One of the most eye-opening services that we provide to CEO Coaching International clients is also one of the simplest: we constantly ask insightful, penetrating questions. CEOs have to take time to step outside of the business and assess their company’s strengths, weaknesses, obstacles, and opportunities. And as we head into Q4 of another challenging year, your ability to hold your company and yourself accountable will be essential to finishing 2022 strong and laying the groundwork for a successful 2023.
Start your planning for a BIG year ahead by answering these 7 questions. You might also consider circulating them to your c-suite before your next meeting, or making an appointment to discuss your answers with your CEO coach.
1. What’s your economic and geopolitical outlook and how will that affect your business?
You don’t need to go to the grocery store to notice that inflation is a significant issue. Globally, Europe could be in for a rough winter if Russia’s invasion of Ukraine continues to drive up energy prices. Tensions between the U.S. and China and instability in Great Britain could affect how companies source materials, outsource work, and manage capital.
If your knee-jerk reaction to these issues is to tighten your belt, be careful what corners you cut. Passing along higher input costs to customers via price hikes might shrink your customer base. Reducing staff or benefits will only drive your most talented workers to companies that hire the best, no matter what.
Instead, come up with a list of your three biggest vulnerabilities and opportunities in the current economy. Pay particular attention to any answers that overlap: costs may be up, but you might also have a chance to shop around and broaden your supply chain; creating new products or services might be less expensive by acquiring a distressed company that has the tech and team you need.
2. What’s your growth plan in light of your anticipated economic and geopolitical environment?
An uncertain economy stalls weak companies. BIG companies grow through their challenges … or, in some cases, around them. Rather than scaling back your goals, work with your leadership team to plot different paths forward. As scary as it might be, perhaps you need to double down on your current strategy to grab market share from competitors who won’t be aggressive during a recession. Or, if you know your competition is flailing, maybe staying the course, accepting lower margins, and focusing on your measured, reliable service will provide an attractive alternative to customers.
3. What’s your staffing plan?
Here’s an easy solution to the “quiet quitting” problem: challenge employees who are on autopilot with more responsibilities and a clear path towards career advancement. If they don’t run with it, replace them. Moreover, if the economy does take a turn for the worst, those long-time nice guys who’ve been dragging down productivity for years aren’t going to get any less expensive to replace.
Making these kinds of staffing changes is never easy. But the best workers have too many options right now. Top talent doesn’t want complacency, they want a BIG vision that motivates them to make themselves and your company better. Pay those essential employees what they’re worth and show them their seat in your next-gen org chart.
4. How are you addressing ESG and calls for greater diversity and inclusion?
Young workers and consumers have an incredibly low tolerance for companies that pay lip service to the environment, diversity, social justice, community outreach, and a mission beyond profit. Turn them off once and you might do irreparable damage to your brand and your reputation. But if you connect your culture to values in meaningful ways — such as employee ownership opportunities, volunteer and sabbatical benefits, diversified teams, and a commitment to charitable giving — you’ll attract real fans who want to work for you and buy from you.
5. What key changes are happening in your particular market?
With two years of hindsight, it’s becoming clear that from a business perspective, COVID wasn’t a disruptor. It was an accelerant of existing trends like digital commerce, remote work, and on-demand service that are continuing to rapidly advance. The next BIG accelerant might come from another global problem, like higher energy prices. Or it could be a change in consumer behavior that’s specific to your target niche. To stay ahead of the curve, CEOs have to make learning a part of their routine, from reading trades and attending conferences to upgrading your data analysis and anticipating customer needs.
6. How can you dive deeper into digital transformation to increase your productivity and create a better client experience?
Or, to put it another way, has your company transformed enough since COVID? Are you still devoting too much time and manpower to rote activities that could be outsourced? Have you expanded your hiring pool to include talented remote workers? Have you upgraded your c-suite with a Chief AI Officer? Is your marketing department harnessing the latest social media and SEO trends to keep your company at the top of search results? Do you have easily accessible dashboards that keep everyone focused on your KPIs? And are you communicating regularly with your decentralized team, offering support while providing accountability?
7. How can you enhance your Annual Planning process to ensure your initiatives are hit and team members are held accountable?
With such a wide range of micro and macro issues affecting business, your 2023 planning session might be one of the most important meetings your company will ever have. You can’t afford to waste another session standing in front of a slideshow, pointing at targets instead of leading your company towards them.
The single most meaningful improvement you can make to your annual planning process is to work with a third-party facilitator, like your CEO coach, who can run this planning session. As you prep, your coach can help you and your c-suite clarify a vision that will inspire your entire company. During the session, you’ll be able to participate, listen, and take the pulse of the company as you establish the actionable steps that will realize your vision. And after, your coach will hold you and your leadership team accountable for hitting the short-term benchmarks that will lead you week by week, month by month, quarter by quarter, to BIG.
CEOs have a lot on their radars right now. But if you don’t have a plan for the challenges and opportunities you can see, you won’t have the footing to pivot when 2023 throws some inevitable surprises at us. Answering these questions is an important first step towards making a plan that will Make BIG Happen.
About CEO Coaching International
CEO Coaching International works with CEOs and their leadership teams to achieve extraordinary results quarter after quarter, year after year. Known globally for its success in coaching growth-focused entrepreneurs to meaningful exits, CEO Coaching International has coached more than 1,000 CEOs and entrepreneurs in more than 60 countries and 45 industries. The coaches at CEO Coaching International are former CEOs, presidents, or executives who have made BIG happen. The firm’s coaches have led double-digit sales and profit growth in businesses ranging in size from startups to over $10 billion, and many are founders that have led their companies through successful eight, nine, and ten-figure exits. Companies working with CEO Coaching International for two years or more have experienced an average EBITDA CAGR of 67.8% during their time as a client, nearly four times the U.S. average and a revenue CAGR of 25.5%, more than twice the U.S. average.
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