CEOs wield a tremendous amount of influence, not only within an organisation, but as a representative of the organisation to those outside of it. Each meeting they attend, each direct report they hire, and every attendance at a company event are given great weight and meaning for both senior executives and regular employees alike. Their presence at a table with members of an external organisation, which might include lawyers, PR meetings and media appearances also set a tone and message to both their own and the external organisation.
Above all, however, a CEO’s priorities are reflected in the relationships they choose to build within the organisation. Building all of these relationships and executing these tasks involve time, a CEO’s most precious resource, at which they must become adept at aggressively and proactively managing. Even for Tom Gentile, who spent 20 years as a senior executive at GE prior to becoming the CEO of Spirit AeroSystems, a $7 billion aviation supplier, effective time management can be overwhelming.1
“All of a sudden you have board responsibilities, investor responsibilities, and many more media responsibilities. They take an inordinate amount of time. The requests keep coming in, and the schedule fills up so much faster.”
As time is also a limited resource, the CEO must develop a strategy for time management that builds these critical relationships for his or her success – and the success of the organisation – with an eye towards being able to achieve goals in the long-term. That may mean spending more time with one department or department head than another, or deciding to spend time giving interviews to the media instead of spending that time with product and development.
Let’s not forget that in their relationship-building, CEOs also face a precarious balancing act: On the one hand, they must understand the regular employee’s reality and avoid operating within a bubble; on the other, they must simultaneously build important strategic relationships with senior leaders who may quite possibly advance to become senior executives – or even replace the CEO one day.
In addition, they must also realise that at the end of the day, the board is responsible for ensuring the CEO is performing his or her job effectively. Not only will building individual relationships and taking full advantage of each member’s individual perspective and expertise help the CEO to succeed at the job, but it will also enable the board to succeed. This mutually beneficial relationship of the board and CEO, when built and managed effectively, can benefit the entire organization.
Patrick Lardi, Member of the Board of directors of ST Real Estate and of Fidinam Australasia Real Estate