SME bosses are a demanding bunch – especially when it comes to their own senior team. According to a new study of 50 CEOs, conducted for the Institute of Leadership & Management by FreshMinds Research, they expect their managers to have three key characteristics: they must be innovative, positive in outlook and have a ‘strong, purposeful approach’. And then there’s the practical stuff – strong management and communication skills (over a quarter of the CEOs ranked this at the top of their list), excellent financial expertise, and the ability to build great client relationships. Not much to ask, right?
The CEOs interviewed by FreshMinds suggested that the current climate was testing managers’ skills to the limit – and so they were asking even more of their senior staff. One respondent demanded ‘a willingness to keep moving when the natural tendency is to stare like a deer in the headlights.’ Another needed their senior managers to ‘keep picking themselves up, and be able to go over, under, round the obstacle and find any way to make things happen.’
Perhaps most importantly, managers can’t allow fear or negativity to take hold in their organisations – because pessimism is both contagious and destructive. According to the study, the real trick is to develop a positive but realistic mindset. As one CEO said, ‘You’re trying to make your staff aware that times are not good, but display the confidence that you have got a solution’. An ability to be flexible and open to new ideas is also essential, since old ways of working are closed off.
But enough about managers - how should the recession-proofed CEO behave? According to Stephen Sacks, MD of fashion supplier Wallace Sacks (who was part of the panel at the report’s launch, and is leading a radical refocus of his company towards ecommerce), a CEO needs six characteristics to lead a company through a downturn. These are: having a sense of your own destiny; being able to express this in clear and compelling terms; being able to clearly articulate the unique selling points of your business; being very strong to make tough decisions; to continue making investment for the future; and finally, to grasp the opportunities brought about by change. All sounds very sensible to us.
What’s clear is that the best leaders and managers must not only consolidate what they have but also explore new avenues to help grow the business. And it pays to look on the bright side of life - over 80% of the surveyed CEOs were optimistic about their company’s future, despite the battering their businesses have experienced. Let’s hope they’re still feeling that way after Wednesday’s Budget...
In today's bulletin:
IMF adds to gloom as Darling fails to slay deficit dragon
No cigar for Grade as ITV boss moves upstairs
Revitalised Debenhams plans expansion as profits surge
Businesses cry foul as Budget comes up short
How to make your management recession-proof