According to extensive research published in the Harvard Business Review (resulting from 17,000 CEO assessments), there are four specific behaviors that prove critical to CEO performance. The study found that high-performing CEOs …
- Decide with Speed and Action: They make decisions earlier, faster and with greater conviction.
- Engage for Impact: They excel at planning and executing disciplined communication strategies.
- Adapt Proactively: They focus on the big, long-term picture as they adapt.
- Deliver Consistently: They stay true to their convictions and follow through on commitments.
Let’s look at these behaviors through the lens of CEO and C-suite communications. More specifically, communication strategies they employ in support of the company’s purpose, vision, mission and business strategy.
- Decide with Speed and Action
The successful executive teams we work with are very decisive. Especially when it comes to the direction they are taking the organization and the story they want to tell (internally and externally). They have a high degree of conviction in the company’s purpose and communicate it consistently up and down the organization. They will accept nothing short of absolute clarity and alignment among leaders across the organization with respect to the company’s vision, mission and strategy.
- Engage for Impact
The Harvard Business Review states that CEOs who excel at bringing others along for the ride invest time developing and executing strategic communication plans. We find this to be true as well. Successful executive teams, that we work with, spend the time and energy required to “pull strategic messages through” the organization and ensure there is a plan for translating those messages into actions that positively impact organizational performance.
- Adapt Proactively
The study in HBR also discovered that while it was important for all CEOs to adapt and change course in a rapid manner — only those CEOs who made daily decisions rooted in a clearly defined, long-term view of the organization’s strategy, vision and purpose — actually performed at the highest level.
- Deliver Consistently
Lastly, the study found that a stunning 94 percent of high-performing CEOs consistently followed through on their commitments. This is a huge flaw we see in many CEOs with respect to organizational communication. Most CEOs are unwilling or unable to stay the course. They are way too reactive and, as a result, knee-jerk the organization in different directions based on changes happening around them. With that said, we do work with high-performing CEOs who are consistent and true to their convictions. These CEOs leverage persistent and sustained communication to drive clarity and alignment around the four dimensions of organizational performance (corporate story, strategy, values and purpose).
It is revealing how these four general behaviors mirror the traits we see in high-performing CEO communicators. However, it should not be a surprise, effective strategic communication is essential for becoming a high-performing CEO.