The CEO’s Most Important Job Is Also The Least Desirable
Think about the work you do as the CEO. What is the best part of your work? Chances are, you enjoy the challenge and responsibility and reward of building exciting, long-term strategies that will see your company well into the future. Perhaps you love the thrill of inspiring and leading your team to growth and success, creating happy stakeholders.
All of these are essential jobs of the CEO, and of course there’s nothing wrong with anticipating these exciting responsibilities.
I would argue, however, that the most important work of a CEO is probably not these exciting things, as important as they are.
Rather, as a CEO, your most important work is probably the work that seems boring to most: in fact, it purposely IS boring! The most important work of the CEO is to create a boring, predictable business.
No, You Don’t Want Exciting
Everyone thinks they want something exciting. There’s something about an edge-of-your-seat thrill that is enjoyable. But that’s not how you want to run your business… in spite of what many start-up gurus might suggest.
A business that is predictable, steady, stalwart, smooth, and even purposefully slow is best.
- It’s efficient—everything runs the way it’s supposed to with no surprises
- It’s transparent—you have visibility into how things run and can make changes because you know what’s going on
- It’s controllable—when you know all the pieces and how they run, you can control the business and make changes where needed
- It’s profitable—the numbers make sense; you see how the money comes in, how the money is spent, and what’s left over is easy to measure and optimize
The problem is, many people (employees, shareholders, etc.) think they want the edge-of-your-seat excitement of a start-up, and they often associate slow and steady operations with bloated and bureaucratic mega-corporations. But all businesses fall on an operational spectrum and those are the extremes; you want something closer to the middle, where you’re not so slow as to become bloated but you’re not so fast as to lose all control.
Your job, as the CEO, is to create a bold, inspiring, exciting vision but build a “boring,” predictable business to execute on those visions.
Your First Thought Of The Day
Your first thought of the day—indeed, your most important thought of the day—should be: how can I build a business that is more “boring”?
After all, a business that is too “exciting” has very little transparency, often out-of-control (hidden) costs, and runs like a less-efficient engine.
To that end, you need to be thinking about the following:
- How can every employee have more clarity about what they do and what is expected of them, so that their entire day is spent more efficiently doing the work they should be doing?
- How can every team and department communicate productively, proactively, and with the company’s best interests always in mind so everyone works together for the greater good (instead of creating little “kingdoms” that work toward their own benefit?)
- How can you and your leaders raise up a new set of leaders more consistently?
- How can everyone in the company forecast accurately (and honestly, without trying to inflate their sense of importance)?
- How can everyone feel inspired and thrilled about their job, and feel that it contributes to a higher purpose, even though you want them doing the same high-quality work day-in and day-out?
- What is the best way to create a vision, goals, and steps at all levels of the company so that every single person is completing tasks that work together to serve the highest vision of the company?
- What systems need to be in place, and optimized, to reduce the busy work and make everyone more efficient?
These are some of the many questions you should be asking to ultimately seek out the most consistently predictable business.
Exciting sounds… well, exciting! But running an exciting business means running one that isn’t operating at its peak, which will risk the fulfillment of your vision.
As a CEO, you should create the most bold, inspiring, and exciting vision you can for your company and then create the most boring and predictable company to execute daily to achieve that vision.
This weird tension between exciting vision and boring company is the best recipe to for happier stakeholders and greater profitability.
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