The 3 Questions Every CEO Needs to Ask - performHR

If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.

It’s an adage many CEOs grapple with. And sometimes it’s difficult to balance the desire to drive a new agenda; going from good to great, to reducing or even eliminating a way of operating that is outdated.

Change, inherently, involves risk. So too, however, does standing still. The only difference is you know one scenario, and you can’t fully know the other.

It is that ever-present positive tension between what you know and have, and what you want but may not know.

As humans, we are naturally cautious. And, unless there’s a ‘burning bridge’ – an issue, event or opportunity that forces you into action – the safest option is often more appealing.

However, how do you want to be remembered as a CEO?

The CEO who played it safe and kept things ticking over? Or the CEO who challenged what is possible, took calculated risks and asked great questions?

I know which one I’d prefer to be.

So, here are the three must-ask questions that every CEO who wants to make a difference should be asking.


1. Is my leadership structure in need of a restructure?

Having the right leadership structure is imperative if you are going to realise your business’s potential. Your structure should enable you to deliver what the business needs today, and also set you up for the future.

However, businesses often find it difficult to see clearly what’s needed. It’s the adage of ‘house blindness’ – when it is so familiar to us, it’s not easy to see what we should.

Leadership structure is one area of HR that is often subject to ‘house blindness’, and it could be that your leadership structure is actually in need of a leadership restructure. Don’t just think internal people either. Bringing in external advisers can provide different expertise and perspective needed to execute on the business plan.

CEO to-do:

How long has it been since you challenged your thinking on what you need in your leadership team? Change may not be required, but if you don’t challenge and question ‘what we are not doing’, how are you going to be confident in your current structure? Find out what it is you don’t know, be open to a different way of thinking, and ask good questions to get the advice and perspective you need to be confident that your leadership structure supports your vision.

2. Do my leaders have the capability to deliver on the business plan?

You have got a leadership team. Great. But do they truly have the capability to execute on the business plan? And, if they do, are you optimising their ability to execute? Investing in the development of your leaders is imperative. If the leadership capability is half baked, your business performance will be too.

CEO to-do:

Using your business plan as context, assess your leaders in terms of their current capability and their potential. If you are confident in your structure, assess your people against those roles and determine if the gaps are readily bridged.

3. Are my leaders living in the growth zone?

When was the last time your leaders provided fresh thinking? Do you want your leaders to be challenging what is possible or maintaining what is? You set the tone, so be conscious of the agenda you are driving and then how you relate this to your leaders. Be honest with yourself – what are you here to deliver on as a leader? Shareholder value, social responsibility, increased market share perhaps? Your top priorities should be your leaders’ top priorities.

CEO to-do:

Firstly, make sure you are clear on the expectations you hold for your leaders, and then align all meeting structures. Be aware of how consciously or subconsciously people’s fears and motivations can drive their agendas. Bring your leaders on the journey, ask questions of them to seek out their opinions and provide them with the opportunity to speak up when they don’t agree. High-performing teams have one unified agenda and operate in the growth zone.

In summary:

It’s imperative for CEOs to have the best leadership structure they can put together, and often this comes from internal resources and external expertise. A good leadership team isn’t a bunch of ‘yes’ people – they must feel free to challenge, at the right time, and help you challenge your own thinking too.

But they must always be committed to growing and developing the business.

Confidence in your leadership structure, capability and growth mindset is crucial to achieving sustainable business outcomes.

At performHR, we are fortunate enough to work with a number of businesses, supporting their CEOs and leadership teams take their business from good to great.

If you would like a confidential, no-obligation conversation about what to consider, please get in touch here.

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