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4 Powerful Blind Spots for CEOs
02/19/2018 John Grubbs
tribe migration

How can such an intelligent and capable executive be so clueless in today’s demanding business environment?  How can a company be so blind to pending challenges and opportunities?  The answer to these questions and an honest assessment about current reality are why many chief executives are doomed to struggle. 

While I don’t claim to be the next Nostradamus, I do see some remarkable trends that many companies either cannot or choose not to see.  There can be no other explanation for the blatant apathy.  No right-minded, competent executive will ignore these trends if they truly understand the pending impact on the company’s bottom line.  Yet, over and over, brilliant leaders are informing me that they simply haven’t thought about the impact these trends are having on their company.

Do I think they are stupid or in over their head?  No…most often not.  However, I do think some executives consider ignorance is bliss.  I believe they see fighting the battle of today as far more interesting and rewarding than planning for change and the different look of their company.  The best analogy that comes to mind is a reluctance to save for retirement.  We all know how critical it is to sock away the cash for an uncertain future, yet many do not.

The perfect storm for companies today is like the hurricane in the Atlantic that is forecasted to hit the large coastal town.   Until it gets closer, we are reluctant to plan for the inevitable.  These critical trends are so powerful that many companies have been consumed by the challenge presented and are oblivious to the nuclear blast that vaporizes too many of the best and brightest employees.  Today, valuable people are beginning to vanish and the remaining team is struggling through a lack of intellectual capital.

The storm and all of its power has been modeled accurately through my research and that of others.  When presented to leaders, most agree with both the magnitude and the impact the challenge presents.  Following are critical areas that can change your company and position you for success or failure:

Millennials are now the dominant workforce presence.  Overlay the fact that the future of every company is one the shoulders of these new millennials and most leaders are clueless about how to adjust the workplace.  We are seeing a huge continental shift in business and most CEOs are just unprepared to make decisions that have a strong internal impact on talent.

With seventy percent of our employees disengaged on the job, the current underutilized human capacity is consuming profit margins at an alarming pace.  Companies are struggling to hire because they cannot get the same amount of work done.  Individual employee productivity has dropped dramatically because the workforce is not engaged.  Technology is presenting a temporary solution.  However, true internal paradigms are not changing fast enough to win the war for top talent.

The neglected and mostly absent “talent strategy” at the executive level has created an ongoing challenge to retain the best employees.  The best employees have begun a mass migration like none seen in recent times.  The people you depend on most are giving notice they are quitting and you wonder why you did not see it coming.  The answers are there, yet most are not asking the right questions.

Organizations do not see learning and internal information as “the” competitive advantage.  The maturation of millennials moves them toward companies that have a “learning mindset” as the most critical method for dealing with change. Innovation and disruption are the advantage for some companies and the source of failure for others.

Changing values in society are merely a mirror of the corporate blindness that is present and often ignored by poorly informed CEOs.  High performing organizations are conducting “stay” interviews to assess engagement as well as the individual productivity on the job.  While not simple, these interviews can be a true source of direction when it comes to talent retention.  Why do our best people stay?  Why do our best people leave?

Internal disruption is scary for many CEOs who have become comfortable with the status quo.  Teaching these leaders that internal disruption starts at the bottom requires them to release control and truly lead an organization.  Here is an oversimplified idea to get you thinking in the best direction for your team(s).  The CEO and executive team should focus on external disruption of markets to change the customer experience.  Internal disruption should be a grass roots effort.  Empowering internal leaders to make intrinsic changes in our normal routine takes trust from top decision-makers.  Too many executives are afraid to let go of the bicycle seat.  Some fear the unknown more than certain and inevitable failure.

To summarize, the four key blind spots for CEOs are the following:  In a workplace dominated by millennials, leaders must work to build tribes around community, identity and purpose.  To engage today’s workforce, organizations must develop and execute a written strategy for talent.  Without conducting “stay” interviews, we can only guess why people stay and leave our companies.  Finally, we must disrupt our method of doing business.  If you organization operates the same way it did five years ago, you are long overdue for innovation and change.  Remember, not making a decision is a decision!

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