1/3, 1/3, 1/3 Rule: Anticipate resistance to change. CEOs are brought in to grow the business. This is one of the biggest challenges of the job, because your role is to require change from people who don’t all want to change. As a rule of thumb any organizational change will result in 1/3 of the people embracing it, 1/3 objecting to it and the remaining 1/3 frozen in the middle. Focus on the frozen middle because the others are not going to change their POV no matter how hard you try.
Moderation Rule: When you are a CEO it’s like somebody gave you a “Harry Potter magic wand.” All you have to do is wave your wand. Suddenly smoke appears, sparks will fly and people will go off and do whatever you want them to do. Every once in a while when you need immediate action, you can pull out the wand, but beware of overuse. Great CEOs rely on influence, persuasion and collective buy-in much more than their “magic wand.”
10X Rule: Everything said by a CEO carries ten times the weight your POV did before you took the CEO job. People will take you literally and they will quote you, left and right. They will even take what you said out of context to support their agenda. So remember to choose your words carefully; you are under a microscope now.
Developing Your Personal CEO Brand
As you grow into your role as CEO—in addition to embracing the rules above—you will need to develop a personal style and figure out what you stand for. This time of year, senior leadership including CEOs, are getting 360 reviews. Remember, feedback is a gift. In case you don’t hear all of this from your team, let me add my two cents:
- People want to follow leaders they trust, who make them feel good and inspire them.
- Don’t try to be the smartest person in the room. Be confident, but humble.
- Be direct, but don’t be disrespectful and encourage your people to do the same. When a person is allowed to really speak their mind, you get the most productive results.
- Be transparent. Where there are gaps in communication people will make up their own stories. Transparency builds trust.
- Make sure people know you care. Say “thank you” through words, emails, and hand written notes. Your people will appreciate it.
- Take coaching and use it or tell folks why you aren’t able to. This builds trust.
- Do what you said you were going to do – from complex issues like closing a deal, to starting meetings on time (showing up late is disrespectful and tells your people you think its ok for them to wait for you). Your people need to learn from you that even when things go wrong you are able to deliver and expect they will too.
- Get alongside your people in the trenches. This is true leadership. If you make people work on weekends make sure you are right there with them. If you can’t be with them when they work late, send them dinner.
- The old saying “you were given 2 ears and 1 mouth for a reason” applies to your people. When people feel like they are being heard that reinforces trust.
- Be proactive about finding the pulse of all levels of your organization. Don’t just listen to your direct reports, reach into each level of your organization and make sure you know what is on everyone’s mind.
No one was born a perfect CEO and no matter how long you’ve been doing this job, there is always room for improvement. Some CEOs are further along than others, but they all have more to learn and a desire to grow. So before the ball drops, I urge you to take a hard look at the concepts above, and find ways to better yourself – if not for you, for all the people you are working for. ‘Tis the season for resolutions, so reflect, pick a few things to focus on, and continue to get better in 2019!
Read more: Four Ways CEOs Can Lead With Empathy