Recently I undertook some work with a client who is a newly appointed CEO of a large company. He had been working in the company for a number of years and when the previous CEO resigned he threw his hat in the ring for the job. To his surprise, and indeed others, he got it!
He really immersed himself – talking to staff, clients, his direct reports – all laudable things to do. But the result? He felt completely overwhelmed and was becoming increasingly frustrated as he felt he was not making any progress.
To his credit, he recognized that he needed some external help – and that is how he and I started to work together. Interestingly, we first connected on LinkedIn – the power of social media!
His first conversation with me started with him bemoaning his time management – which always raises a flag to me. I genuinely believe people blame time management, when the management of time is not the issue. Poor use of time can be a consequence – but I digress! He said:
To be honest, I am not totally clear what are the really important things to do now that I am CEO.
A brave admission, and one I really admired him for saying.
For the purpose of this article, let’s call my client Tom (obviously not his real name!) and I thought the work we did together was worth sharing with you, as I think it will help others in similar situations.
So, I asked Tom to share with me what was on his list.
The answer to his challenge was in his response. He shared his list with me and it ran to over 30 items! It is no wonder he was suffering from overwhelm and frustration.
The consequence of his list was that Tom was splitting himself into little pieces and sharing that around the organization, and was simply dipping in and out of situations. There was no real focus to his work.
So, we set about creating his dashboard of the important things to do.
Research has clearly proven that for any business, no matter how large or small, there are only 5/6 things that need to be on your dashboard to ensure that your focus is on the right things. Those 5/6 items will be different depending on your role – whether it is CEO, CFO, Sales Director or COO.
So, back to Tom – what are his important things to do? What must be on his dashboard?
Having worked through a process we ended up with 5 items that would shape his planning and solve his “time management” challenge. They are:
Tom will now review the top line figures on a weekly basis. We agreed what figures he will be focusing on and developed reports to keep a focus on those figures alone. We also made certain that these were the key figures – not all the figures!
2) Strategy implementation:
We created reports that clearly showed progress on the implementation of the key strategic initiatives, where any deviation was occurring, and the remedial action being taken. Again, the focus was on the key initiatives.
3) Tom’s team:
Tom now has a weekly meeting with his direct reports that lasts no more than 45 minutes to update him on any key issues. We also agreed that every month Tom will have individual coaching sessions with his people – and the emphasis is on coaching!
4) Organizational culture:
We all know that having the right culture has a direct impact on the performance of a business, so Tom needs to spend time on how he influences the culture of his organization, and how that culture is cascaded down the business.
5) External market:
As CEO Tom must spend time analyzing and researching the market so that he is fully aware of the external environment he and his business is operating in.
Tom committed to focus on these 5 items as his important things to do for a month, and his schedule reflected that. (Will tell you how we did that in another piece, but it worked wonders for him!) Why a month to start with? Well after a month of doing it every day you have developed a habit!
His results? Well, Tom is now clearer on what is important and what is not. His diary is worked around these 5 key items and he is now feeling a lot less overwhelmed and his “time management” has greatly improved. He really feels much more in control, and the feedback from his team has been so positive.
Most importantly, Tom is now operating as a much more effective CEO.
I am working with quite a number of CEOs right now to help them get absolute clarity on their dashboard and how to make it really work for them. This is a simple, straightforward process that, if adhered to, ensures that you are not overwhelmed in your role – and will be much more effective in the process.
Would love to hear your thoughts! Leave them in the comments below.