Career or business changes are a lot about making things happen. We get caught up in the inertia of our fears and are afraid of making a mistake.
You’re moving on up.
Making your way up the ladder, dodging bullets, using every last bit of your intellect and motivation to deftly ingratiate yourself with key decision-makers.
It’s a high-wire balancing act many executives go through to grab the golden ring. What are some of the techniques used? Based upon many hours of advisory with C-Level clients, here are the two major tenets that bubble to the top:
IQ – Intelligence Quotient (or Tactical Intelligence)
You have to have the chops, the intellect, the experience, and knowledge to make it through the first hurdle. It’s that simple. Many executives whine and complain when they hit a very real glass ceiling, but in the end, it’s their fault. They haven’t done the requisite homework and they’re trying to bribe the teacher with an apple. Bottom line, you have to put in the hours, the sweat and tears to adequately build a firm foundation of tools to leverage in the myriad of situations that arise. Some are:
- Financial – This is all-important – I can’t tell you how many executives I would watch sit in meeting and clearly see they had no idea what was in front of them on our financial projections. Know this area cold.
- Operational – Know how the organization works inside and out. Sit at home and map out your operational chain from start to finish. Where are the dependencies? What past decisions are holding the company behind? What areas might take the company to the next level? If you are unsure or unclear about one or more of these connections, talk to your people and LEARN.
- Marketplace – What’s happening in the outside world? Who are the key players? What are the market forces at work – are they playing fair or are they slowly (and possibly illegally) undermining your position. Think holistically. Get out there and mix with your peers, understand the levers that make the world go round. What is the competition doing and how do you master the game of chess with them every day?
EQ – Emotional Quotient (or Emotional Intelligence)
This is where most C-Level executives fail. What got them to this position (IQ) is now failing them. For some positions (CFO, CIO), all their hard work to make it to the table is now useless when they need to use skills other than IQ:
- Communication – Communicate clearly and concisely. But communication is a two-way street, you need to listen too. Listening is an art – shutting your mouth (and mind) to focus your full attention to those who are giving you critical information.
- Motivation – Every word, every order, every instruction must be nicely wrapped to motivate your people. Of course, sometimes you have to bark, but if you find yourself barking most of the time, step back and see how to manipulate your direct report’s levers so they want to make things happen and not undermine you. How do you grow your direct reports, your staff, and your organization through motivation?
- Empathy – The hardest one of all – in addition to communication (which is overt), understand those signals to allow you to ‘listen in’ and help your people with their problems and obstacles. Ferret out those signals and dive into what is holding them back and help them. You also have to be patient to allow the natural flow of the company to run it’s course. Too many executives forget there are forces you cannot control.
- Sales – You have to have the ability to mix all three of these areas together and move people into action inside your organization and outside too (prospects into clients, retention and extension of current clients).
Here’s a great book to read on this topic.
What other elements do you feel play a key role in defining you as CEO material?
Great leaders translate vision into decisive action — a skill that's especially vital in tough times. But what are those skills? Do you have a blind spot? Should you be doing more? First off — great leaders do three things — no more, no less:
- They motivate their people.
- They deliver information when required.
- They help their people with obstacles.
That's it. As a leader, if you find yourself doing anything else, you're doing too much. Now let's look at each one:
They motivate their people.
The most successful leaders are those with the best people skills, especially during the most difficult circumstances. Poor communication and interpersonal relationships routinely thwart leaders who are otherwise technically competent. In order to succeed, leaders must be fully engaged with the individuals who make up their organization. This means an array of capabilities like coaching, mentoring and how to give constructive feedback which reinforces the behavior and motivation of your peak performers. The best tool to learn how to motivate is Dale Carnegie's: How to Win Friends and Influence People.
They deliver information when required.
What does this really mean? Incredibly efficient two-way communication. And the cruel joke is that most leaders had the chops to make their way up the ladder and succeed — now the skills that got them there (getting things done) have no place in leadership. You now have to communicate to your team to get things done. This is where most C- and VP level executives fail - you need to lead with greater impact by applying emotional intelligence to manage your team. The best tool to effectively communicate is Daniel Goleman's: Emotional Intelligence: Why It Can Matter More Than IQ.
They help their people with obstacles.
Here's the mistake all leaders make. When their people come to them with a problem — they spend time helping them brainstorm, choose and sometimes execute a solution. I've seen this happen time and time again. Great leaders ask their people to come to them when they have a problem, but they also require their people to come with a solution too. 80-90% of the time, that solution is usually the best one and the team member is further empowered to make those tough decisions. On the off chance (that 10-20%) that your people might be wrong, you're there to help them investigate other options. For optimal delegation, seek out Michael Abrashoff's: It’s Your Ship: Management Techniques from the Best Damn Ship in the Navy.
At the end of the day, you need to build a leadership style that creates trust, sets a clear vision and guides your entire team toward greater performance and profit.
You work hard. You come in early, stay late, and work over the weekends. Of course . . . you're the CEO (or the President, CFO, CMO, CIO, you get the idea). You constantly think about work, even in your sleep.
But you have the primo position, the unbelievable pay, the power to move mountains, and your future already written in stone.
But it's not enough. So you do more. And more. And more.
But what falls by the wayside? Your health? Your spouse or partner? Your kids? Your close relationships?
Yes, you might allocate an hour or two for them a week — but is it enough?
When is work enough when you keep moving the bar upwards every time you reach it?
