The Role of the CEO When Transforming Your Business
The Role of the CEO When Transforming Your Business
By Jerry Scher
Published: April 23, 2013
Recently I had the good fortune of experiencing a webinar conducted by Dr. Joe Web – President, Strategies
for Management and Wayne Lynn – former printing industry executive, entitled – “Rebuilding Your Print
Business Without Killing Your Profits”. The purpose of their webinar was to provide industry executives
with a roadmap toward transforming their businesses. Now let me be direct and upfront; I have had many
conversations with both of these gentlemen about this subject and I’m quite pleased that they have decided to
offer their knowledge and expertise to an industry that is clearly struggling through this evolution. In fact, my
motivation to write this column was based on their webinar and of course, earlier conversations I have had
with them. You can learn more about their approach in Wayne’s Whitepaper – Why You Should Join a Peer
Group to Guide a Business Transformation.
“During a business transformation it is imperative that the CEO be completely engaged in the change
For the past nine months I have been writing columns for What They Think focused on talent acquisition for
our industry with my primary focus on the sales and business development component of your business. And
based on my assessment and many others, this area of concentration is particularly crucial. However, during
their webinar, it became crystal clear to me that I have actually been remiss in not commenting on the even
greater need, the role of the CEO/President or whoever the top executive is at a company.
In a recent article Change Requires Leadership (if you read it – re-read and if you haven’t read it - read it) I
discussed the traits to look for in your leadership team – especially those folks that will assist you in
implementing the transformation you may be planning for in your business. After listening to Dr. Joe and
Wayne as well as my past executive level experience, I was reminded that change starts at the top; and of
course how difficult it is to lead from behind.
A great deal has been written about the role of the CEO. As companies in a multitude of industries are
confronted with the need to transform their businesses it is even more appropriate to focus on the role of the
CEO during a transformation as it may require different skills and competencies. For starters, it is imperative
that the CEO be completely engaged in the change process. If we utilize an Assess, Design, Align and
Execute approach, then the CEO must be engaged in every aspect of this renovation. And to be perfectly
clear, that will probably require that the CEO undergo some personal change as well.
In a McKinsey Quarterly, February 2007 –The CEO’s Role in Leading Transformation, the authors describe
four key functions the CEO should play during an organizational transformation:
1. The CEO must develop a meaningful “story” and engage his organization openly.
2. The CEO must embark on a personal transformation that results in new behaviors – and lead by
3. The CEO must build a strong, aligned team and that may require difficult personnel decisions.
4. The CEO must roll up his sleeves and get personally involved.
When we are struggling to reconsider our business strategies it requires great commitment and energy. The
CEO must provide a clear strategic direction as well as the drive and reinforcement essential to the process.
The planned changes cannot be accomplished alone therefore a collaborative effort that engages the team at
multiple levels within the organization is necessary. This approach must be driven by the CEO and that
includes allowing for open debate amongst the team. This requires a very different leadership style than
many CEO’s are accustomed to therefore one must be quite open to recognizing their leadership style and
implementing the changes necessary. Self-awareness is the first step necessary to change one’s behavioral
style; but keep in mind; it is only the first step. Assessing your leadership competence as well as that of your
management team should be an integral part of your business transformation.
One of the ways that you can begin this personal journey is to work with a validated behavioral assessment
that can pinpoint the range of behavioral competencies that you possess. Ideally, this process will enable you
to be more aware of your strengths and challenges and begin a journey towards personal development. This
same approach should be implemented with your team of managers and an assessment that can predict team
performance should follow.
So let’s take a look at some of the behavioral competencies that have been identified through research that
impact CEO performance; especially during a transformation:
Ability to Energize People
Resilience and Persistence
Ability to Impact and Influence
Each of these behavioral competencies are made up of multiple behavioral traits. They can easily be
assessed, coached and improved upon. However, it does begin with self-awareness and a desire and
willingness to improve. If business transformation is in your future than I strongly recommend that you begin
If you would like more information about assessing CEO behavior and performance or more information
about designing your talent acquisition system, contact Jerry Scher at firstname.lastname@example.org or 404931-9291.
For information about the Harrison Assessment - http://peakfocus.harrisonassessments.com/index.html
Stay tuned to this continual series – as we continue to focus the challenges of building an effective team.
Jerry Scher has been engaged in the graphic communication industry for over 35 years, Jerry's primary goal make those around him more success.