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I often get asked by colleagues “What do CEO’s worry about?” This is usually in the context of facilitating CXO level workshops. Well, just as any other Management personnel, CEOs both worry and are happy! Things that are certainly on their dashboards are:

  • Business results
  • Sustainability of the business
  • Right talent in the company
  • Brand visibility/ respect for the company
  • Governance etc.

Simply articulated – what’s on the worry slate is current operations and future readiness of the business. CEOs have to constantly manage their time and attention between these two. While it sounds like something that can be easily balanced and managed, it is often a challenge for many of us. Most of our attention and executive time gets caught in the operational aspects of the business. I have often wondered why it is so? We all know the importance of having a long-term focus – we teach it, mentor people around it and champion it to others. However in practice, the constant fires that operations throw up keep most CEOs fairly busy. There is some sort of gratification or sense of importance that one gets out of being in the “fire of action”!

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Long term actions and thinking therefore often gets left only to strategy sessions at the end of the year rather than an ongoing practice.

One of the core issues that CEOs have to deal with is their perceptual and thinking blocks in this area. Why is it that we don’t spend time on what we know is important for us as CXOs and also for our business? It could be due to three aspects:

  • Seeing
  • Carving time
  • Swift action

Seeing is all about knowing what is the most mission critical area of focus for us -not what enchants and seduces us – but what we need to do. With the kind of information overload that is there plus multiple pressures and ‘fires’, it is very easy to forget to ‘see’ what we need to attend to. Having the most important aspects of our roles visible to us is a key enabler. Having it in an attractive, visual format is even more helpful. Like a mind-map or a vision-board.

Carving time is what Meg Wheatley calls ‘create a stake’. Consider yourself as the most important customer and make time for the area of work that is important for you. This may involve blocking time with other  colleagues, stakeholders to create a winning proposition, having heart-felt conversations with colleagues, meeting potential JV partners ,or just revisiting old notes and ideas for a new strategy. Unless we carve and block time for this, it will not happen.

The third aspect is swift execution of what has been decided. Its only when we act, that something will emerge. In a VUCA world, where things and product lines change so fast, we cannot afford to take too long to act . Quick and swift action is what produces results.

This is the world of CEOs and what might support them in running profitable, sustainable and joyful businesses.

By Anu Wakhlu