5 Questions C-Suite Leaders Should Ask Themselves Today
We spoke with economist Dr. Mohamed El-Erian about the state of business. Here are 5 questions every C-suite leader should ask.
The business world has changed dramatically in just a short period of time.
If you’re a C-suite leader, you’re trying to meet its challenges head-on in the middle of extreme uncertainty. You’re also trying to do your best for your company, your workforce, your customers and your community.
We sat down with Dr. Mohamed El-Erian – renowned economist, CEO, investment analyst and market commentator – to talk through these issues. Here are 5 questions every C-suite leader should be asking.
1. How Are We Balancing Efficiency and Resilience?
Until recently, most businesses were highly focused on efficiency. They put huge emphasis on things like building supply chains across the world and relying on “just in time” inventory management.
But COVID-19 brought a massive shift away from efficiency and toward resilience. Businesses have to pivot and create processes and systems that’ll give them a greater ability to withstand disruption and recover from crises.
Building resilience means identifying and addressing risks. This process has to be holistic because the risks facing companies today are so multifaceted.
Rather than centering solely on financial risk, they should pay attention to and address health, workplace and reputational risks as well.
2. What Are We Doing to Create or Maintain an Authentic Purpose and Culture?
“Purpose and culture have become absolutely paramount,” said El-Erian, for these reasons:
They’re expected. Employees and customers expect and demand purpose in today’s world.
They’re unifying. Purpose unites and anchors employees and customers when they are physically apart.
They’re beneficial. There are positive business implications for companies that go beyond their core products and services to address environmental and social responsibilities.
El-Erian suggested that C-suite leaders ask employees to describe their company’s culture. That feedback can help evolve their current culture into a future state that is both desirable and feasible.
3. Do We Have Diverse Viewpoints Across Our Teams?
As business in the pandemic continues, workforces clearly need to adjust. That comes with implications for employees both at an individual level and a team level.
In individuals, agility will become an even more desirable personal and professional trait.
“You need built-in resilience, built-in agility and also an optionality mindset … people willing to change their minds when facts change,” said El-Erian.
At a team level, it’s more important than ever to harness diverse viewpoints—that includes diversity in terms of culture, race, gender, education, background and more.
4. Are We Listening to Our Customers?
The pandemic has accelerated consumers’ desire to engage with your company in a location-agnostic manner – any place, any time, by any means.
More than ever, El-Erian explained, it’s not about just talking to your customers but also listening to them.
What are they saying about you on social media, for example? How are they reviewing your company online? Are they sharing feedback in person?
In an omni-channel environment, observing customer behavior and listening to feedback should inform product and experience decisions.
5. Are We Investing in Resilient Practices?
The new work environment caused by the pandemic has made business leaders rethink how, where and when we work. When planning or prioritizing new investments, focus on those that increase resilience, including:
Building a cross-functional risk management team to oversee financial, reputational and other risks.
Adopting technologies to increase productivity and improve collaboration.
Training and developing employees for new or different roles.
Embracing new work practices such as the massive transition to remote work.
A Bumpy Road to an Uncertain Destination
“The image you want in your mind if you’re a business leader today,” said El-Erian, “is that you’re on a bumpy journey to an uncertain destination.”
Understanding the tough questions you need to address can help make the journey a little less bumpy by guiding your decisions and prioritizing investments.
It can also help maintain those all-important relationships with key stakeholders, from your workforce to your customers to your communities and shareholders.
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