Evolve or die: How today’s CEOs must balance the here & now with future prospects

Paul Groarke our consultant managing the role
Posting date: 30 March 2023

PwC recently released their 26th Annual Global CEO Survey, and while the outcomes might be eyebrow-raising, they probably won’t come as a major surprise to most senior executives.


The survey, which included answers from almost 4,500 CEOs in over 100 countries and territories, found that:

  • 40% of CEOs don’t think their business will be economically viable in 10 years if it continues on its current trajectory
  • There’s a huge loss in CEOs’ confidence in revenue growth over the next 12 months - down 26% since the last survey
  • CEOs want to spend more time evolving their business, but spend on average 53% of their time on current performance


It’s interesting to note that these are global figures, and some statistics look quite different from country to country. For example, the global average of 40% of CEOs believing that their business won’t be economically viable in 10 years swings from Japanese answers at a rather incredible 72% to the more hopeful US answers at 20%. The UK also comes in on a more optimistic note than average at 22%.

What are CEOs spending their time on?

The survey shows that CEOs believe they’re spending too much time at an operational level, rather than looking at how they can drive the business forward and succeed in the future.


This is reflected in my conversations with clients. But we do have to constantly remind ourselves that we are living in extraordinary times. Following a global pandemic, we have adapted to a different way of working during a negative macro economic cycle and commodity price explosion. That’s not to mention the environmental and sustainability challenges we’re facing that require businesses to act now.


But while there are reasons for CEOs to be spending a lot of time on the day-to-day, it does have negative consequences. Without a focus on strategic direction, organisations can go off-course, and that impacts future success. There’ll also be missed opportunities for growth and innovation and a real risk of failing to anticipate changes in the market or competitive landscape.


The solution? It’s not just prioritisation, delegation and time management - it’s in your people. At Hanover, we’ve been working with clients specifically on building stronger and more effective senior teams. Hiring the right executive talent, nurturing them to achieve success and creating a culture of collaboration, communication and trust, is a top priority. 

What CEOs think they should be spending their time on

According to the PwC survey, if CEOs could redesign their calendars, they’d “spend more time evolving the business and its strategy to meet future demands”. Their ideal ratio is 43% on driving current operational performance, and 57% on evolving the business. (The actual statistics are 53% on operational performance and 47% on the future.)


Aside from reorganising time, another top priority for CEOs is technology investment, including upskilling people, automation and new technologies. And no wonder. The pace of technology change is accelerating so quickly because the rate of development, and transformation, ironically, is a constant. 


But for transformation to be effective, CEOs need good leaders - and there’s a skills shortage. That means you need to be good at hiring and outsourcing to ensure you get the best talent - and tech leaders need to become better at communication, recruitment, staff retention and development. 


[Related content: Case Study: Hiring a Chief Technology Officer for a rapidly expanding financial institution]

CEOs: Going it alone or spearheading a team?

Another really critical finding from the survey was how much a company’s success relies on the CEO. In my experience, successful businesses have a powerhouse of an executive team, and while the buck might stop with the CEO, the strategy, drive, innovation and transformation are a team effort.


These figures surprised me: 

  • 76% of CEOs said that leaders in their company make strategic decisions without consulting the CEO only rarely, occasionally or sometimes
  • 43% said that leaders in their company encourage dissent and debate only rarely, occasionally or sometimes


The first demonstrates to me a lack of trust. Without trust, it’s very difficult to create a solid executive team. Without a solid executive team, you can lose direction, see a ripple effect of negativity through the business and weaken your ability to innovate and grow.


The second figure would also concern me as a CEO. The most successful businesses are open to new ideas, different perspectives and a variety of opinions. Without this, it’s much easier for businesses to stagnate, struggle to innovate or stay ahead of the competition.


Overall, the results of this survey tell me that CEOs could be investing much more time and effort in their leadership teams. Not only by hiring high-performing talent into the right roles, but also by building an effective team that can have a positive impact across the business. A team that will tackle the challenges many organisations are facing at the moment and drive future success.

If you’d like to talk to me about recruiting executive leaders who can help your business grow into the future, contact me directly and let’s set up time for a chat.

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