I would encourage businesses to offer life skill speaker/educational events for employees and their significant others. Many companies do a great job of educating and inspiring their associates, while the downside is that their significant others miss out on the same growth opportunities. Adding value, not just to the lives of employees, but also to the lives of the people in the families of employees can have a great and positive impact on the company, it’s employees and their communities.
- Create boundaries and systems before you need them. Nothing exposes weaknesses like success does. A new leadership role with loads of responsibility will infringe on anything and everything it can. I didn’t really have structures in place for things like exercise and health, and I didn’t have any hard and fast rules or boundaries for my personal time and space. As a result, I gave up too much for the job initially. I gained weight. I worked too much. Had I created some rules to follow, I could have avoided some of the frustrations with myself that I experienced and created by not treating certain things as a priority.
- Everyone is wearing an invisible sign that says, “Make me feel special.” As a CEO, one sets the tone as to how people are treated and what behavior will be tolerated. All businesses can have internal conflict amongst employees and staff. A CEO should be able to show others how to see the best in, and get the best out of, people. Misunderstandings often occur from someone sensing a lack of appreciation. Treating people, even during conflict, with the acknowledgment of their value and importance to the team is a habit that will be an example for others to follow and will ultimately lessen trivial disruptions on the job. I once had an employee who was causing lots of problems amongst our staff. He was not the best “people person” and he was annoying the rest of the staff. By the time this dispute ended up in my office, it was clear to see that he was acting inappropriately simply because he felt no one was listening to him, and he felt disrespected. Once I was able to resolve all of their co-created conflict by exposing it for what it was, everyone went back to being happy and productive.
- When people show you who they are, believe them. As an optimist, one of my greatest challenges as a CEO was seeing more in others than they saw in themselves. That means that I would always give someone the benefit of the doubt when it came to mistakes. Some mistakes can be tolerated; some can’t. Sometimes when someone messes up something simple, it is an indication that they are going to surely mess up something truly challenging. Sometimes people need to be let go because what they do, or did, or didn’t do, undermines your confidence and faith in them. As CEO, it’s your job to reward performance. It’s not your job to buy into excuses, to give people the benefit of the doubt or to consistently “hope” someone does better next time. I learned this the hard way. We employed a financial person who everyone loved, but who always had an excuse for why some things weren’t done or ready yet. And unfortunately, I bought into the excuses until I realized that this person was simply in over their head in the position. Had I been a little more attentive to the lack of performance, rather than buying the merit of his excuses, I could have avoided a financial knot that was more difficult to untangle that it should have been.
- Things happen slowly, then suddenly. As a CEO, no one needs to know the numbers of your business more than you do. Numbers don’t lie. And when you know what numbers have the greatest impact on your business, it becomes your job to watch those numbers like a hawk, to see and understand any deviation from the norm or what you expect from them. No one likes to see numbers moving in the wrong direction. That’s why people tend to explain a newly negative number away, to downplay the importance of it based on “this reason” or “that.” Question everything. When something seems off, raise your hand and ask “why?” It’s so important to understand why certain numbers go up, and equally, if not more important, to understand why they go down. A CEO realizes that certain aspects of the business’s financial reporting can be an early indicator of a potential problem in the future. By the time everyone acknowledges a problem, it’s usually too late. A CEO’s job is to know this. Creating a culture of “early detection” can go a long way in insuring your business is successful and stays that way.
- In every business, there’s a business behind the business, and typically it’s lead generation. Having business is great, and getting more business is better — It always is and it always will be. In the spirit of “Rock, Paper, Scissors,” lead generation always wins over customer service. A company’s ability to procure new business and grow revenue (and hence, profits) is singularly the most important function of any business. If you can’t get business, you will have no customers to retain. While this is a chicken/egg debate for many people, this concept must be understood, embraced and held accountable by the CEO of any company. It’s so easy to get caught up in a new product or service or an account or a customer to the point that it gets more attention and focus than business building, but rest assured, generating new business must remain constant. Lead generation is the blocking and tackling of business. It’s not the prettiest or most exciting, and it doesn’t always make the highlight reel, but you can’t win without it.