0 minutes read

How to select the right CEO to upscale your business

Editorial Team
14/01/2020 10:04 AM

One of the most important
assignments for any Board of Directors is to hire the right CEO and the right
supporting executives. This is not an easy job. Most boards are left frustrated
after completing the processing of hiring the CEO. The frustration stems from
the fact that the person fails to deliver as expected. More frustrating is that
generally, Board members may not have consensus on what performance for a CEO
looks like. They may also not have a consensus on what failure or non-performance
is for the role of a CEO. When the Board has no consensus on these issues
company performance deteriorates very fast. If the Shareholders are vigilant the
Board will be fired. How then can Boards hire the best candidate for a CEO
role? “Just three in five
newly appointed CEOs live up to performance expectations in their first 18
months on the job.” Eben Harrell, “Succession planning: What the research
says,” Harvard Business Review, December 2016, pp. 70–74,

  1. The first step in hiring a great CEO is to
    agree on what they will be doing. The job profile of the target CEO needs to be
    done thoroughly. Boards have the tendency to copy generic job descriptions from
    other companies or from the internet. How do you get the right profile for the
    role? You may need to interview Board members {provided they have an in-depth
    understanding of the business and where it is going}. This information should
    be combined with what scientific research says about successful CEOs. The other
    way is also to look at literature and what it says about CEOs that failed. Do
    they have a certain profile? Once you find the profile of unsuccessful CEOs you
    can then avoid hiring one.
  2. In the job profile avoid overemphasising experience as experience has no
    relationship with performance. Some organisations miss exceptional talent
    because in the job profile they have put requirements such as; 10 years
    experience at the CEO level. In
    an article by Alison Beard {Harvard Business Review}, she reports on a study
    by  Chad H. Van Iddekinge {et al}  of Florida University, they reviewed 81
    studies to investigate the connection between an Individual’s prior work
    experience and performance in a new organisation.  The results are revealing; they found no
    significant relationship. What is even more worrying is that even in cases
    where people had worked in exactly the same role in other organisations, they
    found no significant relationship.  What
    this means is that scientific research shows that candidates who have more
    experience do not perform better than those with less experience in a job.  What this means for employers is that they do
    not overemphasize years of experience when hiring as that has no relationship
    with actual job performance. Most employers prefer to put arbitrary experience
    requirements that are not backed by research. This makes the selection process
    based on this criterion more unstandardized leading to the selection of the
    wrong people for the job.
  3. Do
    not put unrealistic educational requirements. Remember years of eduction only
    contribute 1% to job performance variance. As people move into senior roles
    their technical knowhow matters less and less. What you need is a visionary
    capable of executing your strategy.  You
    do not necessarily need a miner to run a mine. 
    You do not need a medical doctor to run a hospital. What would be
    important on qualifications is to indicate the first degree as a requirement. You
    may also want to include for example 5 major verifiable achievements that
    changed the course of business. I notice some put a Masters degree as a
    mandatory requirement or an added advantage. This adds no value. It does not
    follow that your best candidates will have a master degree. The situation is
    worse in Zimbabwe where qualifications are easy to obtain, properly or fraudulently.
    There is no added advantage in demanding a Master degree for a CEO role.
  4. You
    need to consider first time CEOs. There is a tendency to want to hire people
    who are already CEOs. There is a pool of talented people at the executive level
    who are never given a chance to be CEOs. As a board, you must always give
    opportunities to people at the executive level who have never been CEOs as long
    as they are capable
  5. After shortlisting
    your CEO candidates based on their CVs, take them through psychometric
    assessment to check if they have the cognitive power and the right personality
    to handle the role. It is bad practice to start with the interview then send
    people for psychometric tests.  Research
    shows that the interview methods on average only explain 8% of the variation in
    performance. This means that if you hire 100 people using an interview there is
    a chance you will find only 8 of these people being good performers despite
    your interview results have confirmed all the 100 candidates as performers. 
  6. After
    psychometric assessments, the successful candidates must then be taken through
    assessment centers. In an assessment center candidates goes through simulations
    of the target role, in this case, the CEO role. 
    They will be assessed in those simulations by trained assessors. Some of
    the exercises are role-playing, leaderless group discussion, presentation and
    the in-basket exercise. In the assessment center, you are now assessing a
    variety of leadership competencies required in the role.
  7. The
    last important part is the interview. Given the shortcomings in an interview
    doing it as the last part reduces your risk of hiring the wrong CEO. You would
    need standardized questions and a standardised environment for the interviews.
    The people who will be part of the interview panel  need to be trained so that they are equipped
    with interview skills

This process above
will ensure that you get the right CEO for your organisation. Remember good
CEOs tend to hire good lieutenants as well.

Memory Nguwi is an Occupational Psychologist, Data
Scientist, Speaker, & Managing Consultant- Industrial Psychology
Consultants (Pvt) Ltd a management and human resources consulting firm. https://www.linkedin.com/in/memorynguwi/ Phone +263 4
481946-48/481950/2900276/2900966 or cell number +263 77 2356 361 or email: mnguwi@ipcconsultants.com  or visit our
website at www.ipcconsultants.com

Editorial Team

This article was written by one of the consultants at IPC

Latest Posts

Our Services
Can Help You


170 Arcturus Road, Greendale, Harare, Zimbabwe

Sign Up For Newsletter

Receive articles and jobs straight to your inbox