Let's check out California-based Mohamed El-Erian, when he shocked the financial world when he announced his resignation as chief executive of PIMCO earlier this year:
"The 56-year-old said the "wake-up call" happened when he was arguing with his daughter about brushing her teeth and she left to fetch a piece of paper from her room. "It was a list that she had compiled of her important events and activities that I had missed due to work commitments," he wrote. "The list contained 22 items, from her first day at school and first soccer match of the season to a parent-teacher meeting and a Halloween parade. "I felt awful and got defensive: I had a good excuse for each missed event! Travel, important meetings, an urgent phone call, sudden to-do. "But it dawned on me that I was missing an infinitely more important point ... I was not making nearly enough time for her." (read more here)
Is money enough? How much do you really have to make? Is there a figure you're striving for? Are you reaching for the 'Rockefeller' stratosphere in wealth, power, and influence? Is it worth it?
Or let's see what billionaire Agit Agarwal did:
"He and his family decided to donate 75% of their wealth to charity after meeting Bill Gates, the world’s richest person. Agarwal has a fortune of $3.3 billion, where Gates, the co-founder of Microsoft Corp., has a fortune valued at $84.7 billion. “What we earn must be returned for the greater good of society,” the 62-year-old said at an event yesterday. “Life is not only about wealth.” (read more here).
Many times in life, one needs to step back, re-assess and prioritize the important things in life.
"Because we get so caught up in the race, we forget there's a finish line, and miss all the fun of running."
So take time out today (or even take a day off this week) to better understand the REAL important things in your life. Start putting them at the top of your list.
I work with many C-Level and Executive leaders to re-orient their lives and focus on what's really important. Drop me a line and I'll show you how.
It's quite simple - unfortunately, there are many critics, books, and know-it-all's out there trying to 'complexify' (my word) the basic responsibilities of a CEO or C-Level executive.
I work with a broad spectrum of clients. All the way from the CEO to the college graduate, I help people overcome obstacles and better understand what's holding them back. One recurring area I encounter is the fear of 'more work'. What do I mean by 'more work'?
“Love your family, work super hard, live your passion.” - Gary Vaynerchuk, from Crush It! Great words from Gary in one of my favorite books (I require all of my clients to read). He is spot on with this one.
See how he constructs the quote — Family — Work — Passion. Not the other way around.
Unfortunately, many of the C-Level clients I coach work it the other way and find they're not happy, they have a shitty marriage, they never see their kids or their kids hate them, and their only passion in life is putting in mucho hours on the job. Stupid. Stupid. Stupid.
Yes — you've got the three M's — Money, Mansion, Mercedes (or Maserati) — but deep down, you're not happy. Something is missing and time is running out.
So here goes — you can have all three — it's just how you look at them AND how you prioritize them. I am currently working with the CEO/Owner of a top engineering firm and we're currently spinning the sequence around to help him enjoy the benefits of his labor. He's built the organization from the ground up and now it's time to enjoy life!
NUMBER ONE RULE — Family Comes First. No exceptions.
I'm not saying to fill up your calendar with family-oriented activities and let work suffer. Within reason, try to start your workweek by making time for your wife/partner, kids, friends, etc. If there is a baseball game, a romantic dinner, a morning run, hiking at the park — make sure it is recorded and blocked off on your calendar FIRST.
Again, within reason — I understand you work for a living. But taking a vacation day once in awhile is fine, even encouraged. Leave work early to catch your son's or daughter's soccer game. Come in late because you took your family to an early breakfast at your favorite diner. You know, the one where you all sit together with no TV, no smartphones and just eat and talk.
ACTION: Get your assistant in your office right now and start blocking off your calendar. TODAY.
NUMBER TWO RULE — Work Super Hard. But work smart.
I know you work hard. That's how you got to your position in the first place. But what got you to the captain's chair probably won't help you stay happy there. You worked hard, put in the thousands of hours of blood, sweat and tears. You made all the right decisions (and a few stinkers). You made the right connections with the right people. YOU HUSTLED.
Now it's time to sit in the captain's chair and start delegating even more. Don't act like Captain Kirk and accompany the away team on every mission, stay on-board the Enterprise and direct your resources in strategic ways. What got you here isn't going to keep you here for very long without compromising your home life, your happiness, and your health. You're not getting any younger either.
ACTION: Look at all your meetings and start culling them down by 10%. Stop reading every email/text that comes in. Have your assistant monitor your information flow and decide what get priority. They're the gatekeeper — ensure they guard the gate.
Cut down on one-on-ones with everyone — start to develop a sharper pyramid reporting structure with very few people touching you (no more than 5-7) Remember the Godfather? He had three direct reports — his Consigliere (who died - morte), and two Capos — Clemenza and Tessio. That's it.
NUMBER THREE RULE — Live Your Passion. But find what your REAL passion is.
Too many C-Level executives hit the big show and start to abuse the passion that got them there. They forget the fun, innovation, excitement and give in to boredom, politics, and hitting the targets for their buddies on the board. The world becomes pedantic and the passion flows out of them.
They try to make safe decisions and safe moves, and impact their business, their organization, and their customers. They prioritize their bonus, their safety, and their reputation over what's really important. I know it's hard, but sometimes you have to sacrifice the temporary pleasures to fully engage with what really matters. It's not all money (and if you believe it is - READ THIS - another mandatory book I recommend to C-Level clients).
ACTION: Sit down and assess what your real passions are right at this moment. What gets your motor running? What gets you excited about life? What motivates you to do GREAT work? You need to re-establish a connection with your passion and make sure you fill up your enthusiasm gas tank every day.
Are you crushing it every day?
"No excuses. Make it happen." - Rich Gee
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