Talk to Us
Talk to Us
Hein J.M. Knaapen July 30 2020 8 min read

CEOs Under Pressure to Focus

It is up to you as CEO to calm the chaos and focus your organization’s people and resources on values-based value creation.

Considering the number and scope of the decisions you have to make these days, it’s probably not even humanly possible to look at everything being brought to you. The reality is that the important, urgent issues being thrown at you are not going to stop. The emotions being stirred up are not going to subside quickly. Spreading yourself thin to cover everything won’t get you or your company far in this day and age. What you need is leverage.

Now is the time to step back, think long and hard about what you and your organization really need to be taking on, and focus on that.

The CEO’s Focusing Tool

Everywhere you turn, new problems are rampant, and expectations of fast solutions are high. You may be dealing with fallout from the pandemic and George Floyd’s murder. At the very least, you’re most likely working around some combination of shelter-in-place orders and border restrictions, protests and supply shortages, furloughs, and government aid.

People are looking to you as the CEO to create positive change. According to Edelman’s 2020 Trust Barometer Survey, 92% of their 34,000 respondents believe that it is critically important for you to take a stand and speak out publicly about training for tomorrow’s jobs, income inequality, diversity, climate change, and immigration. Seventy-four percent think you should take the lead on these issues and not wait for the government.1

The challenge is that, even in the best of times, organizations, like individuals, naturally tend to spread a lot of energy in all directions and waste a lot of time. No one can afford to do that right now.

Whether your enterprise is flourishing, suffering, or relatively neutral in the current environment, you and your CFO need to figure out how the company can create as much value as possible before existing competitors or nimble startups nab market share. You and your CHRO somehow need to identify, (re)deploy and manage the talented individuals who will drive the creation and protection of that value. And all three of you together need to quantify and mitigate the risks in these critical talent deployments and in hot-button issues like inclusion and safety.

When I was CHRO at ING Group (before the pandemic), I worked with Sandy Ogg and his team using the Talent to Value methodology, which tightly links talent decisions to value creation for the company. The process made it very clear in our minds that we had spread our people thinly over far too many priorities that did not significantly contribute to our company’s value agenda. I have since joined Sandy's team at CEO Works and have been working with organizations on enhancing company value by implementing the key concepts and best practices of Talent to Value.

In the coming weeks, I’ll be sharing the insights I have gained into the underlying principles of this contemporary approach, along with my observations as to how these principles can evolve our HR practices to meet today’s challenges.


1 Edelman Trust Barometer 2020 Global Report, Pp. 17 and 27. Accessed June 26, 2020 at  


Hein J.M. Knaapen

Hein is an internationally recognized expert on HR innovation, talent development, and organizational capability building. As an advisor and mentor, he aims to guide leaders toward maximizing the return on their talent investments.

Related Articles

Hein J.M. Knaapen October 3 2023 11 min read

Boosting Growth: How People Analytics Elevates Enterprise Value

Many HR professionals are extolling the virtues of people analytics. Some see it as a lever of organizational effectiveness; ...
Start Reading
Hein J.M. Knaapen May 20 2020 10 min read

Preparing to Reopen After the Crisis

This is the first article in a series by Hein Knaapen, the former CHRO of ING Bank, and’ new managing partner in ...
Start Reading
Hein J.M. Knaapen May 1 2023 9 min read

Pursuing ESG: How CHROS Deliver by Creating Enterprise Value

You want to create a better world for future generations—and you want to create enterprise value. Can you really do both? ...
Start Reading