By Stacy Eads
April 5, 2022

CEOs leading in unprecedented times

Meeting with a top team of executives for days on end gives you insight.
CEO buttoning suit jacket

As an executive business coach, I have the unique vantage point of being welcomed behind the private curtain of dozens of corporations and small businesses. It’s an intimate look at their finances, long-term strategies, and short-term concerns to tackle.

Meeting with a top team of executives for days on end gives you an insight into the commonalities across industries during this unprecedented time in history.

What are the universal stressors, actionable levers, and planning discussion themes I’m seeing that your Edmond business should also be having?

Well, let’s start with the positive! Optimism is high for 2022 according to Deloitte’s latest survey of Fortune 500 CEOs. Of 175 respondents, 65% expect growth to be strong or very strong this year. I am seeing that hopefulness in my annual and quarterly strategic thinking and execution planning sessions across the U.S. and Canada.

What are the key constraints of 2022?

That C-suite optimism is balanced with four key constraints that most executive teams are tackling in 2022: labor, pandemic, supply chain, and inflation. 

Some of these Fortune 500 CEO concerns are clearly carry-over from what began in 2020. However, you should know that each one is still just as sizzling of a hot topic today as the first day those struggles began. My clients confirm that every day, every week, and every month, these are the rotating four to five topics set on repeat as they seek solutions to overcome and prevail.

Every day, there is a persistent need to retain your A-player talent during the Great Resignation that has some companies seeing turnover metrics never seen before in their 40+ year history.

Every week, your HR department or outsourced temp-to-hire and direct placement firms are drowning in company job openings with very few applicant life preserver rings being thrown their way. More and more articles confirm that every generation is leaving the workforce pool of applicants for completely different reasons.

Every month, you’re watching the latest up and down trends of a new COVID variant, along with testing supplies, mask needs, and safety concerns for your manufacturing, warehouse, and office staff who are the first responders of this economy. 

And your concerns don’t start at the port with the shipping containers, they begin farther back up the chain where an overseas third-party workforce constraint brought by illness means your vendor parts and component pieces are not being produced by many more countries than just China. Each chip shortage impacts you. Every factory that closes for 5-10 days with an outbreak touches a global market anxiously awaiting production to even be placed onto the shipping containers.

Inflation headlines, the rising cost of goods, vendor contract rate increases, and unstable pricing of raw materials like wood, paper, and metals that go up and down like a seesaw have your sales and pricing teams feeling dizzy.

It’s incredible to see the hope and optimism of CEOs among this laundry list of conversations occurring. It’s in their unstoppable DNA to keep going, push farther, find a work-around, and inspire the team.

The Fortune sentiment is echoed by CEO Daniel Marcos of The Growth Institute along with John Wilson, CEO and founder of the CEO network. Their data and combined announcements paint a clear picture of five areas keeping executive teams restless at the wee hours of the morning, pacing the floors at 2 a.m. for those ingenious solutions.

What are the top five things keeping CEOs up at night?

  1. The war on talent. Both hiring and retaining great people.
  2. The supply chain and inflation challenges.
  3. Building and maintaining a strong culture that keeps people engaged and growing in the Great Resignation while swiftly shifting “work norms” continue to impact employees.
  4. The speed of innovation and how technology is changing every industry.
  5. Burnout and mental/physical health (both for the CEO and the entire team at large).

Did you notice a trend in that list? Three of the top five things leaders are losing the most sleep over have to do with people

People have always been one of the four decisions every scaling company growing at a rapid pace needs to get right. The complete set of four are people, strategy, execution, and cash. After all, without people, who would innovate your strategy or execute your plan?

In order to grow highly engaged teams that choose to join, stay, engage, and thrive in the company, many CEOs are turning to their total employee compensation packages and benefits with a fresh perspective. Bank of America is handing out $1 billion worth of restricted stock to its workforce as they seek to gain an upper hand in the war for talent.

Some small businesses are adding mental health benefits and access to virtual therapists. Others are insuring “key man policies” or ramping up salary-based and hourly pay plans. Golden handcuff bonuses that require staying power to unlock a financial windfall are now on the table, too. 

The four-day work week has emerged as a contender for some industries to win the talent war, while permanent work-from-home policies are seeing success in recruiting the type of talent best suited for that structure.

Employee ESOP plans (employee stock ownership or employee share ownership) allow a firm’s employees to own shares in that company. U.S. employees typically acquire shares through a share option plan. In the U.K., Employee Share Purchase Plans are common with deductions made from an employee’s salary to purchase shares over time.

Innovative small business owners and mid-market companies have also turned to the Great Game of Business model by Jack Stack to both reward and incentivize teamwork and net profit margin success with quarterly payouts that ramp up toward a terrific end-of-year bonus near the holidays. It teaches your employees how a business runs, how it makes a profit, and what they can each do in their specific role to ensure the team metrics are hit for a bonus. Two of my clients fell in love with the model, and it’s been a pleasure watching that implementation spring to life.

Remember your role as CEO is not only as the Chief Executive Officer, but 2022 will require you to deploy your “Chief Energy Officer” status to encourage your culture to grow through what you go through.

If you’re running a company right now – no matter the size – and you’re feeling the squeeze of these four to five pressure points, seek assistance from a coach or fellow entrepreneur. We are all here to help in your time of need. You don’t have to walk this journey alone.

It helps to talk it through with someone else who feels your pain and is abreast of the current solutions that could give you some relief. For some entrepreneurs, that’s a private coach like me. For others, it’s a peer group like the global Entrepreneurs’ Organization or Young President’s Organization.

Whichever method is right for you, it’s never a sign of weakness to ask for help. In fact, that’s the strongest stance you can take as a leader in these turbulent and changing times. If you would like a 30-minute free consultation about any of these constraints, please reach out today

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About Stacy Eads

Edmond native & UCO Alumna, Stacy Eads, is an award-winning “Most Admired CEO” who scaled her company as a Woman in Tech before becoming an International Scaling Up Business Coach. She now empowers other CEOs from $2M to $200M to embrace their leadership potential through quarterly strategic planning. Her talent is in high demand to CEO Coach, Train Teams, and Speak at Events in both the U.S.A. and Canada.

Stacy Eads’ career affiliations include 50 Women Making a Difference award, Circle of Excellence award, Torch Ethics award, Most Admired CEO award, Edmond Chamber & UCO Mentor, Better Business Bureau of Central Oklahoma Board of Directors, TEDx OKC Speaker Coach, and Ambassador Chairwoman for the Greater OKC Chamber of Commerce.