Around this time of year people find themselves reflecting on where they are personally and professionally. Some take action by making New Year’s resolutions. CEOs in particular have an insatiable appetite for evolution and self-improvement. So this holiday season, when you are sitting by the fire drinking your eggnog, take a few moments to read this article, and think about how you approach leadership and how you can continue to become an even greater leader and CEO.
Growing into CEO
Those of us who are lucky have worked for CEOs who had already developed a sense of who they are; a self-awareness. These CEOs have learned from their successes and mistakes along the way, gained wisdom and are able to work productively with their people.
However, it is likely that more people reading this article grew up professionally around CEOs who were not mature CEOs when they first took the job. They probably had to go through a slow process that was painful to themselves and those around them. After several years at Accenture, I thought I was ready to be CEO of Accenture Operations. I watched people running the business and thought “I’ve got this. It can’t be that hard.” But once I got the title, I realized I had no idea what was involved. You can watch it, and criticize it, but until you sit in that seat you don’t really know what it takes to do this job.
Never forget that as CEO, YOU are working for THEM!
I’d like to tell you I was a great CEO from day one, but my first year was a flame-out and my initial reaction was not very mature. I remember thinking to myself “I’m done.” I actually went so far as to speak to a coach about packing up, getting out of the business rat-race and dedicating 100% of my time to our family’s foundation so I could “help others” because isn’t that what life is all about?
I’ll never forget his response, “If your drive is helping others, how many people can you impact through your family foundation?” I was proud of our family foundation work—without flinching I replied “500.” “And you are prepared to leave Accenture where you get to inspire and impact the lives of 25,000 people who work for you every day so that you can impact the lives of 500 people through your foundation?” He helped me to re-frame my situation; to see that I could set the tone at the top and impact the lives of my team in a positive way each and every day. So if I really wanted to help others, what a great opportunity I had at Accenture!
That watershed moment completely changed my outlook. The next day I went to work thinking of my job as this incredible opportunity. I stopped thinking “I’ve got 25,000 people working for me” because I had realized the most important truth for any CEO: “I work for 25,000 people.” With that realization I began to fully understand the responsibility of my position to help, support and grow the professional development and personal well-being of what ultimately grew to 110,000 people.
Your CEO Management Style – Some Simple Rules
Once you recognize that your real focus as CEO is to inspire and support your people by removing road blocks and empowering them, you are on your way to becoming a great leader. Now you need to figure out tactically how to achieve this. Adopting the following rules will help you develop a management style that will give your people the support they need so that everyone can succeed.
Alignment Rule: Be crystal clear on “the goal” and accept nothing less than getting there. If your people don’t understand the goal, you are all spinning your wheels, and all of the other leadership suggestions in this article will be for naught.
7X Rule: Change doesn’t happen overnight. No matter how big or small the change, you have to be patient and keep telling your story over and over again. I’ve found 7 to be the magic number. You’ll know that it worked when you hear your people telling your story in their own words.
24 Hour Rule: Sleep on all big decisions. Never respond to anything that is really important, positively or negatively, until you have slept on it. Everything looks different in the morning. Emotional, knee-jerk responses may hurt morale and create more work for you as the CEO.