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Observations of an Irish CEO

by Paddy Collins on September 22nd, 2011
speakers at mba stuff

Patrick Coveney, Margaret McSweeney & Pat McCann speak at MBA Mtg.

The MBA Association organized a very interesting meeting last evening during which three high profile CEOs talked about their experiences in the role. It was a unique opportunity to hear first-hand their views on the success factors for a CEO in today’s business world.

First up was Patrick Coveney of Greencore plc who made the following observations:

– Not having a boss for the first time in your career is a challenging phenomenon; self awareness and self management skills become critical.

– He emphasized the importance of providing genuine leadership to his immediate team and ensuring they are constantly ‘refreshed’.

–  The pace, mood and culture of the organization will reflect those of the CEO.

–  Decisions – it is important to focus on the quality decisions ie those that have real impact and not on the quantity of decisions.

–  He advised caution about taking feedback at face value because everybody who meets the CEO has their own agenda. 

–  All stakeholders need to be managed especially the board, customers, employees and debt holders……..(no reference was made to shareholders though!).

– Having had an impressive career, the role of CEO is the most interesting one he’s had because of the vast array and variety of issues arising on a daily basis.

Margaret Sweeney, former CEO of Post Bank & DAA followed:

– Margaret emphasized the overall importance of being a strong team player with well developed emotional intelligence. The CEO needs to be able to deal with many strong personalities, emotions and business situations.

– Emotions in business are counter-productive and need to be removed from the decision-making process.

– The excitement of business is the challenge of finding the ‘optimum’ solution in a particular circumstance (this may not be the right solution but the best at the time!)

– The CEO needs to be confident and needs to portray confidence to others. It is important to know your values and beliefs and stick to them through business situations.

– The CEO needs to be able to communicate clearly to remove fear, uncertainty and provide direction to the organisation.

– Peripheral vision is also essential – the CEO needs to be able to see way beyond what is being reported up through conventional lines.

 Pat McCann, Dalata Hotel Group, completed the line-up, adding some further insights:

–  The CEO is in a very isolated position – he/she needs to be prepared to take the blame and roll with the punches when things are bad.

– The job never ends………..but the CEO should regularly take time out to review situations and make business decisions. The CEO also needs private time to foresee pitfalls for the business but also find opportunities.

– All stakeholders rely on the CEO – it is quite a burden to be responsible for the livelihood of employees and their families.

– The CEO needs to be able to handle the great intensity and unprecedented challenges facing business in Ireland and internationally today.

– Within a business people want to see a winning leader – it is important to be inspiring because the organization will reflect the behaviour of the CEO.

A very interesting observation on Non Executive Directors also emerged: these CEOs don’t want to see NED candidates with unblemished careers – they need people who have experienced all the difficult situations, who have learned from their mistakes, who have the business maturity not to panic but work through challenging situations.

Despite all the trials, tribulations and challenges inherent in the role of CEO all three wouldn’t dream of changing it!

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