5 Top CEO Challenges

CEO leaderAwhile ago I was forwarded an email written by Shama Kabani. [She runs an online marketing firm in Texas and is also the author of Zen of Social Media.] Here is the opening of the email: “I just got back from The Leaders of Tomorrow conference at St. Gallen in Switzerland. It was a fantastic trip, and I gleaned some great nuggets of business wisdom from the world’s best. One particular session I really enjoyed was presented by McKinsey partner Dominic Barton. As someone who spends much of his time with the CEOs of the world’s leading companies, he shared 5 insights from his experience.”

First, I was fascinated to discover this St. Gallen Summit as I wasn’t aware of it. Second I was really struck at the list of insights coming from McKinsey and recapped by Shama in her email. I found them compelling because in addition to my role as Principal and Co-founder of 2130 Partners I am also a Best Practice Chair at Vistage International. Vistage is the world’s leadvistage_logoing CEO membership organization and I have worked with them for more than 16 years. I can say the 5 insights offered by Kinsey below are very consistent with my experience of the CEO population. Here they are with notes from me included.

1) They struggle with loneliness – The higher you get, the harder it is to find the right sources to trust. This is a fundamental reason for the success of Vistage. Having access to a peer group and being able to work issues with people who face the same types of challenges you do every day can be amazingly helpful for a top leader.

2) Lack of time - CEOs continue to balance an overflowing plate and prioritizing becomes key. This is something everyone is facing these days from the top office throughout an organization. We have found that the key issues here are in the “human dimension”- meaning that things often get slowed down between people through miscommunications, misunderstandings and upsets. This is why we developed our Productive Interactions program and why we have developed the concept of Lean Conversations.

3) Appetite for cross-sector knowledge – CEOs and companies across the globe are looking at what they can learn from industries other than their own. Cross-pollination at its best. What can marketers learn from HR? What can IT learn from sales? This is another area we find that communication is critical and is not happening at an optimum level. Often groups, teams, and departments become “silos.” There is usually a lot that can be learned by an organization and its leaders from within, from its own people. The challenge is opening up the flow for that to happen.

4) Understanding transitions – Leaders transition in and out of positions, jobs, and companies. They are consistently looking for help with these transitions. This is where a solid, experienced Executive Coach can really add value. Transitions are often fraught with emotions and complexities. Hiring a partner to help you through is key.

5) The battle for talent – The biggest competitive advantage of any company in the future is going to be people. Often CEOs don’t know the scope of talent available to them within their own company. This is a source of frustration for many. See point number 3 above. It is amazing how much knowledge and information inside a company does not flow. Again, challenges in the “human dimension” often hinder this flow. Fear, politics and other factors can keep key information like “how talented is your talent pool” from being clear to those at the top.

Bottom line, from our perspective at 2130 Partners, for CEOs to manage these top 5 challenges, investigating and investing in the “human dimension,” is the place to work. The greater the skills and capacities CEOs and those on their teams have to effectively and efficiently communicate and create results, the less painful these 5 challenges become.