But What, Sir, Do You DO?

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Job DescriptionJohn Kealey, CEO of Decision Lens, shared a similar parable to the one below with a room full of CEOs last fall.  I found it powerful and have thought of it many times since he first shared it.

Dan sat down.  A road warrior, he had experienced his fair share of overbooked flights.  Knowing it would be a while before the flight took off, he flipped on his iPad and began catching up on the day’s events, glancing up every now and then to make sure his future row-mate wasn’t waiting in the aisle.

Time passed and before he knew it, every seat in sight, except the one directly to his left, was occupied.  He hoped to himself that the seat would remain empty.  If it didn’t, hopefully the passenger would keep to himself.  He had quite a bit of work to get done and he was looking forward to some dedicated time to think and gain perspective.

Just at that moment a flight attendant came down the aisle followed by a young girl.  She appeared to be 9 or 10, the age of his own daughter.  She appeared to be flying alone, which was confirmed as the flight attendant ushered her into the seat next to him and showed her how to use the call button if she needed anything.

A family man, Dan decided to strike up a conversation with the girl.  He hoped to make her feel comfortable. He couldn’t imagine letting his own daughter fly alone at that age.  She was polite and responded in a shy, sweet manner.  She was on her way to visit her grandmother.

Once in flight, the girl began to fidget.  She pulled the emergency instruction card out of the seat pocket in front of her, looked it over, and then returned it to its original position.  She seemed bored.  Finally, as if there was not much else to do, she looked up at Dan and said, “So, what do you do?”

“I’m the CEO of a company,” Dan responded.

“Oh, but, what do you do?” the girl asked again.

“Well, a CEO is the Chief Executive.  I’m ultimately responsible for the success of my company.  I’m the leader.”

“I know, but what, sir, do you do?” the girl insisted.

“Well, err, uh, I…” Dan stumbled through his words as he thought about how to explain the role of CEO to this little girl.

The girl interrupted.  “I play soccer and sometimes I play goalie, but that’s not what I do.  I stop the ball from going into the net and I kick the ball as far down field as can.  It’s my job to make sure the ball stays as far away from the goal as possible.  So what do you do?”

Dan was at a loss for words. Like many CEOs, he had taken very little time to consider what his job really was.  He seemed to do it quite well, as the company had been fairly successful.  Of course, he knew that was largely because he was surrounded by great people, but, at the same time, he was sure that he played some role in the company’s success.

On the surface, it seemed as though nearly all of his responsibility was dedicated to one of his direct reports, or their team.  What was it that he actually did on a day-to-day basis?

Dan’s dilemma is a common one, especially for entrepreneurial CEOs.  As an entrepreneur grows into the role of CEO, it is important that he figure out what the job of the CEO actually is.

Crafting strategy, making capital decisions, or managing investor relations may all come to mind, but hopefully are not needed on a day-to-day basis.  As John shared with us that day, there is a simple equation that provides a framework of what the CEO should be doing on a day to day basis.  The equation is  (D + C + O + M = RESULTS).

The CEO’s job is to deliver results.  He does this by ensuring that the following are in place:

  1. Definition.  The CEO defines what is expected and must be accomplished.  The CEO sets clear and measurable objectives.
  2. Competency.  The CEO ensures that the company has the competency needed to achieve the objectives.  He does this by building a competent team.
  3. Opportunity.  The CEO ensures that the team has the opportunity to succeed.  He ensures that the resources needed are available and the objectives achievable.
  4. Motivation. The CEO motivates the team towards the objective.  He inspires, holds accountable and creates reward systems that propel the team forward.

Day by day, the leader is responsible for driving results.  He does this by following the D+C+O+M equation.  Chances are, if you’re not aware that this is your job description, you may be forgetting to do one or more, and ultimately, hindering your company’s success.

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