Five secret skills all chief executives need in order to flourish

Distractions can trap many people leading companies – to execute successfully, diversions need to be eliminated

OVER the past 35 years I have advised many chief executives and have identified many factors that make the extraordinary chief executives stand apart from the ordinary. However, there are five key secrets which are vital for chief executives to be successful.

A chief executive’s number one responsibility is to produce profitable results. A good chief executive knows that the prime purpose of business is to attract and retain customers and he or she embraces the responsibility of figuring out every possible way to achieve this purpose.

A business without customers can never be healthy. It inevitably leads to obtaining loans to keep going, instead of focusing on attracting more customers to keep growing.

It is the role of a chief executive to think strategically and figure out how strategic ideas can be transformed into double-digit profit. It is not the role of a chief executive to think operationally.

The role of strategy is to establish a definitive edge that will deliver value, profitable returns and leave the competition standing. Introducing entrepreneurial leadership – the blending of agile attributes instrumental to the successful founding of a company, with the leadership skills required to sustain profitable growth – implements a definitive edge that delivers greater value to both the customer and organisation.

The key is to refine and align operational attention with strategic intention.

Thirdly, successful chief executives don’t allow distractions. They know when to say no. Business is not being active with minutiae, but getting done what is important. Successful chief executives get things done.

There are three stages of important work: do, doing and done. Only the last is actual accomplishment. To accomplish great things, there is a clear discipline to ignore distractions. Particularly those challenges that the company has no influence over. Absorbing all the details of European economic and recessionary woes, which you have no control over, diverts your energy and focus from what you do have command over. As Steve Jobs said: “Success comes from saying no to 1,000 distractions.”

The fourth factor is being resourceful when resources are low. Lack of resources may well be a circumstance, but lack of resourcefulness is a choice.

The real problem in business is a lack of resourcefulness. With resourcefulness, actual resources and budgets are not even barriers. Innovative thinking stimulates new business that generates more profit. Resourcefulness is key to developing the contributory factors that positively influence gaining ground to produce profits. Everything else incurs a cost.

The final element is commitment to continue to do whatever is required, even after the motivation has left you. It is only tough times that test commitment and prompt chief executives to take misguided actions.

When funds are low, there is a tendency in business to seek out anyone and everyone to market your product or service to. But your product or service will never please everyone. Do not dilute the value of your product or service and your commitment.

The secret is to re-clarify exactly who your customer is and what your market is. Then you need to figure out all the best ways to attract, deliver to, and retain custom. Raising your efforts and doing even more of whatever is required of you actually ignites commitment.

Commitment is not manufactured; it is what you discover deep inside yourself, and business reputation comes from retention of customers and their recommendation of your business.

Professor Colin Turner advises chief executives and entrepreneurs and is a best-selling author of 18 business books, published in 75 countries and 45 languages:

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