Smart hiring for a Chief Executive Officer (CEO) of an enterprise of whatever size, is extremely important to the enterprise. The CEO is the key or principal executive in a business and determines practically all things that happen to that business hence the rationale to always hire smart. He conceives, develops and ensures implementation of strategies and tactics for the enterprise, in liaison with stakeholders such as the board of directors, shareholders and investors, the management team etc. He provides overall enterprise leadership and ensures a good environment for execution and attainment of business goals and objectives, both in the short and long-term. The CEO sets the pace and general direction of the enterprise. He builds teams and empowers them, equipping them with required resources, monitoring their performances over time and also rewards them accordingly.
A CEO should be able to focus on key issues such as mission and vision, change management, improving shareholder value, growth, resource allocation, strategy, profitability and sustainability, efficiency and effectiveness, risk management, building teams etc. If a CEO candidate cannot come out clear and strong in these aspects, then he or she may be a gamble for the enterprise. The CEO role is a big picture role, hence focuses on the cornerstones of the enterprise, manifested by the combination and interplay of the above. The overall future of a business depends to a large extent on how the enterprises recognizes and manages the dynamics of what matters to the enterprise, in light of various environmental factors both internal and external. Whatever the approaches used in hiring the CEO, certain salient considerations as indicated below should be taken into account, in order to hire smart.
Customer focus. A CEO that lacks customer focus may not be able to add much value to excellent customer service hence limiting growth of the enterprise. While hiring, look for good traits of customer or client eccentricity or focus.
People skills are also pivotal for a good CEO. He should be able to build great teams, surround himself with people smarter than himself, love delegating work and developing others, energetic and yet able to energize others, have genuine care for people, persuasive and a good communicator, able to accommodate varied opinions while maintaining healthy tension in the team.
Personality issues such as integrity (truthfulness, responsibility, obedience to laws etc), openness, conscientious, innovative mind and also other learned skills such as analytical and critical thinking, intelligence, trouble shooting etc are also paramount. The CEO need to be authentic and not fake, but authoritative and in control, connecting easily with people, confident. The demands of the role require these and your CEO ought to have them.
Job previews for proper understanding of job content should be one of your considerations. If you hire a myopic CEO who has limited understanding of what it takes to succeed, and the scope of the job, the enterprise will suffer. You can make use of job previews to identify the right person.
To hire smart you also need to consider the capability to handle challenging situations and decisions including setbacks or crisis. Maturity is fundamental for a CEO. The ability to weather the storms of fluctuations, crisis, economic downturns etc are vital for a CEO. The CEO needs courage to make tough yes-or-no decisions, and knowing when to limit assessing options and make a call. Tough experiences should not discourage a CEO.
Weaknesses such as placing personal success and prestige ahead of company goals should be a warning sign for you when hiring a CEO. A good CEO always places the company ahead of his personal goals and ambition.
The ability to expertly blend and balance the interest of different parties to the business is another important criterion for CEO selection. This even becomes more valuable for large businesses where the number, nature, demands and complexity of the different stakeholders are on the rise. The right CEO should be able to build and effectively manage relationships in the interest of the enterprise, with whatever parties.
Real ability to perform needs to be assessed. Previous successes based on general factors such as industry, economic trends etc need not be claimed by your CEO. Look for tangible ability to create and deliver value to the enterprise. On the other side, secondary factors such as board politics, that could have limited a CEO’s past performance need to carefully weighed less you miss an otherwise excellent hire.
Vision and passion -The ability to see around corners,intuition, sense of prediction, ability to imagine the unimaginable etc are cornerstones of a good CEO. He should be passionate about the business, bold and decisive in pursuit of enterprise vision. This also involves the ability to learn from mistakes and yet get moving towards the vision with passion.
The execution culture – putting decisions into actions and pushing for completion while focusing on results. This is based on a strategy process, operations process and people process.
Due to the overall importance of the CEO, any mistakes an enterprise makes in hiring for this position will very adversely affect the business, and may take a while – a year or more – to correct. Some companies even take a couple of years to weather out CEO hiring errors. Several options can be used for hiring a CEO though most enterprises prefer to outsource this responsibility normally to executive search firms. Such firms may carry out open adverts, headhunt, or deploy other approaches to identify, attract and retain the appropriate CEO. Alternatively, instead of bringing in an outsider, some companies prefer to identify an insider. Such companies tend to build and have very strong management teams with well executed succession plans, hence sometimes making use of rising stars within the enterprise for CEO replacements. For external hires, a comprehensive background check is a must.