Believe it or not, you’ve become the boss. Congrats on your promotion!
Regardless of whether your new promotion is self-appointed or bestowed upon you, it’s important to recognize that you need to do some things differently now that you’re the head cheese. There’s a huge difference between being an employee and being in management and an equally large difference between being in management and being the CEO. Here are three significant changes you’re going to need to adopt if you want to successfully transition to your new role.
Get comfortable making fast decisions
Speed of execution is one of the most valuable benefits of having a small to medium-sized business. As the new leader, many of the decisions that make this quick execution possible land on your desk. The first thing you need to decide is if that particular decision is yours to make. Are you the right person in your organization to make the call? Sometimes, the answer is no. Just because you’re the CEO doesn’t necessarily mean that you have the proper knowledge or even experience to make a rational decision in every case. It may turn out that someone downstream in your organization is more qualified to make the decision. Know when to delegate.
You also don’t want to get caught up in having to make every call for your organization, as you likely have so much on your plate already that you simply can’t be the number one go-to person. That said, there is an important distinction between making good decisions and being decisive. As a new CEO, your natural inclination may be to get as much data as you can to make the best decision possible for your company. However, in practice, the most successful officers are not the ones who make the best decision, but rather the ones who make quick, decisive actions with the information they have.
The simple reality is that executives who take too much time to make decisions and think through every aspect of those decisions often end up inadvertently creating bottlenecks. This brings the entire organization to a screaming halt, and destroys that major advantage small businesses have: speed of execution.
Focus on results and getting buy-in
As the leader of your organization, you now have to balance the business’ needs with operating limitations, staffing, finances, and possibly shareholders needs. It’s important to know where your focus is and to have a clear and concise plan of action. However, your plan is only as good as its execution, and your results are the measure of the effectiveness of that execution. That’s why buy-in of key personnel is critical to your success.
As a CEO, you’ll need to engage the various stakeholders to achieve your desired results. This can often be accomplished by clearly communicating expectations and strategy, while considering possible resistance and looking for the win-win. At the end of the day, the result is what is most important, which means setting expectations is critical. Effective CEOs are less concerned with being popular than they are with being effective. Your role as the senior member of your company is to instill confidence in your team that your leadership will lead to success: you need them to buy-in to the idea that your plan is the right plan to achieve that success.
Conflict and disagreement will always be a part of business, but effective CEOs don’t shy away from these things in the pursuit of achieving their results. Be comfortable and willing to engage in those disagreements, with an eye on making your team members feel engaged in the process.
Learn to adapt and adopt.
Just as your ability to be decisive is critical to your company’s success, your willingness and ability to pivot is equally important. Your plan is not going to go exactly how you think it will. People are not going to execute your strategy as you had thought. The economy is going to fluctuate with things like presidential elections, pandemics, recessions, and everything else that gets thrown into the mix. As the leader of your organization, it is your responsibility to recognize these variables and make adjustments.
In fact, successful executives recognize that these changes are an integral part of learning and growing. They are constantly evaluating their surroundings for the opportunities that these changes may bring. So, when your plan falters, and you don’t quite hit that mark, be ready to make changes. Then, understand that your team will look to you for leadership in these times. In the same way you commit to the decisions you make, build your teams’ confidence in these new decisions with effective communication and planning. Work directly with your teams to embrace the changes and continually execute for results.
All of this said, a great CEO has an intangible quality that can’t be described with any three traits. Being the leader of a company is an ever-changing process that requires an awareness of when you need to employ different behavioral traits. Focusing on the skills above are a great baseline that will serve you well in your new role as an organizational leader, but be willing and open to learn as you go.