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Just a few years ago, tech CEOs spent the majority of their time managing the operations and performance of their companies from within various departments.
But, today’s CEOs are spending more time managing outside variables, such as the residual effects of the COVID-19 pandemic, the impact of the Russian invasion of Ukraine, and most recently, economic concerns about interest rate hikes and a recession. In addition, incorporating environmental, social, and governance (ESG) standards to reflect changing times, along with diversity initiatives in the workplace, has become a top priority for many employees and leaders.
CEOs are under a lot of pressure to grow and thrive efficiently while weathering these new and different types of storms. Adding these outside elements to your view of the big picture of your business is making it even harder to understand your company’s true mission and strategy.
Businesses will always face fluctuations and changes in the markets in which they operate. But these are unparalleled times, with many outside factors affecting our businesses. Thinking that the status quo today is OK could be dangerous. Where should tech CEOs make changes? How should you adjust your strategy?
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If you’re a CEO in today’s competitive and ever-changing marketplace, true visibility into all aspects of your company — the triumphs, the challenges, the needs, the failures—is critical for both short-term and long-term success. In fact, gaining your own visibility while also providing visibility to employees is the key to managing through any form of turmoil. That’s true whether the challenges are macroeconomic or internal.
Adjusting your strategy for challenges beyond the office walls
Leaders often feel pressured by employees or others into making predictions for their company or their industry. In actuality, visibility, not predictions, is what will ultimately be useful for navigating changes necessitated by the countless factors affecting your business. In fact, the right visibility for you and your employees will help you make informed decisions and pivot when necessary — whatever the landscape.
Company-wide decisions used to be synonymous with numbers. You can’t improve what you can’t see, track or measure. Key performance indicators (KPIs) and other work-related metrics were channeled up via reports. Historically this was all the information CEOs and boardrooms used to make decisions. While using data and these KPIs should guide your journey, it’s not enough now.
Similarly, a few years ago, CEOs loved talking about EBITDA (Earnings Before Interest, Taxes, Depreciation, and Amortization). It’s helpful in measuring operational performance, but it’s not a catch-all; it shows one measurement of an organization’s health. This narrow field of vision may have worked in the past, but it no longer makes today’s businesses sustainable.
Lost within these boardroom numbers are intangibles: leadership abilities, openness, transparency, accountability, key employee performances, relationships, brand reputation and other factors outside the office walls. And all of these intangibles become especially imperative with all those significant outside variables affecting your business and your employees.
When it comes to gaining visibility, you have to put yourself out there and be visible, accessible and relatable. You have to see what’s happening beyond the numbers. I always want to be giving employees visibility into what I’m doing and having visibility into what they’re doing, all while learning from them, our partners and our customers.
Further, it’s important to get to know your audience, whether they are senior leaders or early professionals or somewhere in the middle. Learn what’s important to them so you can provide visibility that is relatable. You need to be relatable to your intended audience. When enabled with the right information, it amazes me how teams can have input, make decisions on their own and move faster. Doing so moves the business forward.
This has all been helpful in combating talent shortages and retention challenges. A successful, growing business means success and growth for its employees.
Weather any storm with visibility
Tech CEOs run into a lot of obstacles, and many try to tackle these issues on their own. As CEO, you are supposed to have all the answers. But we don’t actually need to be the sole hero all the time. For example, if you provide your board with visibility into an issue you’re having, they can likely help, alleviating the pressure and the feeling that it’s all on you.
So, how do you know how to adjust your strategy?
For me, visibility has been key — to empower employees, improve retention, drive revenue and manage a truly hybrid organization efficiently. With today’s market fluctuations, competitive pressures and outside variables, I’ve learned that transparency and openness allow me and my employees to gain visibility. That’s how we can all understand the true picture of the business — in whatever storm we may be in.
Frank Roe is CEO of SmartBear.
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