The last couple of years has weighed heavily on the minds of CEOs.
There are times when I as an Executive Coach wish I could make things easier for them operationally. I feel for them.
- The shortage of labor is real. Poaching has become the norm.
- Board members put pressure on publicly traded company CEOs to improve outcomes faster. Two of my CEOs have quit their current positions – they are exhausted from running sprint speeds in marathon races.
- Retention is a joke for many of them. The boomerang effect will take time to stabilize a forever-changing workforce with an exorbitant amount of time spent on-boarding players that leaders aren’t sure will last even three months.
- Ghosting is the operative norm now for leaving companies.
- Tech stacks are more complicated to learn, maintain and integrate, despite promises otherwise.
These are just a few of the hurdles facing my clients every day. It’s intense. And, if a CEO isn’t careful, they can lose sight of the topics they need to be thinking about. Forgetting these critical topics can lead to premature exits of leaders or worse, leaders who try to stay and compromise mental and physical health. We have talked about this before – where leaders turn to drugs or other behaviors that then harm their well-being. I’d rather you quit than do that!
Looking into the Mind of a CEO
So today, we are going to investigate the mind of a CEO that is searching for a healthy way to navigate the challenges facing him/her. I hope that this “story” creates a reflective space for you to consider how you want to walk through each day, staying connected to yourself while driving your business forward.
I can’t say it enough to you – you are a human being, not a machine.
According to The Business Journal’s Research Intelligence 2022 entitled Inside the Mind of Business Owners and C-Suite Executives, the minds of CEOs are focused on improving these top leadership traits including vision, communication, mentoring abilities, creativity, and the power of positivity.
Their days are filled with thoughts on how to bring these traits to the workplace over the next few years post-pandemic. In fact, the company’s human capital focus is developing the next generation of leaders, coaching to enhance employee performance, building agile teams, adopting flexible work policies, and redesigning the reward structure.
Some Changes are Here to Stay
Changes to the workforce landscape such as remote work, reduction in travel, mixing part-time and full-time status, and reduced physical footprint require out-of-the-box human resources thinking. Also, there are challenges outside or within management control, but how does one determine this? How would you label each one below?
- labor force skills
- fluctuation in the US Economy
- COVID aftermath and regulations
- tax uncertainty
- streamlining processes
- improving cash flow
- updating older technologies
- modifying your business model
- expanding innovation through a strategic alliance
Additionally, changes to the business environment abound. Savvy CEOs understand the vital need to increase cash reserves/liquidity, revise the strategic plan to mitigate risks and “recession proof” the business, create more efficient supply chains, seek growth through opportunistic acquisitions, and negotiate more flexible terms with vendors. To create a leaner and more responsive organization, several clients are re-imagining their use of contract work while trying to preserve a strong culture. That alone creates some significant challenges and opportunities. It’s dizzying!
How many CEOs are considering these necessary changes in light of this new era?
Some changes to consider are:
- renewed thinking around this archetypal best business practices list of growing strategic partners
- developing new products and services
- expanding into new geographical areas
- focusing on customer needs
- creating new customer segments is critical for a successful pivot
Higher Level Focus
Each of those higher-level concerns of the CEO – vision, communication, mentoring abilities, creativity, and the power of positivity – paradoxically ‘grounds’ the leader in the proper way of thinking that allows for effective leadership under even these toughest environments. Consider the ease or difficulty of leadership vs pre-pandemic expectations. It’s become even more important to monitor physical health, manage stress levels, develop a leadership team, drive cultural change, and understand the short-term financial focus within a long-term transformation focus of the organization.
Imagine those five qualities played out in the day and the life of someone like you. We’re going to look at how Bob’s Day starts, what happens, and how he deals with the situations that arise, all while focusing on the five traits Bob as a high-performing CEO wants to improve.
The Day of A CEO
Often, we may think of a typical CEO workday focusing on relationships, strategy, operations, organization, and culture, which is all foundation-ally true. However, this study showed that top executives want to improve the following skills: positivity, the ability to mentor and teach, vision, communication, the anticipation of others’ needs, and creativity.
The Power of Positivity:
First things first. Bob arrives at the office and knows he must start the day off on a positive note. He knows starting the day reading positive materials from classic authors to the Bible will start him off right. He cracks open his Bible to Proverbs to receive a positive word and then dives into his chosen reading. This renewing of his mind helps invigorate Bob.
He knows this will help him. He needs to stay positive as he deals with the challenges and the people he will interact with throughout the day.
