Every job has a learning curve, and I’m a firm believer that any professionals should never settle for less. And, in case of startup founders and CEOs, it’s a must not settle for less; because, there is always room for improvement. No matter, how successful business you are running, there is always some new knowledge to gain and continual growth is the only way for you to be a great CEO.
As your business grows, the operations expand and you capture a bigger market share, you need to grow a skilful team to handle the success. Being a CEO of the company, you have the opportunity and directive to nurture your team’s growth, but you may not be able to do it correctly if you do not grow yourself!
Based on all the things I’ve learned from many successful CEOs, I’ve narrowed down some of the most important lessons every CEO should get when they’re first starting out in a hope that they’ll help others.
1) Create a Clear, Consistent Big Picture
Where do you envision your business going as it grows? What is your place in the market – who are you serving and who are you choosing not to serve? Which core functions drive your business’s profits? Which functions are most sustainable? What are the values that drive your company? What do you and your team stand for? What sort of corporate culture are you envisioning? These questions should give you a good idea of what your role as a CEO is supposed to be. You’re there to come up with consistent answers for big questions like this and let those answers guide your team. You need to see the big picture.
2) Give Your Company a Written Action Plan Every Quarter
Follow this link to take a look at my earlier article on drafting a one-page business plan for your company. A big part of your job as the CEO is delivering clear and concise priorities and plans for your team, and it is well within your capacity to update that action plan on a quarterly basis. Note that we’re definitely not talking about a dense, heavy strategic document that’s easier to ignore than to consult. What I’m pointing you toward here is a quarterly action plan that fits on a page and provides useful guidance. What are your three top priorities for the quarter? Does each one have clear goals and an easy way to measure progress? Do you have concrete steps that chart the path between your company’s current condition and the goals you’ve set for the quarter?
After you’ve set the tone by delivering a few quarters’ worth of action plans, I suggest expanding the program by getting subordinates to craft their own quarterly plans. These should still be limited to one page and focus specifically on each leader’s department. This process ensures that everyone stays focused on productive goals and also leaves behind a roadmap that you can use for accountability.
3) Hold Your Company Accountable for Reaching For the Goals You Set
The resources available to your company are always limited. Time, money, talent, and attention all need to be focused on the key points where they can do the most good. As the CEO at the top, it’s not just your job to identify those key points, but also to hold the whole team accountable for maintaining their focus. You need to hold yourself accountable for your efforts too!
Brian, for example, was directing a company that typically required 36 months to bring a new product from the design stage to mass-producing a sales-ready product on their assembly line. A careful analysis of the process determined that shortening that time would produce an additional $250,000 of profit for the company per product per year cut out of the development cycle.
Brian set this as an overriding long-term goal. Behavioral changes aren’t easy to implement, and Brian dedicated himself and his team to making slow but continual changes in order to trim the amount of time required for production. After two years of consistent effort, they reduced their development time from 36 months to 12.
Your role as the CEO is to be the champion for the priorities, values, and goals that drive the company forward. This blog post from Redline covers some ground on this.
4) Use Creativity to Keep the Message Fresh without Changing It
Delivering a consistent message to your team is a huge part of doing your job effectively. If you try putting out the exact same message time after time, though, you run the risk of turning into background noise and getting ignored by your team. That means you always need to be brainstorming new ways to get the same message across.
Start a new awards program; promote new traditions; highlight exemplary behavior with exceptional rewards; share stories that promote the key values you want to impart to your team members. You always do not need money to motivate people; there are a lot of ways to motivate your team without monetary benefits.
Be passionate, persistent, and precise about your message. Say it as many different ways as you can, but keep the core information consistent. Remember that you’re providing long-term leadership, not a quick fix.
5) Groom Your Subordinates
Developing the leaders beneath you just might be the most important part of being a CEO. Who’s already on your leadership team? Who are you going to need to add? Are there people within your current organization who are ready to move up? Do you have urgent holes that need filling?
Take the time to thoroughly review each leader’s responsibilities and talents about twice a year. Most of the time, you can clearly identify an area you need to help them improve in the next six months. Though the stakes are high, remember that this is a marathon job that will take years to finish.
These are the five most vital tips for being a CEO that I’ve been able to come up with. Though I didn’t understand them myself when I was starting out, I’m hoping that they’ll be of use to you.