This is an important book which is also a bit of a mixed bag. It’s oddly paced. It’s irritating to read. Yet it dispenses fascinating insights.
If you’re looking for advice on what makes a successful CEO, whether female or male, there’s plenty of it about. There are lots of lists of the qualities required, all of which capture one or many aspects of the CEO’s job and the particular qualities that are associated with success. My list has five elements to it. The five items, in my view, determine whether you’re going to make it to the top job and be successful once you’re there.
Taking decisions is hard at the best of times. Even apparently simple questions can quickly descend into a myriad of competing factors which you try to take into account, whether consciously or unconsciously. And you do need to take decisions. Business thrives on action. You can’t stand still, because the external environment is constantly changing. Customers’ needs and expectations move on. New technology comes along. Competitors come up with new products and services. Regulators change their minds. The business that thinks it’s standing still is really going backwards. Like sharks, we all need to keep moving ahead.
Rebels are often seen as heroes: charismatic, energetic people who shake up the accepted order and free the people from the tyranny of The Establishment. But what happens when the rebels win and themselves become The Establishment? Suddenly, they’re the bosses – and life changes. Now they find themselves being rebelled against in turn. Sometimes they adapt; sometimes they don’t.
Just when you thought it was safe to go back to work … everything has changed. At the start of 2016, the political environment looked set fair. The economy was recovering, at least in the UK, where we had a majority Government after five years of a sometimes fractious coalition. Foreign and economic policy were conducted within a long-established and well-understood framework. The USA and NATO acted as a strong military protector, guaranteeing geopolitical stability. The EU delivered a stable and reliable single market, enabling barrier-free trade across the largest single market in the world. Prosperity was rising after a difficult few years. What could possibly go wrong?
The School for CEOs has just published a compelling new research report, Future-proofing the CEO. We have interviewed 66 CEOs, Chairs and HR Directors to hear their views on the future of business and the ways CEOs can prepare themselves for that future. The interviewees include some of the most experienced business-men and -women in the UK, people like Dame Louise Makin (CEO of BTG), John Allan (Chairman of Tesco) and Kerry Christie (Global Head of Human Resources, Aberdeen Asset Management). Together, they give us powerful insight into the concerns and hopes of today’s business leaders.
Chief Executives don’t last all that long. The average tenure of FTSE100 CEOs, the women and men running Britain’s largest companies, is just 5.25 years (according to City AM). If you’re the HR Director of a big firm, there’s a decent chance you’re going to be responsible for bringing a new Chief Executive on board, helping them adjust to life in their new role and hit the ground running.
But how can the HR Director best help the new boss? Life at the top is so complex, and so different from any other role, it can be hard to know where to start.
Time was when applicants for a job would put all sorts of personal information on a CV – their age, gender, a photo. For some time now, it’s been realised this may lead to people being selected out of a recruitment process early, due to conscious or unconscious biases. Including this information is no longer seen as best practice, and a good thing too. More recently, some employers have taken this idea one step further, removing home addresses and the names of schools from CVs. Now some are going even further, removing the applicant’s name from their CV as well. The idea, as before, is to make the recruitment process as fair as possible.
“You were only supposed to blow the bloody doors off!” was Sarah Vine’s reaction on the morning of the EU Referendum result, channelling Charlie Croker (Michael Caine) in The Italian Job.
As I write, the odds quoted on the Betfair betting exchange imply a 73% probability that the UK will vote to Remain in the EU on 23 June, just 3...