Regardless of your company’s size, you’ll likely get pulled in many directions as a CEO. It’s important not to get distracted and keep the following five priorities top-of-mind.
Step one consists of answering the "what." What problem is your business trying to solve? What makes your business’s solution better than other widely available solutions? As a CEO, it’s your responsibility to clearly outline the value proposition: the potential value that a business promises to deliver.
You will also need to determine what your consumer base, market position and competitive landscape are. Answering the “what” here will help crystallize the company’s competitive advantage (the reason your solution is better than other readily available solutions in the market). Defining this strategy upfront will allow you to then select a team, share the vision, allocate the resources and ultimately manage the performance of your business.
Step two consists of answering the "who." Perhaps one of the most critical components of leading a business is its people. We’ve all heard the adage, people will either make or break your business.
In the end, it doesn’t matter what the customer value proposition, target audience or competitive advantage is if you don’t have a talented team in place that is able to execute. Curating the right team members is a combination of art and science.
Sometimes the most talented team member, given all the empirical evidence, isn’t necessarily the right choice. In other words, a team full of Tom Bradys would lose every game. Instead, prioritize diversity of thought. Hire people that are smarter, better and different from you.
Ultimately, leaders that recognize they can’t do it all are leaders that forge success by creating world-class teams. These teams play off each other’s strengths and offset each other’s weaknesses — propelling a business toward unimaginable growth.
Step three consists of answering the "why." Specifically, answering the why behind key business decisions that affect the way in which your people work and the business’s trajectory at large.
For instance, why is your business opening a new office? Why are you introducing a new product line or service? Your employees need to understand the rationale behind major, topline decisions. Not every decision, but surely the big ones. Precisely, the decisions that make up your vision.
Communicating this — both internally and externally — should be done regularly. As the business evolves, you want to ensure employees, clients and partners alike understand where the business is headed and, more importantly, why. Armed with this knowledge, your employees, clients and partners will feel empowered to contribute to this collective vision.
Step four consists of answering the "how." Before moving to this step, it’s crucial that the business strategy and vision are clear. Do you allocate resources toward product development, new staff members or perhaps a new acquisition?
Well, the answer isn’t so simple. Use your outlined strategy and vision to help inform these answers. Ask yourself how this initiative will help achieve the goals you’ve set for your company.
I will caution that as a CEO, you will likely never have all the information you need to make a decision. Analysis paralysis can kill your momentum. So, as a leader, it’s critical that you become comfortable making educated decisions without having all of the information. Striking the right balance here is key; answering these questions is much like walking a tightrope.
Step five doesn’t involve an inherent what, who, why, or how, but rather it’s the final step and ultimate feedback loop that links this five-part cycle. Most of your responsibilities as CEO will be forward-looking in nature, but analyzing the past is just as important for the business’s success.
How well is the business performing against the goals you set within the strategy: Are benchmarks being met? If the answer’s no, you may need to adjust elements of the what, who, why, and how. Being able to pivot in real time and modify your approach is what sets great leaders apart from good ones.
Lastly, don’t forget to manage your own performance. A leader answers to their people — not the other way around. He or she is committed to better serving the needs of the company and its people; that is categorically the role of CEO.