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So You Want To Be A CEO …

10th October 2017

Becoming a CEO or being a good one is a difficult task, including being CEO of a small/medium business, where sometimes the role is not even titled CEO.  

Below are a few points to consider to help you be the best CEO you can be:

  1. Choose the style of CEO you want to be.  Consultative, dynamic, innovative, strong, etc.  Having a style you choose is better than accidentally falling into one that may or may not be optimal for the business and for you.
  2. (Continue to) grow and work your network of professionals for your own learning and development, as well as having accessible trusted expertise.
  3. (Continue to) grow a pool of people ready to bring into the business for when positions come up, rather than just going to market each time.
  4. Be prepared to get rid of people who aren’t right and swiftly.  That may not a politically correct statement but there can be no apology for working to the fundamental that only the right group of people will get the job done effectively.
  5. Know the trademark you want to be known for and behave accordingly.  This is related to the first point but also different.  As a comment, surely fair and respectful are two big ones for any CEO, but there are others you will want to include in your own trademark.
  6. Ensure you practise think time .. for planning, review (self, business, other businesses, competitors), vision, opportunities, etc.  It’s always talked about but too many fall into not doing it (enough).  It’s such an obvious point that it gets lost very quickly.
  7. Don’t get stuck in your own industry.  Running a successful business is easiest when components are learnt from a wide array of other successful businesses, not just from those in your own industry.
  8. Don’t be someone who takes the first block of time in the role to restructure.  How old hat and ineffective.  It’s the first card that new CEO’s tend to play but if you think about how many businesses have taken significant leaps forward due to a restructure of an organisation chart there aren’t many.  Success has deeper roots than that.
  9. If you don’t challenge and change some of the paradigms in your industry and/or business itself you risk being just another CEO.  Paradigms are the given circumstances that surround the workings of the industry and the business.  Working within existing paradigms will leave your business swimming in the same sea as all competitors.
  10. You must be expert in or draw consistently from experts in at least the following areas:  digital marketing, leading technology, finance, people and performance, operational efficiency.  These areas are pivotal to moving a business forward successfully.
  11. Manage your own life well … it’s on show to others.  A CEO whose life is in disarray, is overly stressed, works too hard, whose family or personal relationships are suffering from work or who is unhealthy, is hardly an example for others to follow or aspire to.
  12. Plan your stay in the role for between 3 to 5 years, no more.  The freshness has gone by that time, and so too has some of the objectivity and creativity.  Experience is not having a similar year over and over again.
  13. Don’t worry about finding and training your successor … that’s a fallacy.  The business can source a replacement.  Just do the job well while you’re in it.
  14. Don’t tie people up in endless meetings.  Is there much worse for staff?
  15. Don’t manage by email.  It may be time efficient for the CEO but it does not work for others.
  16. Never lose your temper.  It will destroy trust.
  17. Experience the jobs of people within the business, often, or risk being out of touch with what they experience on a daily basis.
  18. Ensure ongoing valid feedback about the customer experience the business is delivering, from a variety of people, including customers of course.
  19. Don’t create change for change sake.  It’s about selected change.
  20. Take risks or perish.  Business is a risk in itself so don’t make it any riskier by not taking any.
  21. Don’t fall for “I’m the CEO; I don’t do the work. I lead, strategize, plan and network”.  That doesn’t work.  Get your hands dirty sometimes.
  22. Surround yourself with people smarter than you … ensure they tell you what you don’t want to hear and give them credit where it’s due.