Tuesday, February 14, 2012

CEO...? Really?


Some of you have asked why I decided to name the blog: The CEO Zone. You wondered whether it was because I wanted to become the CEO of a company? Or, perhaps, because I wanted to target folks who wanted to be CEO’s?

Sure… but not entirely.

When I started to think about the phases through which my life had evolved, I began with the obvious ones: Infant, Child, Teen, Young Adult, etc. Then there were other stages: Student, Intern, Senior Team Member, Subject Matter Expert, perhaps one day even Tribal Elder. But none of these seemed quite right.

When I talked about it with my friends I would say “you know, solidly adult.” I would turn my palms to face each other and then slice downward in parallel for emphasis, “Solidly Adult… Grown up!”

But this was confusing.

I was not referring to age or legal status. Also, most of us consider ourselves adults as soon as we are no longer children. Rather, I was referring to a particular sense of self. The feeling one has when one has become competent in the area of one’s intended interests. When one is ready to begin to fully apply his education, her skill set, and take action in the world. To step beyond the protective shadow of our parents, mentors, managers, and to follow our own intelligence.

Doing so requires that we begin to think of ourselves as leaders and to set expectations of and for ourselves accordingly. We will want to lead from the authority that stems from our experience and subject matter expertise (experiential) as well as from the authority that is bestowed onto us from the strength of our relationships (relational). (This is different from what we normally observe: people leading based on their positional power -- power that arises from the arbitrary (and often temporary) role they play in the hierarchy.) To, in effect, be the boss of one’s own self, the CEO of one’s own life.

This is not to say that mastery of the skills necessary to successfully take this on won’t also help one to achieve positional leadership if that is the goal. Having a vision for our lives and figuring out how to implement that vision turns out to be a highly transferable skill and will reverberate across all of the facets of our lives.

To occupy the position of CEO, and to be effective, requires a shift in the way many of us have been taught to live. Most people reading this blog are “tactically successful.” At the very least, you have access to a computer with an Internet connection. And you have carved out some “leisure time” for surfing the web and reading. It is probably safe to assume that you are not starving to death. You have learned how to take actions to successfully ensure your survival, and even more than that, to have a basically good life. If your life were a company, you would be the successful VP of Operations, possibly doing some side duty as the Senior Director of HR.

The CEO serves a different purpose. Her/His role is strategic. It requires holding out a vision of where to take the company. Of course, simply having a vision is not enough. The CEO must have an objective picture of where we are right now. What our strengths and weaknesses are. What are the opportunities. What are the threats. And then the CEO must develop a plan, a pragmatic approach, for getting from point A to point B. It is while managing and implementing this strategy that the CEO cuts his teeth.

The hardest part about this is the choosing from among an infinite set of options. It means that you need to know yourself well enough to know what you want. What you’ll be willing to fight for over the long-term. It also means that you will have to sometimes make sacrifices as you prioritize those tasks that will take you closest to your goals, occasionally forgoing other things that “look fun” in the short term. I am not suggesting that we need to have drab and gray existences, or lives made up of all work and no fun. In fact, because I use a system of Value-identification to help determine what is important to me, making these tough decisions is often far more fulfilling and leads to far greater and longer lasting joy than the instant gratification that tends to present itself in opposition to our triumphs.

To use a personal example, forgoing the Ben & Jerry’s and going to the gym might be a required decision. As to whether or not there will ever be an appropriate moment to choose the ice cream... well... that’s up to the CEO.

From the Zone…

ian

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