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Chetan Walia

Chetan Walia is a coach and founder of Fifth Quadrant, a learning and development company which works with organizations at identifying the patterns that limit and restrict growth. Over the last two decades, Chetan has worked with more than 50 industries, and over a 1000 sub industries, worldwide. Some of his clients include UNDP , EY, ACC, Dalmia, Freudenberg, Coffee Day, Tally, Pepsi, Coke, Suzuki, DDB, Airtel, Agilent, Amex, Toyota, Greenlam, WNS, MICA.

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Top Learnings While Training CEOs

CEOs place too much focus on knowledge and best practices. They tend to hire people based on industry knowledge, operational excellence and specialised skills.

Over the last two decades, I have worked closely with many CEOs as an advisor or as a coach to help them overcome their business and leadership challenges. Here are the most critical observations that I have made as a result of working with them.

Managing Conflicts is the most critical aspect of the CEOs role. Everything that reaches the CEO’s desk has an element of conflict. Most of the CEOs decisions will make someone happy while making someone else unhappy. CEOs are most often even unaware that they are handling conflicts all the time. Some handle it naturally, however, the natural skill might not be the most adequate way of creating Win-Win solutions. I have seen organisations, where the CEO avoids conflicts, and it almost shuts down the whole organisation. CEOs who have the skill of using conflicts and turning them into problems that challenge people’s thinking, ultimately drive the best outcomes.

Lack of collaboration in the CEOs executive team kills the organisation potential. I have found this to be the root cause in almost ninety percent of the companies who are facing a problem of not performing to their potential. If a CEO is unable to create harmony and synergy in his executive team, the ripple effect that takes place in the organisation is a complete lack of innovation, imagination and creativity. The whole system, unknowingly gets educated to be self centred, departmentalised and uncooperative. Such a system, over a period of time fails to attack any problem because one is constantly fighting the system itself.

CEOs get too hung up on certain kind of people, and then they want to hire more of the same. Every organisation needs Brahma, Vishnu and Shiva -  creator, preserver and destroyer. It needs these energies together at the same time. Most CEOs of decent size corporations let the preservers take over and then the stagnation kicks in. One needs the Shivas, who will destroy the irrelevant old, the Brahmas who will create the new and the Vishnus who can preserve them both.

CEOs place too much focus on knowledge and best practices. They tend to hire people based on industry knowledge, operational excellence and specialised skills. While I understand the idea of a learning organisation, I am more in favour of the organisation that learns to forget. You get so many of the similar kind of people, thinking in a similar way in the company that it becomes totally mechanical. Mostly in turnaround situations, when one is guiding the company towards breakthroughs, a majority of work goes in undoing the knowledge and experience. Once undone, the magic happens.

People who run things, need to learn a lot more about psychology and sociology, than be over obsessed about management through finance and economics. Ultimately people seek psychological growth in social environments and the organisation is made up of these people. Unfortunately many CEOs think that these are soft factors best left to the human resource department. In practice though it is the most real hard factor.

Disclaimer: The views expressed in the article above are those of the authors' and do not necessarily represent or reflect the views of this publishing house


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