Like popular wine entrepreneur Gary Vaynerchuk neatly puts it across in a blog post, “everything stems from the top”. In the business world, this can never ever be wrong. The manner in which the top management, or the CxOs, conduct themselves sets an organization-wide example – what they do is literally seen as the standard and practised from top to bottom across all levels of the company. It’s the policies and strategies they implement that influence not just the other employees in the organization but also the end consumer. Therefore, CxOs have the clout to shape internal as well as external milieu, and the interactions that happen within them.
In this regard, the role of a CxO has quite dramatically changed over the past couple of years owing to the shift in power towards the consumer. Now, companies are having to leave no stone unturned in outrunning their competition at every given chance. In fact, the magnitude of competition is so much that Consultancy.uk predicts that more than 80% of the Fortune 1000 companies will be replaced in the next 10 years. Now, that’s quite the metamorphosis we expect to witness.
In such a no-nonsense battlefield, what are the pre-requisites for a CXO, a.k.a The Prime Sailor of the metaphorical boat, to steady the ship and build a long-term business dynasty?
1. Undeterred focus on Employees
Employees form the backbone of any company – a good CxO should realize this and do what is necessary to motivate and keep them happy.
Well, not everyone is running behind money. Meaning, you cannot satisfy your employees through mere salary hikes. And there’s enough evidence to support this. While 89% of employers think that their people leave for more money, only 12% actually do – according to this infographic by officevibe.com.
A variety of factors contribute to an employee’s motivation – the work ambience, the culture, the passion, the team and many more. Therefore, a CxO should first and foremost carefully listen to their employees, understand what working in this organization means to them, how they are looking to grow themselves, and what are the things that can be done better to aid in their personal development.
2. Preach Customer Centricity
The importance of creating a customer-centric culture within your organization can never be understated. As companies, of late, have become more cognizant of the fact that a great customer experience is a vital competitive differentiator, CxOs need to prioritize adopting the right mind-set and implementing the right set of strategies organization wide.
In fact, according to pwc, 63% of CEOs are rallying their organization around the customer as one of the top three investment priorities this year. 9 out of 10 U.S. CEOs say they are strengthening their customer and client engagement programs this year.
With regards to these stats, it can be certainly said that a change of this magnitude starts from the inside. CxOs need to rally everyone in their organization to put themselves in the shoes of the customer and think like the customer. Because, if CxOs aren’t able to muster a customer-centric mind-set internally, your front-line staff won’t understand the value of a customer, your customer support staff will see a customer query as a waste of time, and therefore, no amount of money or time invested in customer experience initiatives can have a positive effect.
3. Handle setbacks like a boss
If there’s one thing all top CxOs have in common, it’s this; their ability to handle setbacks with a steady head and turn it around into business opportunities. The view from the top might be really serene, but CxOs continuously bear the brunt of most organization disasters. With such responsibility vested in them, playing the blame game or passing the buck will not pay.
According to Harvard Business Review, two of the five new CEOs fail in their first 18 months on the job.
The perfect CXO will never try to wash his hands of a certain crisis but will steer the organisation to safety by handling the situation with utmost grace and sensibility.
In fact, in 2009, Amazon.com, the largest online retailer in the world deleted George Orwell’s ‘1984’ out of the Kindle bookshelves of thousands of its users. Here’s what Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos had to say about this incident,
“The act was stupid, thoughtless, and painfully out of line with Amazon’s principles. We deserve the criticism we’ve received. We will use the scar tissue from this painful mistake to help make better decisions going forward, ones that match our mission.”
This incident has since then been well and truly forgotten. How? Well, Jeff Bezos was bold enough to admit the mistake and put out a face to the public, while assuming full ownership of the mishap. That is precisely something expected of a CxO!
4. Break down silos and vouch for transparency
We’ve spoken already about the need for CxOs to create a customer-centric culture. To initiate a changeover of this scale, organizations cannot have their various departments functioning as secluded silos, working independently without any sort of coordination.
In fact, according to clearcompany.com, 86% of employees and executives cite lack of collaboration or ineffective communication for workplace failures.
Therefore, a CxO should not only ensure exceptional performances and good spirits are maintained within teams, but also abolish any existing red tape, break down conventional silos and advocate transparency so that valuable data keeps flowing between these teams – marketing, finance, sales, R&D and more – and healthy conversations on how to do improve processes and policies become a routine.
There’s always a constant need to enable various teams to collaborate and instill a sense of unity in them, because ultimately the customer perceives your brand as one single entity. And a good CxO ensures that the chaos and confusion internally is minimal and that customer data does not become segregated and segmented. This ultimately results in a holistic as well as consistent brand experience for the customer that is in-sync with his overall expectations from your brand.
5. Be the face of Innovation
One of the crafts that CxOs need to master is a certain kind of customer clairvoyance and being able to realize the predictions even before the customer can vocalize it. Yes, consumer expectations will keep rising and their demands might change from time to time.
And the only way to keep pace as an organization with all this is to place innovation at the forefront of your organizational philosophy. And this can be possible only if CxOs understand the importance of innovation and give the various teams enough space to innovate and explore new pastures – be it designing a unique work environment or a customer journey map.
Based on the 19th Global Annual CEO Survey, over half of CEOs ranked R&D and innovation technologies as generating the greatest return in terms of successful stakeholder (customer) engagement.
If CxOs can breed a culture of innovation, it becomes much more seamless to build unique products/services that can reach a larger consumer base. Similarly, just like the very initiative of innovating is under the hands of CxOs, so is the ability to track this innovation and its impact on the end-consumer.
While many CXOs get the implementation part right, they do not follow up on the results and find out what worked or didn’t work! It is noteworthy, at this point, that 55% of CEOs think businesses could do more to measure the impact and value of innovation (19th Global Annual CEO Survey).
The core function of a CxO isn’t just about leading a bunch of people and overseeing the daily functioning of the company from the periphery. It’s got a lot to do with ensuring that everyone in the team is motivated enough, thinking along the same lines, and only working towards the overall growth and success of the organization. CxOs are definitely facing more and more challenges and therefore it’s imperative that they be up to the task – a super-awesome CxO whom everyone admires!
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