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5 Questions for CEOs to Ask in the New Year
October 31, 2022

As you move forward into another new year of leading your company, it’s important to make sure that you and your leadership team 1) are prepared for the marketplace challenges that your business will face and 2) are working towards achieving the ambitious goals and improved financial performance you have set to move your business forward.  While you can’t anticipate every issue your company will face, there are some questions to ask yourself right now to be better prepared and drive strong progress.

1. Am I clear about what I want my team to accomplish in 2023?

While almost every CEO feels like they have been clear in communicating the future strategy, goals, and expectations to their organizations, invariably in talking to people within the organization – the ones who actually have to execute and make progress - we find that there is almost always a need for more clarity.  An old saying “What is clear to you, is clear to you” points out that CEOs must spend much more time working on their organizational alignment – the ability to better communicate, align and engage all the people in their organization.  

So, ask yourself these questions around clarity: Have I effectively communicated the 2023 strategy and goals to the organization?  Do people in the organization understand them – and more importantly, how they can support and impact them? Do we have a clear scorecard to help us understand what the measures and targets of success are, and to gauge progress?  All of this requires a heavy focus on communication as well as process rigor to make sure you have the level of understanding, alignment and engagement needed to succeed.

2. Do I have the right team – the team I need to win?

One of the most common and impactful case discussions that comes up in our CEO Collective peer group sessions (and one every CEO faces – over and over), is the issue of having the right people on the leadership team with the needed expertise and capabilities to help drive progress and success.  While most CEOs know who the strong players are, as well as the ones who are not fully fit to drive success, it is hard to make changes – especially with respect to longer-term players who may not have kept up with the needs of the organization as it grew.  As CEO, it is your job to make sure that you have people fully fit to function and drive progress in all leadership team roles. No exceptions. Make the needed changes now – or face the alternative of slower progress and added work for yourself and the rest of the team!

3. Do we have the needed resources, people, expertise and capabilities?

To make progress towards the strategy for your business and the goals that you have set, you have to support them with the needed resources to make them a reality. Do you have the right people to drive key initiatives?  Is there the needed expertise and capabilities in the organization to support and make progress on the goals? Are the accountabilities clear – do people know what they are responsible and accountable for?  It is not uncommon for CEOs to hold back or to have a “wait and see” viewpoint on adding resources, however, you need to make the tradeoffs and put the resources in place to support and drive progress. You’re just kidding yourself if you don’t.  Make the investments!

4. Have I thought through the contingencies (the “what-ifs”), if significant changes to the business environment happen?

While it is difficult to identify major issues that could get in the way of achieving key goals as well as potential contingencies to mitigate them, the CEO and Leadership Team need to spend time considering the most likely ones.  Whether it is a large customer loss, competitive new technology, unexpected financing issues, a stronger play by a new or formidable competitor, a dynamic market shift, the loss of a key player, or an investor with a change of heart, as CEO, there are some things you can do to anticipate and prepare for the inevitable issues that could occur.  Obviously, you can’t always anticipate every issue your company may face, nor the timing, but you can hone some key strategies and actions to help you be better prepared and to react quickly.  Start by identifying the ones you think have the highest potential, and formulate some strategies up front that you can put in place quickly – if the need arises.

5. Do I have the right balance in my life, organizationally and personally?

If you are not at the top of your game, then the overall business will suffer.  Do you have the right balance in your life – organizationally and personally? Are you working to maintain/improve your health?  What are you doing to learn and improve as a person in terms of self development?  Are you putting the right priorities on family and other needs?  As a business leader, you can easily get mired in the details of running and “working in the business”, and lose sight of the larger priorities in your business and personal life. Now is the time to reassess where you are spending your time, and what the most important priorities are.  Many in your organization will follow your lead – so you need to model the right balance. You need to be at the top of your game – to provide the needed objective insight and leadership to the organization.

At the end of the day, one of the most important things you can do as a CEO, is make sure you are being introspective in evaluating the need for improvement and change – both in the business and in how you live and lead.  Now is a good time to ask these questions, and push yourself to make the adjustments and changes to help make the new year more rewarding and successful!

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