As a CEO, you may not read the SocialFish blog regularly. It’s mostly about social media, after all, and you probably have perfectly competent staff who handle that function for your organization. I bet THEY read the blog daily (and I bet your social media is better for it). And that’s fine. We can’t expect you to get into the weeds of all the functions.
But that doesn’t rule out wandering around the garden every now and then either.
As CEO, your primary job is maintaining organizational health. It’s not “being a leader.” Leadership is a system capacity, not an authority position. It’s not “making decisions.” Sure, you make important decisions, but I hope you limit the number of decisions you make and empower everyone else in your organization to make more decisions. Your job is to ensure your organization remains healthy.
That will look slightly different for each CEO, but it surely involves a heavy dose of work on strategy, culture, and finance. (Though, to be honest, I’m betting culture gets the short end of that stick). These are core determinants of organizational health, and they impact everyone in the organization, which is why we all RELY on you to focus on these areas. This is why you can’t be in the weeds too much. Strategy, culture, and finance are areas of high-level work.
Or are they? The dominant management model says they are. It says that you will be distracted by operational details and lose sight of the big picture. But I think that is starting to change. I’m not advocating that you start deciding what color the conference brochure should be, but I think you need to be better connected to what is happening in the functional areas, because that is where your learning is going to happen.
You need to learn more, and you need to learn faster. Your organization’s health depends on it. You need to see how things are changing BEFORE the change is beaten to death in the main stream press. You need to be aware of the failings of your own internal processes BEFORE half of the marketing department quits. Your strategy and your culture, and even your key financial metrics are going to be changing more frequently in today’s world. That’s why your pace of learning is so important, and you can’t learn quickly if you only stay at the high level.
Five years ago, Maddie Grant and I started paying attention to the incompatibility between social media and the way we manage organizations. Three years ago we were writing a book about it (Humanize). We had those insights because, as consultants, we go back and forth between the high level and the implementation level. We saw the frustration of social media staff who were unable to implement effectively in a heavily centralized environment. We saw management teams miss out because they were too slow to change when they stayed at the high level exclusively. We were able to learn because we weren’t trapped in one part of the system.
You need to figure out how to do that if you want your organization to remain healthy in the coming years. The pace of change is not slowing. The only thing that will make that pace of change more tolerable is to increase your pace of learning. Take the generations issue, for example. You’re going to hear a lot about this in the coming years, on this blog and elsewhere. Are you going to react to that trend? Or are you going to stay ahead of it. Talk to your millennial employees. Learn from them. Learn with them. And apply that learning to your work on strategy, culture, and finance. But do it quickly.