CEO success depends on the ability to fulfill the ultimate responsibility: leading the company boldly into the future and inspiring and guiding people to achieve specific results.

After years of consulting with and coaching executives from the likes of GE, Motorola, Chevron, BHP Billiton, and also many much smaller companies, I’m sure that transforming corporate results must be driven from the top — and then supported throughout the company. CEOs that are able to align their executive team with a bold and compelling vision, empower it to begin the task of mobilizing the rest of the company.

Senior executives frequently ask me some version of version of, “How do I get my people to…” The answer lies in the words of one of the most inspirational change leaders of all time, Mahatma Gandhi, who said, “Be the change you wish to see in others,” and “Never underestimate just how much human beings are willing to change if you only engage them the right way.”

There are five critical elements that cause dramatic shifts in business results and separate the stellar CEO from the mediocre performers. These five elements, when effectively in place, can transform a company’s results — significantly improving morale, creativity, and execution of any strategy or initiative. I hope that you will reflect on these 5 elements as an opportunity to generate unprecedented success for your company.

The first element is having a bold and compelling vision. Leading the effort to create a compelling vision that is inspiring enough to accomplish both long and short-term objectives is the responsibility of the CEO. A vision should be bold, and as intimidating as it is exciting. Bill Gates had a compelling vision: a PC on every desk and in every home. This vision guided Microsoft for 15 years. Once created, the CEO must pursue the vision tenaciously, passionately, and compassionately to inspire the rest of the company to realize it. When a company has such clarity and conviction from the CEO, it has its brilliant North Star and a worthy captain as its guide. Are you clear and unwavering in your pursuit of a future that is bold, exciting, and that inspires others to action?

Second, the CEO must Align the Executive Team so that the top-level managers are not only fully behind the vision but also leading the company toward the vision with passion and commitment. Without such alignment, the executive team and the entire company are handicapped — the severity depends on the extent to which the team members are still arguing about decisions already made, sabotaging, or speaking and acting inconsistently from the vision. Without alignment, the executive team can waste hours in indecision and debate — time that could have been spent on implementing growth strategies, delighting customers, or creating the next big thing. Getting all employees rowing in the same direction with tenacity and vigor starts with the executive team. It requires work that many leaders fail at because they simply lack the skills to resolve conflict, make decisions, commit and maintain the alignment over time. Is each member of your Executive Team committed to the same vision strategy and plans with the passion and follow-through required to make it happen?

The third element is Engaging and Mobilizing the Workforce. If you want your employees to contribute their best work with joy and dedication to the corporate vision and specific objectives you must know how to reach their hearts and their minds. Inspiration is the stuff that leadership and getting results are made of. I am absolutely certain that your leaders are perfectly prepared to lead the company to get the results they have been getting — for which they should be generously acknowledged. However, to stimulate performance at an entirely different level, managers will need to tap into their own most powerful and authentic leadership qualities and communicate most effectively. They must also have the ability to listen for and draw out passion, commitment, and ability and provide the tools needed to win. Are your employees producing the specific results you seek?

The fourth element is a Corporate Culture that Supports the Vision and strategy. Corporate culture is as critical a structure for success as information technology, machinery, organizational hierarchy, or the building that houses your firm. Modifying it will require removing some aspects and instilling new aspects of thinking, behaving and communicating. To some, this will seem vague and difficult, but it need not be so.

While designing and creating a culture is rarely something we learned in business or engineering school we unconsciously create culture daily, with every action and every communication – or lack thereof. The task for your executive team is to be the change by designing, modeling, and coaching employees to exhibit the new behaviors that represent the modified corporate culture that will support rather than hinder the effective execution of the strategy.

Without a shift in culture throughout the company, the company will be limited to its current trajectory of results. Designing a culture to fulfill your vision provides the glue for success. Does your company’s culture support the level of results you seek?

The fifth element, which enables all the others, is Letting Go of Limitations. Just as the old way of working will only get you more of what you already have, methods of incremental change, Total Quality Management (TQM) will only create results that are a little better, a little more, or a little different. Redirecting a company toward a new vision, strategy and dramatically different results requires freedom from limitations and an approach that is far more ambitious. Such a mind shift allows your executive team and the entire company to let go of the limitations of the past and focus on a bold new future as if painting on a blank canvas. Are you consistently able to lead yourself and your employees beyond the limitations of the past?

Consider answering the following 5 questions honestly.

5 Critical Questions for the CEO

1. Are you clear and unwavering in your pursuit of a future that is bold and exciting and that inspires other to action?

2. Does each member of the Executive Team support the vision with the level of passion and commitment required to make it happen?

3. Are your employees producing the specific results you seek?

4. Does your company’s culture support the level of results you seek?

5. Are you consistently able to lead yourself and your employees beyond the limitations of the past?

If you don’t like your answers to the questions above, the time is now to begin creating and aligning the company to a bold new vision. If you are concerned with meeting year-end goals or understanding what needs to be done internally for your firm to remain competitive next year, or in five years, the question is not, Do I have time to deal with this? but rather, what is the cost not to deal with it?

Once you create clarity of focus on a compelling vision and strategy at the top of the organization, bring the exec team to a higher level of functioning, and bring next-level leaders into the fold with responsibilities and specific goals that align with critical initiatives, you have a foundation from which to bring great success to the entire organization and to all stakeholders. As the CEO, accept the responsibility for bringing the firm to the next level. If you are not the CEO, consider what role you are willing to play in inspiring your executive team to act now.

Shoot us a note to start a conversation about what next-level results look like for your company.


Matthew Levy is the Chief Catalyst and principal of RESULTS MANAGEMENT GROUP, LLC, a growth management consulting and executive coaching firm that dramatically shifts business results by facilitating the creation of compelling visions and strategiesaligning executive and other management teamsdeveloping an organizational capacity to manage execution and designing organizational environments and family business governance that support collaboration and the attainment of dramatically better results in any area.