being able to tech-enable the business; and of course, finding new opportunities to grow – sometimes in new geographic markets, or by diversifying.
However, a dip in GDP and revenue expectations further complicates the growth mission. Not only do CEOs need to be looking to new markets; they need to be looking to safeguard markets at home, driving down costs and ensuring that they can operate as efficiently as possible.
And the World Economic Forum points, among other things, to a need to engage with politicians and other stakeholders in the geopolitical landscape. As global tensions continue to simmer and the landscape shifts, maintaining relationships with politicians without showing bias will enable organisations to navigate those changes much more proactively and effectively.
Encouragingly, across all the things one can read on the internet and all the conversations we have with senior leaders, the importance of continual CEO and leadership training is well-recognised. But to achieve the objectives that are pressing this year, training devoted to a specific set of skills may not cut it. Instead, forward-thinking CEOs and executives are developing a mindset and behaviours that enable them to embrace change faster and more effectively.
What behaviours and traits should CEOs be focusing on?
1: CEOs need to be innovators
Finding new ways to uncover and optimise opportunities at home, empowering the business with technology – these initiatives are made easier if senior leaders are able to look for solutions in new and unexpected places and can enable the people under them to do the same.
If they want to manage this, CEOs need to allow themselves time to get into a creative mindset – no mean feat in the noisy world we live in today. Additionally, CEO training that enables leaders to build and empower teams of experts beneath them will enable them to create a culture of innovation across the business.
2: CEOs need to be able to drive cultural change
Plenty has been written in recent years of the relationship between technology enablement and organisational culture. As technology changes the way people work with each other – and often the way they work more generally – the culture of an organisation can be changed. At the same time, leaders often need to drive culture change in their organisations to ensure that the best is got out of investments in tech.
It’s also true that taking the organisation into new markets or changing how you do business in existing markets often introduces new structures or reporting lines, or entirely new ways of doing business. In these situations, CEOs need to be experts at championing cultural change and guiding their people through it.
A key part of that is for CEOs to identify their vision for the change, and then being able to articulate that to the wider team and inspire them to come along on that journey. And of course, where there’s change there will always be resistance – so CEOs who are themselves resilient to setback and obstacles, and who can instil resilience in their teams, is key.
3: CEOs need to be skilled communicators
Engaging with stakeholders both within and without the business – and getting the best out of them – requires careful communication. So too does driving cultural change, as we’ve discussed. Sometimes CEOs will need to negotiate; other times they may need to advocate or build consensus – and they need to be able to do all of those well.
Therefore, CEOs would do well to increase their understanding of their personal impact, influence and power. We all impact on other people differently – and if a CEO has a solid understanding of how they communicate and interact with those around them, they can start to change how they impact and influence others, to their benefit. By focusing on this, CEOs will be able to more effectively build relationships, inspire others, and lead their organisations.
Focus on behaviours and mindset and skills will follow
It can feel like so many of the challenges and changes that organisations are going through – especially in areas like digital transformation – require CEOs and senior executives to learn new skills. But if leaders focus solely on ‘skills’ like these then they can risk being unprepared for managing the human aspects of the changes they are bringing about in their organisations.
If CEOs can take time to look at their own behaviours and mindsets, then they can not only improve their ability to navigate change successfully – they can also lead their people to not just survive change, but thrive through it. How ready are you to drive culture change in your organisation? What’s your approach to problem-solving like? And how are you at created and empowering teams of experts who can drive your organisation forward?
If you can address these things, then you’ll find that you’ll naturally be more ready to adapt to change and to acquire new skills and knowledge. And that will put you in the best position to lead your organisation through whatever challenges lie ahead.
About Julia Nickless
Julia joined Connor in 2015 and leads our People Development Centre of Expertise, supporting our clients to develop the core attributes of career coaching services, human engagement and performance - mindset, behaviour, communication and resilience. She works with our clients to identify how we can help them to build leaders and teams that are fit for the future.
Julia has spent 15 years working in People, HR and Commercial leadership, with a deep love for learning and the dynamics of nature and nurture. She is a member of the British Psychological society and a passionate believer in boundaryless development.