How can the Chief Executive Officer title be redefined?

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Over the last few years, we have seen emerge new jobs and titles — such as the Chief Digital Officer, Chief Customer Officer, Chief Data Officer —  with the arrival of new technologies and a renewed focus on the customer. Along the way, the title of CEO remains unscathed, despite a radically different environment than just 15 years ago for the top boss. Many CEOs continue to reign as if they need to be on top of and in control of everything. In terms of accountability, it can literally be “the buck stops here,” where everything draws to a standstill because of the top-down nature of the organization.

Data in the US shows that the average tenure of a Fortune 500 CEO is now down to 4.6 years (down from 10 years in 2000 – Conference Board report). The job of the Chief Executive Officer is under ever greater pressure because of the confluence of four things:

  1. Chief Executive Officer

    The road to E…

    First, the Connected Customer has changed where customer centricity is the new mantra. {Do tweet this, if you agree!}

  2. Digital is a mindsetAnd digital transformation has become an urgent need. {Tweet this!} The arrival of the “digital” era does not mean just the addition of a new channel and new tools, but necessitates a change in business operations, methodologies and models. CEOs — many of whom rose through the ranks — have achieved success with a mindset and a set of principles that have been put into question, if not under scrutiny.
  3. Transparency. To the extent communications — that are the lifeblood of an organization — are at the heart of the digital transformation and because today’s CEOs were not formatted in the 2.0 world, there is a certain confusion, to not say chaos. The challenge is exacerbated by the fact that all forms of communications can now be exposed, even internal emails as SONY Films knows only too well. Are communications to the various constituents congruent — especially for the employee?
  4. The battle for talent. There is a burgeoning need to recruit and retain the best talent (in different and new fields), who are intent on asking disturbing questions and requesting disruptive options and benefits. {Please tweet this, if you agree!}

It is in this context, that I believe the CEO’s title could evolve where the E of Executive is reinterpreted, based on the ever-relevant 5E’s: engagement, exchange, emotion, experience and essence.

Chief Executive Officer

CEO = Chief Engagement Officer

The Engagement must happen on the front line (sales, stores, customer service, social media…), but needs to speak even more powerfully to the heart and souls of the people working for the organization.

= Chief Exchange Officer

In a 2.0 two-way conversation, where communications are increasingly out in the open, fast and varied, it is all about exchange. The CEO must “execute” (i.e. take decisions), but must also bear in mind the traction of his/her decisions throughout the chain of command. Exchanging and listening are fundamental to bringing about change, as well as to improving systems and the offerings the company is providing.

= Chief Emotion Officer

Chief Emotion Officer - myndset digital strategy

As left brained* as the function of the CEO has always been, there is a latent need to tap into the right side of the brain. Hiring people with higher EQ than IQ may be extreme, but there must be a new equilibrium that is breathed into the way the organization functions and interacts with its stakeholders and customers. The emotion we are talking about goes well beyond just “having fun.” It’s an environment that empowers and enhances personality.

= Chief Experience Officer

On the one hand, customers are more and more buying experiences beyond the product. It is the services that surround the product that are making the value-added difference. This service is inevitably ‘manufactured’ by people who need to feel empowered and motivated to deliver. Moreover, from an internal perspective, where companies need to convert into never-ending learning organizations, the way that managers will best transform is by living through their own experiences. We learn by doing.

= Chief Essence Officer

Last, and most importantly, the Chief Executive Officer is the grand poobah for creating and driving the vision of a meaningful purpose — that I call the Essence of the company. {Please tweet this!} Leading by example, the CEO must be the embodiment of the Essence. It is the ultimate sense of the expression branding gets personal. N.B. If the CEO is too introverted, then the need is to have members of the C-suite carry the mantle. Customers increasingly want to feel that the products and services they are buying carry relevant and ethical values.

As you will note, in each case, there is an application that is inward and outward facing. The more enlightened CEOs have already embarked on this journey. The challenge is for organizations (and, by extension, the Board of Governors) whose CEO is still operating under the old model. Will new CEOs be recruited, urged and motivated to include these new definitions and roles alongside the short-term quarterly pressures?

Your thoughts and reactions, please!

*As we know, the notions of left and right brain are inaccurate. For the sake of simplicity, the ‘left-brained’ refer to the analytic, rational and methodical personalities; the ‘right-brained’ are the more conceptual, creative and emotive profiles.

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