Over the years, Bob realizes he spends most of his day with people. He’s building relationships, dealing with interpersonal struggles, and mentoring others. He can’t give anything to his team beyond what he already has. His ability to take time to genuinely return to a place of optimism and higher-level perspective is one of his most important contributions to his teams to ensure they thrive.
Bob is charged up as he enters his first meeting of the day. He’s excited to take on a new men-tee, Sally because Bob values his personal legacy after his tenure. She has a high potential to become a great leader within the organization. Some important skills and characteristics to develop within himself as a role model and his employees include critical and innovative thinking, ability to execute, initiative, building trust and integrity, team leadership, and interpersonal effectiveness.
Sally mentions how she has been struggling in a work relationship. Bob jumps in and begins to tell her everything he would do. There’s no discourse or additional input from Sally. Before Bob knows it, their meeting time has come to an end.
Bob leaves the meeting wondering whether he truly mentored Sally. He knows that mentorship isn’t about sharing information. Instead, mentorship is a discourse. He makes a mental note, but the phone rings.
He picks up the phone, and his mind enters another mode as he forgets to write down his thoughts on mentoring.
On the other end of the phone is Travis. He’s the team lead for one of the departments. He’s having trouble with some of the employees he’s managing.
Travis feels he’s not doing a great job of casting the company’s vision. He’s asking for help. Bob is more than willing to help Travis cast the company’s vision.
Bob remembers reading about vision from Marshall Goldsmith. Goldsmith said, “Leadership is providing inspiration and vision, then developing and empowering others to achieve this vision.”
With that thought in mind, Bob discusses the organization’s vision. He breaks down the vision into digestible nuggets that Travis can share with his team. He then reminds Travis that he is responsible for empowering others to achieve the vision.
After the call with Travis, Bob reflects on the Goldsmith quote. He thinks that is how he should have mentored Sally. He needed to empower her rather than inform her. Bob is thankful he was able to re-calibrate with Travis and makes a note to follow up with Sally within the next day or two. Furthermore, he also realized that sharing with Travis some other sources for inspiration of fresh thinking may include talking to people outside the company, external content, looking at how other businesses run, personal reflection, and talking to people in the company.
After lunch, Bob then presided over an all-hands meeting. This is a strong, easy place for Bob to lead. He was ready to clearly communicate the business changes happening in the organization. However, he was a little nervous about introducing the new benefits plan. He wanted to be sure he gave everyone time to digest the information.
While the head nods from those in the audience encouraged Bob, he knew that wasn’t a sure-fire sign that he presented well.
What was more encouraging to him were the questions asked by those in attendance. The questions demonstrated areas that were still unclear for the employees which allowed him to shape the messaging to their specific needs, especially around the changes occurring in the benefits plan. He knew that any change would feel like something was being taken away and he was patient as he allowed them to get through that initial reactive stage to recognize that the benefits of changes would be positive for all. Remaining calm and patient through their digesting of the information created a win for all there! In the past, he would have found the questions irritating, but as he had grown as a leader, he recognized the questions were a powerful tool for connecting and building trust with his teams.
He took a moment to thank God for this moment of trust and connection happening. If he hadn’t spent that time this morning dialing into God’s bigger perspective and plan, Bob knows that he would have just grown impatient with the process and his people. But God held his tongue, and the company was elevated.
As Bob wrapped up his day at the office, he realized he didn’t spend much time actively thinking about anything very creative. This too is a fuel source for leaders, and he knew it. However, as Bob reflected further, he realized his whole day was a creative endeavor.
From mentoring a team member to understanding that he may need help to become a better mentor to casting vision to communicating, everything he did related to creating something. In fact, he found himself growing in Creative Confidence (a book by Tom and David Kelley).
By the end of Bob’s Day, his mind was exhausted but excited. He knew he’d get to do this all over again tomorrow. The experience tomorrow would allow Bob to continue to practice mentorship, vision casting, communication, and creativity. And his comfort level with executive leadership would continue to grow. He wants to be a role model by way of mentoring, personally shaping and leading the company’s values and vision, having candid discussions with the e-team, chair, and board as well as speaking honestly about company challenges while admitting mistakes.
Bob began to lay out his goals for the following day. The next time he’d mentor someone, he would be more open to discourse rather than a one-sided conversation. He worked on this when he mentored Brent. He also thought about that moment when at the company-wide meeting, Mike’s question made his blood temporarily boil. What was that about? He recognized that he had some repair work to do in that relationship and would address it sooner than later.
As a CEO or business leader, what thoughts are happening in your mind throughout the day?
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