Thursday, September 26, 2013

What Would I do if I had One Month to be CEO?

Whether discussing it with our friends, seeing it as a topic on our favorite TV show, or just imagining it for ourselves, we are all familiar with the question “What would you do if you had one month to live?” And even though we’ve heard it a bunch of times before, this is not just some fantasy, throwaway question. If taken seriously, the “one month to live” question will challenge you to focus on the things that are truly important in your life, whether that be family, friends, career, or hobbies. It can also help you learn how to live life to the fullest in order to minimize and eliminate the regrets that many people have as they grow older.

Recently, I was thinking about a slightly different version of this common question. My version was related to work, and it was “What would I do if I only had one month to be CEO?” It started out innocently enough as a fleeting thought, but as soon as I took the question seriously, it spiraled into a long, well-thought-out exercise that was helpful to me, and I believe could be helpful to everyone. Some of the questions I asked myself were:

·       “What would I do differently?”
·       “Would my focus stay similar or change completely?”
·       “How could I operate as CEO without leaving myself open to having regrets?”

See, I have been the CEO of Cyrus for a glorious 5 months now, and the amount that I have learned has been immeasurable. It took a few weeks to get into the swing of things, but soon enough, I found my own groove. My confidence has grown every day as I get more and more used to the position, and with that has come a better ability to lead through making more confident decisions.

One of the most important things I did when I took over as CEO of Cyrus was to make a conscious effort to seek out advice from mentors and other people who have served in similar roles. The advice was incredibly useful and helpful, but interestingly enough, I found that most of it was focused on the long term. Just as in most other aspects of life, focusing on a healthy long term outlook at work is a fruitful exercise. I mean, if I only had 30 days to live, I might eat bacon and donuts at every meal so I could enjoy every moment to its fullest. But I wouldn’t even dream of doing that if I was hoping to live another 70 years. Just like with Cyrus, where if I want to stay on as a successful CEO for years to come, I can’t run the business with a 30 day outlook. Yet, I believe there are also some tremendously valuable lessons to be learned by focusing on the short term.

So, what would I do if I had one month to be CEO?  I would…

1.  I would make every day count for my team. What does this mean? In general, it means that I would do as much as I could to help them each and every day. More specifically, I would come into work each morning and identify one thing I could do that day that would have as positive an impact as possible on as many employees as possible. And then I would work hard to ensure that thing was done as quickly as it could be.

2.  I would say “thank you” more. And not just the words “thank you.” I would buy gifts. I would mail thank you notes. I would pick up the phone, or use Skype, or even instant message employees on our internal messaging system just to say thanks. I would do all I can to show how much I appreciate everything people do for both Cyrus as a business and me as a CEO, from the biggest accomplishment down to the smallest detail.

3.  I would toss my laptop out the window. Okay, I wouldn’t do this literally, because someone could get hurt. But what I mean is that I would spend my days having face-to-face conversations with employees, clients, and whoever else I could. We could have coffee. Have lunch. Whatever. Just as long as it’s not done virtually.

4.  I would speak my mind, and have the courage to act on things I believe in. To be honest, I am already quite an outspoken person. And I think that the straightforward openness and honesty I provide has been a benefit to the companies I have worked for. But there are times when I do still hold back, because often when you are focused on the long term health of a business, holding back on communicating what you believe is a necessary and a sound strategy. But, with only one month to go as CEO, I’d want folks to know where I stand on basically everything.

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