Safety the top stress for CEOs

The Press - - Business - AMANDA CROPP

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


Hy­droWorks has just com­pleted com­mis­sion­ing five mini-hy­dro en­ergy sys­tems in Mel­bourne.

Sheffield di­rec­tor Mike Sten­house says too many chief executives lack a wellde­fined suc­ces­sion plan for their se­nior team.

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