How to be more effective as a CEO
I don’t see any reason why the customer should cancel orders,” excitedly said Naren. Then he asked his secretary to book a ticket to the US. The secretary said, “But bookings now could be difficult…” He quickly added, “tonight.”
Obviously, he cannot afford to lose a customer. This is a classic CEO of an SME, where he is at the forefront of almost all important transactions, unable to delegate to the next level for manifold reasons. That is why, it is imperative for the CEO of any SME to adapt to the art of delegation. This requires immense training and growing his next level to take decisions to help manage critical transactions.
Naren is the CEO of an SME that exports apparels to the US and Europe. He loves to be fit physically but hardly gets time to do exercise. He is married and has two children, who go to a middle school. Naren meets them before they go to school and by the time he is back from work, the children are fast asleep. Over weekends, he gets to spend a little time with his family, but then the chores start chasing him. The demands at work can be so draining that most of these people tend to become workaholics.
Sooner, they start feeling guilty of neglecting their families. The guilt turns into stress and stress simply overbears. The continual bickering from family takes its toll and work suffers. Even the team reporting to the CEO, to keep pace, tends to emulate similar behaviour leading to overall discomfiture. That is why, it is extremely important for CEOs to know when to step into the office and when to leave. It is almost like a discipline.
Naren says, “It is so hard to entice customers and once you get them, you should never lose them.” But then, to satisfy demanding customers, people, processes and systems should work in perfect harmony and achieving that is arduous. In a typical SME, often, people at senior levels are home grown. Performance, loyalty and longevity count significantly. Skills needed to execute a series of tasks are honed reasonably well. However, competencies needed to strategise, understand market dynamics and scale the company to the next level are often amiss.
Processes and systems needed to satisfy customers and finances are usually in reasonable shape, because that is the core to their existence. However, anything outside these functions is almost counted as unimportant. Usually investment in tools, information systems, people processes and such others are usually relegated to a later date.
Two reasons can be attributed – a blind spot of being unaware and secondly often it is seen as a cost, not measurable in the overall scheme of running the operations. CEOs like Naren end up dealing with current and urgent issues pertaining to customers, stock, quality and financials – because they are measured on that and it brings bread to the table. However, what they miss out is developing people to take decisions, to look beyond the current transactions to pursue opportunities for growth.
To grow beyond, an effective CEO should focus on few important factors – simplifying transactions, identifying growth opportunities, attracting and retaining people who can grow the company.
To simplify transactions, CEOs should drive usage of management tools in the company. For example, people can be trained on the usage and deployment of six-sigma, balanced score card, performance development and such related tools. Such tools help identify opportunities, cut costs, remove redundancies and importantly empower teams at all levels to take decisions. Second, CEOs of SMEs run a thin-line when it comes to investments.
On one hand, cash flows are needed to keep the company going, while on the other, there is the pressure to grow, which needs investments. Given this scenario, a radical approach doesn’t work. An incremental strategy leading to sustained growth over a period of three five years is what transforms an SME.
Now comes the challenge of attracting talent. Undoubtedly, recruiting good talent needs unwavering time and special focus. Talent is motivated by challenges, professional and personal growth and sense of social relatedness. CEOs have to understand this dynamic well and focus on what it takes to get the right talent.
Retention too is an issue and is tied to managerial effectiveness. Usually, people don’t leave effective managers, unless the opportunity elsewhere is way too compelling.
LET’S SUM UP
Summarising quickly, an effective CEO should be able to delegate, build the next level and help them take decisions and manage critical transactions, focus on incremental growth opportunities, simplify things by implementing tools, systems and processes. Importantly spend time grooming, attracting and retaining talent.
Lastly knows when to come to office and when to reach home!