North Texas CEO Survey: Too Much Uncertainty
But the 2011 SMU Cox respondents remain bullish on Dallas-Fort Worth.
Given that the DFW area is a prime location for business success, we asked the leaders what contributed most to the overall “Quality of Life” in the area. The answers paralleled those of previous years. Cost of living was at the top of the list (56.5 percent), followed by quality of travel and transportation (13.6 percent), and entertainment opportunities, along with weather and climate (7.2 percent each). Although lack of a state income tax and cheaper real estate prices are a natural cost of living draw, the central location and ease of travel to other parts of the nation and world are prime in the business traveler’s mind. Improved international connections, and DART rail expansion to DFW and Love Field, should raise the travel percentage.
Quality entertainment was surely not missing in DFW during 2011. The World Series bid of the Texas Rangers, the Super Bowl, and the NBA Title for the Dallas Mavericks fed the avid sports enthusiast. Currently more than a dozen quality-of-life construction projects are taking place in Dallas. Among these are: downtown parks, the George W. Bush Presidential Center, the new Natural History Museum, the Trinity River Nature Center, and expansions of the Dallas Zoo and Arboretum.
LEADING THROUGH UNCERTAIN TIMES
As American jobs and earnings continued to decrease, and consumer spending also started to decline, mid-year issues with the country’s credit rating and debt ceiling brought the question of leadership to the forefront of the national political debate. We were interested in knowing how these issues would impact the job security of the DFW CEOs. While the nation and world are exploring a path for the difficult and uncertain times, the DFW area leaders displayed a high level of optimism and confidence. When asked how secure and satisfied they felt about their job, 75.9 percent indicated they were either somewhat or very secure. These results have stayed consistent over the list five years. Tough times and tough decisions can produce high levels of dissatisfaction in the workplace. Overall, our leaders continued to carry a high level of job satisfaction (80.1 percent), with only a drop of 5 percent off last year’s “very satisfied” numbers.
Knowing that the current hard times produce difficult challenges that our CEOs must master, we sought to identify some of those challenges, and to discern the characteristics needed to create success. We first asked our leaders to evaluate the quality of leadership that existed in their organizations. A strong 74.4 percent declared that the current leadership depth was either good or excellent.
Sampling the leadership characteristics our CEOs believe are necessary for success, we found the following attributes at the top of the answers: sound decision-making (59.2 percent), strong ethical behavior (56.4 percent), strategic thinking (43.3 percent), and being a good judge of people (29.1 percent).
Good leaders always have personal indicators that give them a reading of how successful they are in leading others. For our leaders the success of the company was the top measuring standard used by 76.6 percent, while 64 percent declared that it was perceiving one’s impact on the lives of employees and customers, and 40.4 percent believed it was revealed in the amount of time spend with those you love.
Good leaders also have confidants with whom they can be totally transparent. When asked whom they rely upon as a sounding board, we found 70 percent listed their spouse, 47.2 percent said “a friend,” and 32.8 percent went to the chief financial officer.
Finally, most leaders attribute the help of a significant person to their successful ascent. When we asked who that person was, we received the following response: parent (32.1 percent), spouse (26.8 percent), and professional mentor (16.4 percent).
THE BOTTOM LINE
Our results mirror those of the previous four annual surveys in that CEO sentiment for our region’s economy was much more positive than that of the U.S. and the world as a whole. However, one distinct difference is that the overall level of sentiment is the most negative to date. Paradoxically, most CEOs have seen their businesses meet or exceed their business objectives and are optimistic about the future profitability of their companies. Perhaps what they are telling us is that they feel good about the things they know (their businesses) but have more doubts about those they don’t. This brings us full circle back to the word “uncertainty.” The extent to which this uncertainty is real or imagined remains to be seen.