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Challenges CEO's are facing in this current climate


CEO's occupy a highly visible, highly-connected role, but with a level of isolation which is unrivalled anywhere else in the business. Rightfully so, they are akin to a ship’s figurehead; forging ahead and taking the brunt of the waves that hit. In usual times, this is hard enough. But they can draw on the lessons of the past and those who’ve gone before them whilst armed with a detailed map of what’s to come.


Now, CEO'shave to make decisions with no past experience to draw on, and frankly the waters ahead are unchartered and may just be the choppiest seas yet!


Testing times are make-or-break times for CEO's. It’s fair to say that we can expect to see this on a grand scale as they navigate the Covid storm.


Survival beyond all else


As I said recently on LinkedIn, during this time that we’re in, there will be mistakes, and there will be lessons learnt. But at the core of everything a CEO does now is survival. That’s survival on two levels: survival of the business in the deepest recession in history, and survival of the individual CEO who will be judged on their ability to enable business survival and success in this time.


This will likely feel like a tall order, especially given that so much feels well and truly out of the individual CEO’s control at the moment. But it’s a reality. And CEO's need to prepare themselves to steer and direct their responses to the myriad of issues that all contribute to survival and success at this time.


So what challenges are squaring up in front of our CEO's?


1. Change, change and more change


Realistically, the biggest item on the agenda is change. CEO's will need to be adaptive; a challenge for generally risk-averse CEO-type characters. It will be the adaptive CEO that is capable of immense agility, particularly in the realm of technology, who will still be standing when others have fallen by the wayside.


Whilst instilling confidence in their teams, they need to be prepared to flex and morph into what the current climate will accept. That’s going to be difficult and require a conscious decision to build trust in their teams through exceptional communication.


2. Lead amongst chaos


Chaos is an uncomfortable scenario for businesses which thrive on planning, strategy and order. However, so much is out of the control of individual businesses at the moment. From supply chain disruptions due to different lock-down and pandemic management requirements across the globe, through to the health impact of the virus on the workforce, chaos has the potential to be the order of the day, every day.


When chaos reigns supreme, CEO's become firefighters. And that’s never good for progress or success. Too many distractions abound. It takes strength to step away from the firefighting role and into one of stability.


3. Leapfrogging the competition


In engineering and manufacturing, a CEO should always have one eye firmly on the competition. This is crucial in the current climate. Understanding what others are doing will ensure that where others fall, you make gains.


4. Talent that matters


As furlough ends, and redundancies build, it may be tempting to think that CEO's will have the pick of the best talent. The situation is more complex than this. CEO's will be managing their own talent concerns, which may well involve streamlining the workforce and reorganisation. This is against a backdrop where they must focus on the health and well-being of their staff, without compromise whilst cutting costs.


Learning to recruit, manage and retain talent in an economy that has turned on a pinhead will require having the right talent partners in your corner.


5. Safety first


In engineering and manufacturing, we’re no strangers to rigorous approaches to health and safety – but it’s never looked like this before. Should an outbreak of Covid-19 stem from your plant, office or distribution centre, it’s the CEO who will sit in the limelight.


Employers are being judged on their success in protecting the health and well-being of their staff when the enemy is silent and invisible. The CEO needs to have a level of insight into every aspect of the business in terms of safety in a way that previously they’ve been able to make the responsibility of others.


6. Overload requires pacing and reflection


The current climate can seem overwhelming for even the hardiest and most tenacious CEO. However, this isn’t just a short term blip to be managed. The implications of Covid-19 may have been fast appearing, but they will be slow to move on.


CEO's will need to pace their own response, and frame it within a reflective atmosphere. They need strong and supportive people around them that help to shoulder the burden and provide a good sounding board. Decisions must be reflected on and prioritisation must happen.


7. Strong management teams


In many ways, the CEO has no choice but to stand alone. However, now more than ever, strong management teams should be built to support the CEO and the business. With so much that is ‘new’, and implications on every facet of the business in terms of everything from finances to health and safety and technology, the CEO needs to be able to trust that their management teams are up to the task.


Having the right senior managers and executives in place is absolutely vital to the CEO’s and the business’s survival.


8. Opportunities and relevance


It’s not going to work to apply previously successful business models in the current climate. Instead, CEO's need to check their business relevance given the global changes around them. From here, CEO's need to consider the opportunities that are afoot. There are opportunities out there, and success (and maybe even survival) will depend on identifying these and then capitalising on them.


Pursuing the right opportunities will be tough for traditionally risk-averse CEO's, but it is necessary.


It’s fair to say that it’s not an easy time for anyone. Successfully navigating these unchartered waters should be the CEO’s focus for now.


Doing so will ensure the business’s survival. Indeed, it could be the key to thriving in this tricky time.


Build Covid-19 strong executive teams by utilising my experience and know-how. Call my mobile to discuss your strategic hiring needs on: 07775 700 707 or the office on: 0161 359 3111.




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