Think like a CEO? Do you?
Big Red Car here. Getting back to business in the aftermath of all things Trump. Nice break.
So, The Boss is talking to one of his best CEOs and the Big Red Car is eavesdropping. They’re eating breakfast, the All American Breakfast, at Texas French Bread on 29th Street close to the University and right next to Breed Hardware.
The CEO says, “For the first time, I think I’m starting to think like a CEO.”
The Boss, wanting to concentrate on his scrambled eggs, says, “Do tell. What exactly does that mean?”
There was bacon involved and it was crisp and hot. Thick cut. Maple cured. The scrambled eggs could have been a bit softer but The Boss forgot to suggest that to the waiter.
Think like a CEO
Being a CEO is a very tough job. It should be; it is also one of the best jobs you can ever have. Really good jobs are always tough.
It is a job which will find and expand any anxieties you might have. That is the nature of the job. We talked about that.
This previous blog post lays out how to combat the natural anxiety. It is a mechanical, stepping stone solution and it works every time. Better than aspirin. Don’t be so anxious that you don’t re-read it.
“I’ve learned to plan,” said the CEO. “Everything isn’t happening with my hair on fire. I can plan stuff before I have to do it. I’m not doing everything by the seat of my pants.”
“Where did that come from?” asked The Boss.
The CEO laughed and then smiled.
“I did what you told me,” the CEO said. “I began to keep a journal. I began to spend some time brainstorming. I got stuff done on time which allowed me to get other stuff done on time. I began to smoke problems out by talking to my people before they erupted into flame. I stopped undertaking everyone’s problems. I started telling them, ‘not my circus, not my monkeys.’ I am embracing process. I am doing things the same the third, fourth, fifth times. I have stopped inventing stuff. I am constantly managing by wandering around.”
Managing by wandering around is one of the most important concepts a CEO can master. Just go talk to people, listen to what they have to say, ask them, “Do you know what is required of you? What can I do to make it more certain that you will produce what we need? How can I help you?”
The Boss looked at the CEO. He was weighing whether to tell him the secret.
The secret is that there is no real secret. Every CEO will find an instant in time when they settle into their job when the anxiety of it all is diminished and they are able to use that energy to get stuff done.
A big part of it is planning. Planning is hard work. Planning is, likely, the most overlooked element of CEO performance.
“He’s a great planner,” said NO board member ever when describing a CEO. Ever. Yet, it is one of the critical elements in the long term success of a CEO.
A lot of it is doing well what you know needs to be done. The Boss’s pet peeve this month is performance appraisal. If there is one thing that startups do poorly it is goal setting and performance appraisal. Startup CEOs think that performance appraisal is all about compensation. It is not.
So, The Boss, now focused on his home fries, asked, “What else?”
“I can do this job,” said the CEO. “I. Can. Do. This. Job.”
“Did you ever doubt it?” asked The Boss.
“Yes,” said the CEO, “yes, I wasn’t sure I could do it. Now, I know I can do it.”
“What did I tell you at the beginning?” asked The Boss.
“You told me that anybody can be a good CEO. Some good CEOs can become great CEOs. All anyone has to do is THE WORK.”
“That’s exactly right, I’ll pay for breakfast.”
While there may be no free lunch, apparently, there is a free breakfast from time to time.
Bottom line it, Big Red Car
And, there it is, dear readers.
If a CEO is not scared off by the anxiety — which is absolutely beyond a shadow of a doubt coming, BIG TIME — she can learn this job. You will get better at it. The Big Red Car promises you that you will get better at it. Some days, it will also crush your DNA if you let it. A moment will come when you hair is not on fire and when you are just executing and things are falling into place in accordance with your plan.
Stay sharp. Stay focused. Stay hopeful.
If you do all of that, one day The Boss will buy you scrambled eggs, bacon, home fries at Texas French Bread and you will say, “I can do this.”