The challenge for CEOs in the new normality

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By Francisco Vazquez

Edition 9 – December 2017 Pages 16-18

Tags: corporate real estate • management

We see new companies arise, and in some cases —more and more often— we see them grow. Some are companies who have reinvented themselves, who have adapted to the new reality; others are modest entrepreneurial or collaborative projects, that start out with good ideas and great hopes —ideas that respond to new needs— but, quite frequently, they don’t have enough resources. In the first case, the probability of success is high, in the second, not so much. And in all cases, there is a leader, a CEO, behind the initiative.

Four generations coexist in the current work environment, they have almost nothing to do with each other, they don’t share the same experience, knowledge, vision, culture, interest, or strategy, but the tendency is to learn from each other.

The situation is the same with the CEOs, there are several very different generations at the forefront of businesses. And I ask myself, as many others have done, whether CEOs are born or are they made? The challenges they have to deal with have changed, and their resilience and ability to adapt to change is imperative.

The challenges of the CEO are becoming more complicated in the #NewNormality, which is how we like to call the current situation of constant transformation that companies —whether they are well established or not— face every day. The role of the CEO is no longer a matter of mere management and control, but of trial and error. In these years of change when globalization, technology and flexibility have taken over, the CEO has to be the first to be able to change, but it’s no use denying that he or she is as lost or more than the rest.

We must be able to create humble, generous and open companies, because we don’t know where we’re headed, we have no clear strategy for five or ten years, and we don’t know what the future will bring in the short term. The key is what the CEO chooses for the company: embracing transformation or being a poseur (or poser).

If he or she chooses posing instead of taking action, I have nothing to say, but if the choice is transformation, then the leader must be the first to embrace it. Which does not mean that the CEO is responsible for what happens, but without taking a risk it is impossible to win.

In these days, CEOs do not have all the answers nor do they have the solutions to their problems. They aren’t always right, but they must lead their teams with a positive and constructive view, and never forget everybody has the right to make mistakes.

The biggest difficulty or the biggest challenge is to build a team who will be willing to accompany that CEO down the path of the transformation. That team may just be the key to success or to failure. We must learn from failure and accept the mistakes we make on the way. Every experience is a lesson we learn.

Therefore, the CEO must be a proactive, motivating and encouraging person, and, above all, he or she must be expendable. Because the great leaders are the ones who know how to surround themselves with the best professionals, and how to build the finest team of people who will work in a responsible and independent way. The current leader will be the last in line, and will take on different roles, depending on the needs of the moment.

I’m twice the age of these CEOs

According to a report recently released by InfoJobs, more than half of the workers surveyed who are currently over 50 years old have a boss who is younger than they are. The millennials are here already and they’re here to stay, which is what we want. In many cases they are the CEOs of those small projects I mentioned earlier, full of good initiatives and self-confidence.

Once again, technology and diversity in the way we work are key in this new corporate normality. To harness and manage the skills of young leaders is advisable and not as complicated as it seems. According to the mentioned employment web, workers consider that new knowledge, a results oriented work environment and the ability to manage collaborative teams are positive aspects of having a younger boss. However, a lack of experience or maturity is perceived as an inconvenience.

Here are some of the highlights of the new leaders or leaders:

• New ways of working. A more practical training encourages teamwork and multitasking. A job oriented towards results and greater freedom to work are key in the CEO’s new management skills.

• Training. Young, very prepared people with double majors, masters degrees, postgraduate studies and knowledge of languages, are able to take the reins of any project that they tackle.

• Beyond leadership. Their concerns lead them to explore new markets and new ways of working in order to implement them in their company. Hard work is more important than the image of leadership. The new leader wants to be expendable.

• The need for change. Most new leaders share the desire for change and new professional challenges. This often makes the company fear their possible lack of attachment to the project they lead.

• ICT. In a world where all companies are now heading directly towards a digital transformation, these leaders who were born in the digital era have an excellent technological training.

• International outlook. A global staff that bets on mobility and provides the tools that make it possible.

• Measuring success. Beyond economic results, satisfaction comes from the values of the company and its impact on society. A message that will be transmitted to their employees.

• Team management. They empathize with the needs of their employees, even though 18% of workers with young bosses do not trust their ability to manage teams. Perhaps that is the key, a horizontal structure.

• Fewer private offices. They aim for mobility and adapt the company to the new models of work environments.

• Energy and creativity. Employees perceive that young leaders are creative, they bring innovative ways of working, and they feel they’re a part of the project.

Work days and productivity

We said earlier that the new CEO should be able to become expendable, however, another common feature among these leaders is their dedication. This summer I read an article about how CEOs achieve maximum productivity in their long working hours. On average, the head of a company works 58 hours per week —between 10 and 11 hours a day, to which we inevitably must add another 6 during the weekend. Some of the secrets I share, presented by renowned CEOs (like Jeff Bezos from Amazon and Washington Post, or Jack Dorsey from Twitter and Square, among others), may be useful to make your time more productive.

Although flexibility is a must in the CEO’s job description, being disciplined and carrying out a fixed daily management plan is essential: Monday, planning; Tuesday, marketing and communication; Wednesday, networking; Thursday, balance, and so on, without forgetting to set up some time for oneself, which is as important as all the above.

Starting the day before everyone else, even getting a few things done when everybody’s asleep, is one a common trend among new CEOs, and very useful to find those moments in which we have a clear mind and concentration is complete. Time is a scarce commodity for the CEO, and those early hours are the most productive and the most creative.

But no matter how much we work when the rest of the world sleeps or we isolate ourselves in an office at certain times, the phone, social networks and emails do not respect time, unless you disconnect completely during a specific period. We have become accustomed to an immediate response that does not allow us to meditate and sometimes immediacy makes for a poor counsellor. Therefore, the dedication and productivity of the CEO are priceless, and the effort will be measured by their results.

And to come to a conclusion and answer the question of whether the CEO is born or made, I would say it is a mixture of both. A leader is born, but a CEO is madeW&P

Despina Katsikakis

Francisco Vazquez Medem is an international workplace consultant and architect with expertise in facility management, workplace strategies, work-life balance policies, business needs analysis, corporate architecture & interior design, engineering, and corporate project management. As a President of 3g office Consultancy Group, he leads a group of high qualifed professionals working in the EMEA and LATAM regions, with offices in Spain, Portugal , Brazil, Panama, Peru, Colombia and Chile
Twitter: @3goffice


…the CEO must always be a proactive, motivating and encouraging person, and, above all, he or she must be expendable….

…We have become accustomed to an immediate response that does not allow us to meditate and sometimes such immediacy makes for a poor counsellor…


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