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Seven Surprises for New CEOs
September 1, 2017

Being the CEO of a company brings with it a level of prestige that other positions do not have. You are in a position with power, but surprisingly your power is tempered by many factors internally and externally.

In Harvard Business Review – Seven Surprises for New CEOs by Michael E. Porter, Jay W. Orsch and Nitin Nohria, it speaks to the seven things new CEOs learn while on the job.

Here are the 7 Surprises that CEOs learn on the job:

  1. You can’t run the company

Most CEOs have climbed the corporate ladder from an operational/managerial level, to a CEO – visionary and strategic level. The first requires deep involvement in the day to day of the company, while the other requires a 10-story view with strategic leadership and strong direction. As CEO, your role is one of influencing and articulating a clear strategy, establishing guiding structures and processes, setting values and culture, and hiring the right people to run the company.

  1. Giving orders is costly

Trust will become a key component of your world now. As the CEO, your job is to ensure that the right people are in the right seats, so you can trust them to run the company while you attend to the strategic direction and overall vision. Dictating and overruling thoughtful decisions made at lower organizational levels erodes senior manager’s confidence and creates a culture of “check before do anything” that will stall decision making and bring progress to a halt.

  1. It’s hard to know what’s really going on

Once you’re CEO, others withhold bad news and speak through a filter to not upset you fearing you’ll shoot the messenger. The questions now become – how to get solid information? How to keep a pulse on the true morale and culture of the company? You can consult customers, other CEOs, industry associations, and engage with independent advisers from various industries and make it safe for them to criticize your thinking and challenge your ideas to get out of the “yes” bubble.

  1. You’re always sending a message

Being at the top of the food chain means that all eyes are on you. Your every move – inside and outside the organization – is scrutinized and interpreted. To minimize misinterpretation, be self-aware and understand what signals you’re sending and how your words and actions are being perceived. Carefully consider how different audiences might interpret your actions and communications. Use simple, clear, and often repeated messages illustrated with memorable stories.

  1. You’re not the boss

You may have an entire company of subordinates below you, but you are not the boss. You have ten or twelve bosses; the board of directors. They can set your compensation, evaluate your performance, overturn your strategy, and fire you if they see fit. Boards typically have limited knowledge of your business and scant time to acquire it, so your job will be to educate them and collaborate with them to gain their trust so they trust you to move the company forward.

  1. Pleasing shareholders is not the goal

Shareholders tend to be short term focused with immediate results and short-term gains as their primary objective. As the CEO, your role requires long term focus and planning. Work on influencing and shaping their perceptions of your company through constant explanations and reminders of your long-term strategy to develop and build buy-in.

  1. You’re still only human

The rewards and adulation that come with being CEO can tempt you into acts of hubris and make you feel untouchable. Make a disciplined effort to stay humble. Revisit your decisions. Find forthright people – and listen to them. Maintain connections to family, friends, your community, and hobbies to avoid being consumed by your job.

Referenced from Harvard Business Review: Seven Surprises for New CEOs FULL ARTICLE HERE

By: Michael E. Porter, Jay W. Lorsch and Nitin Nohria

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