What exactly should a CEO focus on?
According to Dr. Lawrence King, one of my favorite Vistage speakers, the role of the CEO encompasses six essential functions:
- Strategist. This function sets the future direction of your company. The process for creating effective strategy involves a team-centered strategic planning retreat, whereby you go off-site with your management team, look three years out into the future, and ask the most important strategic question: where will our future profit margins come from? Chances are they will not come from the same place as today.
- Ambassador. Meet with your important customers and clients once or twice a year, not for a sales call but for an informal lunch or dinner. The idea is to get to know the customer and let them get to know you, so that you can increase their trust in you and establish your credibility.
- Inventor. Success in business requires finding your customer’s pain and developing new products and services to relieve it. The inventor function ensures that the strategic direction of the company aligns around the customer’s pain.
- Coach. Become a teacher, coach and mentor to your direct reports. Instill a culture of learning throughout all levels of the organization. Your direct reports do not have your big picture perspective, so find ways to teach it to them.
- Investor. Treat your company as an investment. Know the market value of your business and strive to grow it. Improving market value should direct all decisions for the business and reward the clear focus and direction of the CEO.
- Student. Stay active in some form of continued professional development — not just in your area of functional expertise but as a student of leadership.