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What Do Over a 1,000 Top CEOs Have to Say About Running a Successful Business?

A few years ago, IBM surveyed 1,500 CEOs. One of the questions they asked was what CEOs thought was the most valuable skill a manager could possess. If you guessed that the most popular response would be something like marketing or operations, you're definitely not alone. That's why the top response to this question came as such a surprise. Creativity was the most common answers CEOs gave to this question. And for those who thought that response was just a fluke, management consultancies like Accenture and BCG have confirmed the importance of creativity in subsequent interviews. 

While this survey confirmed that creativity is important, that's not the only trait CEOs believe is needed to succeed in this role. The ability to adapt to changing circumstances and make the right business model changes based on the new data that's gathered is another trait that landed near the top of the list. The other one that's worth mentioning is the ability to manage complexity. As the world continues to grow more connected, it means business leaders need ways to their organizations through new challenges. 

Based on the CEOs responses to this survey, let's go over some actionable information that you can use to improve your organization: 

Quickly Adapt to Changes 

As previously mentioned, knowing how to respond to change was one of the main traits experienced CEOs believe that every business leader needs. So regardless of the current size of your business, you need to put yourself in a position where you can guide your organization and help it adapt in whatever ways are needed. 

For example, if your business experiences a sudden surge of growth, you need to understand how that affects ever area of its operations. From needing to expand your HR department to finding the right payroll software to ensure accounting doesn't get overwhelmed, it's important to find a balance between looking at the big picture and determining any operational changes that need to be made based on the direction your business is moving. 

Don't Forget About Values 

Creativity among both leaders and employees is another characteristic that can help a business thrive. One reason that some businesses actually fear creativity is because they worry that it's going to lead to boundaries being pushed and the brand being damaged. Although it is possible for something like an ad campaign to be taken too far, you don't have to choose between embracing creativity and protecting your brand. Instead, you simply need to set standards. And the best way for any company to do that is by having a strong set of values. 

At first, taking time to lay down a set of values may sound like an activity that runs counter to creativity. But the reason it's not is once those values are in place and become part of a company's DNA, they can help guide creative endeavors without ever getting in the way of a process or holding it back. 

Focus on Trust 

The reason that issues like ethics and trust are so important is because they truly shape the identity of a company. If you want your business to succeed, you need to foster a feeling of trust among all your employees. In addition to playing a role in our previous discussion about values, trust is crucial for ensuring people are able to fully harness and express their creative side. 

If employees are constantly worried about having their ideas judged in a negative way, they're not going to bring them to the table. But if they know that even if they pitch something that's a little out there, the worst thing that will happen is receiving some constructive criticism, employees can help in unique ways. This same concept should apply to activities like brainstorming. Ideas obviously need to be vetted and analyzed before they're brought to fruition. But during the process of just coming up with ideas, people should be encouraged to throw out any and every idea that comes to mind. 

Running a business isn't easy. Running a successful business is even harder. And while it's not something that everyone is capable of handling, for those who have the right skill set or are willing to work as much as it takes to develop the right skills, leading a business can be a very rewarding experience. By learning how to adapt to change, building a company culture that emphasizes values and focusing on trust, it may not be long until IBM asks you to participate in their next survey of successful CEOs!