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Role of the CEO

Role of the CEO

This is the first in three-part series on how CEO’s can become more focused, efficient and effective in their role as CEO.

What’s the most important attribute for CEOs: Vision? Strategic thinking? The ability to build client relationships and close the deal?

Obviously, CEOs need to have all these skills. However, one attribute stands head and shoulders above the rest — focus.

Few things impact the success of a business more than the chief executive getting very clear about what he or she needs to accomplish. The more clarity you have around your own role, the more efficient and effective your performance will be. And the more you focus on your own role as CEO, the more your senior managers can focus on theirs.

Roles for Success

Exactly what should the CEO focus on?

The role of the CEO encompasses six essential functions:

  1. Strategist. This function sets the future direction of your company. The process for creating effective strategy involves a team-centered strategic planning retreat, whereby you go off-site with your management team, look three years out into the future, and ask the most important strategic question: where will our future profit margins come from? Chances are they will not come from the same place as today.

If you conduct annual retreats, you must have quarterly reviews as well, because planning minus review equals cynicism. Planning plus review equals solid momentum.

  1. Ambassador. Meet with your important customers and clients once or twice a year, not for a sales call but for an informal lunch or dinner. The idea is to get to know the customer and let them get to know you, so that you can increase their trust in you and establish your credibility.

Toward the end of the meal, ask your customer, “Where do you see your company going over the next 18 months and what problems do you anticipate?” Then sit quietly and listen, so that you can take what you hear back to your company and turn it into real gold by embracing the third role of inventor.

  1. Inventor. Success in business requires finding your customer’s pain and developing new products and services to relieve it. The inventor function ensures that the strategic direction of the company aligns around the customer’s pain.
  2. Coach. Become a teacher, coach and mentor to your direct reports. Instill a culture of learning throughout all levels of the organization. Your direct reports do not have your big picture perspective, so find ways to teach it to them.

In particular, your key players have many basic misconceptions about your financial model, thinking your company and you are doing much better than you actually are. Teach your people the basic financial model of the company, so they understand what is really happening from a financial standpoint.

  1. Investor. Treat your company as an investment. Know the market value of your business and strive to grow it. Improving market value should direct all decisions for the business and reward the clear focus and direction of the CEO.
  2. Student. Stay active in some form of continued professional development — not just in the your area of functional expertise but as a student of leadership.

These are not things to do when you happen to find the time.  They must become your top priorities. Make these six functions real and relevant for you, so they drive your daily calendar and all your time management decisions.


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