Business of Engineering

Eleven questions every CEO should be able to answer without fail

If you’re a CEO, try answering these 11 questions. If you’re not your firm’s CEO but would like to better understand who is in the driver’s seat, try lobbing one or more of these questions during the Q&A section of your firm’s next all-employee Teams meeting.

By Morrissey Goodale September 13, 2021
Courtesy: CFE Media & Technology

Mick Morrissey has worked with countless A/E and environmental firm CEOs over the past 30 years. From founders and entrepreneurs to their successors and appointees. From risk-takers and visionaries to order-takers and penny-pinchers. From humble, level-five, servant leaders to blustering braggards. From business-savvy types to those who couldn’t calculate their firm’s net multiplier. From CEOs who did the hard work of intentionally building and leading high-functioning leadership teams to those who were unaware of the palace coup that was taking place in plain sight around them. (Et tu, Brute?) CEOs who were charismatic and inspiring and a (disappointingly) equal number of CEOs who lacked a motivational gene. And one CEO who bailed on his firm to go work for a competitor when the going got tough.

Whether or not a CEO is effective or successful depends on multiple factors. Some of these can be controlled by the CEO—many are beyond their control. There’s also a healthy amount of luck involved.

However, in my experience, CEOs who can confidently answer* the following 11 questions without fail tend to be more successful and happier in their jobs, get higher grades from stakeholders (internal and external), and have—all things being equal—better-performing firms.

*For the purposes of this exercise, “I don’t know” or “I haven’t thought about that” do not qualify as confident answers.

If you’re a CEO, try answering these 11 questions. If you’re not your firm’s CEO but would like to better understand who is in the driver’s seat, try lobbing one or more of these questions during the Q&A section of your firm’s next all-employee Teams meeting.

Eleven questions for CEOs:

  1. What exactly are you responsible for?
  2. Who are you accountable to?
  3. What is your vision for the firm?
  4. What is your firm’s brand?
  5. Who is your successor?
  6. When will you retire?
  7. What annual return on investment should your owners expect?
  8. What are the biggest risks to your firm?
  9. What is your firm better at than any other firm?
  10. What’s your greatest strength as a CEO?
  11. What’s your biggest weakness or failing as a CEO?

Sure, there are a ton of other questions that Mick asks CEOs when interviewing them such as, “What’s your digital strategy?” etc. However, in his experience these 11 questions get to the heart of the matter. Collectively, the responses are a good predictor as to how successful a CEO will be. They provide insight as to the CEO’s self-awareness, timeline for getting the job done, and capabilities.

This article originally appeared on Morrissey Goodale’s websiteMorrissey Goodale is a CFE Media content partner.


Morrissey Goodale