A Message to the New CEO

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From Wall Street to Silicon Valley, executive turnover has become pervasive across the business world. Companies that were once unshakeable, from Microsoft to BlackBerry, are seeking new leadership and dedicated stakeholders to guide them through a business climate that is almost unrecognizable from just a few years ago.

Around the world, companies and governments alike are experiencing the dawn of a new era. Today’s leaders don’t just have an opportunity, but rather have a strategic imperative to drive step change. Mobile, social, and cloud computing have transformed customer expectations, and the time is now to lead our organizations into this new era which is all about the customer.

As CEO of a young startup that works alongside numerous Fortune 500 organizations, I’ve had the opportunity to see how a variety of different companies are embracing innovation, and thriving as a result.

Here are my top three strategic recommendations for leaders to execute today in order to stay relevant and competitive in the social media era:

1. Get Social

The world has truly become social and mobile. The new CEO needs to understand how social media has transformed nearly every aspect of business, from customer service to marketing to sales.

Customer service was the first area to be most affected by the social media revolution because companies quickly realized they couldn’t just ignore customer complaints (and praise) published on social networks. Next, marketing jumped into the fray with corporate pages promoting the brand. Recruiters too, who have always understood the power of person-to-person referrals, have embraced social technologies to find the right fit at their organizations.

Finally, sales could be the business area most dramatically affected by social. If you know what your customers and fans are most passionate about, then you can sell them the products they actually want and give them the support they need when they need it. A decade ago, that would have sounded like fantasy, but today that’s simply the power of social media.

2. Disrupt Yourself

Technology innovations are transforming how everyday people go about their lives and it’s changing how businesses work. At the same time, there’s an unprecedented pace and breadth of disruption taking place even in industries traditionally not touched by technology. Companies tapping into the new collaboration economy, like Airbnb and Uber, are turning upside down the hospitality and transportation industries, respectively. Google and Tesla have spurred car companies the world over to rethink their plans. And Amazon Prime and eBay have given every company in the retail industry very real competition in the form of next-day deliveries.

No industry is immune anymore: if you don’t disrupt yourself, then your competitors will.

3. Prepare Your Organization to Adapt

It’s critical that the new CEO be a strong leader adept at dealing with change because, going forward, constant and unrelenting change is the “new normal.” There are three ways to do this.

First, hire smart, creative people and incentivize innovation. This is an essential first step because it lays the groundwork for how your organization responds to obstacles at the ground level. Next, create the right culture. Encourage all those smart people you hired to take risks and experiment. Some of those risks will end positively and some of those experiments might not. That’s okay, because you can celebrate failures as learning opportunities and a chance to collect meaningful data so you don’t repeat those mistakes. Finally, accelerate your company’s cadence. Facebook’s mantra of “move fast and break things” may not work for all companies and services, but the spirit of acting quickly certainly applies.

Clearly, the battles will be unique and challenging for leaders across companies of different sizes and different industries, but today’s disruptive climate presents an incredible opportunity for the CEO to take the reins and steer ahead of the competition.

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