Monday, 25 February 2008

So are our CEOs the problem?

So are our CEOs the problem?

Management Issues reports on PricewaterhouseCoopers’ annual CEO survey which found that while nearly 90% of CEOs globally agreed people management was one of their top priorities, this dropped to just over two thirds who believed their time was best spent on the people agenda (and just 34% of CEOs in the UK believe HR is the best function to compete for talent).

The study argues that:

“Executives who want to get on in the business world should spend less time worrying about their people skills and more about getting the right technical, business, change management and international expertise under their belts.

People skills, while a bonus, were not seen as an essential - despite the fact that fewer than half of CEOs globally felt their HR department could manage the people agenda adequately by itself.

But with neither the C-Suite or the HR department providing the sort of leadership people are crying out for, is it any wonder that so many organisations complain they're suffering from a crisis of (dis)engagement?”

Perhaps we need a few more CEOs like James Caan, star of Dragons’Den, who is interviewed in this month’s Human Resources magazine.

Caan* doesn’t believe that other CEOs understand people:

" ‘I don't think enough CEOs really understand the people element. I spend all my time focusing on people and I know that people really love working for me. Too many think about grand, top-level plans without considering how they will be achieved or who will do it.’ "

And he thinks that it is his own HR background, and his approached developed from this background (which he describes as “touchy-feely” - no decision science for him!) “that gives him better insights into people and a competitive advantage, not just over his fellow investors, but also among the wider CEO community, who he criticises for not using enough HR-rooted principles.”:

" ‘I got to know which people made great employees, so when individuals are nervous or emotional wrecks (on Dragons' Den), I'm more interested in finding their will to succeed. I learned that people make business success, not products. Many business leaders are still 80:20 in outlook - focusing 80% on the product, and 20% on the people. I couldn't be like this if I tried; I'm far more 50:50.

I think what people really want is relationships at work. A lot of people are not satisfied with their working lives - it's partly their fault, but partly their employers' fault. I try to create a working environment where people can excel and do what they didn't think was possible.' ”

It's also interesting to note that the PwC survey finds a key attribute desired by CEOs in their workforce is the confidence to challenge. Perhaps HR needs to be more robust in challenging CEOs on the way they are managing their businesses and people?

* I’d also recommend having a look at Caan's comments on private-equity.


  1. Would that I could work for Mr. Caan. I'm currently in a hospital that has a new CEO who is utterly disconnected from all things human - despite that being the focus of our work! As a consequence, middle managers are leaving in bunches and those of us "engaged" as leaders are feeling utterly demoralized and are looking to leave. In case there is one reading this: please know there really is no pay-off to being a disconnected CEO.

  2. I'm really sorry to hear that. Unfortunately, there are a lot of them about still. Bring on the new S curve!


Please add your comment here (email me your comments if you have trouble and I will put them up for you)