A pre-emptive post mortem

When the dust settles following each year’s Top 50 CEO program, we like to touch base with the award winners. We ask them for their thoughts on the magazine and the gala, about the selection process and quality of communication. Compliments and criticisms are equally welcome; that’s how we know what to change and what to retain. Times change, and so do we. It’s a good thing. We’re always working to improve anything associated with our brand.

The biggest difference you’ll notice this year is how we’ve presented the Top 50. Since initiating these awards, we’ve always included a photo and a brief profile of each CEO. This, our 16th annual salute to corporate leadership excellence, is decidedly different. About halfway through the magazine, you’ll find a four-page list of award winners followed by a series of related stories and infographics.

Why such a drastic change? Last year, our survey yielded a number of recommendations from the award winners suggesting that the content might be more meaningful for our readers if we focused on leadership themes instead of personal profiles. Think about that: a group of business leaders eschewing personal glory because they thought there were more valuable lessons to be shared.

I wasn’t surprised (add it to my evergrowing list of reasons why I love covering the business community in Atlantic Canada). What did surprise me, however, was the number of respondents who said they couldn’t comment on the selection process because they didn’t know how the CEOs were chosen. This, after having first been nominated by one of their peers, then being notified of that nomination by a representative of Atlantic Business Magazine, and then completing a very detailed nominee information form. This, even though we have full disclosure about eligibility criteria and step-by-step selection procedures on our website. How, I thought, could anyone possibly not understand?

The more I thought about it, the more puzzled I was. Naturally, this led to some follow-up questions. Turns out that the confusion wasn’t about who was eligible (nominees must lead a company or organization whose head office is in Atlantic Canada, or who is in charge of a provincial/ regional head office that has significant decision-making and organizational autonomy). Nor was it about the process of getting nominated (it’s open to the public via an online nomination form). Nor did it relate to either the nominee information form (a straightforward Word document) or the judges (all of whom are Top 50 CEO Hall of Famers).

No, it was more fundamental and inexcusable than that: our own award winners didn’t know what criteria are used to name them a Top 50 CEO award winner. It’s on our website (see Top 50 CEO selection process), but that obviously isn’t enough.

For any enquiring minds who want to know, here’s what the judges are asked to assess, based entirely on information provided on the nominee information forms.

  • What was the most difficult challenge the nominee faced in the past year? Judges are asked to consider the level of difficulty, the appropriateness and creativity of the response as well as the result. (Max. 20 pts.)
  • Has the nominee’s company/organization expanded in revenue and/or staff over the past three years? Judges must take into account the organization’s size, age and industrial sector. (Max. 30 pts.)
  • Professional affiliations – is there proof that the nominee is a leader in their field, someone who regularly reaches outside their company to stay ahead of current trends? (Max. 10 pts.)
  • Volunteer work/community involvement that demonstrates the nominee’s personal commitment to the greater good. (Max. 10 pts.)
  • Regional, national or international awards/recognitions (Max. 10 pts.)
  • Assessment of overall leadership ability (Max. 20 pts.)

Looking for some bonus inside information? Don’t waste the judges’ time. They are accomplished, award-winning executives and they’re volunteering dozens of hours to sift through the nominee information forms. If you’re a nominee, don’t pass it off to your executive assistant or communications advisor to fill out on your behalf. And don’t submit five-word answers (or 500-word ones either). Be honest and be thorough. Even if the judges know you personally, your Top 50 status is determined by what you include on that form .

Dawn Chafe
About Dawn Chafe

For the past 19 years, Dawn has been editor of Atlantic Canada’s most award-winning and largest circulation business magazine: Atlantic Business Magazine. Under her editorial direction, Atlantic Business Magazine has won 14 Atlantic Journalism Awards, three TABBIE international business press awards and two KRW national business press awards.

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