Better CEOs build better businesses. It’s really that simple.
What separates great CEOs from lesser CEOs is that the former have a good grip on what their job actually is. Rather than unintentionally micromanaging and being in the way, they focus on doing everything they can to empower their organizations to succeed without their constant input.
There are three areas, though, that every executive should focus on:
1. Visionary and strategic decision-making
An organization without a vision and strategy is a rudderless ship — no matter how much manpower or capital you throw at it, it’s going to be hard to steer in the right direction. This high-level decision-making is the one function that a CEO can’t delegate, for it’s the essence of being the chief executive.
The better the vision and strategy, the less day-to-day management the CEO has to do. That still doesn’t absolve them of …
2. Guiding the team
A compelling vision and sound strategy only go so far if you can’t communicate them and use them to guide the direction of your company. Guiding the team versus managing them can be challenging balancing act on the part of the CEO, for most CEOs are both strong-willed and have a particular way of doing things. If they devolve into telling individuals how to do particular things particular ways, they lose their ground as a CEO; their job is to set how this particular company will do things.
On the other hand, if they’re too hands off, they can’t concentrate the resources of the organization effectively. Sub-factions, seepage, and stalling will naturally occur — the bigger the company, the faster and more pervasive they will be.
3. Assessing results
Is the company on track to get the intended results? No one can answer that better than the CEO, for the CEO is usually the only person that has a global view of what’s going on and knows where she wants the business to go. It’s not at all uncommon for companies to have massive “success” in the wrong things because there’s a disconnect between the vision and strategy and what’s happening “on the ground.”
These types of successes are the hardest to assess, as it’s too easy to shift your business to account for successes in the wrong areas. Less-experienced CEOs allow for favorable winds to change their destination without considering whether that’s really where they need to be headed.
The Small Business Executive
Many people who have small or micro businesses will overlook this piece as irrelevant to their business. As I’ve said in an earlier discussion of the 4 Key Dimensions of Business, the executive functions are necessary for any scale of organization. Not understanding this leads to a lot of struggle, mediocrity, and failure in small businesses.
What does “guiding the team” look like if you’re a solo shop, though? If you’re in a solo shop, you already wear many hats. You’re the customer care department, the marketing department, the operations cell, and whatever else comes up. You’re also the CEO. The chief challenge is making sure you’re wearing the right hat at the right time — “guiding the team” means making sure you’re accomplishing the key things that need to get done. And by the way, small business management can be harder than managing larger businesses.
Here’s the thing: you can’t opt out of the three things above — you either do them well or you do them poorly. The better that you get at focusing on the decisions that need to be made, the guidance that’s needed, and assessing your business’ results, the better your business will be.
In future articles, we’ll go into more detail, but here are some questions I’d like to leave you with:
1) What key decisions need to be made so you can grow your business?
2) Is your guidance both reflective of your vision and strategy AND meeting the needs of your team?
3) What are the key performance indicators and results that represent the type of growth you want your business to have?
[This article first appeared in Upmarket Magazine.]