The Clueless CEO

How can such an intelligent and capable executive be so clueless in today's demanding business environment? How can a company be so blind to pending challenges? The answer to these questions and a peek at the not so distant future is why many chief executives are doomed to fail over the next five years.

While I don't claim to be the next Nostradamus, I do see some remarkable trends that most companies either cannot or choose not to see. There can be no other explanation for the blatant apathy. No right-minded, competent executive will ignore these trends if they truly understand the pending impact on their company's bottom line. Yet, over and over, brilliant leaders are informing me that they simply haven't thought about the impact these trends will have on the company.

Do I think they are stupid or in over their head? No...most often not. However, I do think some executives consider ignorance as bliss. I believe they see fighting the battle of today as far more interesting and rewarding than planning for the inevitable struggle not too far down the road. The best analogy that comes to mind is the typical American's reluctance to save for retirement. We all know how critical it is to sock away the cash with the uncertain future of social security, yet so many do not.

The perfect storm for companies today is like the hurricane in the Atlantic that is forecasted to hit the large coastal town. Until it gets closer, we are reluctant to plan for the inevitable. These critical trends are so powerful that many companies will be consumed by the challenge presented and will be oblivious to the nuclear blast that vaporizes too many of the best and brightest employees. One day, valuable people will just vanish and the remaining team will struggle greatly with the lack of intellectual capital.

The storm and all of its power is modeled accurately through my research and that of others. When presented to leaders, most agree with both the magnitude and the impact the future holds. Following are critical areas will change your company and position you for success or failure in the coming economic and business environment:

The major milestone event that occurred on January 1st, 2008 is a date that came and passed quietly for most companies. The impact of this date will be felt all over the country as the exodus of baby boomers is realized and the knowledge they hold escapes the boundaries of many organizations. Overlay the fact that the future of every company is Generation "Y" and most leaders are clueless about how to prepare the workplace. We will see a huge continental shift in this country in about ten months and most will be caught unprepared.

With seventy percent of our employees disengaged on the job, the current underutilized human capacity is consuming profit margins at an alarming pace. Companies are beginning to hire because they cannot get the same amount of work done. Individual employee productivity will begin to drop dramatically as the pressure of the current recession eases.

The neglected and mostly absent "talent strategy" at the executive level will create an inevitable problem to retain the best employees when the jobs return? The best employees will begin a mass migration like none seen in recent times. The people you depend on most will give notice and you will wonder why you did not see it coming.

Organizations do not see learning and information as "the" competitive advantage for the next five years. The maturation of Generation "Y" will move them toward companies that see a "learning mindset" as the most critical method for dealing with change.

The changing values for society are merely a mirror of the corporate value evolution that is on the horizon. In our working lives, we will see the end of the forty-hour work week as the standard for work measurement. This antiquated dinosaur will be replaced by a more objective-based measurement system that better quantifies both work output and accountability.

If this information is either alarming or surprising, you need to call a "fast break time out" in your organization and ask these questions of your team. Are you ready for the change? How much will the lack of preparation cost? What will happen if you do nothing?


John Grubbs, MBA, CSTM, RPIH, is the principal consultant and owner of GCI, a full service training and consulting firm in Longview, Texas. Specializations include executive coaching, human resource consulting, safety consulting, behavior-based safety implementation and leadership training for supervisors, managers and executives. Clients include healthcare, transportation, manufacturing, education and service organizations. John has over 15 years of leadership experience, published several book...

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