Safety the top stress for CEOs
A survey of South Island chief executives revealed they were more worried about health and safety than about increasing sales or winning new markets.
Recruitment agency Sheffield conducted in-depth interviews with the heads of 60 medium to large companies and local authorities for its first leadership survey.
When asked what kept them awake at night, workplace health and safety came out tops at 22 per cent, followed by building the leadership team, political or economic uncertainty (each 10 per cent), and attracting or retaining talent (8 per cent).
Only 3 per cent lost sleep over increasing sales, entering new markets and company reputation.
Sheffield director Mike Stenhouse said concerns about the new Health and Safety Act were to be expected, with many respondents talking about accountability, compliance and the administrative burden.
But the big surprise was that chief executives did not rate dealing with future change as a big issue.
‘‘Why are our leaders not thinking about disruption and change more? Because most of us in our businesses are needing to continually review our business models, and adapt to changing environments.’’
Stenhouse said almost a third of those surveyed did not have a welldefined succession plan for their senior team.
The vast majority said they had internal candidates ready to step up into leadership roles.
But 75 per cent of respondents said it was hard to find leadership talent, with ‘‘soft’’ people skills such as communication in demand.
Just over half said it took new leaders three to six months to get fully up to speed, but 25 per cent said it took more than 18 months.
‘‘We’d argue that’s really too long, and therefore what are companies doing about the quality of their induction and orientation programmes?’’ Stenhouse said.
Another notable finding was that chief executives surveyed did not read widely.
Half reported that they did not read blogs or leadership websites, with even fewer listening to podcasts, Stenhouse said,
‘‘Maybe it raises questions about our leaders needing to take more time to reflect and think strategically about their organisation and where it’s going.
‘‘Are our leaders being too busy being busy and not spending time looking over the horizon at the threats and opportunities out there?’’
New Zealand Institute of Management and Leadership chief executive Debra Buckley said she was not surprised at the reported gap in people skills, and said coaching senior leaders in communication was still common.
‘‘In New Zealand we have promoted on technical ability, not necessarily leadership ability.’’
Buckley said more organisations were looking for tailored education programmes for second tier leaders, and creating opportunities for promotion could be used as a retention strategy.
There was a tension between bringing in new blood and promoting internally, she said.
Christchurch had been through a very tough period after the earthquake where there was a need to bring in new people with appropriate skills, and now there was a feeling of needing to consolidate using existing staff, she said.
"What are companies doing about the quality of their induction and orientation programmes?" Sheffield director Mike Stenhouse