How Are You Sleeping? Why CEOs Need To Worry About the Future Right Now.

How Are You Sleeping? Why CEOs Need To Worry About the Future Right Now.

I was recently contacted to do some leadership development work with a group of executive officers in a business. Now, this group of people are high performing, they are talented, and they are seen as the future executive leaders of this business. It was wonderful to see the senior leadership were focused on responding to what this group had asked for.

In the most recent engagement survey, this cohort of executive officers within this successful business expressed interest in professional development. They have not been offered a lot of professional development in the last few years, and they really felt the opportunity to develop their capability was essential for them to continue to perform at their best, to be engaged and motivated. The group also offered specific suggestions in the survey about which areas of leadership development they would like to focus on, that would benefit both them individually and also the organisation.

This seemed like an ideal opportunity for a partnership. I was very excited about submitting a proposal to support them. I received great feedback about the proposed programme and how we could work together to create a strong leadership talent pipeline. So all very promising.

Then there was a stumble at the last hurdle. The response from the executive was that although they all agreed the proposal was amazing and they really wanted to do it, they felt that as an organisation they needed to do some more planning. As a result they decided not to decide. To delay any kind of decision about professional development for this group.

Now, this planning may very well be valid, but in other organisations a response like this, or a delay to a decision might mean:

  • We’re actually not as interested in developing our people as we said we were.
  • It’s not a priority for us to invest in our people and prepare them and their capability for the future.
  • We don’t want to spend money on our people.
  • We lack sufficient clarity about our business future to make a good decision.

The result of this ‘delay’, is this group of people who have said they want professional development, they need professional development, are not going to receive professional development yet.

Sadly, there are still many organisations who go through this kind of a process and thinking and ultimately their people do not receive a development opportunity, and that is not a good thing for you and your business.


In times of emergency, turbulence and change, there are three key things, according to the Australian Disaster Resilience Institute, that great leaders do:

a. They focus specifically and only on the important.
b. They focus on communication and,
c. They focus on building capability.

It is the third element that is relevant here.  When people feel capable, then they also develop the confidence to contribute. They help to solve problems. They help to generate ideas. They are innovative and they are more engaged. Because they feel capable and able to participate.

If you do not build the capability of your people, if you do not invest in their learning and development, this is a missed opportunity to harness the talent around you to contribute to the solutions, to create the future.

In their 2023 Global CEO survey PWC found that 40% of CEOs were clear that if they continued to operate their organisations in the same way, that within 10 years their organisations would no longer be financially viable.

CEOs need to think differently, they need to lead differently to create a relevant, sustainable future. Repeating patterns, like choosing not to invest in the development of your people, is not setting you up for success. Without capable people, how do you lead organisations to a viable future?

Finally, I want to share an area of focus from the January 2023 summit in Davos for the World Economic Forum, The Future of Work.

As the world continues to change at an accelerating pace, including the development of technology, the attributes to be a contributor to the workforce are also changing. This means, in order to be relevant in the future workforce, people need to learn new skills and develop new capability. They need to stay relevant, in terms of their skills, so they can continue to participate and contribute. This includes CEOs.

The World Economic Forum estimates that in terms of upskilling the workforce so that they are capable of contributing to the world of work, more than 50% of the workforce require upskilling by 2030. This is more than a billion people around the globe. If you consider the need for both upskilling and reskilling, over 94% of the workforce will need to have participated in upskilling and reskilling by 2030 to remain relevant in the world of work.

People need development, professional development, of their skills and capability simply to continue to participate.

If you are not focused on developing your workforce capability, not just for now but for the future, then you will not have a viable workforce. I don’t know about you, but as the CEO of an organisation, small or large, this is of significant concern.

‘Failure is not fatal, but failure to change might be.’

John Wooden, Legendary NCAA Basketball Coach

My question is what are you doing about this?

This is the time for big leadership. This is not the time to pause essential capability building of your people, or yourself. You need to upskill and potentially reskill as well, in order to lead this period of significant change and flux. You need to be the navigator, the visionary, the person who brings all of the current and future capability together into a common purpose.

If you do not have a strategy and a plan to address your people capability, including your leadership talent pipeline, then maybe it is time to lose some sleep. If you are not focused on this, you are in danger of not having a relevant, sustainable organisation within the foreseeable future.

I’d love to know your thoughts.

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