Effective CEOs Think Strategically

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Many companies have long had a habit of promoting people for excellent performance measured by metrics such as sales volume, new business development or profitability. Yet once they are promoted, many of these executives don’t perform well in higher-level roles.

The reason: a lack of strategic capacity.

“Much like sports teams that cycle through new head coaches every few years, corporate boards of directors don’t have patience anymore for consecutive losing seasons.”

Organizations are discovering, often too late, that many executives lack the ability to think strategically when it comes to solving complex business problems.  

We see evidence of this in what appears to be a revolving door of executives at some companies.

Much like sports teams that cycle through new head coaches every few years, corporate boards of directors don’t have patience anymore for consecutive losing seasons: The tenure for top executives is much shorter than it was 10 years ago.

In the work we do at MPetty Group with succession planning and developing leaders, we identify those who perform strongly when it comes to having the capacity to make good judgments, particularly under stress.

Those who excel in thinking strategically and performing well under stress prove to be very successful in creating a vision and communicating that vision within an organization, team or department.

David Lewis, recently retired CEO of UnitedHealthcare Florida, is a great example. He built a top-performing team by creating a culture within the company that put people before processes and focused on helping people be successful.

A big misstep many companies make is spending huge amounts of time and money working with consultants to build strategic plans without first taking the time to understand if they have the talent in place to implement the plans.

It’s important to have a talent strategy, which can be created by smartly assessing your current team as well as any candidates. Your talent strategy should be built around top executives who can see the big picture, anticipate what could happen down the road, and understand the potential consequences and implications of different decisions.

In today’s business environment, one that is constantly being threatened by disruption, the capacity to think strategically and look at the big picture comes at a higher premium.

Indeed, the stakes are higher now than ever before.