The CEO perspective

Recently I had the opportunity to read 2 very interesting posts describing the long term and short term actions that a CEO needs to execute to shape a successful company. Both are from the Andreessen Horowitz website:

In the first post the author takes the VC perspective, and analyses the key questions that a VC should ask to value a CEO: Does the CEO know what to do? Can the CEO get the company to do what she knows? Did the CEO achieve the desired results against an appropriate set of objectives? Following some interesting notes from the answers to the previous questions:

  • The CEO should excel in 2 areas: definition of company strategy and decision making with limited information. The strategy is like a framework that helps employees to create the path toward the achievement of the company vision. This set of actions creates a story. This story became what employees, investors, and clients perceive as the company.  Regarding decisions is important to remember that often the CEO will make decision based on incomplete information. To reduce this lack of data the CEO will need to be effective in gathering useful data from all the interaction he will have during the day by day operations
  • The CEO should be capable to execute. For this task she needs leadership. This is the capacity to articulate a vision, and to create the desire to achieve the vision. In addition she will needs to focus on the following tasks: hiring, building a well-run organization with a clever incentive structure and efficient communication architecture
  • The CEO should develop a good capability to define realistic objectives. In particular when measuring results against objectives, she will need to start by making sure the objectives are correct for her company

The second post describes a list of activities a CEO should undertake to execute the strategy day after day:

  • Push the team: 1) set three specific and measureable goals in addition to the company goals, 2) give feedback with bi-annual performance review and after meetings, 3) Hold weekly staff meetings, 4) schedule bimonthly 1:1 to discuss at least one hour with every VP
  • Sell the vision: the CEO need to be capable to present with enthusiasm the story of the company  in particular during the critical meetings that might turn into the tipping point between success and failure
  • Arbitrate disagreements:if the VPs aren’t periodically at odds with one another, then the company isn’t being nearly aggressive enough
  • Management by Walking around (MBWA): dedicate to this activity three to five hours a week. Is a great way to get feedbacks from employees, and to understand if the execution of the strategy needs some adjustment
  • Talk to customers: A CEO should probably be spending about 30% of her time with customers, in particular with the product users

The Andreessen Horowitz website hides many other great articles about the CEO. I’ll just mention the following posts:

To resume the previous notes, and imagining that I had to select just 3 capabilities from the previous mentioned ones. I would take the following: 1) capability to teach the desire to achieve the company vision, 2) capability to hire the best employees, and grow them via good use of feedbacks, 3) capability to build an efficient communications architecture.

Do you agree that these are the main skills that a CEO should develop to make the company evolve form good to great? Which additional skills you believe a great CEO should develop?

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